Is Sincerity Enough?

“I don’t believe I have to become a Christian in order to be good. Won’t God accept me as long as I am sincere about my beliefs?”

That question from one of our readers has been asked for centuries. My question for him was: “Are you inferring that ‘sincerity’ on whatever topic is equal to truth?” He couldn’t answer that.

Sincerity is an admirable character trait. It derives from sin-ceré, which literally means “without wax.” The second-rate potters in ancient times often filled the cracks in their pottery with wax, then painted over the dried wax to make the item look like a first-class vessel. But when the pot was heated the wax melted and the liquid leaked out. Therefore, the respectable potters began writing on the bottom of their pots sin-ceré. The buyer knew she could trust this merchant and his merchandise.

Sincere is used today as: not feigned: true; presenting no false appearance. However, you probably understand that this word is often used insincerely — that is, as a smoke screen. Many times, when someone asks a question like the one above, rather than seeking truth they’re actually attempting to justify their questionable lifestyle. That is not being sincere.

Some people think they are living a good life, but Proverbs 16:25 says: “Some people think they are doing right, but in the end it leads to death.” I read of a professional basketball player who playfully pointed his gun at a friend. Sincerely believing the gun was not loaded, he pulled the trigger. When the resounding explosion subsided and the smoke cleared, his friend was dead.

Sincerity does not make something true; rather, truth substantiates faith, or exposes ignorance.

No one can make a rotting apple fit for human consumption. Likewise, Christianity was not instituted as a program to make people good. Matthew 19:16-17 says: “Someone came and asked Jesus, ‘Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?’ Jesus responded, ‘Why do you call me good? There is only one good person; that is God: but if you desire eternal life, keep the commandments.’” (Read the rest of Matthew 19 for the remainder of Jesus’ message.)

Attempting to become good, or turning over a new leaf doesn’t change us. Rather we need to recognize that human beings are basically self-centered, hedonistic, self-gratifying. Our apple is rotting, and we need to replace it. Then we need a brand-new start, and that new start comes with accepting Jesus Christ into our life. (Acts 4:12, John 3:16)

The ancient Canaanites (among other ethnic groups) sincerely believed in gruesomely killing their children as an offering to appease their gods. Some tribes in South America and Africa sincerely believed that if they captured, killed, and ate other people, they would receive their (the dead person’s) wisdom, knowledge, bravery, strength, etc. Other groups have done even more horrid and gruesome acts to appease their gods. Some groups have taken wood, stone, and/or metal, shaped them into images, assigned personality to the images, and called them gods. Yet other people say, “There is no God!”

Does sincerity of any of those beliefs validate them? You realize, of course, the answer is “No.”

Jehovah, God, is the God of Truth. Jesus said in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father except through me.” And in John 18:37b, Jesus said, “…all who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” And He cannot place equal value on our lies or misconceptions as He does on Truth.

If two people are talking with you, and one is known for his knowledge while the other is known for his ignorance, you also will place greater trust in the knowledgeable person — and rightly so. If you don’t, then your integrity is in question.

The Biblical concept of sincere is: without blemish, perfect, upright, complete, pure, honest. So I repeat: Sincerity of our beliefs does not make something true; rather, truth substantiates faith, or exposes ignorance.

Therefore, sincerity is not the issue. Truth is the issue. So, will God accept you? Yes, but not on your terms. Don’t attempt to decide for yourself what truth is. Rather, accept the “tried-and-true” gospel — the Good News — found in the Bible.

We must come to God on His terms. What are they? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting Life” (John 3:16).

Base your sincerity on what the Bible says.

Problems Continue to Infect Us

What I will say today might be equally true for other nations, because many nations have turned away from the ideals of their founding fathers.

America’s convoluted concepts of preferential freedom of speech, inequitable freedom of religion, promotion of inverse morality, approval of re-written history, and the love affair of corrupted, degrading, murderous, and perverted entertainment are accomplishing within the United States of America what the Nazis, Communists, drug-lords, crime mafia, Taliban, Al Qaeda, et al, could not do. That is: degrade, demoralize, and desecrate our nation. Interestingly, our esteemed presidents and the US Congress – both parties – have been helping this to happen. What am I talking about?

For starters, we are told that if guns were banned less people would be murdered. That is foggy thinking because the criminal will steal or keep his own weapons and the mentally sick person will steal his, while the up-standing, law-abiding citizen will obey the law and be left defenseless.

Evil is in the heart and mind of man – not in the pistol, rifle, blow-gun, bow & arrow, poison, knife, rock, baseball bat, chemicals, abortion tools, brass knuckles, or the rest of the endless means of ending a person’s life. Banning implements used for killing people will never solve the problem because evil minds are very creative in forming new ways of killing.

Murder originates in the mind, not in an object. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22,250px-Chimp_Brain_in_a_jar “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Anyone who murders another will be judged.’ But I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged.” (Several of the early Greek copies refer to “angry without a cause.”) The point is: murder does not happen – it is planned.

Also, we’re told we must be tolerant of other worldviews. What they mean by that is: we must deny our Christian worldview in order to show approval of opposing beliefs which want to overturn ours. It is interesting that our own government leaders are blind to what is taking place. This is absurd, because it is our heritage that created the very environment that allows the freedom for those people to try to shut us down.

Please think this through: When people didn’t like what was happening in Communist countries, they left if they could. Many were killed trying to leave. Millions who stayed were killed. When people didn’t like what was happening in Nazi Germany, they left if they could. Many were killed trying to leave. Millions who stayed were killed. And when the people did escape, they went to where they would be free.

Please listen: If those who would subvert our American heritage are successful, they would lose the freedoms they presently enjoy. Why don’t they just relocate to where their worldviews are already being propagated and experienced?

The answer: It isn’t their purpose to experience freedom. It is their purpose to subvert the United States of America.

Yoga, transcendental meditation, visualization, and a host of other New Age or Eastern forms of religion are taught in European and American schools under the guise of helping us become better people. And those systems or methods are parts of or extensions of religions. Yet teaching the basic religion on which our nation was founded – Christianity – is outlawed. That is insane. Or outright evil.

We do need to respect others. However, people have been voted into political offices whose purpose is to reduce the impact and effectiveness of Christianity and our form of government. And because America has agreed to the mindless absurdity that teaching Christian values tends to warp the minds of children and tends to be intolerant of other’s beliefs, we set Christianity aside. And instead of teaching the values which have made us a healthy and prosperous nation, we allow intolerant people to dominate us – in the name of tolerance, of course.HW

We allow Hollywood to brainwash us, propagandize us, and coach their celebrities to take the lead in fighting against truth and against good moral values. We, who have created a nation where even our enemies have the freedom of speech, are sinking to the depths of depriving our own citizens of our own freedoms. We have become blind to those who would deny us the rights secured by our own Constitution and Amendments.

The only hope for our nation is to prayerfully return to our historic roots: reverence for and worship of Almighty God, and respect for truth. The only hope for people world-wide is the same.

There is no proper way to end this Reflection because the problems continue to infect us. So I’ll just say: See you next time on a different topic.

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.

What Happened When Jesus Was Crucified?

You might wonder why I say Jesus was crucified on Thursday, but the answer is simple. Jesus said he would be in the grave for three days AND three nights. Scripture also says Jesus rose from the grave in the morning before sunrise on the first day of the week. Simple math says if he was in the grave for three nights and he rose on Sunday morning, he had to be buried on Thursday.

Also, note that Passover is called a high holy day and a High Sabbath. John 19:31 informs us Jesus was crucified the day before the high day, or high Sabbath.

Matt. 12:39-40, Matt. 27:57-61, John 19:31

DSCN0874It is Thursday. Jesus was crucified around 9:00 am. He died at 3:00 pm – about the time of the evening sacrifice. His limp body was lowered from the cross. His friends, led by a member of the Sanhedrin, bound His lifeless form in long strips of linen cloth. They placed Him on a cold slab of rock in a new burial room in a hillside. They would be back to finish the burial in 3 days: after both the Passover and weekly Sabbath celebrations.

Matt. 27:62-66

The guards have been positioned.  They were ordered to stand guard for at least three days to prevent Jesus’ friends from stealing His body, and claiming that He had come back to life.

Many folk were in their homes eating the Passover supper and were glad this day was over. It had been quite a turbulent day and they wanted to get some rest. After the Passover, life in Jerusalem would be back to normal … they hoped.

Matt. 27:50-53

DSCN0728BBut they also were quite worried. The graveyards had been badly damaged during the earthquake, and thousands of graves had opened up. People throughout Israel thought they would spend several weeks or months reburying the dead.

Others were deeply grieving. They couldn’t eat,  they couldn’t sleep. Their Friend, Master, and Messiah? Was dead! And the Kingdom He promised them now seemed to be a fading mist. He was gone and the hated Romans were still ruling Israel.  All their hopes and dreams for themselves and for their nation were crucified and buried in that tomb.

But Wait A Minute … Something is happening. There is activity in Hades, the place of the dead. Jesus is there, talking to a lot of people – perhaps millions of them. They are listening intently. Now they are yelling and dancing and rejoicing with the Savior.

There are also hosts of angels there, standing guard. They are waiting for orders from Jesus, their Commander and King!

I Peter 3:19,  Eph. 4:7-10

Now Jesus is speaking with Lucifer and another group of people. Some are sad, many are angry. Finally, with all the demons of hell looking on, Lucifer reluctantly bows to Jesus. Lucifer is defeated, and he surrenders all his authority to his Master: Jesus.

Jesus then turns to the jubilant, joyful group, and gives the final command: “Follow Me!”  And the army prepares to move out!

Back in the graveyard ……

It is the third night of the third day: still dark in what we would call Sunday morning. Near the tomb where Jesus’ body lay, some of the soldiers were on guard while the others were sleeping.

Suddenly, there was another earthquake! It was about as strong as the one three daysIMG_1578B earlier. The sleeping soldiers jumped up, and they all saw the stone roll away from the front of the tomb. As the stone rolled away, the soldiers saw that the cave was filled with an unearthly, brilliant light which was brighter than the noon-day sun.

They saw a man inside whose face shone like lightning! He was walking toward the opening of the tomb. That unearthly light, which cannot be described, filled the entire surrounding area.

Matt. 28:1-4

Fear such as these soldiers had never known before enveloped them! Their legs buckled and they collapsed, falling unconscious to the ground as though they were dead: and Jesus walked out of the tomb and into Resurrection Life. All his grave clothes remained where Jesus had been laid.

Matt. 27:50-53

Remember the graves which had opened up three days earlier? Just as Jesus came out of his grave, thousands, perhaps millions, of others were coming out of their graves. The Bible lets us know that Jesus ministered to them and set them free. The place called Abraham’s Bosom, the place of the righteous dead, no longer exists and the Old Testament Saints have a new home in Heaven. Jesus lead them from death to Life in order to emphasize His OWN resurrection.

Acts 1:9Bible.docx

I’ve been asked if they died again. The answer is, No. They told of the Glory and the Power of God for forty days. When Jesus left the earth, these resurrected folk left earth with him.

Jesus is alive, and all those who believe in him will eventually go to be with him.

Pilate heard of Jesus’ resurrection. With bewilderment and a touch of wry humor, he thought, Of course, it isn’t true; but good for him if he could pull that one off! I was on his side, anyway. Maybe my wife will feel better now, and it’ll give those rebellious Jews something to chew on for a while. True or not, this Jesus wins in the end! He then wrote a letter to the emperor about the situation.

Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were terrified and angry. This can’t have happened! No one comes back from the dead – and Jesus can’t either, especially after the hell the Romans put him through. We’ve got to cover this up until we find that blasted body! First, we’ll bribe those guards to lie about it, then the real work begins! (Matthew 28:11-15)

The citizens of Jerusalem were at first scared out of their wits! This is weird! Crazy! A nightmare! Things like this are only dreamed about! But when reality set in, they realized Jesus must, also, have come back from the dead. What had happened?

Matthew 27:52-53

Friends and relatives they had buried days or long ago were now alive and walking through the streets talking about the glorious wonders of God – almost as though they had been in the very throne room of God. These resurrected people were real: they were not spirits or ghosts. Their resurrection cannot be denied, and that gave heavy proof that Jesus also came back from the dead.

dscn0464Because Jesus never sinned or did anything wrong, because he suffered the penalty for every sin mankind has committed, and because he rose from the dead, Lucifer has absolutely no power or control over us. 1 John 1:9 guarantees it. If we confess our sins and repent, God will forgive us and restore our relationship with him. All we need to do is to obey him. We might face the human consequences for what we’ve done, but God will forgive us and we can live with him forever in heaven.

THAT’s what Passover and Resurrection Day is all about.

Are You Living With IFR or VFR?

ConstellationOn December 4, 1965 Captain Charles White was flying an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed Super Constellation from Boston to Newark International Airport. At the same time, Captain Thomas Carroll was flying his TWA Boeing 707 from San Francisco to Kennedy International Airport. Both aircraft had passed a thorough inspection within the past year, and the pilots and crew had recently passed their annual physical exams. Both pilots wereTWA 707 instrument-rated and both aircraft had up-to-date for IFR flight. 

IFR is short for Instrument Flight Regulations, and VFR is Visual Flight Regulations. VFR rated planes and pilots can fly only when and where they can physically see where they are taking off, flying, and landing. IFR rating is for flying when visibility is poor. (That is a very poor over-simplification. Read up on it for a longer, fuller explanation.)

707 IFRAs they approached Carmel, New York, the Constellation was flying at 10,000 feet altitude in-and-out of an inclined cloud bank while the 707 was above the clouds at 11,000 feet. But they collided over Carmel. What caused the mid-air collision? Quoting from one of the reports:

As the Constellation emerged from a cloud puff, First Officer Roger I. Holt Jr. saw the Boeing in his right side window at the 2 o’clock position. The aircraft appeared to be converging rapidly at the same altitude. Holt shouted, “Look out,” placed his hands on the control wheel, and made a rapid application of up elevator simultaneously with Captain White, causing crew members and passengers to be forced down into their seats.

The pilots of the Constellation reacted to an optical illusion. Captain White and Co-pilot Holt, using the inclined cloud bank as their horizon, forgot that the cloud formation was not level with the ground, and it only appeared that the two planes were at the same altitude. Thus, as they climbed steeply to avoid the 707 which was 1,000 feet higher, they actually ascended into the flight path of the 707. And with both planes converging at a speed of over 350 mph, Captain Carroll in the 707 did not have time to avoid a collision.

When the 707’s wing struck the vertical stabilizer (tail) of the Constellation, the 707 lost twenty-five feet of its wing (broken off at the outer engine), and immediately plunged into a steep dive. Regaining control, Captain Thomas was unaware of the extent of the damage and safely flew the sturdy Boeing 707 to the JFK airport and made an emergency landing. There were no fatalities on the 707.

imagesLosing its vertical stabilizer, the Constellation briefly continued gaining altitude but quickly became unstable. Captain White, skillfully manipulating engine thrust, regained control of the plane to some degree. Not having the luxury of choosing airports, he had to put the plane down right away. Expertly using engine thrust to guide the plane, he landed the plane in a field near Danbury, Connecticut, and the captain immediately began helping passengers to safety.

Captain White re-entered the burning wreckage one more time, trying to rescue the last passenger who was unconscious. His last comment as he reentered the burning plane was, “No one gets left behind!” Firemen later discovered the bodies of both men who had died of smoke inhalation. Two other passengers died later at a hospital.

The question that plagued the reporters was, “Since Captain White was safely a fifth of a mile below Captain Thomas, why did he climb into the flight path of the Boeing plane?” The answer: he subconsciously reverted from IFR mentality to VFR thinking. His instruments revealed that he was safe, but he was tricked by and reacted to an optical illusion.

Do you know that this same type error is committed by humans in every walk of life every day? God has given us “flight instruments” in the form of the Bible, and assistance from our “control tower” in the form of the Holy Spirit. Our Spiritual IFR is called Faith, but we are often deceived by our VFR which is human reasoning.

Romans 2:13b-15a says, “Those who obey the law will be declared right in God’s sight. Even when Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, instinctively follow what the lawBible.docx says, they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong. They demonstrate that God’s law is written within them….” That’s why verse 20 informs us that no one has an excuse for not living according to God’s law.

Rejecting faith in God causes us to do what Captain White did: fly directly into the path of danger and potential death. So check your documentation – the Bible. Choose the correct heading – Jesus Christ. Cooperate with your instruments – the Holy Spirit. And live forever with the Lord.

HEAVEN

     You have politics coming out your ears, but have you thought about heaven? The word “heaven” is in the Bible (KJV) 457 times so it must be important. What is Heaven?

Dumbbell nebula
Dumbbell nebula from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telesco

Heaven is contemplated on three levels: The firmament, or atmosphere; (Gen. 2:19); the stars or outer space (Matt. 24:29); and God’s throne (Deut. 10:14). Heaven has various names: New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12), Everlasting Kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11), Eternal Inheritance (Heb. 9:15), a Better Country (Heb. 11:16), and My Father’s house (John 14:2). There is neither suffering nor evil in heaven (Rev. 21:4). 

     Where is Heaven? This is difficult to answer because the Bible doesn’t tell us. However, heaven is where God the Father is, and is where Christians go when our bodies stop breathing. But heaven is not a million miles away. Heaven isn’t “out there” somewhere. When believers close their eyes in death, they immediately wake up in Heaven.

     1Thessalonians 4:13-18 says (NLT) says:

DSCN0508B
Total solar eclipse from my camera

“And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words.”

 

     One little commentary on that Scripture: It appears that the Christians’ spirits will come back from heaven with Jesus and be reunited with their bodies coming out of the graves.

     How do we get to Heaven? Whenever we want to go somewhere: we know where we are, we decide where we want to go, we enter a vehicle and GO. So where are we? In a sinful world. Where do we want to go? To Heaven. How do we get there? Jesus is the only way to Heaven (John 14:6). We must accept Jesus into our life, and live for Him. And until Jesus returns, we go through the door called “death”. But for believers it is the “Door to Life”.

     Jesus said in John 14:1-3 (NLT) says: “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

     Jesus died to redeem mankind. Defeating death, He returned to life and will live forever. He wants you to live forever with Him. You will never have to lock your doors again. You will never be afraid again. You will never be hurt again. But if Jesus does not return soon, we all will die.

     What does that feel like? Many times our kids fell asleep on the couch or on the floor of the living room but woke up in their bed. In the morning they asked, “How

PICT0033
Our children – decades ago

did I get here?” And my Precious Wife told them, “After you fell asleep, your father picked you up and took you to your room.”

 

     That is what death is like for the Christian. Whether we leave this life because of sickness, an accident, or old age; we merely fall asleep here in our “living room”, but we wake up in Heaven because our Father took us to our new home.”

     Are you living the way God wants you to live? If you died today would you go through the door that I call LIFE and live with Jesus, or go through the other door? Is there anything you need to ask God to forgive you for? Don’t be afraid to talk to God about it. He loves you very much and wants to forgive you. He wants you in Heaven with Him.

A Psalm for the Living

Have you read the 23rd Psalm lately? Okay, you may have looked at the words, but have you really thought about it? Have you ever become curious enough to dig into it to understand some of its life applications? Let’s read it (KJV), then look at it line-by-line.

IMG_2642The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The LORD is my shepherd. The Shepherd is never in doubt as to who belongs to him. And nothing can take us from Him (Romans 8:35-39).

I shall not want. I will have no lack in my life. All my needs (not talking about desires) will be met.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. I will live in peace. I will not have strife in my life for I trust the Shepherd.

He leadeth me beside the still waters. Through the Shepherd’s guidance, I will stay out of trouble and be safe.

He restoreth my soul. If I go astray, disobey, or sin, the Shepherd restores our relationship when I repent.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. The gentle Shepherd doesn’t push – He LEADS me in respectable and conscientious living which honors Him.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Even though I go through rough and dangerous times, even though I have severe trials and hardships, I will not fear because the Shepherd is by my side watching over me. The Shepherd allows hard times in my life for my benefit. If everything went peachy-smooth all the time, I would never learn to trust him.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The Shepherd uses the staff to rescue, guide, and correct me; the rod is used for my discipline and to beat off predators and enemies.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. In the middle of both earthly conflict and spiritual battles, the Shepherd provides everything I need for both this life and in the next life. He never leaves me and shows me how to gain the victory. But I have to watch and listen.

Thou anointest my head with oil. The Shepherd has chosen me for a specific purpose or function, and promised that He will enable me and empower me to fulfill that purpose.

My cup runneth over. My life is complete. I am filled with blessings, friends, joy, and with confidence in the Shepherd that He will do all that He said He would.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I will live righteously, and will show mercy to all those around me so that they, too, can learn to live for the Lord.

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. I will live for the Lord, worship Him, and praise Him my entire earthly life, then throughout eternity.

After some study, I identified something that seemed to be missing from the Psalm.DSCN9839B There is an unspoken condition that is inferred after “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Many “sheep” who belong to the True Shepherd may not be enjoying all the benefits that this Psalm lists because they don’t understand or may not be aware of this unspoken condition. What is it?

Please read this next line several times: We must continually stay close to the shepherd and obey him. When sheep wander off, they can get hurt or killed because the shepherd can neither protect nor provide for them. The shepherd trains the sheep to follow him. He does not drive his sheep; he leads them. Therefore, the sheep must watch and stay close. As the sheep cooperate, all the shepherd’s love, care, and benefits are available to the sheep. But we must stay close to Him.

If we have truthfully accepted the leadership of the Shepherd, Jesus Christ, in our lives, this Psalm is applicable for us while we live! Then, if we have stayed close to the Shepherd, the Psalm is ever more comforting at the end of our earthly life. And the totality of its promises is guaranteed in heaven.

Storms of Life

     Many of nature’s storms are, at least indirectly, caused by heat. Solar radiation heats the atmosphere, the land, and the oceans; and the oceans and land mass release heat back into the atmosphere. The atmosphere, including the jet stream, reacts in a manner that attempts to equalize the heat around the earth. All this may be an over-simplification, but I hope you pick up the idea.

     DSCN4908Ocean water evaporates and massive amounts of warm, moist air rise. As the air rises, surrounding air, also laden with water, moves in to replace it and ascends in the unseen elevator. The invisible water condenses as it cools down in the upper atmosphere and forms a cloudy, swirling mass. Keep in mind that the water is going to be dumped in some form, by some method, somewhere. Also on land, the warm air rises and forms unseen columns of air spiraling into the heavens. Have you seen eagles or hawks circling effortlessly thousands of feet in the air? They ride up the atmospheric elevator and hang out there waiting for a hapless mouse, rabbit, squirrel, or ground hog to move. Then breakfast!

     These thermal activities can produce billowy clouds, kite-flying winds, cool afternoon breezes, gentle rains, and picturesque snow falls; or devastating hail, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and massive snow and ice storms – depending on the time of year and the jet stream.

     Did you know that the total number of flash flood deaths has exceeded tornado fatalities during the last several decades? And hail causes more monetary loss than any other type of thunderstorm activity. Annually, the United States alone suffers about one billion dollars in crop damage from hail. Hail rarely kills people, but that didn’t mean much to the Chinese in May of 1986 when 100 people were killed, 9,000 injured, and 35,000 homes destroyed by an intense hailstorm.

     Through the years, man has studied climate all around the world. He has figured out what parts of the earth will get the most rain, the most snow, and what parts will stay mainly dry. Man can figure out when the next hurricane is coming, how big it is, how fast it is moving, and how powerful it is. Man is smart. God made him that way.

     However, man often has a difficult time figuring out where and why personal storms hit. These storms are physical, emotional, psychological, vocational, relational, and spiritual.

     We all have storms in our lives. Did you lose a job or house, a parent, spouse, or a child? Have you been insulted or slandered? Have you lost your reputation, position, or ministry? Have you been hurt by the economic downturn? Do you have a major illness?

     DSCN0676BStorms of all sizes and types are an integral part of life. But as devastating as the storm may be, it is our reaction to the storm that exacerbates the problem. When the heat of life is turned up, many folk take on a negative frame of mind and cannot properly understand the circumstances or assess the situation. Many people have gone into depression, shock, rage, even committed suicide after a major loss. People try hard to regain some sense of control over their lives, and sometimes it seems to be a hopeless attempt.

     So what should we do?

     When a child has a question or a problem, he should turn to a parent or teacher. When an adult has a question or a problem, he should turn to his employer, mentor, doctor, pastor, or sometimes the internet for answers. But a major source for the answers to life’s problems is the Bible. The principles for proper, wholesome living have been there for centuries, and are immediately available at our fingertips. Since we cause many of our own bumps in life, we can learn how to change (Romans 12:1-2, II Timothy 2:16). 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 overcome by the storms of life.