THANKSGIVING DAY

“What did you say?” The man just looked at me. He made a statement that I found very img_1798[1]interesting and I wanted to hear his reasoning, so I asked again, “What did you say?”

He hesitantly reiterated: “It seems like we’re getting ready for Armageddon instead of for Thanksgiving.”

That was a powerful statement. When he realized I was not challenging him, he relaxed and we began discussing international events and the perplexities of the nations as mentioned in Luke 21:25-26 which says, “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”DSCN1112B

That was interesting because what Luke said approximately 1,974 years ago seems to be happening now. Strange signs in space could be thought of as: solar flares, blood-red moons DSCN0406with eclipses on Jewish holy days, and comets approaching (or hitting) earth.

How about nations in turmoil and perplexed by roaring seas? 1) Roaring seas could be the increased number of massive hurricanes, while strange tides could be increased tsunamis and hurricanes. 2) Nations in turmoil and perplexity could also be thought of as nations and kingdoms in such political, religious, and economic messes that they seem impossible to resolve. 3) And people around the earth are terrified by the wars, rumors of wars, political intrigue, and horrendous, outrageous murders taking place.

There is a lot happening and much of it has not been pleasant. Massive hurricanes creating myriads of problems across the eastern and southern USA, while horrendous forest fires devastate states on the other end of the country.

     The international political scene is heavy with uncertainty. The Israeli predicament looming continuously on the horizon directly affects the entire world. And Islamic terrorism continues to push throughout the world which generates confusion and fear – the magnitude which has not yet been imagined by most world leaders.

     Our own government has been actively endorsing various foreign religions, yet continues to denigrate the very religion – Judeo-Christianity – upon which our nation was founded. Thus, we have been gradually losing our right to espouse our own beliefs while being forced to accommodate the beliefs of others. This has been going on for decades – but with current leadership, it might be turning around. We pray that it does.

     With all this in mind, what in the world do I have to be thankful for? I’m glad you asked. Question Mark

     According to the Bible, we have freedom to turn to Almighty God for help. Our own founding fathers knew this and appealed to God numerous times for divine assistance. Even Benjamin Franklin wisely advised the colonial leaders to beseech the Almighty for help when they reached a stalemate in forming our government.

     So, can I be thankful today in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? Yes!

     Henry Morris IV (Director of Donor Relations at Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX) pointed out that we are “not to give thanks FOR everything—rather, we are to give thanks IN everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).” Did you catch the difference? Read his statement again. The ATTITUDE of thankfulness is equally important – if not more so – than the ACT of being thankful.

     But when I add Romans 8:28 (And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. NLT), I realize that I actually can thank God FOR things that happen to me.

     And because we humans are so easily distracted by the problems, predicaments, and perils of life, I am grateful that on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt and Congress officially established the fourth Thursday of November as our annual Thanksgiving Day celebration. This resulted from repeated proclamations by most or our US Presidents and the US Congress.

     Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith no one can please God. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him.” And we find that a person who is habitually thankful is usually a patient and loving person. Why is that important? Patient and loving people help solve problems.

     dscn0464[1]Back to the statement the man said, “It seems like we’re getting ready for Armageddon instead of for Thanksgiving.”

     All I can say to that is, focusing on Armageddon cannot prepare us to face life’s challenges; but placing our faith in Jesus Christ can help us prepare; and we can be thankful for Jesus Christ, our Savior and Friend.

Life After Death

Joe asked, “Stephen Hawking made the statement that there is no life after death. Wouldn’t that mean that Jesus is still dead? How might Scripture respond to his comment?”

The following is a quote from No Heaven? Why Stephen Hawking’s Comment Doesn’t Matter by Stephanie Pappas on May 16, 2011. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” Hawking said in The Guardian. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

I appreciated Joe’s question, but here is an eye-opener: Hawking’s statement is nothingIMG_1085B less than a statement of faith. Why? Because believing that there is no God is a religious conviction. Hawking was a dedicated scientist with a background in mathematics, physics, and cosmology; not religion or theology. Also Hawking had Lou Gehrig’s disease, was a quadriplegic, was confined to a wheelchair, and had no use for a god who wouldn’t heal him. His humanistic faith was based on the fact that he could not see God and couldn’t prove that there is a God.

Going one step further, Mr. Hawking placed his faith in science. In reality, that made science his god.

This is indeed a shaky foundation, because many scientists throughout history were and are devout followers of Jesus Christ and Jehovah God. Their scientific endeavors have verified to them that there IS a God.

I am continually surprised by the number of people who put faith in famous actors, theologians, scientists, and philosophers who disavow faith in Almighty God. We need to wake up. Fame doesn’t grant access to sources of spiritual knowledge that are inaccessible to the rest of mankind.

Some say that we Christians and Jews cannot prove there is a God, and they are correct. By the help of the Holy Spirit and through Scripture we can know Jesus, but we cannot prove to others He is alive or that He is God. Believing in someone or something we Atheist Symbolcannot prove is, by definition, faith.

But hold on now: NOT believing in someone or something without proof is also, by definition, faith. Hawking did not believe in life after death because that includes heaven and hell; which, in turn, requires a belief in a Creator: God. Mr. Hawking had a very strong faith that declared there is no god.

Psalm 14:1-3 describes the condition of those who refuse to believe in God. Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 say that whoever does not believe in God is foolish. I didn’t say that; Scripture did. Also, Proverbs 18:2 informs us that whoever is not interested in gaining [spiritual] understanding is foolish, for they are interested only in expressing their own opinions.

There is no scientific proof for or against life after death; either way it is a matter of faith. And believing that God is either real or a myth are both matters of faith. But there is more to faith in God and Jesus Christ than mere believing.

In the Bible and throughout history many people have spoken of their interaction with God. People have experienced, in powerful, personal ways, strong affirmations of God’s healing, presence, and provision in this world as well as His promises concerning life in the next (Luke 23:43; John 14:1-6; Rev. 21-22). Untold millions of people have studied Biblical claims and extra-Biblical claims; some have returned after dying and have a dynamically different conclusion from Hawking’s. Scripture teaches us about life after death which is called eternal life. Scripture alone is proof for us, but we cannot, in turn, prove it to anyone else. It’s a matter of faith.

Billy Graham could not speak authoritatively on science or the universe, but he was aSatellite Dish giant in the kingdom of God. In like manner, Mr. Hawking has credibility in cosmology and physics because of his work in the field (although I don’t agree with him on several scientific issues); but he has no credibility in the realm of Scripture or spiritual matters.

We all have faith, but the Bible leaves it up to each individual regarding where we will place our faith. Nevertheless, the historical declaration in Scripture is: Jesus Is Alive! There is life after death.

The darkness to which Hawking refers is reserved only for those who reject God. And that statement refers to God as found in the Holy Bible – not some other god. Therefore, examine Scripture, seek the truth, and choose life.

Authentic Christianity

Rev. Charles Swindoll said: In order to change our world, we must live authentic Christian lives.”  But what does that mean?

Some of you may not like today’s blog, but read it anyway and see if you can understand what I am attempting to convey.

A. W. Tozer was born in 1897. He had no earned college degree but wrote many booksuntitled that impacted the 20th Century Church. During a trip by train from Chicago in the late 1940s, Tozer was inspired to write again. When the train pulled into McAllen, Texas the next morning, the rough draft of The Pursuit of God was completed. The depth of that message has made it a book in high demand – about 2 million copies in at least fifteen languages are in print.

Pastor Tozer had a drive to know God. He was not content to be merely a Godly pastor who could preach from the Bible. Tozer could be gentle with those who were actively searching for truth, but tough on those who were faking it. And his parishioners knew what it meant to be authentic Christians.

In his book Apprehending God, Tozer clearly says God wants to interact with us, but that the church around the world is basically ignorant of it. I agree with Tozer. Here are several of my own observations from around our nation:

  • People often treat the sanctuary as a secular auditorium.
  • Pre-service conversation is often not about the Lord.
  • However, as though a power switch has been turned on, people instantly enter a “worship” mode. (Is it authentic, or a trained response?)
  • After the meeting, most people go out as they came in because nothing in their lives has really changed. But some of them say, “I enjoyed the worship.”

This, in part, is what Tozer was talking about. Most people don’t understand the nature of God or what He desires. Worse yet: many of our ministers, also, don’t understand the nature of God and don’t know what it means to be an authentic Christian. 

Why do some folk have deep spiritual experiences with the Lord while others do not? The answer doesn’t lie with God, but with people. God is willing to bless all who sincerely come to Him, but many people don’t seriously study the Bible; they don’t meditate on or think about who and what God really is. Instead, too many of us prefer (as Tozer said) “glamour and fast flowing dramatic action” in our church services. Sadly, that is true today more dynamically than it was in 1948!

In our church meetings we often compete with the world for the attention of the world rather than focus on leading people in righteousness. Tozer said in 1948, “…worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed.” In other words, most people think the hoopla and excitement in the church services is actually worshiping God and receiving God’s approval. But that might not be correct.

A.W.TozerTozer also said, “The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and the servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.”

How true! Since many in church leadership don’t really know what God wants, they are using the world’s methods in an attempt to accomplish God’s work. Therefore, we are pursuing the world instead of pursuing God. By placing an emphasis on being relevant to the people, we have effectively reduced the necessity of living a life dedicated to Jesus Christ. Thus, we essentially have watered down the Gospel.

I hope you readers will think about this.

Tozer said, “We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures. (And this we call pursuing God!)  We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice.”

This happens only by spending time getting to really know God. 

Authentic means not false or copied. It is something genuine, real, trustworthy, reliable; being accurate in representation of the facts. To be authentic Christians, we must stop living and acting like the world, but honor Jesus Christ in every facet of our lives – both in and out of church.

Come on now: What do you watch on television? What do you watch at the theaters? What kind of social activities do you enjoy? Would a Holy God approve of it? And don’t think God’s not watching. He most definitely is.

IMG_1799BTo be an authentic Christian, we must have an in-depth relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship does not happen by going to church and enjoying the show. It happens by spending time with Jesus Himself through prayer, Bible study, meditating on the Life of Christ, and living in a manner that He would approve.

Authentic Christians change their world because of their Godly core values.

This life will be over somewhat quickly, and the way we live now sets the stage for what happens next. Think about it.

Freedom to Express Our Faith

In 1994 while working at a scientific laboratory, I was told that I needed to remove my Bible from the top of my desk – it was in public view – and to refrain from praying on government property. I asked the question typical of a five-year-old: “Why?” The response was, “This is government property and we need to observe separation of church and state by becoming a religion-free work place.

Now, you may imagine many of the thoughts that raced through my mind. I didn’t want to argue the matter because I was on government time, my supervisor was giving the order, and I desired to honor my authorities. I did, however, realize that this was one side of a double-standard that was aimed against Jews and Christians. So remembering a recent Laboratory-sponsored event, I said:

DSCN0691B“Last week we observed Native American Heritage Week here in the laboratory’s main auditorium. Every day at 8:00 AM and again at 1:00 PM for a total of ten meetings, a different Native American group opened the meeting by reciting their tribal prayer. Now, if the Lab supports or allows the Native Americans to pray to their gods on government property, then I also claim that same privilege of praying to the Judeo-Christian God. And if there are any questions about that, you know my phone number.”

That settled the issue. I was never challenged at the lab again. Amazingly, I was asked to write weekly articles based on good integrity, ethics, and character for our division, and send them out by e-mail. Why? Simply because I lived what I believed; supported my beliefs with the Bible, fact, and recent history; did not condemn or look down on others, and loved people. Did I confront people? Yes. But was I “confrontational?” No. Non-Christians and I do not have to agree with each other, but we all work well together because we do not intimidate each other, and we respect each other. 

A number of years ago while visiting my mother-in-law in a nursing facility, I was speaking with her husband, Charles, about trusting the Lord while knowing that Mom could die soon. A social-worker walking by stopped and rather sternly askedDSCN4637B Charles, “Do you want to listen to this?!”

That took Charles off-guard and he looked at me with a blank face; so I said to the social-worker, “Charles is my step-dad, and he doesn’t have a choice.” It was her turn to be dumb-founded, and she walked away. (Charles and I love each other. He laughed, and we continued our discussion about life with Jesus Christ.)

Zig Ziglar said in an interview with Michael Ireland on March 11, 2006, “The biggest lie Satan has ever told is that ‘it is okay to talk about your faith in church or at home, but otherwise, it is a personal matter.’ The reality is, everyone else has come out of the closet, and Christians need to come out and make it clear where they are coming from. Now, the life that they live will be totally believed if they live as Christ taught us to live. However, if you do not follow the ten commandments, if you do not have the Fruit of the Spirit, if you do not go out in the Full Armor of God, if you do not go out believing that the Golden Rule is a wonderful, working rule in your relationships with all people, then all of the conversations that you will have will fall on deaf ears. What you are speaks louder than what you say.”

 And to that I say a hearty “Amen!

While we, as Christians, are to respect people and obey our authorities, we should stand up for truth and righteousness. No one else will. (Note: We are to obey those in authority over us UNLESS they demand that we disobey God and Holy Scripture.) We are not to be argumentative but freedom of speech applies to all sections of our society. So let’s exercise that freedom. As Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Therefore, the only time we will lose the right to pray or speak openly is when we vote into office ungodly – or fearful – people, then cooperate with them when they attempt to deny us our inalienable/Constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

If we want to retain our freedoms, we must vote into office people who also want us to have those freedoms.

But many in the world live under a different historical and cultural setting. They do not have the freedom of speech or freedom of religion built into their culture. What are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to live?

My answer ultimately applies to everyone living in the United States of IMG_2639America and everywhere else. We are to live according to the principles as found in Holy Scripture – the Bible. My reasoning is simple: if I live to please and honor Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, I will have a home in heaven forever even if I am killed here on earth for my faith. This life is so short anyway – why not prepare to live forever with God in heaven?

That way, I will always have the freedom to express my faith as long as I live. No one can ever take that freedom from me.

A Psalm for the Living

Have you read the 23rd Psalm lately? Okay, you may have looked at the words, but have you really thought about it? Have you ever become curious enough to dig into it to understand some of its life applications? Let’s read it (KJV), then look at it line-by-line.

IMG_2642The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The LORD is my shepherd. The Shepherd is never in doubt as to who belongs to him. And nothing can take us from Him (Romans 8:35-39).

I shall not want. I will have no lack in my life. All my needs (not talking about desires) will be met.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. I will live in peace. I will not have strife in my life for I trust the Shepherd.

He leadeth me beside the still waters. Through the Shepherd’s guidance, I will stay out of trouble and be safe.

He restoreth my soul. If I go astray, disobey, or sin, the Shepherd restores our relationship when I repent.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. The gentle Shepherd doesn’t push – He LEADS me in respectable and conscientious living which honors Him.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Even though I go through rough and dangerous times, even though I have severe trials and hardships, I will not fear because the Shepherd is by my side watching over me. The Shepherd allows hard times in my life for my benefit. If everything went peachy-smooth all the time, I would never learn to trust him.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The Shepherd uses the staff to rescue, guide, and correct me; the rod is used for my discipline and to beat off predators and enemies.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. In the middle of both earthly conflict and spiritual battles, the Shepherd provides everything I need for both this life and in the next life. He never leaves me and shows me how to gain the victory. But I have to watch and listen.

Thou anointest my head with oil. The Shepherd has chosen me for a specific purpose or function, and promised that He will enable me and empower me to fulfill that purpose.

My cup runneth over. My life is complete. I am filled with blessings, friends, joy, and with confidence in the Shepherd that He will do all that He said He would.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I will live righteously, and will show mercy to all those around me so that they, too, can learn to live for the Lord.

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. I will live for the Lord, worship Him, and praise Him my entire earthly life, then throughout eternity.

After some study, I identified something that seemed to be missing from the Psalm.DSCN9839B There is an unspoken condition that is inferred after “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Many “sheep” who belong to the True Shepherd may not be enjoying all the benefits that this Psalm lists because they don’t understand or may not be aware of this unspoken condition. What is it?

Please read this next line several times: We must continually stay close to the shepherd and obey him. When sheep wander off, they can get hurt or killed because the shepherd can neither protect nor provide for them. The shepherd trains the sheep to follow him. He does not drive his sheep; he leads them. Therefore, the sheep must watch and stay close. As the sheep cooperate, all the shepherd’s love, care, and benefits are available to the sheep. But we must stay close to Him.

If we have truthfully accepted the leadership of the Shepherd, Jesus Christ, in our lives, this Psalm is applicable for us while we live! Then, if we have stayed close to the Shepherd, the Psalm is ever more comforting at the end of our earthly life. And the totality of its promises is guaranteed in heaven.