Who Should Be Thankful?

Mr. Linzey,

I read your columns, and I can figure out what you think about Thanksgiving Day. But why does the celebration have to be Christian? Why can’t just anyone celebrate it?   (Gregg)

Thank you for your question. The simple truth is, everyone can enjoy Thanksgiving Day festivities. However, two questions need to be addressed: what is the memorial, and what was involved in the original celebration?

America’s Thanksgiving Day was a harvest festival based on giving thanks to God for His provision and protection. It was, and is, definitely Christian in nature, and everyone can commemorate it. But to properly observe and celebrate Thanksgiving Day, as intended, requires a belief in the almighty, loving, justice-oriented, Judeo-Christian God. Otherwise the observance is relegated to a holiday which honors a different god, an assortment of gods, or not god at all. Merely a holiday weekend.

But there’s something else to consider.

Can I celebrate the Kansas City Chief’s Super-bowl victory last February by conducting a fundraising campaign for the 49ers? No. Can I celebrate Pearl Harbor Day by lamenting the defeat of the Japanese Empire? No. Therefore, can we celebrate our American Thanksgiving Day, in context with its history and inherent meaning, by worshiping other gods and celebrating it differently than intended? No.

Having said that, any non-Christian – of whatever religion – can show gratitude and give thanks for blessings. The question is: to whom would he show gratitude and give thanks?

While a Jew or Christian cannot worship Allah during the fast of Ramadan, adherents of other religions cannot meaningfully celebrate Thanksgiving Day as originated in America while employing a different religious world view.

While anyone can enjoy the day off and be grateful for blessings, only those who worship and honor the Living God can truly celebrate Thanksgiving Day as intended. Am I being biased or prejudiced? Biased, yes. Prejudiced, no. I am merely being true to the concept. (Bias and prejudice have two different meanings.)

The intent of our Thanksgiving Day celebration is to worship and honor our provider, our Father, God.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the history behind Thanksgiving Day.

For the 50 surviving Plymouth Pilgrims and their 90 Wampanoag neighbors celebrating between September 21 and November 11 in 1621, wild turkey was on the menu along with wheat, “Indian” corn, barley, peas, waterfowl, five deer, bass and cod. Actually, the Native Americans brought a lot of the food, including the five deer.

Since then, we’ve added items such as ham, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, popcorn, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. The Pilgrims probably made pumpkin pudding sweetened with honey, but they didn’t have sugar, crust or whipped topping…and No Pumpkin Pie!! Life was tough back then.

Because the wild turkey was fast and alert with sharp eyesight, Benjamin Franklin wanted to make it the United States national symbol. Also, the turkey reminded Franklin of God’s provision in our early colonial existence. (The turkey lost out to the Roman Emblem: the Eagle.)

For years, Thanksgiving was observed randomly, but the first Thanksgiving Proclamation was made on June 20, 1676. Thanksgiving proclamations were made annually by the US Congress from 1777-1783 and celebrated in December. George Washington declared a national day of Thanksgiving in 1789 and 1795; John Adams in 1798 and 1799; and James Madison twice in 1815.

The next national Thanksgiving Day was declared during the American Civil War in April of 1862 by Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, he declared Thanksgiving for August 6, and for the last Thursday in November. He declared a similar observance in 1864, establishing a precedent that has been followed by every president since then.

After a few deviations of time, the last Thursday in November was finally chosen as the day for our National Day of Prayer and thanksgiving, but remained a non-holiday tradition until President Franklin Roosevelt signed the bill on November 26, 1941. It established the fourth Thursday in November (in perpetuity) as our national Thanksgiving public holiday.

Eleven days later, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor!

Friends, we never know what lies in store for us from one day to the next. Life is so precious, yet circumstances are so unpredictable. We humans tend to be self-centered, but our heavenly Father loves us so much, and is willing to help us in times of trouble. So, let us, all around the world, humbly admit our need for God, and set time aside to honor Him. And with heart-felt gratitude, let’s thank Him for all that He has done for us.

Living a Holy Life

Some years ago, I was talking with an acquaintance about a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Oh, I wouldn’t go that THAT church! They act holier than thou!” he exclaimed.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means, uh, well, you know – they act real holy and religious!”

“Well, what does that mean?” I asked again.

“What’s the matter? I thought you knew this religion stuff.”

“I know about religion and Christianity, but you are condemning those people. So, tell me what you mean, and why.”

He walked away because, not being a Christian, he was trying to justify his own sinful lifestyle (it was bad) by demeaning those who were living a Godly lifestyle.

But he said they were “acting holy,” so let’s talk about holiness.

If a person or thing is holy, it is separated. Being in a state of holiness is being dedicated or set apart to God. Holiness begins in our minds, and is an ongoing lifestyle. Holiness is a work in progress. It results in spiritual transformation. Holiness should permeate our entire life, for it involves everything we do, think, and say.

1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy. For he himself has said, You must be holy because I am holy.” And Romans 12:2a: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” But we have to purposely cooperate with God for that to happen.

Several related words are: consecrated, hallowed, saint, belonging (to God), God-like.

I admire people for saying what many pastors and teachers are either hesitant or outright afraid to say. Holiness results in fearing, honoring, revering, loving, and living for God. But do Christians actually fear, revere, or honor God?

Based on what I’ve seen in the church across our nation, many Christians – adults as well as the youth – do not fear God. Rather than living a life wholly dedicated to God and teaching others to know and accept Christ for who He is, misguided Christians and church leaders are choosing to enjoy some of the evil pleasures of the world. In an attempt to be relevant to the world, they have become like the world.

We need to ask ourselves: “Where do we spend our time? Our money? Where do we invest our emotions and our intellect? What are our priorities in life?” Answering these questions truthfully could help the church – including you and me – get back on track.

Several church denominations are historically described as holiness churches because of their historic stand for Christ and against sin and worldliness. But a great many of their members now go where the sinful world goes, and do what the sinful world does. Many of them don’t understand that when they act like the world, they have diluted or lost their witness for Christ.

Jesus was consistent in remaining separate from the world while ministering life to the people. He said in John 17:15-17, “I’m not asking you [Father God] to take them [Jesus’ followers] out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth.”

Jesus didn’t mimic the lifestyle of the people in order to save them. Instead, while remaining holy and dedicated to the Father, He presented truth with the love and authority of the Father; and those who desired to live for God joined Jesus. Therefore, we, also, must remain separate from the world while living in and ministering to the world. We don’t need to act or look like the sinful world while trying to accomplish God’s goals. If we look and act like the world, they might see no need to change.

We must use the proper methods of rescuing the perishing, and that entails being holy while sharing the Holy Word of God. We must know the Father by knowing Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit can empower us and equip us with spiritual gifts to minister to the world and influence them for Christ. (Read Ephesians 4:11-16 and First Corinthians 11:4-11.)

Second Corinthians 6:17a says, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.” By thought, word, action, and lifestyle, let’s honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Chance vs Divine Providence

Charles sent me an e-mail and said, “I would really like to read your take on Chance (or Luck) vs Divine Providence.”

To answer this will involve condensing five books into 809 words. Thank you, Charles, for the request.

First, let’s understand “chance.” It deals with opportunity, accidents, random occurrences, possibilities – all without design or control by anyone. For example, I flipped a quarter in the air twenty times and let it land on the floor. I started each flip with George Washington’s head facing up. It landed heads up eight times and tails up twelve times. I ran the same experiment again, but this time I started it with the Eagle facing up. It landed heads up nine times and tails up eleven times. That’s interesting, but still, chance.

We would shift to Divine Providence now, except luck was mentioned. This goes into religion – but not Christianity.

Luck is another name for the Greek goddess Tyche; with Fortuna being Tyche’s Roman counterpart. We get the concept of good or bad fortune from the goddess Fortuna. Tyche and Fortuna are primary goddesses to whom the Greeks and Romans prayed for material blessings.

Enter The Moirae, or the Faits. These three goddesses supposedly predetermined the entire life and destiny of everyone who will ever live. That included everything the person thought, said, did, and what happened to him or her. We now call it “fatalism.”

Saint Augustine, who initially rebelled against God and believed in the Faits, eventually created a Christianized version of fatalism. He said nothing could happen without God’s specific command, and that God had predestined our entire life for us. Let’s see about this. If the average heart-rate is 70 beats per minute, God would have to stand there and specifically order each person’s heart to beat 36,817,200 time a year. Multiply that by 7,500,000,000 people in the world!

No. God sets some things in order, and commands them to keep it up.

Augustine then misapplied Romans 8:29 to support him. It says, “For whom he [God] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son.” But Paul put the emphasis on “foreknow”; not on “predestinate.” Paul wasn’t talking about God choosing whom He will save. Instead, Paul is talking about God’s fore-knowledge of who will choose to live for Christ.

Let’s bring in sovereignty: “supreme power; freedom from external control; autonomous.” Some national governments are sovereign.

Finally, we come to Divine Providence. And that truly is God’s position. The book of Job clarifies that no one tells God what to do. God, by Himself, decides what He will AND will not do.

Providence deals with: preparation, good governance, foresight, guidance, prudent management. General Providence refers to God supporting the natural order of the universe. But Divine Providence refers to God specifically and intentionally interacting in the affairs of mankind. Therefore, we need to read carefully and understand what God said in Scripture.

James 4:2-3 says, “And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (GNT)” This 2-fold Scripture alone informs us that God requires our interaction: 1) we need to ask of God, and 2) we need to have the right attitude.

Let’s add Psalm 37:23. “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives.” God takes pleasure in interacting with and caring for His people.

Although God sees the sparrow as it falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29), He does not mandate its death. Two of my sisters had houses that burned down several years ago, but they were not hurt. My dad died of cancer at age 89. My mother died at age 97. Another sister died of cancer at age 50. People get hurt out of carelessness. My lawn mower quit today. And sickness and death are still part of the human experience (Romans 5:14).

Does God purposely engineer all that? No; all that happens because we are part of the human family. The Bible says that death will be the LAST enemy to be conquered (1 Corinthians 15:26), so we can expect the other maladies and difficulties to continue for a while.

God does decree some of what happens in human history, but does not control or mandate every human decision. Instead, God leaves personal decisions up to us (Romans 6:12-13). Nevertheless, God does respond to prayer and can use all things that happen to us for our good (Romans 8:28).

In all that happens to us, God monitors our reactions. It is our reactions and attitudes that shape us, and prepare us for our interaction with God in heaven.

History Ignored is Freedom Lost

Have you ever watched a movie (or DVD) several times and wanted to see it again? My Precious Carol and I watched a film this past week called, “Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure,” staring Kirk Cameron. This was the second time I watched it, and I’ll watch it again. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a 90-minute film about America’s beginning.

Because much of our national heritage is not taught in schools, a major portion of our population is ignorant of our history. This film supplies some of the details.

Psalms 78:5-7 says, “The Lord made an agreement with Jacob and gave the teachings to Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children. Then their children would know them, even their children not yet born. And they would tell their children. So they would all trust God and would not forget what he had done but would obey his commands.”

I agree with that.

We start with the concept of monuments which are reminders of historical events. God told the Israelites to build monuments about what they accomplished, and about what the Lord did for them. Then they were to use those monuments as tools to teach their children about their past. My own father taught me the importance of history, and said, “If you don’t know where you’ve been, it’s hard to tell where you’re going.” How true.

Kirk Cameron wanted to know what principles the early settlers – Pilgrims – established that the Founding Fathers followed to make the United States of America the most successful example of civil, economic, and religious liberty ever developed in the history of the world.

But America became a moral quagmire because we, as a nation, slowly stopped teaching about God and the truth of our history. We also voted people into office who rejected truth – both Scriptural and historical. And now, since we don’t know where we’ve been, we are on the wrong track. Let me give you several historical facts that are hard to find in schools today.

The Pilgrims left Europe because the Church WAS the State, and the state was persecuting them. Therefore, they established a separation between Church and State. But they didn’t want a godless society; instead, they wanted God-fearing men to run the government, and to guarantee everyone the freedom to worship according to conscience.

I won’t hide the errors and flaws in early American society, but I am telling you their intent.

The_Mayflower_Compact_1620_cph.3g07155The first governmental document in America was the Mayflower Compact. The Pilgrims established this document firmly on the principle that God should be the center of our public life. This guaranteed religious freedom.

The Pilgrims did not abuse the Native Americans. Others did, but the Pilgrims treated the “Indians” as equals.

Civil authority, law, justice, mercy, education, and equality were established firmly on Scripture. That created our foundation for liberty – both civil and religious.

Our early Congress highly approved of Christianity. On January 21, 1781, Robert Aitken asked the new Congress to authorize, and, if possible, even pay for the printing of the King James Version of the Bible in America. Congress wouldn’t fund the project, but here is the approval issued on September 10, 1782:

“Whereupon, Resolved, That the United States in Congress assembled, highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country … we recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorise him to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper.”

In 1783, George Washington wrote a letter commending Aitken for his Bible, known as the “Bible of the American Revolution”.

The founding fathers realized that a nation that is not based on faith in Holy Scripture and Almighty God, and that does not maintain a high moral integrity – both individually and corporately – will ultimately crumble. Therefore, our leaders kept God in our national conscience for a long time. Many WWII war bonds were issued “to preserve freedom of worship”. Our government printed WWII posters showing Hitler driving a sword through the Bible. A current problem is, many in our American Government today would do the same if we let them

We have hundreds of writings from founding fathers who professed faith in Almighty God. But many in our post-modern society want to deprive us of our national, Godly heritage. They don’t know that history ignored is freedom lost.

To maintain our freedoms, we must know our history and reestablish our faith in God.

What is a Christian?

Some time ago, a young man asked me several questions about Christianity. Noting his confusion as we talked, I asked, “Do you know what a Christian is?” “Sure” he said. “It’s someone who goes to church; one who does good works. I know: It’s someone who loves his neighbor. Right?”

I said, “Well, all that is included in being a Christian, but there’s more to it.”

“Really? How about one who thinks positive thoughts and prays a lot?”

“No. Many non-Christians do that, too.”

“Well then, what about a person who teaches Bible studies? Or who preaches? Yeah, I know: how about being a missionary?”

“That doesn’t define a Christian, either.”

Mystified, he said, “I thought Christians did all that!”

“Yes, various Christians do all that, but so do many non-Christians. Some people preach and teach about the Bible out of a sense of duty. Many think of preaching as a vocation or think they are helping God by preaching. That’s how it was with John and Charles Wesley. They preached about Jesus for several years and led prayer meetings. They even started a Believer’s Club and were missionaries before they, themselves, accepted Christ into their lives.”

“Okay; I guess I don’t know. You tell me: what is a real Christian?”

“I’ll be glad to. They were first called Christians in Antioch. That’s a town in what we now call Turkey. Pagans used the word ‘Christian’ to mock the followers of Christ by accusing them of trying to imitate Jesus.”

“So, a Christian is someone who tries to act like Jesus?”

“Yes, but not in a phony or hypocritical way. Real Christians are truly learning to be like Jesus. The word Christian means of Christ or like Christ.”

“Oh, come on now – do you expect me to believe that? I mean, I consider myself a Christian but I don’t act like Jesus.”

Acknowledging his honesty, I read First John 3:2 to him; “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and we have not yet been shown what we will be in the future. But we know that when Christ comes again, we will be like him, because we will see him the way he really is.”

“All right then; how do I become like Jesus?” he asked.

“You can become like someone if you know him personally – or have studied him. I know my mom & dad because I spent time with them through the years, and got to know him very well. In the same way, you will get to know Jesus by reading and studying the Bible and praying. Joining a Bible study will help. Read the Gospel of John, chapters 5-10 and ask Jesus to show you how to live and think. You’ll need to ponder or contemplate what Romans 12:2 says: ‘Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.’ God won’t change your thinking for you, and you can’t do it without His help. It’s a team effort. And you should keep in mind that your actions are a result of your thinking.

“The reason so many Christians act like and talk like the distorted world is that they want to be accepted by their worldly friends. Because even many Christians don’t understand what Christianity really is, they put more importance on identification with and acceptance of people than on living for and honoring Jesus. That results in confused Christians and a weak church – even increases confusion in the non-Christian world.

“If a child grows up in the South, he’ll talk like a southerner. But if he grows up in the North, he’ll talk like a northerner because we act and sound like the people we spend time with. Therefore, identifying with people who live a lifestyle that does not honor Christ, trains us to reject Christ and Christianity, while avoiding those worldly lifestyles can give us time to learn to live a Godly life.

“Basically, a Christian is: One who has repented of sin, who has been forgiven by our Heavenly Father, who has decided to turn away from things that offend God, and who chooses to actively live for Him. These are only a few of the identification marks of a Christian, and it takes a person of high integrity to openly and publicly identify with Christ. Christians are not perfect, but they’re going in the right direction. Jesus publicly gave Himself as a sacrifice for us; are you willing to publicly proclaim that you will live for Jesus?”

The young man said, “You just taught me a lot. I want to think about it.”

Dear reader, will you think about it, too?

London Bridge – Redeemed History

In April of 2015, Carol and I went to California to speak at the annual USS Yorktown Survivor’s Club Reunion. The keynote speaker, Rear Admiral Mac McClaughlin, spoke at our banquet on the USS Midway in San Diego Harbor.

Spending a night in Kingman, Arizona, Carol said, “In 50 miles we’ll get to Arizona Highway 95. Driving south on 95, it is only about 25 miles to Lake Havasu and the London Bridge, and we haven’t seen the London Bridge for about 40 years. Let’s go see it.”

“Your wish is my command, my love.”

Some travelers say the scenery in that part of the country is desolate, hot, and dry. Well, it may be hot and dry in the summer, but I’m not sure it’s desolate: you should see the numerous animals inhabiting the land. And it is beautiful! Between Kingman and the southern tip of the Lake, we took over 200 pictures.

Does the bridge look any different from 40 years ago? It is the same, but the town has certainly grown around it.

But the bridge! Straight from London, it is redeemed history! When you look at the bridge you are looking at part of London in 1831AD. But you see the Stars and Stripes and the British Jack flying alternately on poles on the bridge because it is also now part of American history.

The first bridge over the Thames (pronounced Tĕmz) was of wood construction probably built by the Romans near the village of Londinium prior to Jesus’ time. Destroyed and rebuild numerous times, Henry II chose Peter of Colechurch to oversee the reconstruction of the bridge, but this time it would be a substantial structure. Finished in 1163, it was the last wooden London Bridge. Lasting for over 600 years, it was considered a “wonder of the world.”

But it, too, eventually had to be replaced. John Rennie and his son oversaw the work, and you might say it was a “rock-solid structure” because this bridge, completed in 1831, was made of stone. The bridge weighed about 130,000 tons. The USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, has a displacement of over 103,000 tons, so you get an idea of the bridge’s weight.

However, not having a stable foundation, the bridge sank about one-fourth inch annually. Another problem: it wasn’t made to withstand the heavy traffic of modern society. By 1924, the east side had sunk about four inches lower than the west side. The bridge had become a concern to the community, and they considered tearing it down.

But someone had a novel idea: Council member Ivan Luckin suggested selling the bridge. The rest of the London City Council thought he was crazy! However, with no other viable idea forth-coming, they decided to look for a buyer. Surprisingly, Robert P. McCulloch was interested.

McCulloch is the founder of Lake Havasu City, Arizona – a retirement and real estate development project on the east shore of Lake Havasu. He bought the bridge in 1964 for $2,460,000 as a tourist attraction to his city. But it was a chore getting it to Arizona. He couldn’t just pick it up by helicopter and haul it over. In time, they developed a plan.

The stones of the bridge were individually numbered as the bridge was disassembled, and the plan for reassembly was simultaneously drawn up. The stones were shipped through the Panama Canal to California, then hauled by truck to Lake Havasu, Arizona. The Sundt Construction Company laboriously reassembled it, but modified the plan and reassembly procedure to meet current safety code for bridges. Therefore, the bridge is hollow with substantial steel reinforcement, and was fully reassembled in 1971. The weight of the modified bridge is about 30,000 tons.

The lamp posts on the bridge were made from Napoleon Bonaparte’s cannons, and the bridge has been in two American movies (“Day Of The Wolves” and “Bridge Across Time”). And, of course, it is the world’s largest antique.

In 1960, the bridge was considered useless, and was to be destroyed. But in 1964 Robert McCulluch redeemed it and made it a magnificent, important part of his plan in Lake Havasu.

Jesus did the same for you and me. Having sunk in the muck and mire of sin, mankind had become useless to God. But God, in the person of Jesus Christ, died on the cross for us and provided redemption for “whosoever will.” All that’s required of us is to stop living to please ourselves, ask God to forgive us for our sin and selfishness, live for Jesus Christ, honor God with our whole life, and help others.

And we will become an important part of God’s magnificent, eternal plan.

It Was On Backwards

We lived in the high country of northern New Mexico for many years. At 7,827 feet above sea level, we lived about a half mile higher than Denver. When folks who live near sea level take a trip up there and start chopping wood or do some other vigorous activity, they find out what it means to be out-of-breath. Why is that?

Sea level atmospheric pressure averages around 14.7 pounds per square inch, and water boils at 212 F. But the air pressure at 7,827 feet is around 11.1 psi, and water boils around 198 F. Okay, that’s not a big deal; but when we remember that the oxygen content in the atmosphere averages around 20.9%, a 3.6 psi drop in air pressure effectively reduces the available oxygen by 5%. Therefore, people need to breathe deeper or more often until their bodies acclimate to the altitude.

Conversely, when Carol and I moved to Siloam Springs (altitude of 1,132 feet, air pressure of 14.1 psi, with the boiling point around 210 F), we had a much easier time breathing.

Back to my story.

In New Mexico, we lived in the forest about thirty miles from town. Sometimes we had to remove a tree that had fallen across the road. Many of us carried chain saws in the back of our 4-wheel drive vehicles, so if the tree was too large to move by hand or truck, we would cut the tree to manageable chunks to clear the road.

Tornados, which are common in the flat country, are almost unheard of in the mountains of New Mexico. But one day a small twister touched down and took out about 183 trees that ranged in diameter from twelve inches to three feet (plus tons of saplings and underbrush), and it really cluttered up the road.

Seven or eight of us gathered around the mangled mess and got out our trusty chain saws. I was real proud of my saw. Our kids gave me a Sears-Best with a 20-inch bar, and I could hardly wait to show my friends what I could do with it.

I put gas and oil in it, checked the tension of the chain, put on my safety goggles and hearing protection, and pulled the cord.

RRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!! It started up like it knew what it was doing.

I eagerly stepped up to the nearest tree lying across the road and increased the power. RRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!! I was excited and ready to throw chips and sawdust all over the road. With the saw revved at full speed, I attacked the tree. But nothing happened.

I was perplexed because my prized saw didn’t cut anything. I tried it again with the same results: nothing. No one was watching, for they were busy clearing their own portion of the road, so I shut the saw down to analyze the problem.

Have you ever felt an agonizing and humiliating embarrassment flood your soul? I did right then. Again, I looked around to see who was watching. Everyone else was busy working, and I was glad.

I had the appropriate tool, gas was in the tank, and the engine ran smoothly. But I had the chain on backwards!

Completely aggravated at myself for my ignorance, I quietly put the saw back in my pickup and did what any hard-working “wanna-be mountain-man” would do: I helped move the logs the other guys were cutting.

How many times have you discovered that a good plan wouldn’t work simply because you did something backwards? Many Christians I know complain about their lack of finances, but they squander their money at the casinos. Other folks make disastrous or poor decisions because they didn’t pray about them or seek counsel. These folks aren’t thinking properly.

But do you realize that God never gets things backwards? His plans are perfectly laid out. When something goes awry, it is us – you and me – who mess up. Proverbs 3:5-6 exhorts us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek God’s will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 4:7(a) says, “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do.” And wisdom comes from God.

God’s plans are perfect. Listen to Him; trust and obey Him. God is omniscient and He’ll never lead you astray.

When I returned home, I reinstalled the chain. A month later, I did successfully clear the road of a fallen tree. And if I ever get tempted to look down on someone who made a mistake, God reminds me of when I had the chain on backwards.

Contagious Thinking

The flu is contagious. The measles, mumps, and smallpox are contagious. A large number of diseases are contagious and people are scared. Many are afraid of going shopping, going to the dentist, even afraid of going to the hospital because – well, let’s face it: that’s where folk with contagious diseases go.

Some folk are afraid of having their children vaccinated, and others are afraid of NOT having them vaccinated – both for very good reasons. And we find dispensers of hand-wipes almost everywhere to help stop the spread of the invisible, evil horde.

We go to great lengths to warn people of the latest epidemic. We talk about it on television, radio, and on all the social media. We even warn people about what MIGHT be coming around the bend, even though sometimes it doesn’t happen.

That reminds me of the counselor who told his worried patient, “90% of all the things you worry about never happen.” To which the patient replied, “Good! Now, what can I do to eliminate the other 10%?”

We need to be alert to all kinds of dangers that are lurking out there, and we need to help others because we are our brother’s keeper. But viruses and bugs are not the only disease we catch out in the public. Often the more pervasive problem is our attitudes, and they are easier to catch than the flu.

Attitudes and emotions are contagious.

I remember being in a planning meeting at a science lab, and we had a difficult obstacle to overcome. We were in a deep discussion on how to solve the problem, but the key individual, Matt, was missing due to a scheduling conflict. Each time an idea was presented, one dour experienced member of the team explained why it wouldn’t work. After about forty-five minutes, the entire team was feeling dismal because of the failure syndrome that pervaded the room. The team mindset had been poisoned because it “caught” this man’s negative attitude.

But Matt finally arrived and asked for an update. After he heard each rejected proposal, he laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad I finally got here. You have in your hands the answer to the problem.” He then happily explained how two of the proposals would work. When the dour man spoke up, Matt explained how his rebuttals didn’t apply to this situation.

This man had not been contaminated with the prevailing negative attitude, and that freed his God-given creativity to recognize the value of the ideas that had been presented.

We don’t need to be caught as creatures of our negative culture. Rather, with a positive attitude we should create an atmosphere in which others can be set free to rise to their God-given potential.

A complainer can destroy the company’s vision and torpedo the goal. Negative attitudes can undermine the morale of the team and hide or destroy the available talent and creativity. Negative emotions are destroyers of progress.

But positive attitudes and emotions are just as contagious. We don’t have to be a Pollyanna to cheer up the room, and we don’t have to have an ever-ready smile to make people happy. But we can ask the Lord to help us see past our problems and see things from God’s perspective. We create our immediate environment by what we believe, how we think, and how we act.

We have a choice as to whether we will inflict emotional and spiritual damage, or bring emotional and spiritual healing to others.

What we believe affects how we think. How we think affects how we act. How we act affects what we accomplish. It also affects how others around us think.

I believe God wants us to represent Him as much as we know how. Some years ago, my friend, Terry Langham, and I were operations officers in a scientific laboratory. The scientists and workers there thought the atmosphere was “all business.” But it felt to us somewhat gloomy. After praying about it, but without telling anyone else, we decided to change our culture.

Our phone calls and e-mails started with “Good morning.” In the calls and e-mails, we often asked what we could do for them. We stopped by people’s offices periodically to assure that we were effectively communicating with them.

After several years, the division leader told us, “You’ve changed our atmosphere. The entire division is a kinder and more cheerful place to work. Thank you.”

Our thinking and attitudes are definitely contagious. How are you affecting your community?

Joy in Sorrow

Several years ago, Carol and I were in San Diego, California to officiate at a military funeral for a good friend. Victor was a WWII veteran, and served on the USS Yorktown, CV-5, with my father. The Yorktown was sunk in the Battle of Midway, but most of the crew survived. Vic and my father were members of the USS Yorktown CV-5 Survivor’s Club, and dad was the chaplain. When I attended the CV-5 Reunion in 2006 in Albuquerque, NM, only twenty survivors were in attendance, along with family members and friends.

When Dad died in February of 2010 at the age of 89, I was asked to take his place as chaplain. Nine WWII survivors plus family members and friends attended the 2010 Reunion in Little Rock, AR. Five years later at the funeral, Vic left this life at 94 years of age. It’s always sad to see a loved one depart.

But the end of life on earth is not the end of the story.

Victor and dad were Christians, and we know where they are: in heaven. Death for a Christian is a joyful kind of sorrow. Although we’re glad they no longer suffer, it still hurts to say goodbye. But when a Christian dies – or graduates – the goodbye is not final.

First Thessalonians 4:13-14 is the basis for our joy in sorrow. It says: “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 returns, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. (NCV)” Therefore, death for the Christian is only a temporary parting.

Does everyone go to heaven? I wish everyone did. I’ve thought long and hard about it over the years, and I shudder to think what many folk are experiencing who died without submitting their lives to Jesus Christ. I fear for those who will yet reject Christ knowing that, after death, they will live throughout eternity in torment. Although God wants all people to be in heaven (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9), not all people go there.

But if you’re breathing, it’s not too late. As the man on the cross, adjacent to Jesus at Calvary, asked for forgiveness in his last hour of life and entered paradise, we also can repent and go to heaven.

The only way to heaven is to choose to live for Christ and obey Him while we are yet alive. Jesus died to redeem mankind. Defeating death, He returned to life and lives forever. He wants you to live forever with Him. In heaven you will never have to lock your doors again. You’ll never be afraid or be hurt again. There will be no more death. However, before Jesus returns, we get to heaven by going through the door called death.

What does that feel like to die? 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 did I get here?” My Precious wife told them, “After you fell asleep, your father picked you up and took you to your room.”

That’s 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 takes us to our new home. A Christian should never fear death. For the Christian, there can be joy in sorrow.

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 (2 Peter 3:9).

Victor and dad were shipmates and friends in this life, and they are continuing their friendship in heaven. Who knows: they may be visiting together right now. I’ll be in heaven sometime in the future, and I hope to see you there.

All I Could Do Was Laugh

The computer manager where I worked at the National Laboratory told me my computer hard drive needed to be cleaned. We didn’t have the funding to for a new computer yet, so I needed to tune up the one I had.

“Okay, how do I go about it?”

Although I didn’t know much about computers at the time, Nolan was extremely computer savvy and he rattled off the instructions as he was leaving my office. What he said made sense, I understood what he said, and I figured I would do the job within a couple of days. But in my hurry I didn’t take notes.

My father taught me when I was in high school (over 55 years ago) to take notes when someone gives me instructions. Dad said, “Paper has a longer memory than you do. Write things down.” He was right, of course; therefore, I normally did record instructions – but forgot this time.

In my position I was involved in almost every aspect of our group’s operations. Later that day, I was called to check on one of our buildings that was emitting smoke. (A large fan motor mal-functioned and was smoking.) I investigated a forklift accident and wrote up the report: that took several days. (The critically-injured man lived.) Inspectors called me to check on potential radiation-contamination at another site. (It was only natural radiation that accompanied sunlight, but I still had to write the report.) Things like that kept me busy; and because of my many duties, I didn’t get to the project of cleaning my hard drive for several weeks.

But I finally got to the relatively simple task. After all, Nolan explained it very well.

Now, what was it that Nolan said? Oh yes: make sure you have all the software for the programs you use, and save all your work in a separate folder. Transfer that folder to an external hard drive. Then erase the resident hard drive and run the cleaning program. Afterwards, reinstall all software, then reinstall your work. Easy enough. I had four hours of dead time and decided to get it done.

After saving eight years of data into a separate folder, I erased the hard drive and ran the cleaning program. But after reinstalling the software, I ran into a problem: I couldn’t find the folder with my eight years of reports, investigations, presentations, spread-sheets, laboratory history, and myriads of other documentation.

Then I remembered: I had saved all my work – ALL OF IT – in a separate folder on my resident hard drive. I forgot to transfer it to an external hard drive.

Thinking of all that I had just lost, I got the worst sinking feeling I had ever felt in my entire life. IT’S ALL GONE!

I had two options: I could either cry, or laugh. Since crying wouldn’t help anyone, all I could do was laugh. And I did. Then I called Nolan.

He came to my office right away. After hearing my miserable tale of woe, Nolan said, “Believe-it-or-not, yesterday after you left, an idea came to my mind that wouldn’t leave. So I came to your office and I stayed until 9:00 pm backing up your hard drive. I now realize it was the Lord who prompted me to do that, and you’ve lost nothing.”

All I could do was laugh. But this time for JOY!

Nolan, a Bible teacher, reminded me of Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)” I was certainly grateful for God’s mercy in the work-place, and for Nolan’s timely obedience to God’s prompting.

But not everything turns out “good” like that. Tornados destroyed friends’ homes, dad died of cancer, two of my sister lost their houses in a fire — do these work for our good? Amazingly, they can.

If we keep our faith in God for Who He is (not for what we want or expect), we’ll grow in our relationship with Him. Things of earth are to be used while on earth, but all material things will eventually pass away (Matthew 24:35). It is our relationship with God that is eternal (Matthew 28:20).

When bad things happen, turn to the Lord. He really does love you. Trust Him in good and bad times, for this world is not our home. Memorize Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

And, feel free to laugh.