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.

Guided by GPS

navigation-system-147970I’ll never forget the first time I asked to be guided by a GPS gizmo. Ron, our oldest son, and his family were with Carol and me as we were traveling. It was night time, and we were looking for the motel. Ron said, “I’ll look it up on my cell phone.” That was a bother for my wife who had been my navigator all of our married life.

Carol said, “I can find it on the map like I’ve always done.” But I wanted to try out a new scientific gadget for the first time.

“Okay, Ron-ole-boy; find the motel.” So he programmed in the address, and we drove up to the side gate of an army base. As I turned the car around, Carol said, “I can find the right street by using the map.” But I wanted to try the GPS.

Ron reprogrammed and we drove around town, only to find a different gate to that army base. By this time Carol was a little irritated.

Ron reprogrammed once more, and we found the main gate … to that same army base. So I drove up to the soldier and asked him for assistance. He directed us to a 7-11 store. There, the clerk informed us that there were four (yes: 4) streets in town with that name, and the primary street was on the army base.

Have you ever been stabbed with a visual “I Told You So!”? Carol found that motel for us, but the “weather” remained cool for a while. (She forgave me the next day.)

GPS programming improved dramatically in the ensuing decade, and it seems that a great many folk have a GPS unit of some sort. I heard on the news that presently, there may be 10 billion cell phones with GPS apps installed. But what is GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system consisting ofearth a network of at least 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS was originally intended for military applications, but in the 1980s, the government made the system available for civilian use.

These satellites circle the earth twice a day transmitting signals to earth. Receivers triangulate this information to calculate our precise location. The more satellites that are involved, the more accurate the results, and GPS units today are very accurate. Carol even likes using them now.

It’s fun watching the little blue dot (we call it the Blue Bug) moving across the screen of the cell phone as we drive across country. Carol often says, “The Blue Bug is staying with us.” But at times she will say, “The Bug is getting lost.” That’s when I make a correction and get back on the right street.

However, since the GPS units know our location, they also know our altitude. They enable precise operation for our interactive maps and our compass apps. The little gizmo can tell us where the restaurants, motels, and gas stations are, and can even tell us the temperature outside – all within seconds.

When we take pictures with our cell phones, the built-in GPS units record when and where they were taken. And when we cross a time zone, Carol and I always have a contest: whose phone changes time first?

Some folk worry that these technological advancements are a way for the government to keep track of us. That is correct. But they are also a great help to us. Many vehicles are equipped with OnStar which has helped a great many folk. OnStar located my car several years ago after it had been stolen.

But another GPS is available to those of us who honor Almighty God. I call this GPS “God’s Protective Service”.

Bible.docxAs I live by Godly principles that are found in the Bible, as I live for the Lord, as I as I honor God in every way that I know how, the Holy Spirit guides me. He knows where I am every second of the day, and knows what kind of difficulties I am facing. He sees what lies ahead of me, and gives me precise directions. If I am about to make a wrong decision, God sends a signal to get me back on track – if I’m listening.

Have fun with the GPS gizmos; but tune in to Almighty God for both temporal and eternal directions.

What Does it Take ….?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detours in Life

Have you ever encountered a road-block or a detour? Is it frustrating? Aggravating? Do you wish you could give someone a piece of your mind?

Throughout our many travels, Carol and I find ourselves on detours periodically. For example,thFS0NDQ2Y several years ago we were minding our own business heading west on Interstate 70 when, suddenly, the dreaded sign appeared: Detour Ahead.

Carol had been napping, and although I was tired, I decided to stay awake – primarily because I was driving. But when the monotonous road noise changed, she woke up.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“Well, I was making a bee-line to Denver, but at present, your guess is as good as mine.” Watching the actions of other drivers, it appeared that they might not have been as nonchalant as I was about the turn-of-events. I chuckled.

Carol asked, “What’s funny?”

“Precious, those poor drivers have not learned that emotional upheavals cannot change the way the highway departments do things – either good or bad. And they haven’t yet learned the value of detours in life.”

“Yeah, I suppose you are right. But where ARE we going now?”

“We’re heading north on Kansas State Road 232. Anything interesting on the map?”

After a few minutes of confirming our location, she said, “There is something called ‘The Garden of Eden’ on highway 18 between Lucas and Luray. Wanna go?”

“Sure; why not?”

We discovered Wilson Lake, and the scenery was beautiful. We stopped at The Garden of Eden to check it out. (We don’t recommend it; it’s not what the name infers.) After a bite to eat, we continued to Walde, Kansas. There we could have followed the detour signs and headed south toward Russell, resuming our monotonous freeway noise again. But since we were having such a good time seeing part of the country we had never encountered, we continued going through the towns on highway 18 until we arrived at Bogue, Kansas.

There we got onto highway 24 and drove another 100 miles to Colby where we were reacquainted with I-70. Carol and I thoroughly enjoyed our detour and learned more about our country. The detour set us back almost 3 hours; but that was not lost time–it was time invested together. And more importantly, my Precious and I made new memories together.

IMG_1434On another trip, we were returning from Missouri where we spent several days with two of my sisters and a brother. We had a good time. On the way back I said, “Let’s go home on some roads we’ve never been on. Carol chimed in: “Then let’s go to the War Eagle Craft Fair.” I agreed.

We turned onto Missouri highway 86. At a small town called Blue Eye, we headed south and found Arkansas 221. Again, Carol and I were enjoying the beautiful scenery. But at one point without warning, the asphalt highway morphed into a gravel road.

“Are you lost?” Carol asked.

“No, but we ran out of 221.” We laughed.

When we stopped at a cabin for advice, the man told us how to get back to civilization, eventually getting to Rogers, AR.

“Where will that route take us?” I asked.

“That’ll take ya through Eureka Springs, less you wanna either truck on the way yer goin fer nuther two hours throwin gravel, or back-track cupla hours.”

I thanked him and got back in the GMC Envoy. After discussing our options, we laughingly headed up to Eureka Springs–on a road we didn’t even know existed–and had dinner at one of our favorite places. We barely got to the War Eagle Craft Fair in time to check it out.

Detours don’t upset or aggravate us. They’re part of life. Our traveling motto is: “If we hit a detour, make a vacation out of it.” We’ve learned, however, to schedule into our plans extra time to allow for such excursions. And if we encounter no detours, we arrive early. Yay!

Some time ago I learned the following: “Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to letPICT0033 another person or event control your emotions.” I cannot control you or the highway department, but I can control my plans and reactions. I do this by asking God for direction in life which enables me to face life’s uncertainties with confidence.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Who knows? Maybe God purposely arranges some detours to gauge our maturity level.

Happy traveling, friends. 

Seven Helpful Habits

From 1994 to 2005 I was an operations officer in the Nuclear Physics division at the Los Alamos7 Habits National Laboratory. One of my responsibilities was to assure that our staff’s training was up-to-date. One day I read about a seminar titled, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.” That intrigued me, and I attended the seminar to see if I should recommend it to our staff. I’m glad I did, and it was my privilege to meet and talk with the speaker, Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Dr. Covey condensed his seminar into a book titled by the same name: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” (He passed away in July of 2012. America misses him, but his teaching will go on. And yes: I recommended this course to our staff.)

Covey taught that developing good habits presents more long-term benefits than trying to build a good image – corporate or personal. He said:

“The difference between the two approaches is similar to the difference between cramming for an exam and taking care of a farm. ‘Cramming’ is an image-based approach that nets temporary results, whereas taking care of a farm requires continuous, daily attention that will provide long-term dividends.”

And ‘taking care of the farm’ is the phrase he used for developing good habits for living.

The first three habits deal with the Personal Level. Individuals develop Independence by adherence to these habits.

Habit One focuses on taking control of life: Be Proactive. Don’t create or accept excuses for failure or lack of progress. Blaming or accusing doesn’t help anyone. And stop being overly concerned about things over which you have no control, but respond properly to situations. Covey called this: “response-ability”.

Habit Two is the development of a Personal Mission Statement: Begin with the End in Mind. Leisure time? Travel? More efficient teamwork? More effective sermons? Quicker meals? Whatever it is, define it. Whether you are a husband, wife, business owner, student, pastor, etc., develop goals to define your direction. This can be difficult; but once accomplished it will help you develop more effective leadership qualities needed in your personal or business life. It makes life easier and more enjoyable.

Habit Three is the essence of personal time management: Put First Things First. Separate tasks or projects under “urgent” – “important” – “necessary” – “desired.” This takes insight, planning, preparation, and promotes efficiency. It also greatly reduces time spent in crisis-management. That, in itself, is rewarding.

The next three habits deal with the Interpersonal Level. This section is more complex because practice of these habits leads to valuable Interdependence, which leads to personal and corporate maturity.

Habit Four is the philosophy that creates more productive, long-lasting relationships: Think Win/Win. We do not have to step on someone in order to succeed (except for sports games: one team must win). We need to fix in our mind that in order to truly get ahead we must depend on and help others. No one ever succeeds by himself. We must ignore our competitive instinct and help others succeed. The Win/Win concept requires courage and trust, but pays big dividends.

Habit Five is the skill that allows Win-Win to work: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” This concept made a long-lasting impression on me. Learning to actively understand someone else and his/her point of view is mandatory in order to effectively communicate our thoughts. If the other person realizes that I am concerned about him, he will be open to hear from me and perhaps willing to help me.

Habit Six is Synergize. Often (but not always) a corporate concept produces a better solution than our individual ideas. And this is actually the fruit of Habits four and five.

And Habit Seven is Sharpen the Saw. Our skills and methods are never perfect. Therefore, we need to continually hone or refine them.

PrinciplesThe information I gained at the seminar, and in reading the book, did not guarantee quick fixes to any personal, interpersonal or business problems. But I was supplied with tools to improve my communication skills, my outlook on life, and reduce unnecessary friction.

I also recommend two other books: “The Leader In Me” and “Principle-Centered Leadership.” To learn more about the “7 Habits” and other Covey books, contact Franklin Covey Co., Debra Lund, 801-244-4474; Debra.Lund@FranklinCovey.com.