THE BE-WHATITUDES?

For many years I’ve taught about the Bible and from the Bible. One of the series I’ve been asked to teach on quite often is found in the 5th chapter of Matthew. Because of the profound nature of that section of Scripture, I call this teaching, Charter of the Christian Faith. Today’s blog is a portion of the preface of my book by the same name, and will give you a feel for what’s in the following pages. The foreword is written by Rev. David Ravenhill.

I remember as a child in Sunday School, one of my teachers wanted us to memorize the be-something-or-others; but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. I hated memorizing, and these things didn’t make any sense to me. Not only did I not understand them, but the teacher also couldn’t adequately explain them, either so I never got a gold star for learning those be-whatitudes.

But I did mentally retain other verses that made sense to me. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I understood those verses, even in the King James Version. In fact, most of what I committed to memory was from the KJV.

Also, Acts 1:11 clearly told me that while the people stood watching the incredulous sight of Jesus ascending into the sky, angels told them how Jesus will return. Men of Galilee, they said, why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw Him go! (NLT). That gave me confidence that Jesus would come back, and it told me how He would return. No questions, no guesses. No less than 67 famous people, and more than five hundred others, have claimed to be the returned messiah; but people should have understood they were fake messiahs because not one of them came the way the Bible says Jesus would return.

Nevertheless, I had a hard time with the Beatitudes, but I wasn’t alone. Author Philip Yancey said in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, “I learned the Beatitudes [as a teenager] yet I never faced the fact that none of us—I above all—could make sense of those mysterious sayings, let alone live by them.” He later said, “If I fail to understand this teaching, I fail to understand Him [Jesus].” That is a powerful statement.

Teacher and song-writer Bill Gaither said, “What we call the Beatitudes still challenge our value systems every day.” Many people—including many in the Church—view the Beatitudes merely as lofty ideals: holy-sounding platitudes which are beyond our grasp. Some people think of them as verses or sayings to comfort the spirit in time of trouble. But is this the primary intent of the first major teaching that Jesus gave us in the New Testament? I don’t think so.

I believe Matthew 5:3-12 is the Charter of the Christian Faith, and this Charter is developed in the full Sermon on the Mount in chapters five through seven.

Again, quoting E. Stanley Jones, “Years ago when I asked Mahatma Gandhi what we could do to naturalize Christianity in India so that it would cease to be a foreign thing, among other concepts he replied: ‘Practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down’—and he had in mind the Sermon on the Mount.… This fresh discovery, by a Hindu, of a truth long buried beneath the armaments of the fighting West, has been one of the most important spiritual discoveries of modern times.”

In order to properly understand the Beatitudes, we must realize they were not originally intended for our consolation, and they’re not statements to make us sound spiritual. Rather, they comprise one of the most important sets of instructions we could ever receive.

I’ll share more highlights in weeks to come, but you can order your copy on Amazon today. Also, check out my website at genelinzey.com.

What’s the Problem Here?

Why is there an uproar in America about having the Ten Commandments posted in public view? You might have been told the issue is separation of church and state, but that isn’t true. Some of my friends who call themselves atheists, and with whom I get along fine, don’t have a problem with the Ten Commandments being posted. Granting me the freedom of expressing my faith grants them the corresponding freedom to express theirs.

Although many faiths could be mentioned in this blog, I will mention only Islam, Judaism, and Christianity: three monotheistic religions.

Let’s briefly look at and comment on the commandments found in Deuteronomy 5: 6-21. The first four reflect on our relationship with God.

  • You must not have any other gods before [in priority over, or other than] me. Every person in the world is religious, and every country in the world has its own god or gods. Other nations place great importance on their god or gods without worrying about offending others – Islam being the most dynamic about this – so why are Christians being forced to change?
  • You must not create an object to worship. Adherents of Judaism and Islam agree with this, and many agnostics and atheists don’t care about it.
  • You must not use the name of God thoughtlessly or loosely. Although most people misunderstand this one and ignore it, adherents of Judaism and Islam agree with this principle.
  • You must honor the Sabbath day. Labor unions worked hard to give their members one or two days off from work each week, and the courts who invalidate the commandments won’t sit in session on Saturday or Sunday. Also, Judaism and Islam have their day of rest.

The next six commandments relate to human interpersonal relationships.

  • Honor your father and mother. Properly understood and applied, this command is one of the primary supports for most civilizations on earth.
  • You must not commit murder. We have stiff laws prohibiting murder. This command attempts to protect us from mentally sick and evil people who purposely kill others. Islam does not agree with this one.
  • You must not commit adultery. When this was observed and upheld in our culture, our society was strong. However, many people – including members of our courts, legislative bodies, and some presidents and pastors – have disregarded this one simply because sexual perversion is one of the world’s primary joys.
  • You must not steal. We arrest people and send them to jail for this.
  • You must not lie. We have contracts to keep people honest, and we can arrest people if they break contracts or commit perjury.
  • You must not think of taking your neighbors wife, house, land, or whatever else belongs to him. This command covers a lot of territory, and the courts are busy tending this every week of the year.

We’ve just seen that US citizens are not against at least seven of the rules, so what’s the problem with the Ten Commandments?

Here it is: the sound of “The 10 Commandments” reminds people of the God of the Bible. They may not be against a moral code; they are against God. And many who are NOT against God have been deceived into thinking the vast majority of people have to change our culture in order to keep from offending the miniscule minority. However, any culture that adheres to and lives by these ten laws – including honoring a Sabbath day – will be a healthier society. And most people know it.

I am still convinced these laws are the basic foundation upon which our nation was founded, although some folks disagree with me.

When we examine the Ten Commandments, it’s likely that only three of them are offensive to the general public. They are numbers 1, 3, and 7: many people don’t want God in their lives because they want the freedom to enjoy their evil, sexually-perverted lifestyle.

Some adherents of Islam agree with the ideals included in nine of the Ten Commandments. But they disagree with it all simply because the laws originated from the Judeo-Christian God; and, of course, command #1 disallows serving another god.

Other people all around the world have their own gods, and they don’t change their religion in the face of disagreement or opposition. But we in America are changing our historical, foundational belief in God simply because people disagree with us. But removing our historic foundation is outlawing moral integrity, and approving immoral hypocrisy. And that could destroy the fabric of our society. What’s the problem here?

I’ll tell you.

Many Americans have been convinced that in order to be tolerant, we must set our own beliefs aside. We have been deceived into thinking that stating our own faith is an intolerant act.

But our country has lead the way in guaranteeing personal freedom. We have openly offered freedom of expression of faith for all religions. So in keeping with the concept of religious freedom, and refraining from being ignorant hypocrites, we should not deny our own citizens the freedom of expressing their faith in Jesus Christ and Almighty God.

Christians, Pay Attention

This week, all non-Christians may disregard this blog because I’m not talking to you. I am speaking to the Church.

Well, okay. As long as you’re here, you may continue reading if you so desire.

It appears to me that many in the Christian Church have corrupted their understanding of their position in Christ, or with Christ. More and more people imagine that Christ exists for our sake; that He came to earth to bless us and give us a wonderful life; that the riches and authority of the world belong to us – or should belong to us. Many folks have been taught that we can even tell God what we want, and out of His love for us He will grant our desire.

When I worked for an automobile dealership in 1980, a well-known pastor came to me and told me he wanted a Cadillac. He specified all the details, how much he would pay for it, and wanted me to order it so I could “get in on the blessing.” When I said I could get it for him but that it would cost him approximately $8,000 more, he laughed and said, “I told Jesus what I want; and because of my faith, I’ll get it.” Walking away, he said he would offer the blessing (of getting it for him) to someone else.

About three weeks later he drove back to see me – in a new Cadillac. As he was bragging about it, I pointed out several major details that conflicted with the itemized list he handed to God. He said, “Well, I got most of it.” But when I asked him how much he paid for it, he looked down and muttered something like, “It was several thousand more than I wanted to pay” and quickly drove away.

This man had probably been listening to a song from a well-known writer that included the words: “Say it, believe it, receive it, tell Jesus.” But that theology is totally backwards, and is an affront to God. That is deciding what we want, convincing ourselves it is right to have, claiming it as ours, then – THEN – telling Jesus to get for them. This is wrong.

 The truth is: Christ does not exist for us; we exist for the sake of Christ. We have no business itemizing our demands, then handing the demand to God as though He was waiting on our table at the local restaurant.

Yes, Jesus came to earth as a baby, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, died, and buried. He rose back to life on the third day, and spent the next forty days walking among people, ministering to them, proving he was alive – and proving His divinity. He came to earth in order to remove the breach between man and God that was placed there when Adam sinned. But although Jesus taught us to be servants to each other, Almighty God is not our servant.

In the late 1890s, the theologian/politician/scholar Abraham Kuyper (Abraham Kuijper) said, “We Christians regularly fail to acknowledge our true place in creation. We aren’t just God’s creation; we are God’s possession.” I agree. We need to understand that the book of Job clarifies that no one tells God what to do.

Yes, we need to remember James 4:2-3 which says, “And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure” (GNT). What it does not say is that sometimes we “ask God” for something, but then we bypass God and appropriate it with human efforts. That is not trusting God. Rather, that is works of the flesh, and Scripture has a strong admonition against that.

Reflecting on Kuyper’s thought, what IS our place in creation?

I think it is summed up quite succinctly in Jesus’ words in John 4:34. “My meat [sustenance] is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Since Jesus is our example of how we are to serve and honor Almighty God, we can truthfully say that OUR job is to do the will of Him that sent us, and to finish what He has asked us to do.

God didn’t ordain that we become crucified; but individually, our job is to discover what God wants of us, and do it. God’s will includes a vocation of some kind; but specifically, it is to honor Him in everything we do in life.

Our place in creation is not to tell God what we want. Rather, it is to discover what God wants of us, and obey.

What has God asked you to do?

Look Into the Face of Jesus

Who is this baby we call the Messiah? John 1:1-3 starts at the dawn of human history. “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him.” Verse 14 says, “The Word became a human and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father—and he was full of grace and truth” (NLT). The baby, Who was (translated into English) named Jesus, was previously called both the Word and God.

Luke 1:26-35 tells Mary’s side of the story. The angel appeared to Mary, informed her that God favored her and chose her to be the mother of the Messiah. The angel told her to name the baby Jesus.

Can you imagine Mary’s shocked response? “I’m engaged, but I’m not married yet, and am still a virgin! How am I going to have a baby?”

The angel replied essentially, “Mary, this is an act of God. If you’re willing, God will supernaturally plant the seed within you, and you’ll remain a virgin until after the baby is born.”

With trepidation, Mary agreed with the angel. But Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, had a different reaction.

Matthew 1:18-25 gives us Joseph’s viewpoint. Joseph wanted nothing to do with an unmarried, pregnant woman! He intended to dump Mary for being pregnant out of wed-lock, but the angel finally convinced him of God’s plan, and that Mary was honest, undefiled, and still a virgin. The angel told Joseph in a dream that God wanted him to marry Mary, the baby was to be named Jesus and would [eventually] save people from their sins. Understanding the shame and derision they would endure, Joseph accepted Mary as his wife and adopted Jesus as his own son.

The Imperial decree ordered all men to return to their town of birth for the Roman census, so Joseph took Mary and went to Bethlehem. On the night of Jesus’ birth, the first yard to light up the community on the first Christmas was the field just out of town.

That’s where we read that after the angel scared the daylights out of the shepherds, the angels gave the world-changing announcement that God had entered humanity in the form of a baby. When the shepherds calmed down and believed the angelic message, they were the first visitors to look into the face of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to welcome God, in the form of a baby, into the world. I also believe they were the first to offer a gift on Christmas night. They gave a lamb to the new-born King.

The wise men, Persian scientists, received the message of the new King as they studied the sky. Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known” (NLT).

About a year later, these scientists were the first visitors of their kind to welcome God into the world. Looking into the face of our Savior, in the form of a toddler sitting in His mother’s lap, they gave Him gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Remember that I said Joseph adopted Jesus – the Son of God – as his own son? Now the situation is reversed. If we accept Jesus as our Savior and live to honor Him, God will perform a miracle and adopt us – humans – into His heavenly family. And that introduces another miracle: Jesus, Who is God, is the best Friend a person can ever have!

Christmas is not limited to a starry-eyed baby lying in a manger. It wasn’t intended to be depicted by trees, lights, glitz, hoopla, parties, noise, and a lot more associated with the secular holiday event.

Christmas is about God entering humanity to rescue us from our uncontrolled descent into debauchery and death. God entered humanity as a baby, died on the cross as a man, but broke the curse of sin and death by rising from the dead as Almighty God on the third day and returning to heaven. That’s what Christmas is really all about.

Give gifts. Enjoy the season. Love your family. But look into the face of Jesus. Honor Him in everything you do.

Merry Christmas, friends.

How Do You Celebrate Christmas?

Do you know that the first hint in the Bible of what we call Christmas is in Genesis 3:15? A lot happened between Genesis 3:15 and Matthew 1:18, but we won’t go into all that today.

My questions are: How do you celebrate Christmas? Do you go over the river and through the woods to visit grandma? Do you read the Scriptures that talk about Jesus’ birth? Do you take a trip? Invite people to your house? Do you watch movies or football games? What’s your favorite Christmas meal?

I looked up historic Christmas celebrations. For about 300 years after Jesus’ resurrection, there were no observances of His birth – therefore, no festivities. The first one recorded was in Rome, on December 25, 336 A.D., but didn’t become a primary Christian observance until the 800s. Decorating trees started in Germany, but had nothing to do with Christmas.

In the fourth century, church officials decided to observe Jesus’ birth as a holiday; and for non-biblical reasons, Pope Julius chose December 25. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 A.D., and to England by the end of the sixth century. By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders thought that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but in doing so, they gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. Therefore, on Christmas, many people attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere.

Hmmmm … It seems like that still happens today.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in Victorian England in the 1840s, Charles Dickens vowed to do something about it, and writing was what he did best. So, in 1843, he published his novel, A Christmas Carol. Although the book is more a work of sentiment than of Christianity, it captures something of the Christmas spirit.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. While acknowledging the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them. Dickens encouraged joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

How do Carol and I celebrate Christmas?

We read about the birth of Jesus in chapters 1-2 in Matthew and Luke. That sets the tone for the celebration. We often visit one of our kids, but this year we’ll visit our daughter’s in-laws, Robert and Phyllis Crawford, near Oklahoma City. And instead of buying gifts for our families who live far away, then pay more for mailing them, we’ll mail the allotted money and let them choose the gifts.

Have you heard of the song, Over the River, and Through the Woods, To Grandmother’s House, We Go? I grew up singing it at Christmas, but it was written as a Thanksgiving Poem by Lydia Maria Child in 1844, and referred to Grandfather’s house. I find it interesting that where Carol and I live, all five of our children and their families have to travel over rivers and through forests to reach us.

My favorite Christmas meal is not turkey. (Shhh…don’t tell Carol.) My favorite is ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams with marshmallows, and fruit salad with whipped cream. Two to three hours later, I want pumpkin or apple pie with vanilla ice cream! Oh, yes – and coffee.

I like to watch football. On this coming Christmas day, the Minnesota Vikings will play against the New Orleans Saints. But I won’t watch it. Not on Christmas Day. This is a time to spend with family, which includes church family, and helping others.

We usually watch It’s A Wonderful Life the week before Christmas. It helps us to realize – again – the intrinsic value of each and every life. I hope that every one of you reading this reflection understands that every person is important. If you are hurting emotionally or are happy, if you are sick or healthy, if you feel rejected or accepted, if you are poor or wealthy, please believe me: you are important! Whatever may be your status or position in life, reach out and help others. THAT, my friend, is one way of manifesting the spirit of Christmas…the Spirit of Christ.

I understand that the covid-19 pandemic is putting a crunch on worship services, family gatherings, and celebrations this year, but you can still give to others. Be creative and find a way.

But stop and think about what this celebration is really all about – Jesus Christ. He came as a human baby, but never relinquished His true identity – God.

That is spelled out in John 1:1-4. “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people.”  

Then verse 14 says, “The Word became a human and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father—and he was full of grace and truth.”

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

Lesson from the Flock: Wisdom

Chickens are curious creatures: they want to get into everything, fly over anything their limited flight ability will allow, and go where no chicken has gone before. But while they will run from a person who is trying to catch them, and run from another animal coming at them, their little minds cannot understand the inherent danger involved in leaving the protection established by their keeper.

The birds in our flock cluck their way around the yard as they scratch for bugs, hop onto the trailer, crawl under the BBQ grill, and fly up to look into our windows. But what got my attention was when I found three hens sitting atop the gate of our chain-link fence. Obviously, their wings are getting stronger. (This took place a week before we were given Elona – the fourth pullet.)

“You might need to clip their wings” Carol prophetically intoned. I shouldn’t have been surprised the next day when I went out to feed them, but found only Fred – the rooster.

Oh, I forgot to mention the names of the pullets. The bird with thin white feathers along her neck is Whitey. The one with a dark red neck on top a lighter colored body is Red-Head. The even-colored bird is Goldie. And, as I said, the rooster is Fred. (Don’t ask – I don’t know why.)

As I said, the three girls were gone. Carol reminded me that, when I found them, not to attempt to chase them back into the yard because with their non-rational reactions they will scatter like cockroaches – creating a ruckus in the process.

I found them in the neighbor’s front yard and called them. Getting their attention, I dropped grain – which they dearly love – behind me as I walked toward the gate. Carol was right. When they saw the grain falling from my hand, they ran to me and willingly gobbled the grain as they followed me home. The situation reminded me of the Pied Piper, but my motives were good.

The four birds have a quarter-acre to roam, eat, run, fly, scratch, lay eggs, fuss with each other, eat more, cluck to their heart’s content, and enjoy life. So why do they spend an inordinate amount of time at the gate looking out? Within the yard, they have all they will ever need. They are safe from all kinds of predators … and cars. Yet with their half-inch-long brain, there is no way they can understand the dangers outside the fold. Neither safety nor danger enters their little minds, so they roam wherever they feel like it at the moment.

Surprisingly, I know some people who act in the same irresponsible manner – and they have a three-pound brain. So, the problem doesn’t lie in the size of our brain, or even with the ability to rationalize; but with wisdom and understanding.

Wisdom can be defined in many ways. One definition is: the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience and knowledge. Another definition is: the ability to apply what I have learned to life’s situations. Some folk say wisdom is common sense. Properly understood, I agree.

But wisdom depends on something else. Proverbs 9:10 (KJV) says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” The NCV says, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord, and understanding begins with knowing the Holy One.”

As the space shuttle needs a base from which to launch, and as a building needs a solid footing, wisdom needs a firm foundation. So Proverbs 9:10 informs us that knowing, respecting, revering, and obeying God is the foundation upon which wisdom is built. The emphasis is on obedience. Sacrifice was the highest form of worship in the Old Testament, but I Samuel 15:22 tells us that obedience is far better than sacrifice.

God gave humans our three-pound brain to operate our bodies. Within that brain, our mind thinks, analyzes, and ponders; but wisdom goes beyond that.

Wisdom enables us to see through problematic situations; to understand and heal wounded relationships; to formulate a plan of action. Wisdom enables us to avoid hurting others and helps us to understand and love more completely. Wisdom enables us to accomplish our God-given goals. Wisdom helps us to understand Who God, what He desires of us, and to obey Him. As we remain obedient to the Lord, He grants us wisdom to understand and enjoy life.

The chickens finally learned to stay home. In like manner, we need stay close to God.

A Must-Read from a Well-Loved Professor

Many of you who are reading this blog are university professors, teachers, teacher’s assistants, and vocational teachers. Many others are pastors, Bible teachers, CEOs, and business instructors. You all know how important it is to develop a good relationship with your students and colleagues because it is that relationship which enables the students to more readily assimilate your teaching.

On the other hand, most likely all of you have been students at one time or other, and you know what it’s like to learn from a great teacher and be bored with an ineffective teacher.

In all my studies at the collegiate and university level, I’ve met and interacted with many teachers and professors – both men and women. During those years, three men have made a profound impression on me. Dr. Gary L. Royer is one of those men. I want to tell you about him because his recent book, published in March of 2020, is a must-read if you want to learn about a deeper aspect of life.

Dr. Gary L. Royer, adjunct faculty member at Southwest Assemblies of God University, released his latest book: Out of Darkness Into His Wonderful Light. The book is based on the course he taught about the spirit world. He wrote it at SAGU in 1997, and has taught it nearly every semester since then. Many students have declared that the course changed their lives.

Upon retiring from classroom teaching, Dr. Royer was encouraged by many of his former students and fellow professorial colleagues to put his notes for the course into book form. Foreseeing that the book would be used in bible studies and personal reading, as well as in the classroom, he divided it into thirteen chapters with study questions at the end of each chapter.

Dr. Royer writes, “So many students have told me that, although they faithfully attended church every Sunday morning, they had never understood the spirit world. It was a delight to write and teach an organized presentation of this subject of the Spirits of God, ministering angels, demonic spirits, and the powerful human spirit.”

Dr. Gary was one of my instructors at the university – in fact, my favorite instructor at SAGU. I add my voice to many others who say he teaches from a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, from an in-depth knowledge of people around the world, an in-depth knowledge of the spirit world, and with a love for his students.

With the skill of a biblical scholar, the spiritual insights of a Spirit-filled minster with much experience in dealing with spiritual problems, and with practical guidance in recognizing, addressing, and finding freedom in Christ, Dr. Royer presents this needed book. It is comprehensive in scope and is informed by other experts in addressing spiritual issues in dealing with the demonic and the spirit world. His text is centered on biblical insights, especially the Book of Ephesians, testimonies of many who have experienced spiritual bondages, and how they found freedom in Christ.

This is not a book of extremes, but a well-written and biblically balanced approach to a complex subject. Specific prayers are given which lead the reader in understanding how to approach God for help.

I encourage you to purchase several copies of the book, Out of Darkness Into His Wonderful Light, because you may want your family and friends to read it.

You may order it from Dr. Royer, or directly from Amazon.com at https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3ADr.+Gary+Luther+Royer&s=relevancerank&text=Dr.+Gary+Luther+Royer&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1

Feel free to contact Dr. Gary Royer, B.A., M.A., D. Min/Missions, at groyer@sagu.edu

Safest Place in Iraq

My brother, Colonel Paul Linzey, US Army Chaplain (retired) spent a tour of duty in Iraq. Not because he was ordered overseas, but because his men were stationed in harm’s way, and Paul wanted to be with them to minister hope, peace, and life with them. Coming within mere feet of death, himself, Paul clearly identified with his men, and that is beautifully portrayed within the pages of Safest Place in Iraq.

He encountered numerous experiences – many serious, yet many humorous – and he detailed some of them in this book.

I had the privilege of reviewing and endorsing the book, and I highly recommend it. You don’t need a military background to understand and “enter” the story; but if you are military, you will “find yourself” in Iraq, and will immediately be a part of the story as it unfolds in these pages.

As the mournful sirens sound off, the missiles come screaming overhead, and as the bombs explode creating death all around, you’ll walk with Paul as he visits the hurting, the dying, and as he helps the soldiers see past the deadly present and gives them hope for the future.

Go to https://paullinzey.com/books/ and visit Paul’s website. You can order Safest Place in Iraq, and see Paul’s other endeavors.

You can also find the book at https://www.amazon.com/Safest-Place-Iraq-Experiencing-During/dp/1642799173

Living a Holy Life

Some years ago, I was talking with an acquaintance about a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Oh, I wouldn’t go that THAT church! They act holier than thou!” he exclaimed.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means, uh, well, you know – they act real holy and religious!”

“Well, what does that mean?” I asked again.

“What’s the matter? I thought you knew this religion stuff.”

“I know about religion and Christianity, but you are condemning those people. So, tell me what you mean, and why.”

He walked away because, not being a Christian, he was trying to justify his own sinful lifestyle (it was bad) by demeaning those who were living a Godly lifestyle.

But he said they were “acting holy,” so let’s talk about holiness.

If a person or thing is holy, it is separated. Being in a state of holiness is being dedicated or set apart to God. Holiness begins in our minds, and is an ongoing lifestyle. Holiness is a work in progress. It results in spiritual transformation. Holiness should permeate our entire life, for it involves everything we do, think, and say.

1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy. For he himself has said, You must be holy because I am holy.” And Romans 12:2a: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” But we have to purposely cooperate with God for that to happen.

Several related words are: consecrated, hallowed, saint, belonging (to God), God-like.

I admire people for saying what many pastors and teachers are either hesitant or outright afraid to say. Holiness results in fearing, honoring, revering, loving, and living for God. But do Christians actually fear, revere, or honor God?

Based on what I’ve seen in the church across our nation, many Christians – adults as well as the youth – do not fear God. Rather than living a life wholly dedicated to God and teaching others to know and accept Christ for who He is, misguided Christians and church leaders are choosing to enjoy some of the evil pleasures of the world. In an attempt to be relevant to the world, they have become like the world.

We need to ask ourselves: “Where do we spend our time? Our money? Where do we invest our emotions and our intellect? What are our priorities in life?” Answering these questions truthfully could help the church – including you and me – get back on track.

Several church denominations are historically described as holiness churches because of their historic stand for Christ and against sin and worldliness. But a great many of their members now go where the sinful world goes, and do what the sinful world does. Many of them don’t understand that when they act like the world, they have diluted or lost their witness for Christ.

Jesus was consistent in remaining separate from the world while ministering life to the people. He said in John 17:15-17, “I’m not asking you [Father God] to take them [Jesus’ followers] out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth.”

Jesus didn’t mimic the lifestyle of the people in order to save them. Instead, while remaining holy and dedicated to the Father, He presented truth with the love and authority of the Father; and those who desired to live for God joined Jesus. Therefore, we, also, must remain separate from the world while living in and ministering to the world. We don’t need to act or look like the sinful world while trying to accomplish God’s goals. If we look and act like the world, they might see no need to change.

We must use the proper methods of rescuing the perishing, and that entails being holy while sharing the Holy Word of God. We must know the Father by knowing Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit can empower us and equip us with spiritual gifts to minister to the world and influence them for Christ. (Read Ephesians 4:11-16 and First Corinthians 11:4-11.)

Second Corinthians 6:17a says, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.” By thought, word, action, and lifestyle, let’s honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Total Solar Eclipse at Glendo

I enjoy reading articles about solar eclipses from others, but today I’ll tell a portion of our own story.

Carol and I were on our 51st wedding anniversary trip and decided to visit our daughter (Darlene) and her family in Colorado, then visit the Rocky Mountain National Park just outside Estes Park, Colorado. But we timed our visit to coincide with the total solar eclipse.

We had seen partial solar eclipses and several total lunar eclipses; but never a total solar eclipse, so we didn’t know what to expect.

Darlene and her son went with us as we drove three and a half hours north of Denver. Arriving at Glendo, Wyoming around 4:30 on Monday morning, we easily found a place to park in an open grassy area, and took a nap in the car. Darlene and I awoke a couple of hours later and walked to the lake in time to take some great sunrise pictures over the water.

It was a warm day with planes flying overhead and hot-air balloons lazily hovering nearby. The count-down for the total eclipse began around 10:22 a.m., and our anticipation grew.

Thousands of people, including professional photographers, had their telescopes and cameras ready. Many were set up on tripods, but most of us simply held cameras in our hands.

I took several pictures with the camera pointing directly at the full sun with no filter, but shot most of the pictures with the solar-viewing lens covering the camera lens. I took a picture every 10 minutes until the eclipse was near 90%, then changed battery and began taking quite a few.

It was light enough to read with only 10% sunlight, but it got dark quickly after that. Then, as someone said: “BAM! Darkness!” And with the sudden darkness, the temperature suddenly dropped, making the hot-air balloons rise.

As noon-day brightness turned to night, hundreds of people shouted, cheered, and cried. I didn’t expect the sudden emotion that swept over me. All I could do and say was, “Oooooooooh Wow! God, you are amazing to arrange this kind of phenomena.” I took turns looking at the corona and taking pictures: taking 15 shots of the corona during blackout.

Then, again, “BAM!” The light came back on – but differently.

As the eclipse was increasing, the sunlight was dull-yellow; but the instant the sunlight reappeared, it was a bright, diamond, crystal color! What a surprise! I’ll never forget it. Again, very emotional. Cheering, yelling, crying spontaneously erupted from the crowd.

We didn’t wait for the eclipse to unwind. At about 20%, we packed up and began heading out … but another surprise popped up.

It took only 3.5 hours to drive from Denver and park on the grass at Glendo Park; but it took 4 hours to drive the 3 miles from the grassy spot to I-25. Then it took another 2 hours to drive 26 miles south. That is where we escaped the unending line of red break-lights and headed east for Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. After a snack in Scotts Bluff, we headed south, getting back to Aurora just after midnight; but it was much better than the projected 6:00 a.m. if we stayed on I-25.

As I write this Reflection, I am reviewing the pictures I took. Someone told me that taking a picture directly at the sun without a filter would hurt the camera. I am not bragging, but it didn’t affect my Nikon 9900. My wife also shot the sun directly with her Nikon 9400, and they both continue to work wonderfully.

We are now looking forward to watching the next total solar eclipse in Little Rock in 2024.

God didn’t have to put the moon in such an orbit that we would have lunar and solar eclipses. But He must have thought ahead and said, “I’ll make life interesting for my special creation – man. Not only will I give him animals to make life interesting, I’ll also show my creativity in the heavens for him to enjoy.”

Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.”

God is an awesome God. He loves you and desires to have a living relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Read about Him in the Bible. God would like you to spend eternity with Him.