Are You a Practicing Atheist?

A vast majority of you will say “No, I’m not an atheist,” while some will say “Yes, I am.” But why would I ask that question? Back to that in a minute.

Atheism has been defined as a lack of belief in God, a total denial of His existence, Atheist Symboland variations of the theme in between.  The word atheism comes from the Greek negative article “a” which means “no,” and “theos” which means “god.” Therefore, atheism is the belief that there is no god. Did you catch that? A belief that there is no God. On the other hand, many of us believe that there is a God, He is knowable, He loves us, and is involved with mankind.

The polytheistic Romans in Jesus’ day, who believed in hundreds of gods, accused Christians of being atheists simply because Christians believed ONLY in the HolyDSCN0464 Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); while the Jews accused Christians of polytheism BECAUSE they believed in the Holy Trinity. The accusations depended on the point of reference. But that’s a story for another time. (This cross is on Mount Helix in San Diego County, just four miles from where I grew up.)

Many atheists probably don’t consider themselves anti-theists, but non-theists. Many are good, ethical, moral citizens, and strong Americans; and most atheists claim that atheism is not a belief system or a religion. But I call atheism a religion. Why?

In the atheist’s belief system: there is no God; nothing formed itself into a well-organized, majestic universe; organic life evolved from rocks; man evolved from … who knows?; there is no life after death; belief in God is wrong; and so on. But all of that is a matter of faith, and that is religion. Simply put: the atheist’s non-belief system is, by definition, a belief system. Biologist George Klein wrote: “I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith. The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God, is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.”

Many strong atheists are often aggressive in their conversations with theists and try to shoot holes in theistic beliefs. (And, sadly, many Christians are equally argumentative.) Atheists like to use logic and anti-biblical “evidences” to denounce God’s existence. However, I’ve had many interesting discussions with scientific atheists in the past, and most of them are still my friends because we didn’t hammer, degrade, insult, or malign each other. Rather, we expressed our beliefs – yes, religious beliefs – and allowed each other freedom of religion, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression.

Remember, we cannot change anyone’s mind. We must, as simply or as complex as the situation requires, present our beliefs and convictions to them and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their heart and mind.

Question MarkBut now I have several questions for you: If you are a Christian, are you a practicing atheist? Keep reading.

1.       Do you effectively deny God by your lifestyle: your language, actions, thoughts, motivations, work ethics, choice of humor, the places you go, what you watch at the theaters, on computer, or on television?

2.      When someone begins to bad-mouth God or another person, do you just sit by? Or worse, do you join in the negative conversation?

3.      If you attend church, do you attend for social purposes, out of obligation, or for business contacts?

4.     Without being abrasive or overbearing, do you openly proclaim Christ to the world, or do you hide your Christian faith in the social shadows?

5.      Would some folk be surprised if you told them you are a Christian?

A “yes” answer shows you are effectively denying God: being a practicing atheist. But if you claim to be a Christian, I want you to think about your relationship with God. Do you truly desire to live for God? I am not encouraging you to cram your religion down someone’s throat; that would be wrong. But we do need to openly, definitively “let our light shine” for the Lord – if indeed we are Christians. 

Matthew 10:32-33 says, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I willBible.docx also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Let’s not try to intimidate others, but let’s allow them to experience truth and life through our lives. Let’s give them a glimpse of Christ by the way we live.

Are You Creating a Legacy?

Are you creating a legacy? That’s actually an invalid question, because you ARE creating DSCN1350ba legacy. There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. So, what kind and what quality of a legacy are you creating?

Webster’s dictionary says legacy is defined as something received from an ancestor or predecessor, or from the past. It also refers to the memory of those who have passed from this life and to what contributions they made to society while they were alive; and that reflects on the person’s character. So, if you were to leave this life in one, five, ten, or fifteen years from now, what legacy would you like to leave? How would you like to be remembered?

A funeral setting might help you think about it. When the person (parent, relative, friend, neighbor, whomever) in the casket was lowered into the ground and you left the cemetery, what left with you? Money? Land? Clothing? No. So if none of that left the cemetery with you, what did?  MEMORIES! The person’s character – exemplary or disappointing – does not get buried, but remains in the minds of all those who know him or her – or even know OF him.

I’ve read about a funeral where the talk of the town was how much the man loved people and how much he will be missed. Hundreds of people attended the funeral. But although the deceased didn’t have a penny to his name, he left a rich legacy. Another time I observed the funeral of a wealthy man where the attendance was minimal – not even all the family was there. Oh, they got their inheritance – the physical portion of the legacy – but the spiritual side was bankrupt. In that case the talk of the town was how the world will be better off without him.

Sadly, in the second funeral, even the money (physical legacy) that was left to the heirs will not, in the long run, help them live better lives. Their bitterness (spiritual legacy) will lead them to use their money unwisely, and they will be left with nothing but disappointing memories.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against money: I could use a little more of it, myself.

That reminds me of what Tevye said in Fiddler On The Roof: “If money is a disease, may God smite me with it; and may I never recover!” Yes, that was intended to be humorous. In that film, Tevye’s legacy was (in spite of his faults): stability within the community.

Another way to view a legacy is a launching pad. It takes thousands of workers to build our rockets and space shuttles. I was on several of those teams. Each person designs, programs, or builds his own portion, then hands it (the legacy) to someone who takes the product to the next level. There is always someone who will pick up where we leave off. If we do our part well, we have created a good legacy. Then when all the parts are finally assembled into a rocket and space shuttle and placed on the launching pad, what happens? If the vehicle is assembled properly the passengers will safely reach the space station, the moon, or whatever destination has been programmed.

So, what legacy are you creating for those who come after you? Remember, the physical legacy is needed and helpful if used wisely. But it needs the support of a wholesome spiritual legacy to fully help family, friends, and society. Someone is going to take what you hand them and build on it. So, what do you have to give?

A.W. Tozer once said, “When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies. The legacy of the man lives on!”

Paul said in Galatians 6:7, “You will always reap what you sow.” And it has been proven throughout history that others will be either blessed or hurt by how we live. Proverbs 11:18 tells us that if we do what is right, we will be rewarded. Proverbs 22:9 informs us that those who share what they have with others will be blessed. Those three verses talk about our legacy.

So, what is the name of the legacy are you creating? Selfishness? Hedonism? Monetary? Loving? Giving? Godly? Altruism? Think about it: will people remember you for what you gave them, or for who you are? How will you be remembered?

The answer to that question will be your legacy.

Hot Air Balloons

After speaking for the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Chapter in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was going to take Pastor Clarence Gutierrez of the Christian Family Church (Taos, NM) back to Taos. The pastor’s daughter was driving him up from Albuquerque, and I thought I’d have a 15-minute wait. But it’s a good thing I learned not to be in a hurry because the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta generated so much traffic on I-25 that traffic was stalled for more than an hour. I kept in touch with Clarence by cell phone, and relaxed as I drank coffee and talked with other friends.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival that takes place for My Pictures0008nine days in October and is the largest balloon event in the world. Several balloon shapes include: an F/A-18 fighter jet, giant turtle, a car, telephone, cow, covered wagon, soda cans, and hundreds more. Over 1,000 balloons participated in the year 2000, but in order to focus on quality, event organizers now limit the number to 600. Over 100,000 spectators are present each day during the event, with untold thousands more throughout the city observing the balloons as they rise high in the Southwestern sky.

One popular night-time portion of the event is called the “Glowdeo” (glowing rodeo). That’s when participating balloons are inflated but do not lift off the ground, while the propane flames illuminate the various-shaped balloons.

From an historical news clip, we read:

The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of the 50th birthday celebration for 770 KOB Radio. Radio station manager Dick McKee asked Sid Cutter, owner of Cutter Flying Service and the first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, if KOB could use his new hot-air balloon as part of the festivities. The two began discussing ballooning with Oscar Kratz, and McKee asked what the largest gathering of hot air balloons to date had been. “19 balloons in England”, Cutter replied. Kratz asked “Can we get 19 here?” Cutter agreed to try.

Twenty-one pilots agreed to come, but only thirteen showed up because of inclement weather. That event was on April 8, 1972 and it quickly became very popular. But since autumn produces better flying conditions for balloons, October was decided as the best time to continue the annual event.

The largest and most popular part of the 9-day fiesta is what they call the “MassMy Pictures0006 Ascension”. This is when participating balloons ascend in two waves – 300 in each wave – and the city is filled with “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” as they rise majestically with the unsurpassed beauty of the 10,679 foot high mountain, called Sandia Crest, providing a spectacular backdrop.

The Balloon Fiesta is one of New Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions, and hundreds of food vendors are on hand to provide almost any kind of food your tummy might desire. For a number of years, the Kodak Company was a major sponsor, and the event was called, the “Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta”.

The balloons rise off the ground because the propane burners produce a large quantity of heated air that is less dense than the surrounding air, and rises – pulling the gondola (the basket), the propane equipment, and the people with it. This is the same principle in which lighter oil rises above denser water. The balloons stay aloft until the heat dissipates and the balloons begin to come down. The pilots skillfully operate the burners to “fly” the balloons: rising, lowering, and landing where they choose – normally

My Pictures0005But there are also problems associated with the Balloon Fiesta. Traffic gets jammed as drivers watch. Sometimes the propane burners malfunction. Balloons sometimes hit power lines. The wind may blow a balloon over while the burner is operating causing the balloon to burn. Traffic accidents happen because of gawkers.

Pastor Gutierrez finally arrived and we joyfully headed for Taos. The next day, Sunday, the District Superintendent, Mike Dickenson, ministered and we had an enjoyable meeting. Clarence, Mike, and I are long-time friends and our fellowship is based on our love for Jesus Christ.

As you travel through life, stop and smell the roses; don’t get in a hurry. Don’t allow the irritations of life (like traffic jams) bother you, and learn to see the good in every situation. Psalm 111:10 says, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord; those who obey his orders have good understanding.”

The Real Story

You think you know the story in Luke 15:11-32 because you’ve heard it a hundred times? Keep reading, because this time you might be surprised. Bear with me as I put the story in a modern setting.

*******

A man was successful as a rancher and in his investments, and his family had everything they wanted that money could buy. He had two sons, George and Jake: both of whom secretly disrespected dad, and openly hated each other.

Disillusioned with life, one day George, the younger boy, said, “Dad, I’ve thought it over and I want nothing to do with ranching. I want to live my own life without you telling me what to do. Give me my half of the inheritance and I’ll get out of your life!

The dad evaluated his business, sold enough stock that was equal to half his worth, and gave it to rebellious George. Jake was ecstatic! Now everything the old man owned was his, and he would do everything he could to build the business; for he was now heir to it all!

Over the next four years, George spent his money on prostitutes, cars, gambling, drugs and alcohol. He flew around the country and around the world  visiting the best casinos. The owners got to know him and welcomed him with open arms as they offered him free alcohol and free rooms for him and his current partner. Thinking that his friends loved him, he lavished his time and money on them, too.

But he forgot something: continual outflow, without a corresponding inflow, will dry up the money-flow. And it happened to George. Now penniless, he realized he needed a job – anything that might provide enough money for another drug fix, bottle of booze, or cheap sex.

With a four-year history of extravagant but shameful living, no one would hire him; and all the friends he thought his money had bought had deserted him. Totally abandoned, he figured that suicide was his best option. But as he began to make the plan, a thought entered his beleaguered mind: “Maybe dad will hire me to repair fences, or something. There’s enough to do on the ranch where I can stay out of his way.”

He called home from the Salvation Army office. When he asked dad if he could come home, his father said, “Son, I’ve been waiting for you and my door is open; come on home.” The Salvation Army captain took George to his house to get cleaned up. He gave him clean clothing and bought him a bus ticket.

Eighteen hours and two states later, the bus pulled into town around noon. Wondering howDSCN4942 he would get from the station to the ranch, the boy looked out the window. His mouth dropped open as he saw his dad and a group from the church waving signs that yelled “WELCOME HOME GEORGE!”

As he disembarked the bus, he broke down. Sobbing, he said, “Dad, I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’ve wasted everything, and my life is a mess. Can you hire me as one of your ranch hands until I get back on my feet?”

But his father took the young man into his big arms and said, “Son, I have been waiting every day for four years for you. Everything I own will belong to Jake, but you are still my son. And as long as I am alive, my home is your home.” When they pulled up to the big house, his mother, aunts, uncles, and neighbors had a barbeque shin-dig ready; and a huge cake had been prepared that was decorated with “Welcome Home!”

George asked, “Where’s Jake?” Dad said he was up north conducting business, but would be home in a couple of days. But someone called Jake and told him George had returned. Jake blew up!

Jake immediately called his dad and demanded, “What’s that good-for-nothing wino doing back home! I’m the one who has stayed with you and built the business. I don’t want him here living off what I’ve built! Get rid of him!”

Dad responded, “Jake, everything I have will be yours. But George asked to be forgiven, and it is only right that we let him in. After all, he is family. As long as I’m alive, George can stay.”

*******

Dear reader, you’ve been told the story was about George who wasted half the family fortune. But George’s narrative is only the background for the real story. The parable is about Jake’s rebellion, rejection, and refusal to forgive.

CrossJesus told the parable to the those who considered themselves the elite of society and heirs to the kingdom of God. The proud religious leaders thought it would lower their prestige if they accepted traitors, tax collectors, winos, and prostitutes into their society and into their church meetings.

The moral: Pride is just as bad as wasting a life. But anyone who truly repents – whether pastor or prostitute, model citizen or murderer – is accepted by the Father and welcomed into His kingdom.

Humbly turn to our heavenly Father, tell him you’re sorry for how you’ve lived. Ask him for guidance and courage to turn around, and he’ll help you.

A Passover Drama

PONTIAS PILATE IN CEASAREA:

Passover week is here again.  I’m not looking forward to it. Too many things going on. I’m worried about what those Jews are up to. This is always the time of year when the foolish Pharisees and the Sanhedrin try to stir up trouble against us again. Why don’t they just mind their own business, and let us mind ours? There is nothing they can do to help this world. But the Imperial Roman Army? We spent several hundred years making this world a better place.

I better go to Jerusalem for the Jew’s High Holy Day, and make sure that they don’t get out of hand. I better take an extra contingent of Imperial Guards to help out … just in case. I don’t like these … these troublesome … goat-lovers!

 

HIGH PRIEST CAIAPHAS IN JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week.  I’m not looking forward to it. Too much going on. I’m worriedDSCN0134 what that Jesus is up to. This foolish would-be Messiah, claiming to be the Son of Jehovah, is trying to overthrow the Sanhedrin’s power. He is getting the entire population to believe His stories … His fairy-tales!  And now the people are beginning to doubt MY authority.

I am not going to put up with this any longer. Jesus is up to no good, and I am going to see to it that He is taken out of the way. I’ll be staying here in Jerusalem for our Highest of Holy Days, and make sure that Jesus doesn’t escape. I better keep the Temple Guard with me … just in case. I don’t like these … these troublesome … Messiah-lovers.

AN EXCITED ISRAELITE AS JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week! Our Messiah has finally arrived, and he’s going to push the Romans all the way back to Rome! Ever since Antiochus Epiphanes, we’ve seen many potential messiahs come and go, and began wondering if the real one would ever come. But this is it. Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for!

We have been waiting for hundreds of years for this to happen, and we’ll finally get rid of these … these troublesome … ROMANS!

 

THE APOSTLE JOHN AS JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week. I’m glad it finally arrived. Praise to Jehovah, I’ve been looking DSCN0574forward to this for a long time! Our Master, our Teacher, our Messiah will finally set up the Kingdom He has talked about for two years. Will I sit on His right or left side? But I shouldn’t be thinking that way. I’m sure the Master will decide who should sit where in the Kingdom. And He does have a lot on His mind these days – probably the most important is when and how He’s going to destroy the Roman Empire and break its stranglehold on Israel.

The Master said that He’ll be eating the Passover with us this week. This will be wonderful! It’ll be our third Passover together, and I have a feeling that this one will be the most important one.

I really enjoy it when the Master spends time with us; we learn so much when He does. He uses common, everyday things to teach us deep spiritual truths. I don’t know how He does it, but I want to be just like Him. He is closer than a brother to me, and … strangely … I feel that He is kind of like a father … but different. I can’t explain it, but that’s how I feel.

I wonder what the Master will teach us this week.

 

JESUS ENTERING JERUSALEM:

This is it – Passover week. As a man, this is the first time in over thirty years that I am not looking forward to it. However, I’ve been planning for this week since I put Adam in theDSCN0728 Garden, and no one – not even Lucifer – is going to prevent me from accomplishing my goal.

Ever since I put Adam and Eve in the Garden, Lucifer has been trying to destroy my plan. His first attempt was with Eve, and he thought he had succeeded. He has attempted other power-plays throughout history, and his strongest power-play is happening right now – but he won’t win. I’m glad that we, the Father and I, didn’t reveal our Master Plan to any of the angelic hosts. That way the information couldn’t leak to Lucifer, and he still doesn’t know what’s going to happen. I’ll stay here in Jerusalem for this, our Highest of Holy Days, and fulfill my task. I’ll assure that My disciples are not hurt.

I’m sorry that most of the people have forgotten the real meaning of the Passover. I must re-affirm it in the minds of my disciples this week, so that they’ll be able to keep it alive until I return.

As I said, in the flesh I am not really looking forward to what is about to happen.  But I will go through it to for two reasons: I want to restore our relationship with humanity, and prepare humanity to fulfill his destiny and complete our plan.

 

What Happened When Jesus Was Crucified? To be Continued.

Passover

This year, 2019, Passover begins at sunset on April 19, and ends at sunset on the 27th.

I know most calendars mention Easter but I prefer to call the event by the correct historical term: Pascha, derived from Pesach: which is Passover.

The eight-day festival is a celebration which dates back roughly to 1450 BC when the Israelites were set free in Egypt and left in that famous mass-exodus. And by following the customs or traditions of Passover, the Jewish church has the ability to relive and experience the freedom that their ancestors gained.

But as you read through Scripture, you find that the Passover, in which innocent lambsDSCN4172 were sacrificed, foreshadowed the crucifixion of Jesus; for Jesus, the Christ, was ultimately the true innocent Passover Lamb – not just for one nation, but for the world. Let’s briefly recap the history that led to the Passover Celebration.

Ten of Jacob’s sons were jealous of young Joseph because Jacob had given Joseph the coat of many colors – the robe of authority denoting family leadership. Eight of the brothers sold Joseph to a trade caravan and Joseph was taken to Egypt.

Rising in authority in Potiphar’s household, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison – probably under Potiphar’s jurisdiction. Joseph interpreted dreams and was taken to the reigning Pharaoh – probably of the Hyksos people who were not native to Africa.

After Joseph died, the native Africans (probably Cushites and Nubians) defeated the Hyksos and regained control of Egypt. But because the descendants of Jacob ethnically resembled the Hyksos, the Egyptians thought the Israelites would rise up and fight for the Hyksos. Therefore, the “Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” ordered them enslaved.

Eventually, Moses was born, placed in the Nile, rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised in the Egyptian court. He was schooled in every phase of Egyptian aristocracy, could speak several languages, and traveled throughout the kingdom.

However, although becoming a general in the Egyptian army, Moses never forgot his roots and killed an Egyptian task-master who was brutalizing an Israeli. But killing an Egyptian officer without the Pharaoh’s permission was a capital offence – even for the esteemed Moses – and he fled for his life.

PICT0061Deprived of his royal background, he became a lowly shepherd for forty years; but God never abandoned Moses, and commissioned him to return to Egypt to be the human element in setting the Israelis free.

It was understandable why the Pharaoh refused to free his subjects: by now, economics prevailed. So God began to apply leverage to force Pharaoh’s hand. The last straw was the tenth plague. God set the day when this would take place.

God gave Moses specific instructions about how to prepare the last meal in Egypt, for each item and its preparatory procedure would reflect, in some way or other, on the death of the final Sacrificial Lamb. So Moses gave the order to put blood on three places outside the door, and eat the meal with their traveling clothes on. After the meal, they would head out.

The tenth plague that Egypt experienced was death of the first-born male. Cows, mules, and horses also suffered this fate. The term passover derives from pesach which essentially means to pass over something; and in the Land of Egypt, the death angel passed over the houses which had the blood applied to the doorposts. The people who were covered with the blood of the lamb were spared.

Pharaoh’s son died, so Pharaoh finally submitted to Moses, allowing Moses to lead the people out of bondage and into freedom. (Many tumultuous years were in store for the Israelis, but that’s another story.)

In Israeli history, Moses became their servant-ruler, which reflects on our Savior, our Redeemer.

The Temple Sacrifice was instituted to reveal the severity of sin (disobeying God), and also pointed to the final Sacrifice – Jesus, the Messiah.

But there is a significant difference between the traditional sacrificial lambs and our final Sacrificial Lamb. Where the yearly lamb died to gain forgiveness of sin for a year, Jesus died and raised from the dead to grant us forgiveness forever, and inherit eternal life.

dscn0185[1]Passover is a picture of the sinless Lamb of God – Jesus – Who suffered the penalty of sin for us (death), raised Himself back to life, and set us free. All we need to do is to accept Jesus into our lives, ask Him to forgive us for our self-centered lifestyle, then purposely live for Him. We will be covered with the blood of the Lamb and forgiven.

Passover points to Calvary.

Next time we’ll get a glimpse of happened during that famous Passover Week leading to Jesus crucifixion.

Jesus’ Advent on Earth

“What does it mean when Scripture says that God sent Jesus in the “fullness of DSCN0123Btime”? Why did God send Jesus when He did? Why not earlier? Why not later?”

These questions might be related more to culture and history than to theology.

In all of Scripture, I find one passage that gives a strong, clearly-defined clue. That is Isaiah 40:3-5.  This is the New Century Version for a little clarification.

3 This is the voice of one who calls out: “Prepare in the desert the way for the Lord. Make a straight road in the dry lands for our God. 4 Every valley should be raised up, and every mountain and hill should be made flat. The rough ground should be made level, and the rugged ground should be made smooth. 5 Then the glory of the Lord will be shown, and all people together will see it. The Lord himself said these things.”

All the major nations had stories of gods being born, dying, and affecting humanity. But those myths were basically regional, with no “evangelist” traveling around the world telling the stories. There were no major highways to travel on, and there was no international language by which all the nations could understand. UNTIL ………

By 300 BC, the Greeks conquered the known world. The Greek language slowly became the language of commerce; therefore, many people in all the major nations spoke Greek. Then, around 146 BC, Rome began conquering the known world. But in order for thePICT0327 Roman Legions to travel efficiently and quickly, their “Army Corp of Engineers” built roads throughout the Empire. Now, that was a major, multi-year project! There were many valleys, gullies, ravines, etc. that hindered the army’s movements, so the road-builders leveled hills and used the material (rocks and dirt) to fill in nearby valleys, ravines, etc. They also cleared the level land of boulders, big rocks, etc., and actually “paved” some roads with flat stone.

Thus, “Every valley should be raised up, and every mountain and hill should be made flat. The rough ground should be made level, and the rugged ground should be made smooth.” Not 100% of all of them, but definitely those that needed leveled and/or filled to build Roman roads.

As I said, all this was for the efficient movement of the Roman Armies, for the Emperors had no concept of the coming Messiah. However, Rome also provided the world with “The Pax Romana” – The Roman Peace. That means, for a short time, there WAS a type of peace in the world, and this was the world-wide “calm” into which Jesus was born.

All this provided: 1) An international language to write and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ; 2) A relatively peaceful environment for the Messiah and the fledgling Church to be born and grow. (Of course, Rome eventually became corrupt and life became dangerous for anyone who wanted to identify with and live for the Lord Jesus Christ.) 3) An international highway system that the Apostles, Evangelists, and persecuted Christians used to spread the Gospel.

John 1:1-3 says, “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.” And verse 14 informs us that “the Word” became human in the form of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when the REAL God was born into humanity, (Jesus Christ; not some Roman, Grecian, Babylonian, or Egyptian fabrication) the story was not to be a regional legend that remained secluded within the Jewish community. God wanted the entire world to know as soon as humanly possible.

earthIf Jesus had been born earlier, the world would not have been ready (no efficient highway system or international language). And if Jesus had been born much later, the relative peace would not have been in effect and the Roman Empire would have been too corrupt to allow the Church to even started. Either way would not have been “in the fullness of time.”

As a side-note: there are over 300 Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah; and they cover all areas of His life: the place of birth, where he would live, the mode of His death, the fact of His resurrection, plus a lot more. Every one of the prophecies concerning his life, death, and resurrection were fulfilled.

But there are more prophesies – those relating to his return. Since all the others were 100% fulfilled, we know the ones pointing to his return will be fulfilled. I hope you’re ready. 

You Are Wrong!

IMG_1791That took me by surprise. John and I were having an interesting discussion; but when we touched on an idea about which he disagreed, he spat out, “You are wrong!”

We were discussing concepts of how life on earth began. Let me say here that there are hundreds – if not thousands – of theories, myths, legends, and accounts about the formation of life. No longer can we merely say that we believe in either evolution or creation; rather, we must now specify what we believe about evolution or creation.

Among the many concepts in what we call “evolution” we find: modernearth evolutionary synthesis, natural selection, cosmic evolution, and population genetics. Several creation concepts are: intelligent design, the six [24-hour] day creation, the six [1,000-year, or more] day creation, punctuated equilibrium (although a version of this hypothesis is also accepted in evolution); and myriads of pagan creation stories. Here is an Egyptian myth:

 “Atum willed himself into being, and then created a hill, otherwise there’d be no place for him to stand. Atum was genderless and possessed an all-seeing eye. He spat out a son, Shu, god of the air. Atum then vomited up a daughter, Tefnut, goddess of moisture. These two were charged with the task of creating order out of chaos.”

My first question here is: how can a non-existent being – therefore, having no will to exercise – will himself into existence? Absurd. But … back to my friend.

John and I agreed that God never had a beginning, and that the Biblical genealogical record suggests He might have created man about 6,000 yearsdumbbell-nebula1[1] ago. So far, so good. But John came to a mental roadblock when I said, “In the infinity preceding the creation of life on earth, I wonder how long God thought about and planned His proposed creation.”

That’s when John informed me, “You are wrong!”

Detecting a potential breach of friendship, I pondered on that before responding. John, a conservative Christian (as I consider myself to be), obviously felt that I had violated Scripture and he entrenched. I instinctively knew that if this was not quickly resolved, the remainder of the visit would be rather cold. Therefore, being considerably older than John, I did my best to identify with him and to keep communications open.

 “Where am I wrong?” I gently asked. “You’re just wrong!” was the reply.

I was surprised at the repetition of his abrupt judgment, so I said, “You and I both live our lives according to the best of our understanding of Scripture. Tell me where I’m wrong, and verify it Biblically, and I will correct my beliefs.”

After considerable contemplation, John finally said, “I cannot verify it Biblically. Maybe you are not wrong, but I disagree with you.”

“Thank you for your openness and your honesty. I welcome disagreement; but please tell me, with what do you disagree?”

 “It just seems to me that you are inferring that the longer it took God to design His creation, the better it would be. Why can’t God think it up perfectly one second and speak it into being the next?”

Now, we were getting somewhere.

“Good point.” I responded. “However, since God was here for eternity past, do you think He did absolutely nothing for multiple eons of what we call time? And was He impulsive in thoughtless creation when He DID ‘go to work’? Or could He have taken some time to think and plan? Who knows how long God actually thought about creating the cosmos, this earth, and life on it? The Bible doesn’t say; and only God knows.”

Communication was reestablished, our relationship was preserved, and John relaxed – a little. I told him I was mentioning ideas, not facts. The Bible doesn’t tell us everything and we are free to use our God-given imagination to fill in the gaps as long as we do not disagree with or conflict with what the Bible clearly and explicitly teaches.

I referred him to Scripture because for any Biblical discussion, we need to have Biblea good understanding of Scripture and history. Second Timothy 3:15-16; “Study [the Bible] to receive God’s approval as you correctly understand and teach the word of truth. But avoid useless arguments: for they will drive people further away from God.”

I suppose the major thought I was trying to help John understand was this: YOUR disagreement does not always mean the OTHER person is wrong. Think about that. In each discussion, debate, or argument, it is probable that both sides have something to learn. So employ the love of Christ as you interact with others.

By the way, John and I are still life-long friends.

A Labor of Love

gene's info 120For over three years we were pastors of a church in Springer, New Mexico that was 200 miles from our home. Some routes went through winding mountainous roads and took longer. Living in the hills in northern New Mexico and driving the 6-8 hour trip to church and back every weekend – while working 50-60 hours a week at a national laboratory – we were late for church only twice. You may ask “Why did you accept that challenge?” That, and the results of our efforts, is another story for another time. Today’s story is about the trips; and of the eight possible routes to church, we found six that we took quite often.

In all our travels in over 52 years of marriage, we have had fun. Even when we made a wrong turn or were detoured due to highway work, we made a mini-vacation out of it. Last December, traveling from Missouri to home, we decided to take some roads we had never been on. We discovered only one problem: highway 221 turned into a gravel road. We laughed, turned around, and went another direction which took us through Eureka Springs; so we stopped and had dinner before resuming our trek. We make enjoyable memories out of potential irritations in life. But back to the story.

One Sunday morning, one of our deacons asked, “Pastor, what’s on your hands?” I told him I was bleeding. He said, “Blood isn’t that color. What’d you do?” Carol quickly said, “We went through Mora, and picked raspberries yesterday.”

mora, nmOne of our routes to Springer was through Espanola and up the canyon through which flowed the Rio Grande. At La Cienaga we turned east toward Sipapu then over the mountains and down into Mora. And that is where my hands turned red – or maybe, purple. Mora is well-known for its raspberry farm, and Carol had often asked me to stop and pick raspberries. Each time I said something like: “I’m going to be preaching and teaching, and berry-picking isn’t on my mind.” Although that was true, it was also a smoke-screen: I didn’t want to pick berries.

Now, for all you who have never picked blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc., let me tell you: I don’t enjoy that activity. We reach inside the foliage to find the berries, and these bushes have thorns containing toxin. Picking berries was both painful and made my arms itch for over a week. Now you might understand why I don’t like picking berries.

But one weekend my Precious wife was so desirous for those delicious, reddish-purple clumps ofraspberries juice, and she was so gentle in her running commentary about how delicious those berries would be in ice cream or made into a berry jam, that my mouth drooled and I just had to stop. When Carol excitedly asked, “Are we going to pick berries?” I said, “Yes. I don’t want to, so this will be a labor of love.”

“Yeah, right! You just want berries and ice cream!”

She was at least partly correct.

That time of year the berries were ripe, and many of them leaked their contents because they split or crushed easily as we picked them. But we left with five quarts, and Carol kept her word: they were GOOD over ice cream, over angel-food cake, in fruit salads, and made into jam. In the long run, I was glad I stopped. (But my hands did get stained with the juice, and I itched for a week.)

But do you know that someone else performed a labor of love that far surpassed anything I could dscn0464do ever for Carol? Where I merely paused on my trip and received a few scratches on my arms, Jesus deliberately left His home in heaven and came to earth to rescue mankind from an eternal separation from God the Father. Jesus didn’t have mere scratches on His arms; the soldiers made a wreath containing inch-long needle-sharp thorns and jammed it onto His head. Jesus purposely allowed Himself to be killed in a gruesome manner in order to reveal the depth of the pain we would suffer eternally without God.

But Jesus doesn’t want us to suffer, and because of Jesus’ labor of love, we can have a home with Him forever. (Romans 8:35-39)

The results of my labor lasted only several months; but the results of Jesus’ labor will never end. I hope you accept God’s Love through Jesus Christ, our Savior. (Luke 19:10, John 3:16)

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.