Lessons From the Flock – Security

Two of my chickens don’t like to be picked up, but something was different today.

I prepared their mix of goodies which consists of whole-grained rolled-oats, dried meal worms, cut-up apples, bread bits, and scratch. Water and the 16% protein meal called Crumbles are available 24/7.

As I tossed the mix out for them, Elona and Baby wanted to be picked up. These two, and Goldie, are the ones who always want to be loved on. I picked up Baby, then Elona. But this time, Whitey and Red Head came up. That’s unusual because they are the more elusive ones.

As I held and talked with Elona – she was explaining life to me – Whitey stood at my feet.

“You want up, Whitey?” She took a step closer.

I put Elona down and scooped up Whitey. She cocked her head, looked at me from both sides of her head, and talked – but not freely as do Baby, Elona, and Goldie. They chatter with me, but Whitey merely said a few syllables. (I’m not joking.)

Then Goldie walked up and began pecking on my britches. That’s her signal to pick her up. Elona does that, too.

I put Whitey down and scooped up Goldie, and she began telling me what she’s been doing lately. I then felt Red Head bump against me as she was looking for more worms. I put Goldie down and picked up Red Head.

She squirmed a bit but didn’t try to get away. However, she wouldn’t talk at all. Red Head merely looked at me as if to say, “Are you happy now that I let you pick me up?” When she looked at the ground and wiggled her legs, I put her down, and she continued her search for worms. I had an extra worm in my hands, so I said, “Red Head – you want this?”

Without hesitation she jumped up, and with outstretched neck grabbed it with her beak. At that movement, the others came running. They wanted it! Do you know the chicken’s philosophy of life? Here it is: If I have it, it’s mine. If you have it, it’s mine. And if I had it but you took it, it’s still mine!

So, I threw out another handful of dried meal worms; that generated another feeding-frenzy.

I often hold all five of the chickens – no more than three at a time, of course. I watch over my flock because (this may sound strange) I love them. I care for them and feed them very well. After losing the rooster (Fred) because I forgot to lock the coop, I always make sure they are safe and secure at night. They, in turn, come running to me every time I go out the back door. Again, as strange as it sounds, these babies love me – at least, as much as chickens know how to love.

Do you know that God loves us and wants to take care of us? But He does much more than I can do for my birds. I watch over my flock on a limited scale at best, but our Creator-Savior is a good shepherd and watches over His flock 24/7. He knows what’s happening with us every second of the day. He desires to “hold us” and care for us, and He goes out of His way to keep us safe and secure – if we let Him.

Amazingly, God is also limited in what He can do for us. What’s the limitation?

We are the limiting factor.

If my chickens wanted to, they could fly over the fence and escape my protective, nurturing care. They would be independent to roam freely. But they don’t. They stay with me, they trust me, they’re secure with me.

But many humans don’t have the wisdom my chickens have, and they run from God. Desiring independence, they “fly over the fence.” They fly from safety and into danger. They run from plenty, and into poverty. That’s not wise.

John 14:21 tells us that whoever loves the Lord – those who listen to and obey Him – are the ones to whom God the Father will reveal Himself.

If we run to God, and remain in His protective care, we can receive the “mix of goodies” that He wants to give us – in addition to His sustaining care available 24/7.

God loves you and desires to communicate with you. Study the Bible, learn to know Jesus, and find your security in and with Him. You may be surprised at the results.

What’s the Basis for Your Faith?

The title of this Reflection is a question I’ve been asked several times. Years ago, I often said: “The Bible is the basis for my faith.” But my answer has changed. Now I joyfully say, “Eyewitnesses, and the empty tomb where Jesus was buried is the basis for my faith.”

What’s the difference? To answer that, I’ll use a Protestant version of the King James Bible.

This version of the KJV Bible (printed around 1885) has 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses, and 788,258 words in the text. It contains stories and narratives that relate information such as numbers of people killed in numerous battles, lists of kings, priests, and prophets, and genealogies of various people.

But that information, and a lot more, is based on various dating and numbering methods. For example: some cultures listed the second year of the king’s reign as the first year simply because some kings were killed before the first year was complete. Sometimes the second year of a baby’s life was counted as its first because 1st-year mortality was rampant. Sometimes, a king and a co-regent reigned simultaneously, yet their individual reigns seem to be listed consecutively.

Various versions of the Bible – even various KJ versions – have different word and verse counts. Other things are documented differently, depending on the original ethnic scribes or subsequent translators.

All of that, plus more, give people opportunities to call the Bible wrong – therefore, impugning the integrity of the Bible – which, consequently, tends to impugn the integrity of those of us who believe the Holy Bible.

Therefore, I no longer say the Bible is the basis for my faith because detractors, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and adherents of other religions think they have grounds to prove the Bible wrong.

I now rely on eyewitnesses and the empty tomb as the basis for my faith. As surely as the person on the right of this blog witnessed the US Navy Blue Angles flying over Duncanville, Texas, there were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and of the empty tomb in which He had been buried. That means Jesus rose from the dead. How can you argue against a person who predicted that he would die, how he would die, by whose promptings he would die, by whose hands he would die, and that he would come back to life in three days – and it all come true? Are you going to call him a liar? Not me; especially since much of it was also predicted centuries earlier by others.

How can a person debate that? Jesus either rose from the dead, or he didn’t. It isn’t “The Bible” I have to believe – it is eyewitnesses I believe. Witnesses such as Matthew, Peter, John, and others who documented their observations. They had no idea that their writings might be saved for people to read centuries later. However, because their observations and stories were found to be authentic, they were incorporated into a group of books that became the Holy Bible.

Merriam-Webster defines the word bible as: a publication that is preeminent especially in authoritativeness or wide readership. Many bibles abound such as the Machinists’ Bible, Deer Hunters’ Bible, Flower Gardener’s Bible, the Holy Bible, and many more.

The topic of Jesus’ rising from the dead has been found by archeologists in ancient Roman documents because it was a political concern for the emperors. Therefore, it is worth our time discussing it, but not arguing over it.

But I don’t blindly accept the Holy Bible. We can believe it or we don’t have to believe it; but there isn’t much sense in arguing over it. The fact is that the Holy Bible is not just a spiritual book; it is one of the oldest and greatest history books in existence. It’s also a matter of faith. But faith goes both ways: you either have faith to believe Jesus rose from the dead, or you have faith that he didn’t rise from the dead. You have faith to believe the Bible, or you have faith not to believe it. You have faith to believe in God or you have faith not to believe. Everyone’s life is based on faith in something or in someone.

The historicity of Jesus living and dying has been proven by non-biblical sources, so that is not the issue. His raising from the dead is the issue. But you’ll also discover that Jesus’ resurrection has been proven by atheists and agnostics. Of course, they became believers in Christ once they verified the deity of Jesus Christ.

Not only does the empty tomb provide me with answers for this life, it also substantiates my faith for eternal life. And I ask you to turn to Jesus Christ and live for Him.

Identification Generates Change

I’m sure you were asked as a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As I did, you most likely had a ready answer. I wanted to be a Navy Chaplain like my father. Many of my friends gave answers such as: a policeman, fireman, doctor, race car driver, a movie star, and so forth. In the 1970s, two other common answers were: a rock singer or an astronaut.

Why do kids respond like that? The simple is: identification. Identifying with something or someone we admire gives us a sense of belonging, a sense of importance.

As a Californian, I liked the San Francisco 49er football team. When the 49ers won a game, “I” won. When they succeeded, I succeeded. When they lost, I lost. I’ll never forget when WE won OUR 5th Super Bowl Ring! Had I ever met any of them? No, but what difference did that make? I liked Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Jerry Rice.

But I truly admired my father, and I strongly identified with him. I always liked dad better than the 9ers, anyway.

I also learned to admire other men who talked and sung about Jesus, and in high school a southern gospel quartet from Mississippi became my focus: The Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Not having met them, I referred to them by their first names, and sung along with the records I bought. I learned all four parts of all their songs and learned to sound like them – somewhat. When I finally met them near Boston, Massachusetts, my spirits soared!

A few others whom I admired and wanted to emulate were the Apostle Paul, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Graham, Paul Harvey, and Dr. J. C. Holsinger (Carol’s and my history professor in the university).

Identification with a person, group, or event generates change. Why? We mentally gravitate toward the object of our focus.

I tend to think like dad. I’m for a unified nation as was Lincoln. I focus on the Bible like Billy Graham. I learned to sing like several of the Blackwoods. Fifty years ago, I could sing tenor similar to Bill Shaw; but as the years passed, I began singing bass similar to J.D. Sumner – but not nearly as low as he did. I learned to study like Dr. Holsinger. I learned to tell stories similar to Paul Harvey. I learned to think theologically and philosophically like Paul.

Since identification generates change, identifying with these men gave me direction in life.

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines identification, in part, as: “A largely unconscious process whereby an individual models thoughts, feelings, and actions after those attributed to an object that has been incorporated as a mental image.” The person changes as the thoughts and feelings become a part of his life and his worldview.

An extreme form of emulation is idolatry and leads us away from God. But admiration, properly applied, is beneficial if it leads us toward God, maturity, and wholesome living.

But there is one more person with whom I have identified, and who has changed my life more than any other: Jesus Christ.

My favorite quote from Billy Graham is: “The Bible Says!” So, let’s go there.

John 14:23 says – “If people love me, they will obey my teaching” (NCV).

Romans 6:4 says – “When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life” (NCV).

So, obedience is another way of identifying with the Lord. Obedience includes actions, lifestyle, and manner of speaking. And we find that water baptism is our statement to the world that we have totally identified with Jesus: in his life, death, and resurrection.

Remembering that we mentally gravitate toward the object of our focus, I have learned to focus my life on Jesus Christ. I know who I am, and to whom I belong.

Some who call themselves Christian but who do not live according to Jesus’ teachings, have not identified with Him. If your life – words, actions, lifestyle, attitudes – does not openly verify identification with the Lord, there is a question as to the sincerity of your faith.

Identification with Christ grants strength, security, belonging, power. Not power to rule people, but power to overcome evil and spiritual darkness. Those who identify with Christ receive authority to become adopted children of God. Identification with Jesus will help us throughout eternity.

Who do you admire or look up to? With whom do you identify? As you contemplate your eternal existence, will your role-models help you or hinder you? Think about it. Pray about it. Jesus is ready and willing to help you.

Two Trees … Two Lives

As we walked through the Redwood Forest in Northern California, we were awed by the beauty, the grandeur of these magnificent trees that average 240 feet in height. I grew up in Southern California but rarely did my parents have opportunity to go that far north. Eight hundred miles was a long way in the 1950s, and I saw the Redwoods only one time in my childhood.

But this was 2018, Carol & I were on our year-long jaunt around the US of A, and childhood memories came flooding through the canals of my mind. On November 14 we visited the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and on December 8, we visited the Calaveras Big Trees State Park – in the snow, of course – with our son, Ron, and his family.

There are basically two divisions of giant Redwoods: Giant Sequoias (sequoiadendron gigantem) are found in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Coastal Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) grow near the Northern California coast.

Some Giant Sequoias grow 300 feet tall, have a diameter up to 35 feet (that’s almost 110 feet in circumference!), have a root system which can cover several acres, and be more than 3,000 years old. For history buffs: a tree that old sprouted about 100 years after Charlemagne died, the timeframe when Eric the Red (Viking) established the first colony in Greenland, and the beginning of the Mayan Post-Classical period. The Coastal Redwoods can grow 370 feet tall – the tallest trees in the world – with trunks up to about 30 feet in diameter (95 feet in circumference).

Loggers had cut about 90% of these colossal trees for housing, furniture, etc.; but various conservation groups appealed to Congress to preserve the Redwoods, and the state and national park systems succeeded in rescuing the remaining 10%.

 As Carol and I walked among the trees, we saw a number of them that looked as though two or three had been planted together. Standing very close together with 8-foot diameter trunks, it looked as though someone had poured liquid bark on the trees ten feet off the ground which solidified, connecting the trees. Looking at this photo carefully, you can see where the bark has joined the two trees.

Yes, they had grown up together – the seeds having landed about ten feet apart. As seedlings, ten feet is a long distance. But as they grew and their trunks began touching, a phenomenon called inosculation took place. This funny word means to connect or join; to become one or make continuous; to unite.

As each of them grew in width at about an inch per year, they began touching in 120 years. As the trunks or branches rubbed together and wore off the bark, the live fibrous tissues touched each other and began intertwining. They didn’t get infected, and the trees became one plant, sharing nutrients and water.

Depending on how close trees are, either the bark joins and becomes one covering around both trees, or the tree trunks themselves physically join and become one tree. The trees that fuse together like that are called Hugging Trees. And together, they are stronger than individual trees.

Trees and bushes are not the only organisms that experience inosculation. This interesting phenomenon takes place when a person receives a skin graft. Through inosculation, the blood vessels and skin tissues connect, intertwine, and become one.

As I stood in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park gazing at these two magnificent works of God that had become one, I began thinking about my relationship with Carol.

We were born in different states. Eighteen years later we met in Southern California in college. Both of us lived on campus, and – attracted to each other – we saw each other in classes, during meals in the cafeteria, and in the choir.

Married August 22, 1966, we began growing together – yes, including rubbing each other the wrong way sometimes. But we didn’t allow the irritations, the inconveniences, the frustrations, and occasional anger to infect us as we wore off the rough edges; and over the years we became one in many ways.

We share the same house, the same joys, the same children, the same grandchildren, the same church, the same God. We have the same basic goals in life. We even react in much the same way, and at times spontaneously come up with the same ideas. We’ve grown strong together.

Two trees…two lives. It’s amazing how two individuals can develop a strong marriage if they stay together, weather the storms of life, and learn to truly love each other.

The Positive Side of Life

Have you noticed that I like to be joyful, happy? I like to laugh and have a good time. I learned that from my dad who used to say, “We’re only going this way once; we might as well make the most of it!”  Of course, Dad meant that within a totally Christian lifestyle.

Should we be serious? Yes, but we don’t have to somber to be serious. Just after the North lost a major battle in the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln told a joke in Congress and was challenged by his Secretary of State.

“Mr. President, don’t you think you ought to be serious in a time like this?”

President Lincoln replied, “If I took everything serious, I would lose my mind.” Lincoln understood that a little humor alleviated a lot of mental turmoil.

We sometimes forget that God’s original intention for all mankind was to be joyful, happy while we fulfill His will for our lives – even if we encountered difficulties.

Do you know that the word joy, its derivatives, and related words are in the Bible over 250 times? God approves of joy and happiness as we serve Him. One of the words is rejoicing which is “celebration of thanksgiving; making happy sounds; laughing, having a good time; being cheerful.”

Proverbs 15:13 tells us that a cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.

Proverbs 18:14 informs us that the will to live can get you through sickness, but life is difficult with a broken spirit.

Proverbs 15:15 tells it from the opposite viewpoint: “Every day is hard for those who suffer, but a happy heart is like a continual feast.” In other words, even if we’re poor and are struggling, a cheerful heart fills the day with song.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A happy heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength.” And I have found that a cheerful disposition is good for our health, but gloom and doom leave us bone-tired.

If you find that the cares of life are getting you down, remember the prayer of Francis of Assissi. It goes something like this:

          Lord, grant me the strength to change the things I can change;       

          Grant me the courage to accept the things I cannot change;

          And grant me the wisdom to know the difference.

Keep in mind that facing each situation with a cheerful disposition can make the difference between success or failure.

A truly joyful person is one who can enjoy the scenery even on a detour. Some of Carol’s and my more enjoyable traveling moments have been on routes we didn’t plan on, and it happened again just today. When things seem to go wrong, we try to find the good in it.

Normally, joyful people are healthier, they are more creative, they are more alert, and are more fun to be around. Why? Joyful people enjoy life! And joy is contagious. (So is depression, and that’s a problem!)

Joyful people don’t usually get stopped by negative influences, but more freely release or express the creativity that our Lord placed within them. Joyful people are generally more productive because they are prone to stay focused on what God wants them to do in this life.

It says in Nehemiah 8:10, “Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

That last phrase could be translated, “…for the joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong.”

Forget Murphy’s Law that says, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. That’s pessimistic and can slow you down. Instead, think about how you can make things right.

Let’s focus on and dwell on the last part of 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.”  

So let the joy of the Lord saturate your bones, your mind, your spirit. If something seems to go wrong, turn to God and ask Him for understanding and guidance; and then you be the human element that turns things around for the better.

Join me on the positive side of life.

Jesus Overruled Physics and Politics

Before Jesus was born, His title was “The Word.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 tells us that the Word became a human and lived among us. God, the Word, was born under the name of Yehoshua (the Lord is Salvation) and translated into English as Joshua. Translated from Hebrew into Greek, his name is Iesous, and then translated into English is Jesus.

Historical records verify that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; lived in Egypt, Nazareth, and Galilee (and several other places), and His vocation was carpenter and stone mason. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus was no wimp. Although He had a gentle disposition, He was muscular, physically tough, and had a will of iron. Those who were hurting or oppressed received gentle looks of compassion, but some of His adversaries shriveled under his steely glare!

Jesus had no identity crisis. He knew who He was and knew why He left heaven to live on earth. This was verified in Luke 2:48-49. Joseph and Mary were looking for Jesus and found Him in the temple bewildering the teachers of the law. When Mary asked twelve-year-old Jesus why He didn’t stay with them, Jesus responded, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus never did anything worthy of execution, so why was He crucified?

A sacrifice had to be made to rescue us from the black hole of oblivion called hell so that we could live with God forever in heaven. But to complete this liberating task, the sacrifice could not remain dead. Only God could accomplish this other-worldly task, and that’s why Jesus came.

Historical records verify that multi-thousands of people, including the Roman Emperor, heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, although most folks didn’t want to believe it. When the guards told the leaders of the Sanhedrin that Jesus had left the tomb, the leaders paid them to lie and say that Jesus’ disciples took His body from the tomb while they were sleeping. But that lie was absurd. Any reasonable child understands that we don’t know what’s happening while we’re asleep.

In 1546 AD, John Heywood said, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” That reminds me of the verse in Jeremiah 5:21, “Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear” (NLT). Both Jeremiah and John were speaking to people who refused to believe the obvious: those who closed their eyes and ears to reality. But Jesus was seen by many hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people during the forty days after He left the tomb. Jesus is alive!

Myths and legends have been created by those who refused to accept the fact that Jesus is alive, and I’ve been asked a number of times what happened to Him? The greatest history book in the world – the Bible – answers that question.

In Acts 1:9-11, after Jesus gave parting instructions to the hundreds of people standing with Him on the hill, He left earth under his own power. The verses say, “…as they were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. As He was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go’” (NCV).

Not only did innumerable people see Jesus for forty days after He walked out of the tomb, but hundreds of people also watched Jesus overrule gravity and ascend into the sky. As He disappeared into the clouds the angel told them how Jesus would return.

Return? How? Why?

Jesus was not ruled by the laws of physics nor the pressures of politics, and the same will be true at His next appearance. Accompanied by myriads of angels and people, Jesus will come out of the sky under His own power. He will end the prevailing wars and put an end to all evil empires, corrupt democracies, and inadequate kingdoms. Jesus will set up His own Kingdom, and those whom He calls righteous will rule with him.

This is not the end of the story: read the Bible for more.

Legislating Morality?

Some time ago, a friend and I were talking about our nation’s problems and how they could be solved. His position was that new laws need to be created for every new situation, and I said multitudinous comprehensive laws were already in place – but needed to be enforced.

When the discussion turned to morality, Henry became agitated and blurted out, “You can’t legislate morality!”

Surprised, I asked what he meant.

“Outlawing alcohol – you know, prohibition – in the 1920s didn’t work; outlawing gambling didn’t work; and outlawing prostitution, drugs, and other activities won’t work; so we need to change the laws. Those things should be legalized so the government can collect taxes on it all. You just can’t legislate morals!”

But the young man had no idea what he just said. It takes legislation to make something either legal or illegal, and our government has legislated morals since our nation’s founding.

Morals is defined as: relating to or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct; the distinction between right and wrong; concerned with the judgment of right or wrong human action and character.

By the way, most verdicts that judges or juries give are comments on legislated morality. Who or what made the distinction between right and wrong? Let’s look into it.

What about taking a life? Homicide has commonly been called 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree murder, and it’s against the law in the US to murder someone. What about theft? On the books we have petit larceny, then four degrees of grand larceny: also, against the law. What about lying? Perjury is spelled out in the US Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 79, § 1621. You guessed it: illegal.

Nevertheless, lying is prevalent in our society – especially in government and the mass media. However, some rename it and call it disinformation.

Here are several disinformational methods:

Telling a big lie openly, then retracting it quietly. Giving erroneous reports as fact. In a valid report, omitting data needed to make a proper and correct evaluation. Quoting others out of context to give an erroneous viewpoint. Over-publicizing a news item in order to ignore or cover up something more important. Denigrating the integrity of one who is telling the truth. In all situations, disinformation is a means of hiding truth.

Let’s see now: morals is the distinction between right and wrong. And we just identified three moral activities which we have outlawed by legislation. Murder, stealing, and lying are also prohibited in the 6th, 8th, and 9th of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34); so our government does agree with Scripture – sometimes.

Obviously, we can and do legislate morals; so the question is: what morals do we choose to legislate? The answer: many! We legislate (make law) many good, honorable ideas; but we also approve anti-Biblical and anti-American laws that nullify constitutional rights.

Ravi Zacharias, on his radio program titled Let My People Think, said, “The non-Christian world politicizes morality while they moralize politics.” He is correct. Some of our politicians favor good morality and truth while others outright disdain truth. What baffles me is that sometimes our leaders and judges listen to a small minority on the fringe of society and make or break laws that override the desires and morals of the voting majority. What kind of democracy is that?

We also have a built-in dichotomy in our government. Some well-known government officials can commit crimes and lie about it, and we overlook it; while other well-known officials commit crimes and lie about it, and are prosecuted. Yet other officials are prosecuted when there is no evidence for prosecution. The morality of the issue seems to depend on what side of the political fence the official is on. They moralize politics.

However, if it’s a hate crime, that is bad! Amazingly, that is a double-legislation of morals.

Friends, we legislate morals all the time. But we have a problem. Often we’re outlawing wholesome, healthy core values, while approving anti-Biblical values and morals. This goes against our national heritage and weakens our nation: both spiritually and politically.

Morals – right versus wrong – is both a Biblical and political issue. Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be misled. You can’t ignore or mock God and get away with it.” Therefore, if we don’t revert to using Scripture for our legislative standard as we formerly did, our national problems will become more profound than they are now. It’s time to wake up and turn back to God.

What Do You Want in Life?

Matthew 13:44-46 is our starting point for this topic. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (NLT)

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you would do almost anything to get it?

Little Joe grew up in Pennsylvania near a coal mining town. He was skinny, not very tall, and didn’t look like he could take the pounding that high school football players take; so the coach put him on the sideline.

But Joe wanted to be a football quarterback.

He practiced for hours every night after school throwing and catching the ball. His dad became his personal coach and created difficult practice sessions for him. Joe strenuously pushed himself, and his skills exceled. The coach noticed Joe’s improvement and asked him to play on the starting team, and they won the state championship several years straight.

At graduation, a Notre Dame university scout recruited him, and Joe took the Fighting Irish to several national championships. After graduating from Notre Dame, the San Francisco 49ers hired Joe Montana, and the rest is Football History.

Here’s another story.

All his life, Harry wanted to be an actor, but at every interview he was told he would make a good blue-collar worker.

However, he hired out as an apprentice carpenter and brick layer. He eventually learned the carpentry trade so well that he formed his own company, began designing houses, and hired his own workers. But he never gave up his dream, and he practiced acting in front of the mirror … in the woods … in the houses he built. He never quit.

One day when a movie director hired Harrison to design a new house, the director said, “Haven’t you interviewed for one of my films?” When Harrison answered “yes,” Mr. Lucas said, “Please come for another interview in the morning.”

So Harry, Harrison Ford, interviewed and became Hans Solo in STAR WARS!

What did Joe Montana and Harrison Ford have in common? They had a goal. They set their minds to accomplish that goal. And they made it.

What do you want in life? When I was asked that question as a teenager, I refined the question. “The more appropriate question for me is, what does God want me to do.”

When we enter God’s family, He gives us several gifts (I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4) and asks us to put them to good use; and those gifts are the tools we need to accomplish what God has asked us to do.

If you know what Gifts God has given you, and you know what God has asked you to do, have you set your mind to accomplish it? If not, why not?

Romans 12:2 says, “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. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).

Here are six others who set their will to obey the Lord.

The Apostle Peter broke tradition to offer the Gospel to the Roman rulers.

The Apostle Paul took the Gospel to the entire gentile world and wrote much of the New Testament.

Martin Luther rediscovered the truth that we are saved by Grace: not by anything we can do.

John and Charles Wesley took the Gospel all through England and eastern America. They wrote over 500 hymns, and many are in our hymnals today.

Charles Finney was a lawyer. When he discovered that most of our laws were based on the Holy Bible, he studied it to increase his wisdom in court. Becoming a Christian, he devoted his life to preaching. Soon, the Holy Spirit generated true revival in many towns and businesses that Mr. Finney entered.

God wants persistent, unwavering, confident people in His church. He wants people who will remain loyal and obedient to Him no matter what opposition, storms, or blessings come our way. You can be one of those people.

Are you willing to cooperate with God? If so, what do you willing to do? What do you want in life? Ask the Lord to guide you, and He will.

The Head-Banger

Have you ever found yourself banging your head against a wall? How’d it feel? Did it help the situation? A friend of mine in New Mexico got so upset one day that he broke the sheet rock wall in his house with his head. After recovering from the concussion, he paid someone to repair the wall; but the situation he reacted to didn’t change because HE didn’t change.

Several weeks ago, Carol and I were finishing breakfast when I heard the unmistakable sound of someone banging its head against a solid object. This guy wasn’t upset or angry. He was hungry and looking for food. He was pounding away on the branch making bits of bark fly as he was gathering ants and other bugs with his long, barbed tongue.

It was a woodpecker.

I’m not an ornithologist, but this bird looked like a large Pileated Woodpecker. These guys can grow to almost 20 inches long, have a wingspan up to 29 inches, and weigh up to 12 ounces. It was drumming on one of our branches, grabbing nourishment with its tongue, and apparently taking it to someone in a nest because it made eight or nine trips to a distant tree while we were watching. I read that some woodpeckers have up to 9-inch tongues, but the Pileated Woodpecker’s tongue is only about 4 inches long.

These birds are members of the Picidae family, and peck like a jackhammer at about 20 hits per second! Compare that to a good machine-gun that fires 1,000 bullets per minute, which is16 per second.

The International Ornithological Congress says 236 species of woodpeckers make up the Picidae family world-wide, but only 23 species inhabit the United States.

How do woodpeckers survive the banging without getting headaches or concussions? God provided them with amazing safety features.

The beak consists of three-layers. The tough outer cover is called rhamphotheca made of scales from keratin, a middle layer of porous bone, and an inner fibrous layer made of mineralized collagen. Its structure absorbs and distributes much of the impact throughout the body which reduces the strain on the brain.

The skull is made of sponge-like bone, and liquid surrounds the brain. Both skull and liquid absorb a lot of the rapid-fire shock, and a safety belt called the hyoid bone that wraps around the brain keeps the brain from rattling. While pounding the tree, a thick nictitating membrane covers the eyes, protecting them from flying shrapnel. Also, the slitted nose is protected with special feathers.

Many of these critters are antisocial and don’t mix well with others. In this sense, “Birds of a feather flock together” doesn’t always hold true. Most are territorial and are jealous of their turf.

I read that wild woodpeckers live from 4 to 12 years, but under ideal conditions they might live 25 to 30 years.

The most famous woodpecker in America is the cartoon Woody Woodpecker that was created by Ben Hardaway in 1940. I always liked that cartoon. Hardaway styled Woody as a combination of several birds, including the Pileated Woodpecker.

Thinking back on my friend in New Mexico, he wasn’t created like a woodpecker, so he shouldn’t have physically banged his head. And he discovered that becoming a head-banger doesn’t do any good.

What about figuratively banging our heads? Normally, that means we are frustrated, angry, or worried. However, if we get upset, it blocks the creativity we need for correcting the situation. Rather than demanding that the situation change, we need to change our method of responding.

Storms of all sizes and types are an integral part of life. But as devastating as the storm may be, it is our reaction that exacerbates the problem. Getting upset and banging our heads only makes things worse.

So what should we do?

Because we have a difficult time changing our circumstances, we need to learn how to change ourselves. Romans 12:2 tells us don’t act like the world but ask God to help us change the way we think. Then we will learn to know God’s will for us. Interestingly, when we change the way we think and act, our circumstances often change.

Psalms and Proverbs provide the principles for handling almost any situation that life can present. You may scoff at that; but when you recognize and admit your need for help, God will be waiting for you. We don’t need to be a head-banger; leave that option for the woodpeckers.

A Sure Foundation

Carol returned from shopping. As I carried the groceries into the house, my foot turned to an awkward position and I nearly lost my balance. That’s abnormal because I have a history of being as sure-footed as a mountain goat.

Well, I was sure-footed when I was a 12-year-old kid. On a weekend vacation in the hills of Southern California with my parents, I ran and jumped from huge boulder to boulder and never tripped, stumbled, or fell. I somehow developed the skill of not falling.

When someone trips, the person often stiffens and falls. That’s when bones break, and other injuries take place. But when my foot hits a tree root, or anything else, I don’t get tense. Instead, my leg immediately relaxes, then swings out in front of me to stabilize me. That’s why I seldom fall.

Oh, I should mention this. While standing on the edge of a 10-foot tall granite boulder, the deteriorated front face of the ancient granite crumpled, and I went down with it. But while studying Judo in high school, I learned how to fall and roll without getting hurt, so I wasn’t injured.

However, at 75, I do need to be more careful. What happened this time while carrying groceries into the house? I didn’t have shoes on, but slip-on sandals. As I stepped onto the threshold, my sandal, which was not secured to my foot, turned. Guess what happened next? Yep, my foot turned with it, and I nearly went down. But, out of training, I recovered and didn’t fall.

You probably realize that poorly-fitting shoes can cause various physical problems, and it’s a well-known fact a good pair of shoes that fits our feet is one of the best things we can buy to keep us safe as we walk, run, jog, or just stay at home. Well-known because in 2019, over 91 billion US dollars were spent on footwear.

Good shoes provide a secure foundation while walking. But that applies only to the physical side of life. What about people who trip, stumble, or fall emotionally, mentally, or spiritually? We need something to give us stability in that part of our life, too.

With so much political, cultural, and social turmoil, along with rampant diseases spreading around the world, we need a solid foundation. This is found in a relationship with the One Who created us, and Who wants the best for us both now, and throughout eternity.

We find the instructions we need in Ephesians 6:10-18. The ESV says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance….”

The truths in those verses are not hypotheses or theories. They’ve been tried and tested and have helped millions of people live on a sure foundation throughout their lives. I live by those verses. People here in town and in other states have mocked Christians and tried to destroy us and our belief in Christ, but the accusers and mockers are the ones who are hurting.

Some folks say they have their own reality, and it doesn’t include the Bible or Jesus Christ. But those assumed realities will evaporate like a morning mist, while reality in and with Jesus will provide a sure foundation throughout eternity.

Jesus left heaven to come as a baby so He could give us that sure foundation.

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