Your Reality – My Reality

Critical Thinking 2“Your reality may be good for you, but I have my own reality.” Have you ever heard that? Have you ever said that?

Statements like that have made the rounds for decades, if not centuries; but the question is: Do we have our own realities? I think the answer is a qualified “yes.” Hold on now, and let me explain. My reasoning is simple: we all perceive, feel, and think differently. I experience things and situations differently than you do.

What is real to me (what is understandable, comprehensible, vivid, important, beautiful, unpleasant, detestable, etc.) may not be real to you. You may not have seen someone die, I have. Your favorite color may be yellow, mine is blue. You may enjoy the mountains while I enjoy the oceans. You might be moved by country-western and rock music while I listen to church hymns and John Philip Sousa marches. You may study art, music, and eating habits, while I study the Bible, science and history. What strongly impacts your emotions or mind may not appeal to me. And, of course, you and I have different family backgrounds, personal histories, and possibly different religious beliefs. Even my siblings (I am one of ten children) and I view life differently.

However, although you and I may have different realities in a temporal or philosophical sense, we must not confuse these differences with absolute reality or absolute truth. I remember when a philosophy instructor exclaimed, “There are no absolutes!” One student asked, “Is that absolutely correct?” How should the professor respond? Either “yes” or “no” would invalidate his primary statement. So rather than try to unsuccessfully pry himself out of that predicament, the professor merely changed the subject. The Prof didn’t realize that absolutes, or absolute laws, govern the universe, and that his statement was self-contradictory.

Normally when a person states, “I have my own reality,” the statement is based on relativismIMG_1797. That is the concept that all truth is relative to the individual, time, or place. However, relativism is a faulty philosophy that attempts to negate absolutism. Absolute means: complete; not limited by restrictions; unconditional; unrelated to and independent of anything else. Interestingly, after a short investigation we find absolute truth in math, history, the Bible, and in every-day life. Often, the denial of absolutism is not about life, but is aimed at the reality of God and the deity of Jesus Christ. And the one who claims his own reality actually claims to be the supreme ruler in his own life; but living for just twenty-four hours will prove that is false.

An example of the difference between a temporal reality and absolute reality is: A blind and deaf person may not know you exist. Therefore, you are not real to him, and you are not part of his reality. However, you do exist. But when you are brought into his presence where he is allowed to touch you and is “introduced” to you through a Braille or hand-manual message, you are incorporated into his reality. Absolute truth hasn’t changed; but his understanding, or his temporal reality, has changed.

In the same way, many folk do not know that God exists because they are “blind” to His existence. But they can be introduced to God and Jesus Christ through the “Braille” of Holy Scripture and Holy Spirit-directed lives. Many of us need a guide, such as a blind person needs a guide dog or as wagon trains on the Oregon Trail needed guides to get them across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The guides we need today to help us understand absolute reality are pastors, teachers, and primarily the Holy Spirit. Temporal realities change all through our lives; but absolute reality never changes.

pict0377Another example of absolute reality: God knew you would be born and that you will live forever – somewhere; but it is your choice as to your eternal destination. Whether or not you believe in heaven or hell does not change the reality of either place: our personal belief neither establishes fact nor eradicates truth. Absolute truth stands on its own foundation.

Your reality? My reality? We need to align our temporal realities with the time-tested truths of absolute reality as found in the Bible, and prepare ourselves to meet the author of absolute truth: Almighty God.

Forgive, and … What?

I overheard Clarence give the following advice to a mutual friend in Tulsa, “Forgive and forget, then forget what you forgave – otherwise you have not forgiven.” (A colleague had lied to the boss about Richard’s ability to do the job.) Later I told Clarence, “If the Bible says that, I will believe it.” Within a day or so he came up with the following verses:

Isaiah 43:25 – “I, I am the One who forgives all your sins, for my sake; I will not remember your sins.

Psalm 25:7 – Do not remember the sins and wrong things I did when I was young. But remember to love me always because you are good, Lord.

Hebrews 8:12 – I will forgive them for the wicked things they did, and I will not remember their sins anymore.

However, according to my studies, they did not verify Clarence’s statement, so the discussion turned to God’s character and the word “remember” in these verses. Agreeing that God is perfectIMG_1799B in every way, which includes His memory, Clarence asked if God can choose to forget. I suggested that we not confuse the issue, but stick to what the Bible says.

The word “remember” means “to be mindful or cognizant of” and “to hold in continual remembrance.” So, if God “remembers my sin no more” it means, based on my repentance, God forgives me and does not keep thinking about my error. Another way of saying it is: He does not hold that sin against me. I’ve been pardoned.

We then moved to the word “forgive.”

 “To forgive” means “to remove the blemish on the record resulting from the wrongdoing” or “to pardon.” The act of forgiving does not erase the offense or the event in real time because we cannot erase the past; but it is focused on purging the legal record related to the offense.

When President Obama pardoned seventeen people, he “… granted these individuals clemency because they have demonstrated genuine remorse and a strong commitment to being law-abiding, productive citizens and active members of their communities.” Obama did not eradicate what they did, but removed legal liability. That’s what God does for us, and is what we are supposed to do for those who offend us. The offense or event in real time is not erased, but the judicial verdict or sentence related to the event is expunged from our record.

When we allow the Lord to heal us from hurts caused by others, the memory of the offense may actually become clearer and the details of the offense take on sharper focus; yet the pain will be substantially lessened – and possibly erased. Nevertheless, although the offense often IS forgotten, forgiving does not necessarily include forgetting.

Forgiveness is a decision based on our attitude towards God and relationship with Him. One woman in California fabricated a rumor about someone she was jealous of in church. With the intent of damaging the woman’s reputation, the rumor made its predictable circuit and grew substantially in the process. Not yet knowing the outcome of the rumor, the perpetrator’s conscience began to bother her so she went to her victim, confessed, and asked to be forgiven.

The victim said, “I will forgive you, but first let me tell you what you did.” As she recounted the repercussions (which included the breakup of her marriage) of the rumor, both women were deeply sobbing with their arms around each other and the two women became life-long friends.

Personal forgiveness does not always set people free from legal mandates or from physical consequences on the human level. For these two women, repentance was deep, forgiveness was genuine, reconciliation was complete, but the memory remained for life.

In the later 1960s a man in Southern California was arrested for murder. The family of the victim showed up in court and in Christian love truthfully told the judge, “We forgive this man and would like to set him free.”DSCN5212

The presiding judge wisely said, “It is good for you to forgive him, and both God and I honor you for it. Your forgiveness clears the record between you and God. However, this man has also offended the United States of America and justice must be dispensed.”

dscn0464[1]Forgiveness is not about letting the offender off the hook, but returning the right to dispense justice back to God and to the appropriate human authorities. Forgiving others, and asking to be forgiven when we err, keeps our consciences clear.

Clarence and I cleared up the allegations about Richard’s abilities, and the slander backfired on the perpetrator. But the memories remain; so along with the Apostle Paul, we are to humbly forgive others, and use those memories as stepping stones for personal and spiritual growth.

What Does it Take ….?

I’m sure you’ve heard the question many times: What does it take to be a good leader? Of course, the answer depends on who is responding to the question.

Two major concepts are: a leader is born; and training produces a leader. Government and many large organizations lean toward the latter: proper training makes a good leader. And if someone fails, just retrain him or refresh his training. If he fails big-time, replace him and start over.

The late Dr. Lem Boyles, Col. ChC. USAF (Ret.) said in his book, Leadership: The Minister’sIMG_1819 Responsibility, “The need for well-trained, highly qualified leaders in the Christian realm is one of the most critical problems we face in the church today.” I agree, and that also applies to the secular world. Without well-trained leaders, our churches and organizations are faltering. But Dr. Boyles taught that training alone is not sufficient. True leadership entails more than just filling a vocational slot: true leadership involves a higher calling.

So, what does it take to be a good leader? I have an interesting book by Hans Finzel titled The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make. In other books we find many formulas and lists of qualities such as: “10 Keys to Successful Leadership” (different sets of ten by Sonya Shelton, Jill Geisler, Jonas Clark, and others). There are other sets of three, five, seven, twelve, and more. Various writers call out attributes such as emotional intelligence, influence, or authority as the key. But although those qualities are involved in leadership, they fall far short of being the keys.

John Marks Templeton stated a good point in his book Discovering the Laws of Life, “Someone who possesses good leadership abilities can accomplish much more [by leading] than one who pushes.” A leader is not one who stays in the background pushing for his agenda, but is out in front leading by example. Pushing people is similar to herding cats–it doesn’t work.

PrinciplesIn his book, Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey said, “…we often attempt to short-cut natural processes–substituting expediency for priority, imitation for innovation, cosmetics for character, style for substance, and pretense for competence.” Although they might not realize it, this is designed failure by incompetent leaders.

Covey stressed that true leadership is practiced or manifested “from the inside out.” Ruth Simmons, 18th president of Brown University, emphasized “There is no formula for inner work. Leadership is a habit of mind.”

Covey and Simmons point us to the true person: the core of our being: character, integrity. Character is involved in every aspect of our lives. Poor character is based on a façade of some sort, but good character is based on a foundation of truth. And good character is built into our lives by habitually choosing proper responses in every situation. As living and working safely is a result of good habits, so is good character.

So, what does it take? It takes a person of Godly character; one who listens to counsel but is not swayed by pressure. It takes a person who has committed to live by a high moral standard no matter what the circumstances are. Whether one is to be a leader in church, scouting, military, local or national politics, school, or business, the multiple and diversified qualities that are required can be boiled down to one word: Character. Make that two words: Good Character. Good leadership is character-based leadership.

So, what is good character based on? Humanism? No, that includes relativism. Reliable or trustworthy character can never be based on a “whatever is right for you” philosophy. That denies leadership. Is good character based on “all religions lead to the same destiny”? No. Various religions contradict each other; and some religions mandate killing people. That generates confusion and results in tyranny.

The bottom line is: Good character, integrity, is based on God’s law. And JesusCross summarized the law in His statements in Matthew 22:37-39; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This is the foundation for good character and sound leadership.

Do you desire a leadership position? Establish your relationship with God and ask Him to guide you. Establish a wholesome relationship with people. Take proper training. Excel in your vocation. Don’t push people. And when the opportunity arises, humbly accept the responsibility and remain accountable to others.

Slow Down and Live

Some years ago, I was sitting at my typewriter – actually at my computer – looking out the window. It was cold with a light breeze blowing. The clouds, which are usually water vapor, looked more like swirling snow ready to grace our countryside. My snow shovel was ready, my boots were at the door, and Carol could have hot coffee or hot chocolate ready within five minutes if I needed to leave my comfort zone to clear the sidewalk and driveway.

We lived in a community of 3,000 people in the hills of northern New Mexico at 7,825 feet above sea level. (For comparison, Albuquerque, NM is about 5,000 feet in altitude.)  

A winter storm would often drop two to three feet of snow at a time, sometimes up to five feet,PICT0181 and we would be temporarily locked in the house. That was great for the skiers, and it made the landscape look more beautiful than words can tell. And if there was no wind while the snow was falling, the big fluffy snowflakes absorbed all the background noise which created a living Winter Rockwell Painting. Beautiful!

If the snow was less than two feet deep, my 4-wheel drive vehicle with good tires would get me anywhere I wanted to go. But if it was deeper than two feet, we just stayed home. Carol would get out the coffee or hot chocolate; maybe bake several dozen cookies. We would start a fire in the fireplace, make sure the cat and dogs were warm if they weren’t playfully romping out the in the field; and Carol and I would do what we enjoyed doing best: Spend Time With Each Other.

With our schedules jammed and our lives so full of activity, being snowed-in gave us time to tell each other what we meant to say several days or weeks previously. We had time to actually LISTEN to each other.

PICT1265With critters in front of the fireplace, a table nearby with a puzzle or a scrabble game on it, steam rising from two cups of hot chocolate or coffee, a big window across the room with snow gently falling outside–we have another Rockwell Painting. Periodically I would go out and clear the walks and uncover the car before the snow got too deep.

Carol and I understand the value, and the need, to spend time together; so at times we still declare a “snow-day” and stay home. Years ago, we decided to slow down and live. Slowing down can actually make our lives fuller and richer. Not fuller with more things to do or richer with more money in the bank; but fuller and richer with what really counts in life.

Since we don’t have a guarantee that we will be alive on earth tomorrow, why not invest our time and our lives into people now? After all, material possessions can give satisfaction for a little while, but healthy, wholesome interaction with family and friends can last a lifetime–and beyond.

It’s called making memories together, and it’s more enjoyable than watching a football game.

When family members or friends that we love leave this life, we will miss them. We will be sad, and tears can flow. But if we invest our lives into them while they are here, we will have those memories to hold on to, and those memories will help sustain us in our sorrow.

More importantly, we should invest our time studying the Bible and learning to know Jesus. First Thessalonians 4:13-14, which applies to those who live for the Lord, says “But we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. (NRSV)” What a promise! Therefore, even in sorrow we can experience joy.PICT0192B

Well, it didn’t snow that day, but my boots and the shovel were ready just in case it did. 

Oh, Carol just told me that lunch is ready. I think I’ll turn off the computer and spend time with her. Maybe we’ll play scrabble. We like that game. As of this writing, we are tied at 368 wins.

Is The Bible Historical or Merely Mythical? (pt.2)

In 2003 a New Mexico rancher named Jorge (pronounced Horheh; Spanish for George) asked me, “Why do you believe something just because it’s in the Bible?” 

My response was, “Have you read about Abraham Lincoln?” He said, “Yes.” “Have you ever seen him?” I asked.DSCN7975

“I may look that old, but I am only seventy-six!” he retorted.

I asked, “Do you believe Lincoln really lived?” He said, “Yes, of course.”

My final question was, “Why do you believe in President Lincoln just because you read about him in a book?” Jorge admitted he was stumped on that one, but still did not want to believe in the Bible.

Did you get the point? The situation wasn’t that he couldn’t believe the Bible. Rather, he wouldn’t believe. It was a conscious decision.

Years ago, a colleague at a scientific laboratory challenged me to prove the veracity of a Bible story. When I answered his challenge using non-Biblical sources, he countered with, “You only know that because you know history.” Whereupon I responded, “If I didn’t know history, the story in the Bible would still be true. That verifies the truthfulness of the Bible. Read it; there’s a lot to learn in it.”

Those who challenge the historical veracity of the Bible normally have an ulterior motive: if they can do away with the Bible’s authenticity, they can do away with Jesus.

Even in their quest for the “historical Jesus,” many people attempt to establish a merely human Jesus. They quote scholars who are hostile to Jesus as Deity, but they ignore scholars with equal or greater credentials who accept Jesus as God. It is a conscious decision.

Major complaints given about the Holy Bible being historical are paraphrased here: “It was written so long ago, how can we assess its legitimacy? It has been copied so many times, how can we verify its integrity?”

Let’s apply those questions to other well-accepted writings.

Plato’s Republic was written in 400 BC. We have only seven copies, but the earliest copy is dated 1200 years after Plato’s death. We accept Herodutus’ History with only eight manuscripts; the earliest is dated 1300 years after Herodotus died. The earliest copies of Tacitus’ writings are dated about 1100 AD. Aristotle died in 322 BC, but we accept copies of his writings dated 1400 years later as being accurate. The earliest manuscript for Sophocles is dated 1400 years after he died, and Pliny’s was 750 years after his demise. And we blithely accept them all as being legitimate.

But we have many hundreds, if not thousands, of New Testament documents, many of IMG_1799Bwhich are dated only 35-100 years after Jesus resurrected. So, using the same reasoning, we should not doubt them. On the other hand, they are more credible than all the others put together.

The Old Testament was written from about 1500 BC to 350 BC, and the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” dated around 152-DSCN075963 BC, have substantiated the Old Testament texts. Archeologists have verified the existence of Biblical towns, civilizations, and events.

The New Testament was written around 45 AD to 95 AD. Men who have been historically verified were eye-witnesses to what was taking place, and wrote about it. Two of the writers were Jesus’ half-brothers: James and Jude. They initially rejected their half-brother as a lunatic and a fake. But they saw Jesus after He came out of the tomb, they became true believers. Refusing to lie about what they saw and knew, they were killed for their faith. Luke wrote the historical books of Luke and Acts to a Greek dignitary after interviewing numerous eye-witnesses.

Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of His majesty.” Peter was, also, murdered for his faith.

Even the next generation of church leaders recorded their personal interviews with these eye-witnesses. For example, Papias, born in 60 A.D. interviewed the Apostle John.

Forty authors wrote the sixty-six books of the Bible over a period of 1600 years, and all are in harmony with the whole. Historical? Yes, indeed!

Archeology has verified the existence of the Hittite civilization, Jericho’s destruction in DSCN0576Joshua’s time, Egypt’s conquering of Israel, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, and many other events and people named in the Bible. Non-Christian historians like Porphyry, Celsus, Josephus, Pliny, et.al. have confirmed events recorded by the New Testament writers. Tacitus, the leading historian of Imperial Rome wrote: “The author of that name (Christian) was called Christ who in the reign of Tiberius suffered punishment under his Procurator Pontius Pilate.” The Jewish historian Josephus wrote, “There was about this time, Jesus, a wise man….” And many other non-Christian writers have verified the events in the New Testament.

If we applied the same higher criticism (for judging the Biblical writings as mythological) to the writings of the other above-mentioned philosophers and historians, we would reject all of them post-haste.

My logical, literary, and scientific conclusion is this: An historical/spiritual guide that reveals God’s interaction with man and His redemption of man, the Bible is not mythological; but is a bona fide history book that can be trusted. It is the oldest history book in the world, and has been substantiated thousands of times.

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.

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.

Mel & Mary (M & M – a Sweet Couple)

We had the privilege of having lunch yesterday with Mel & Mary Hinz. They are 88 yearsDSCN6647B old, and are friends going back to 1968. Mel, a bi-vocational pastor, and I worked at Boeing in Everett, Washington together in the tooling shop; also called the jig shop. Tools, in this sense, are not hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers. Tooling is a specialized field, and those tools are what the production workers used to actually build the Boeing 747s.

Often on a Saturday, Carol and I would take our kids and visit Mel & Mary. They had 6 or 7 kids and lived south of Seattle in Federal Way. Their children are grown but Mel & Mary still live there.

DSCN0024BWe would have dinner with them, then spend the evening discussing theology, Bible doctrine, church beliefs, personal understandings of Scripture, and a lot more. When we discovered it was two in the morning, they told us to spend the night and ask Carol & me to sing for them in the church service.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m glad you asked.

Those weekends with Mel & Mary made a strong impact in our lives. Where I had beenPICT0184 quite firm in some of my beliefs – church beliefs outranked Bible doctrine at the time – Mel helped me to grow in my understanding of the Bible, and in understanding of Who Jesus really was – and is. Mel always talked about Jesus because Jesus was – and is – the most important Person in his life. Mary comes next.

Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway – Carol & I love Mel & Mary Hinz (M & M – a Sweet DSCN8640BCouple) more than words can say. We are grateful that, in our formative years as a family, they invested valuable time into our lives to help us become who we are today. That is a primary reason that we, in turn, invest time into other’s lives.

Thank you, Mel and Mary, for your friendship andIMG_5089B love for us. But mostly we thank you for your love and devotion to each other and to our heavenly Father; for that is what made you who you are today.

We love you dearly.

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.

I Am A What?

It was a warm summer morning in 1985. My wife (Carol) and I were on I-40 heading west. We were on vacation and had been visiting our friends, Jim and Frieda Denton in Tulsa, OK, when we got into another disagreement. It wasn’t a bad one – no hollering, yelling, or throwing things. But it was frustrating for both of us … and amusing for the Dentons.

We were long-time personal friends with the Dentons, attended church together, and had the freedom to say anything we wanted to without worrying about feelings. Therefore, as we were getting ready to leave that morning Frieda gave us a bag of audio tapes and said in her fun-loving, playful drawl, “Here. Take these and listen to ‘em. It might do ya some good.”

New MarriedCarol and I were married on my 20th birthday: August 22, 1966. Carol says, “Marriage is made in Heaven; but it comes in a kit, and you have to put it together here on earth.”  She is correct, and with God’s help we did a lot of “putting together” in our marriage.

Oh, you want to know about the bag that Frieda gave us? It contained some of the building blocks for our happy marriage.

When Oklahoma City was about twenty-five miles behind us, Carol pulled out “Tape #1.” Believe it or not, we finished all five tapes before stopping that night (and heard them several times again during the next five years). There were periods of laughing, periods of discussion, but a LOT of: “So THAT’S why you are that way!” After nineteen years of marriage, we were finally learning to really understand each other. The topic?  Florence Littauer’s teaching on Temperaments. This was a fun-loving study about why we act the way we do.

I asked, “I am a what?!” Carol said, “You are a sanguine-choleric.” Where I was impetuous, fun-loving, and slow to finish a project, at a moment’s notice I could be stern, authoritative, and hard to get along with. Where Carol was easy-going, a good listener, and full of ideas, she could quickly become an unbending critic. These were our major points of contention, and are why Frieda gave us the tapes.

There are several systems of explaining the four temperaments. The (over-simplified) traditional Greek concept is: choleric-leader; melancholy-analytical; sanguine-sociable; phlegmatic-quiet; but there are many variations and combinations. Other researchers (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and others) have developed their own systems and use different names; but they all help us to understand why we act the way we do.

Some folk claim that this approach to understanding human nature is pseudo-psychology or part of the occult. Taken to an extreme or studied without an understanding of fallen human nature, I suppose I could agree. But we view life through the lens of Holy Scripture. Here is a brief overview:

Man is born in sin. Jesus came to redeem us. Having accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are to study the Bible and grow in the Character of Jesus Christ. Understanding that we have been forgiven, we now need to break our bad interactional habits and form new ones. This does not happen magically or by accident. It takes time and effort. It takes about 21 days to form a new habit, but about 28 days to break an old habit. But if we mess up in the process, we might just have to start the count over again.

Where was I? Oh yes, learning about temperaments. We have now been married for over 52 years, and we have most the bugs worked out in our marriage. I said MOST bugs; but if you look close enough, I’m sure you can find a few still crawling around. Carol learned that I was not lying when I gave incorrect information at times: I merely forgot some minor details and subconsciously filled in with similar details. (I still doAfter 50 Years that sometimes.) And I learned that Carol was not being a demeaning tyrant who held me over the fires of hell every time I made a mistake. She was merely interested in truth: TOTAL truth.

That summer our understanding and love for each other grew tremendously. We learned to love each other for who we were – not for who we wanted each other to become. And as we both learned to stop pressuring each other, we DID begin to please each more fully. But it’s not over yet: maturing is a life-long process and God will help us if we let Him.

Don’t give up: as you learn about your temperament – not the same as personality – there’s hope for you, too.