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.

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.

Wisdom or Foolishness?

DSCN4499Do you know anything about wisdom? Wisdom is defined as: the ability to discern or judge what is true or right; the ability to make practical applications of truth or knowledge in everyday life.

Here are three reports regarding wisdom.

1)                The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon (1 Kings 10) because she had to see this man who was purported to be the wisest man on earth. She was astonished at the wisdom (applied knowledge, sometimes called common sense) Solomon manifested.

2)                In 1996 Pastor Denny Brake in Raleigh, NC, referred to a lack of wisdom in his question about internet usage: “What do you mean Parental Discretion? How about a little Internet Discretion?” And Pastor Jack Musick once humorously prayed, “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.” The subject of wisdom has been around and discussed for quite a while. But how do we get wisdom?

Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to those who have lived many years.” However I saw a sign that said, “Wisdom comes with age; but sometimes age comes by itself.” Sadly, that is often true, and we all have seen many unwise elderly folk who did not gain wisdom in their youth. We do not automatically get wiser as we get older.

3)                Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10 (KJV) give us a different, but corroborating, perspective. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The NLT says, “Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.”

Daniel 2:21 & Luke 21:15 point to wisdom’s origination, but James 1:5 (NCV) says it explicitly: “But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous and enjoys giving to all people, so he will give you wisdom.”

So, wisdom comes from God; but because we don’t cooperate with God, it normally takesdscn6647b[1] a while for us to grow out of our youthful foolishness. That’s why Scripture says young people should learn from the older folk: they have been around for a while, and have a wealth of information and wisdom to pass on.

With all that said, is there an application I can easily make? Yes: why is there so much immorality and violence in our society? The answer: ungodly people love foolishness which prevents them from gaining wisdom.

Look at the proliferation of extreme sexual perversion and violence in the theaters, on television, on DVDs, and on video games. We are teaching our people – youth and adults – the joy of maiming, killing, and achieving inordinate and improper sexual gratification. And then we wonder why so many people are going berserk, killing and raping people in real life.

In the scientific world we have a well-known principle: “For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.” In this case, it is very simple: Action – teach a dog to be vicious. Reaction – the dog will hurt people.

Therefore: Action – We continue to foolishly and stupidly teach people to be cruel, self-centered, and evil: especially in the name of entertainment. Reaction – people transfer their “virtual” murderous and sexual escapades into real life situations in theaters, schools, churches, and else where. We should wake up and stop the insane proliferation of evil. But that requires people to love God and hate evil.

What is the rationale of teaching people how to be evil then take them to a psychologist so see why they are sick? There isn’t an answer. We just continue creating more ways to destroy humanity and our society, and then try to create ways to repair the damage. It’s insane.

In our public and entertainment media, we foolishly commit barbarianism and murder PICT0029bagainst imaginary people, and the result is barbarianism and cruelty against real people. We also extol the virtues of drinking alcohol, then try to figure out why we have so much death, mangled cars, destroyed lives, lost jobs, and wrecked marriages. I could go on, but that will suffice.

Should we consult psychologists? The medical profession? Pastors? Unless their counsel is focused on an appropriate application of the Word of God, they won’t have permanent solutions.

So, what is the answer? If we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it. But that requires us to study the Bible, learn from our elders, think things through, and purposely make practical applications of Biblical truth and knowledge to everyday life.

The fear or reverence of the Lord is the foundation on which God builds wisdom in our lives. And without an active, reverential belief in God, our society – including many blinded Christians – will continue the headlong plunge into the abyss of destruction. 0107121404

The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of a man. What a man IS survives him. His reputation can never be buried.

How are you living? How will you be remembered? 

Will people remember you as foolish or as wise? Think about it for a while.0

What’s in Your Hand?

PICT0296One winter day in 1956 (I was 10 years old), Dad said, “Get me a pan of water so I can defrost the ice on the windshield.” It was a very cold day, so I decided to heat the water. After a few minutes, Dad called out, “Where are you?” I hollered, “I’m warming the water.” Whereupon Dad said, “Just give me what’s in your hand!”

In the late 1970s, Mark, a friend of ours who had been a missionary in Africa, drove up to Sheridan Christian Center in Tulsa where Billy Joe Daugherty was pastor and had a school in conjunction with the church. When Mark asked Billy Joe if he needed a class on the history of missions, Billy Joe said he had been praying about that for the past couple of months and asked Mark if he could prepare a course to teach it. Whereupon Mark help up his briefcase and said, “I spent all last year preparing it, and I have it right here in my hand.”

Did you know that God has given us certain natural abilities, has enabled us to learn skills, and has endowed us with gifts of the Spirit? God’s intention is for us to use these abilities, skills, and gifts to earn a living and take care of our families. But more importantly, God wants us to use those abilities, skills, and gifts to expand His Kingdom.

PICT1325Living a Christian life is adventuresome, and it demands taking risks. So let me ask you: “What’s in your hand?” That can mean three things – all related: What are you physically holding in your hand? What do you know how to do? What are you willing to do?

James 2:14-23 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well.’ but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that isn’t manifested by good deeds is no faith at all; it is only words and is useless. This is foolishness. When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is fruitless?”

In August of 2001, a family in New Mexico asked me if they could start a Bible Study. I was excited and I told them, “Sure; go ahead.” They said, “Pastor, we don’t know how. We were hoping you would start it for us.” I agreed to start it and teach it for 6 to 12 months. They agreed. I taught it for 8 or 9 months, and they took over. In their case, the desire to do something for God was what they had in their hands. Then at the right time, their willingness to carry on after I let it go was also in their hands.

The pastor should not try to do everything; he shouldn’t be a one-man-show. This is against God’s plan for the church. If the pastor tries to do too much by himself, he actually limits the growth of the church because he prevents his people from doing what God wants them to do. A pastor in Phoenix said his people are the tools he has in his hands, and his church has grown tremendously because he allows his people to use what God has put in their hands.

So Friends, what do you have in your hands? Is it a kind word to a broken-hearted person? Is it an offer to take someone to church? Can you teach someone a trade? Can you take a meal to a hurting person? Do you have the desire to study and teach? Can you give more financially to the Lord? Are you willing toDSCN6647 host a home fellowship group? Do you have ideas to help the church grow? Do you have the ability to develop those ideas? God needs every one of you to use your skills, expertise, and gifts to grow the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. God wants you to be available to help others.

When we do our part, God is free to do His part. He refuses to do our work for us, and we cannot do God’s work for Him; it will always be a team effort as we apply or use our faith.       What’s in your hand?

Valentine’s Day

image00771I remember Valentine’s Day in 1965. Valentine’s Day was on Sunday that year, and Carol and I were attending SCC (Southern California College: now VUSC – Vanguard University of Southern California). I remember thinking: “If Carol accepts my invitation to the Valentine Banquet, I’ll know that she is the girl I will marry.” So, nervously, I asked her.

Laugh if you want. I am chuckling now as I write because I was somewhat immature at the time, and I was overcome with “puppy-love.” (Yes friends, she accepted.) I know that isn’t the way to1966 wedding decide whom to marry, but we DID get married a year and a half later — August 22, 1966 — and 52+ years later, we are still in love.

Someone asked Carol several years ago, “What’s it like being married to the same person for all those years?” Carol responded: “Oh, he’s not the same person I married. He’s changed.” She is right. Through time we all change — hopefully for the better. For one thing, my puppy-love grew into a true, full-fledged love for Carol. Maybe not fully-mature even now, but definitely going in that direction. I have learned (and am still learning) to love her with the love of Jesus Christ; and His love supersedes or surpasses any love humans think they have. But how do husbands and wives keep their love and devotion vibrant through the problem-laden decades?

Bishop Valentinus, or Saint Valentine as he is remembered, gave us a hint by manifesting a two-fold love: An undying, obedient, irrevocable love for God, and a deep, loyal commitment to people. And that’s what Carol and I have applied in our marriage through the years.

dscn7495Carol explains it this way: “Marriage is made in heaven. But it comes in a kit that must be assembled here on earth.” She also says, “Marriage is like a pyramid: God is at the top, with husband and wife at the bottom corners. When husband and wife focus on each other, they tend to repel each other. But if they both focus on God and grow toward Him, they inevitably grow closer together. And growing toward God helps us to become more like Him. Therefore, we find ourselves loving each other more with the pure love of God. That’s why God should be at the center of every marriage.”

That reminds me of a song written in Pasadena, California by Frederick Lehman; but the lyrics are based on a Jewish poem titled “Haddamut” written in Aramaic in 1050 AD by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, a cantor in Worms, Germany. The words to the chorus are: “Oh Love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure the saints and angel’s song.”

Another supporting factor in keeping your love going strong is to let your spouse be your very best friend. That way, NO one can ever come between you! Carol has been my best friend for these 52 years, and she will never be deposed from that position as long as we both shall live.

Our friends Gary and Carol Kroah, formerly Associate Pastors of the Siloam Spring (Arkansas) Assembly of God Church say, “To start out, it’s not hard to love someone who is lovable. But our love for one another has endured through the years because of our mutual commitment to Jesus Christ and to one another. The closer we have been to Him, the closer we are to each other. Our determination to care for one another has motivated us to stay together, and love with unconditional love.”

Unconditional Love—growing toward God—growing closer together. It sounds like Bishop Valentine’s two-fold love: an undying, obedient, irrevocable love for God, and a deep, loyal commitment to people.

You’ve probably figured out that I like the Valentine’s Day celebration, but I do not subscribe to the superficiality ascribed by the world. Using the celebration as an enhancement in courting and marriage is fine, but don’t use it for defrauding someone or for sexual immorality.  A person who truly loves someone will act honorably toward that person. Acting selfishly or dishonorably is devoid of true love. Read 2 Samuel 13.DSCN0185

Jesus exhibited the purest love by sacrificially giving Himself in order that we may receive eternal life. (John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosover believes on Him will not perish [eternally] but have everlasting life”. Respond to Jesus. Receive His love, and live. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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.

You Can Change Your World

Do you feel trapped? Stuck in a rut? Has life penned you in with no wiggle-room? I calldscn9807 that “mental claustrophobia” and that’s a tough prison. How do we get trapped like that? Some folk might say life has dictated our fate. If you’ve watched the movie “Anne of Green Gables” you could say it’s because of a lack of imagination. Yet others may actually blame God for it.

But: Is it possible that you’ve been afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone to accept a new challenge? Has God been asking you to do something for which you feel unqualified? Please know that not following God’s leadership, for whatever reason, will generate a “stuck syndrome” and the only cure is to step out and obey the Lord. God may want you to change your world.

Here are a few of the brave souls who stepped out of their comfort zone and cooperated with God to change or preserve their world:

  1. For 100 years Noah obeyed God, preached, and endured mental and physical persecution while building the boat to save both humanity and land animals from total annihilation.
  2. Joseph, sold as a slave by his own brothers, obeyed and preserved Jacob’s family to allow it to become the Nation of Israel.
  3. Moses, the prince demoted to a fugitive shepherd, obeyed and led the fledgling nation back to the Promised Land, and compiled the first five books of the Old Testament.
  4. The Apostle Paul obeyed and gave us over half the New Testament.
  5. Martin Luther, standing against the established church, obeyed and reestablished the doctrine of “The just shall live by faith!”
  6. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln fought king and country, and obeyed to give us and preserve for us the United States of America.
  7. Hudson Taylor, one of the greatest missionaries since the Apostle Paul, stepped outside conventional wisdom and founded the China Inland Mission.
  8. Pastor William Boothe resigned his pastorate, obeyed and gave us the Salvation Army.
  9. Blind Fanny Crosby obeyed and gave us over 8,000 hymns.
  10. The Wright Brothers, willing to sacrifice their reputations, gave America the airplane.
  11. Henry Ford stepped outside conventional wisdom and gave mankind the automobile assembly line.
  12. Unknown Billy Graham picked up a Bible and started preaching.
  13. Harland Sanders challenged the restaurant industry and created KFC.
  14. President Kennedy announced the “impossible” and sent man to the moon.
  15. University student Michael Dell built and sold computers from his university dorm room, then his garage, and created the DELL Company.
  16. Robert Jarvik disregarded church doctrine and conventional wisdom and created the Jarvik artificial heart.
  17. And it is our Lord Jesus Christ who descended from heaven, sacrificed his human life, was crucified, died, but rose again, to offer us eternal life.

These people stood up and created a better world for us.

pict0268Great benefits could await us if we dare to step outside our comfort zone. No, I am not suggesting that we put safety and common sense aside, and I am not suggesting that we stop providing for our families. But we may have an invention tucked away in our God-given creative mind, we may have an idea that could improve the quality of life, or we may simply want to reach out and expand our horizons; but we must be willing to take a risk. The risk can span the financial, physical, emotional, or reputational realms; but with proper mentoring we can break out of our mental prison. God doesn’t want us stuck. Dependable, yes! But not stuck.

Now, if you are happy and content where you are and with what you are doing, don’t make a change for the sake of change; God may want you right where you are. And if you place a higher priority on security than on adventure, then stay where you are. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. But if for some reason you are unsettled with life as-is, talk with a counselor or a mentor you trust, and pray about it. God may have something in mind for you to do. And if the Lord does lead you to change your direction in life, don’t give a half-hearted effort; be diligent in what you do.pict0848

But remember, God doesn’t choose those who are self-reliant for His tasks; rather He chooses those who will cooperate with Him.

There is no need to feel trapped or stuck. Pray about your situation. As you cooperate with God, you might change your world.