A Little Humor Goes a Long Way

Fred told me about a negative interaction between him and his wife, Jacquie. The 6-month-old baby threw a temper tantrum so Fred tapped the baby on the thigh with two fingers and firmly let him know that the screaming was not allowed. The baby, still crying, at least stopped screaming. So far – so good.

Jacqie thought her husband was cruel and started scolding him in front of the baby. Fred told her to hush, turned her toward the door, and ordered her out of the room. Bad move!

Jacquie, now in a rage, turned and began pushing Fred. She had shoes on, but he was wearing socks without shoes and the floor was shiny hardwood. Losing traction and beginning to fall, he managed to somehow hop toward the bed. But Jacquie was still pushing and Fred realized that as they fell she might hit her head on the steel bed frame. Fall, they did! But he held onto her and managed to land both of them on the mattress. Good move!

Fred was breathing heavily, grateful that they were both safe. Jacquie was also breathingPICT0008 heavily – still in a rage! That’s when Fred whimsically said, “Now I know why we should never come between a mother bear and her cubs.”

Jacquie chuckled … Fred laughed … and they both burst out laughing which lasted for several minutes. The humor had broken the tension, and helped them to think through the situation in a more relaxed atmosphere. Excellent recovery!

He apologized, she forgave, the baby survived, and Fred & Jacquie are still happily married. Henry Ward Beecher said (paraphrased), “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – it’s jolted by every pebble in the road.”

Doctors and psychiatrists tell us that we should have five good belly-laughs a day. Why?

To start off, Proverbs 17:22 (NCV) tells us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Laughter is a strong and powerful force that has positive effects on the body. It improves breathing, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, relaxes muscles, releases stress, and reduces pain. This God-ordained medicine needs no prescription, is free, and has been available forever. Voltaire said, “The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Laughter reduces pain by increasing the body’s natural painkiller: endorphins. In hospitals, doctors use humor therapy after surgeries to enhance the healing process and improve health.

PICT0409Having a sense of humor releases our native creativity and helps us to properly interpret events that happen to us. The way we perceive events determines whether we feel challenged, happy, threatened, puzzled, joyful, etc. Tense situations are where you need to laugh the most. Humor helps us to overlook the aggravating trivia that tend to grow out of proportion and block our vision.

Laughter is contagious and connects us with others; if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more. Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. My father used to say, “If someone’s got to be upset, it doesn’t have to be me.”

And yes: my wife, children, and I laugh a lot.

Our cardiovascular and respiratory systems benefit more from twenty seconds of laughter than from three minutes of exercise on a rowing machine. Through laughter, muscles release tension and neurochemicals are released into the bloodstream, creating the same feelings the long-distance joggers experience as “runner’s high.” Also, ten minutes of laughter helps people sleep more soundly.

Bob Hope said that laughter is an “instant vacation.” Jay Leno said, “You can’t stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh.” And I remember another comedian saying, “If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it.”

Studies reveal that individuals who have a strong sense of humor are less likely to experience burnout and depression; and they will most likely have a more fulfilled life in general – including a long-lasting marriage where they can enjoy their 50th wedding anniversary.

So lighten up. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Rather than focusing on what you want out of life, think about helping lighten someone else’s burden. And laugh with them.

Panic Attack!

[Truth waiver: This article is a simplified compilation of various doctors’ reports with my own commentary interwoven.]

What is a panic attack? Panic attacks are malfunctions of appropriate responses. Panic is a response to danger or threat. Short term panic or anxiety is called the fight/flight response because all of its effects are aimed toward either fighting or fleeing the danger. The number one purpose for panic and anxiety is for protection. Example: if you were crossing a street with a car speeding toward you blasting its horn, and you experienced absolutely no anxiety, you would be killed. However, your fight/flight response would take over and you would scramble off the street. The purpose of anxiety is to protect us, not to harm us.

What causes a panic attack? Determining the cause of panic attacks is difficult because panic and anxiety are natural responses, and we all respond differently. However, panic becomes a problem when it occurs for apparently no reason. When our brain senses danger or possible harm, it reacts with an “act-now-think-later” response that causes a heightened emotional agitation. This can bring on a panic attack which is a response of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and multiple symptoms appear; but those suffering from panic attacks must attempt to determine the cause of unjust or irrational panic.

What are the symptoms? Panic manifests itself through three separate systems. Identifying these symptoms will enable the person to learn to gain control.

  • The mental system (includes feelings of nervousness, anxiety and panic and also includes thoughts such as “there is something wrong”). The number one effect of the fight/flight response is to alert us to the possible existence of danger. Thus, one of the major effects is an immediate and automatic shift in attention to search the surroundings for potential threat. Although sometimes an obvious threat cannot be found, most humans cannot accept having no explanation for something. Therefore, in many cases, when people cannot find an explanation for their sensations, they turn their search upon themselves and often come up with the wrong answer.
  • The physical system (includes all the physical symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, palpitations, chest pain, breathlessness, and much more). When some sort of danger is perceived or anticipated, the brain sends messages to a section of your nerves called the autonomic nervous system which is directly involved in controlling the body’s energy levels and preparation for action. When you perceive a danger or threat, your body prepares itself for fight or flight, and adrenaline is pumped into the veins.
  • The behavioral system (includes primarily escape and avoidance). As mentioned before, the fight/flight response prepares the body for action – either to attack or to run. Thus, it is no surprise that the overwhelming urges associated with this response are those of aggression and a desire to escape wherever you are. When escape is not possible, the urges will often be shown through such behaviors as foot tapping, pacing or aggression towards others. Overall, the person feels trapped and wants to escape.

In panic attacks the physical system becomes the most important since these are the symptoms which are most easily mistaken as indicating some serious disease.

What does a panic attack feel like? When a person has a panic attack, they feel a need to escape. They can think something awful might happen like death, heart attack, not being able to breathe, losing control, or becoming embarrassed. A panic attack causes the fastest and most complex reaction known within the human body. The symptoms of panic attack include immediate alteration of the functioning of the eyes, several major glands, the brain, the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, pancreas, kidneys and bladder, and the major muscle groups. The cardiovascular system is launched into overdrive, and the rate of respiration increases. The metabolism is increased, and excess amounts of sugars and fatty acids are released into the bloodstream. This physical response can lead to emotional responses such as the belief that one is dying. Generally speaking, the more physical symptoms one has during an attack, the more emotionally devastating a panic attack can be.

What should a person do when he feels the attack is coming on? Because panic attacks are created by an overly emotional response, thinking it through can help calm the panicky feelings. The AWARE method is based on this idea and it works in this way:

Accept that you are having a panic attack.

Watch the attack as it unfolds.

Act normally—continue doing whatever you were doing.

Repeat these steps until the attack has subsided.

Expect the best.

The key to being free from panic attacks: You Must Learn To Break The Fear Of Having Another Panic Attack Or You Will Never Experience Complete Freedom From Anxiety.

Did God Create Evil?

When was the last time you heard that question? What was your answer? Or did you have a deer-in-the-headlights look on your face? The question is normally NOT asked in search of information, but either to strengthen the emotional barrier that blocks God out of a person’s life, or to hide some deep-seated hurts he is bearing. And he asks the question, knowing that he can shoot down most answers that people usually give. He’s done it many times and is good at it.

So, what IS the answer? You probably already know, but I’ll put it in a way that you can get a better handle on it. For starters, the following is a real interaction I heard back in California.

Challenger: “Did God make everything?” Christian: “Yes.”

Challenger: “That means God also made evil?” Christian: “No.”

Challenger: “Then God didn’t make everything?” Christian: “Well, uh …”

And the challenger was happy that he, once again, defeated a hapless Christian in a worthy debate.

But allow me to give you food for thought. I’ll ask several questions, but will also provide the answers since you’re not here to answer them for me.

Is there such a thing as cold? No, there is not. But we do have the concept of temperature where:

1) Absolute zero (absolutely no heat) is 459.67 degrees below zero F., minus 273.15 Celsius, and 0 on the Kelvin scale.

2) Fresh water freezes at sea level at 32 F, 0 C, and 273.15 Kelvin;

3) The average human temperature is around 98.6 F, 37 C, and 310.15 K;

4) 78 F in the house is 25.55 C, and 298.71 K.

So we cannot turn the cold up or down – we remove or add heat. And for the record, outer space (far away from stars and planets) is around 3 degrees Kelvin. If that makes you feel cold, put on a sweater or a jacket.

Is there such a thing as dark? Again, no. But we do have various intensities of light. Partial darkness (if it can be called that) is a reduction of the intensity of light, and total darkness is the total absence of light. The closest I have ever come to being in total darkness was in the big room of the Carlsbad Caverns – 700 feet below ground. They could not turn on the dark, but they did off the lights. And it was DARK!

Now we ask: Is there such a thing as evil? The answer once again is, no. Where cold is a reference to the reduction of heat, and dark is the reduction or absence of light, evil is the absence of or the rejection of the holiness of God. Evil is not a thing or a cause: evil is a result.

You may ask, “What about murder, rape, robbery, sexual deviancy, hatred, etc.?” I can tell you, on authority of Scripture, that none of that is in heaven where the pure holiness of God prevails.

The lower we set the temperature, the colder it gets. The lower the light setting, the darker it gets. So the lower the level of Godliness in our lives and in society, the higher will be the intensity of evil – murder, rape, sexual deviancy, drug abuse, etc.

Billy Graham never said, “If you will just stop living like you are, if you will just stop your sinning, you will become holy!” But he often said: “If you will come to Jesus and ask Jesus to forgive you for your sins, if you ask Jesus to come into your life, you can become a new person and learn to live for the Lord!”

We do not stop doing evil to become holy; but we come to Jesus and become holy and the result is that we stop doing evil. But learning to live for the Lord is a process: we do not become a mature Christian overnight.

If I trip and drop my coffee cup, I would not create a broken cup. Rather, the broken cup would be a result of my carelessness. Likewise, evil is not a thing or something created; rather, evil is the result of rejecting God – a lack of Godliness.

Our holy God did not create the devil, nor did he create evil. He created the angel Lucifer. But Lucifer – of his own free will – disobeyed, and evil is the result. Likewise, God did not create all the mess of humanity in this world. The mess is the result of rejecting a holy God.

If you want to see a reduction of evil, turn to the Lord and begin living for Him.

Is Evolution a Religion?

All the talk about Darwinian evolution, punctuated evolution, punctuated equilibria, natural selection, convergent evolution, co-evolution, adaptive radiation, mutation, genetic drift, theistic evolution, intelligent design, Biblical creation, etc., can be confusing! In the midst of this confusion, I’ll attempt to take some mud out of the water.

First, we must understand that not all those who believe in evolution agree with Charles Darwin and not all those who believe in creation are Christians, for there are variations of each concept. Here are several important definitions:

  1. Hypothesis – a conjecture; an unsubstantiated idea. Everyone has many.
  2. Theory – an hypothesis with some substantiation, but not yet proven. Everyone has several.
  3. Fact – something that has been proven. Hopefully we all know at least one.
  4. Religion – a) a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or groups; b) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

Side-stepping the Bible, Darwin was trying to understand the common ancestor of life which might point to the origin of life, and many modern scientists are looking for the unifying force that ties the universe together – whatever that means. Both correctly share the idea that there must be one original spark of life – somewhere – from some place.

Some hypothesize that we may have been seeded or planted by civilizations from other solar systems or galaxies, while others go straight to the hypothetical Big Bang. But neither hypothesis provides a plausible answer.

Does it surprise you that many of the strongest supporters of evolution are atheists? The March 9, 1907 edition of the New York Times refers to Ernst Haeckel as the “celebrated Darwinian, and founder of the Association for the Propagation of Ethical Atheism.” Conversely, a study was conducted in 2011 which revealed that many high school biology teachers were reluctant to endorse evolution in class. Rather, they are encouraging the students to employ critical-thinking skills when considering life and its beginnings.

The reason? The concept of evolution is actually an hypothesis; but many misguided people call it a theory and teach it as fact. That is not science. It is actually faith, which places it in the field of religion.

Consider these facts:

  • Organic life requires the simultaneous (emphasis on simultaneous) presence of three highly complex, coded macromolecules – RNA (Ribonucleic acid), DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), and proteins. Proteins consist of amino acids. I read that the protein hormone insulin has fifty-one amino acids; and using those 51 acids there are more than ten trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion different possible sequences. That’s just for insulin. (For comparison, the human body has somewhere around 75-140 trillion cells.)
  • According to the basic evolutionary concept, all organic life originated from dissolved rocks: a rich soup of dissolved minerals. But without the direct intervention of the divine Creator, God, it is absolutely impossible for organic life to evolve from dissolved rocks. Also, a portion of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy) reveals that nature does not become more complex, but degrades with time.
  • The first law of thermodynamics informs us that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. It can change shape, form, or state, but matter cannot be made out of nothing or annihilated into nothing. That cancels any Big Bang hypothesis. Therefore, logically and scientifically, the mere presence of matter is a miracle and requires a Creator who resides outside time and space. That takes us back to the Bible and a Creator: God.
  • John 1:1-2 says; “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” And verse fourteen informs us, “The Word became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt among us.” So it was Jesus Who was actively involved in creating everything.
  • To believe that something can be made out of nothing is either absurd, or faith. Either way is not scientific, and the concept of evolution takes its place among the many religions of the world.

Accepting a Creator also requires faith, but it isn’t blind faith. Consider this: Timex watches and space shuttles don’t just happen; they require dreamers, planners, engineers, builders, and more. When we study the intricacies of the simple one-cell amoeba or massive 200-billion-star galaxies, it is obvious that there was a dreamer, planner, engineer, and builder. The classic Big Bang hypothesis and humanistic evolution make intriguing science fiction, but do not stand the test of time. Rather they are diversions which turn us away from truth: from Almighty God who created us, and from Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us.

God – not limited by man’s imagination – created the laws of physics then created matter and arranged matter into various forms. It is fascinating, and almost beyond the comprehension of mortal man. Religions that accept spontaneous materialization without a Creator and gods creating themselves, are blind religions based on human imagination; but Judeo-Christianity is a revealed religion based on nature and Scripture.

Hot Air Balloons

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

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

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

From an historical news clip, we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is True Success?

So, you want to be a success? Successful in what? How do you go about it? How will you DSCN6609know if you have achieved successhood? What IS success?

One dictionary says: success is the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the attainment of wealth, position, honors, etc. If that is success, why do so many millionaires, movie stars, and beauty contestants feel empty and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on psychiatrists? What are they trying to achieve that they don’t have?

They’re looking for internal satisfaction, inner-peace.

Many of you have heard of John D. Rockefeller. One of the great success stories in America, he had a lot to say about success throughout his life. Several of his comments early in life are:

 “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” And, “I have ways of making money that you know nothing of.

But later in life Rockefeller said, “If your only goal is to become rich, you will never be fulfilled.” And, “I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money’s sake.

So, what is success? My father once told me, “Son, you are living for the Lord, your family loves you, you enjoy your vocation, and you enjoy life. Although you don’t have aPICT0238B big bank account, you are an example of what I call success! What’s your secret?”

I told him we live by this principle: “If we are not content with what we have, we will never be content with what we want.” However, being content with what I have does not mean I sit back and do nothing; but working for the betterment of my family and mankind, I normally don’t get stressed out or worry about anything. Living for the Lord with high integrity and character, my life and the results of what I do are in God’s hands.

Dorothy Rugg, co-pastor with her husband, James Rugg at Mill City Assembly of God, Mill City, PA, said it eloquently on July 1, 2013:

“How do you measure success? What do you think makes you successful?

 “I believe all of us struggle with how to correctly evaluate success in our lives. We make the mistake of looking at others and comparing ourselves with them. Or we look to the standards of success of a world that ignores God and His commandments. We think wealth or influence will make us successful.

“The Apostle Paul said, ‘Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:11-13, NASB).

“We learn from Paul that success is living for the glory of God. Being who God wants us to be. When we follow that path to success, we are strengthened in everything we do by the Holy Spirit.

 “Success is the lonely widow who sits at home and prays and intercedes for the needs of her family and friends. Success is the teenager who takes a stand in school to live his life for the Lord and not go the way of the crowd. Success is the homemaker taking care of her children day by day and making her home a safe haven. Success is the hard-working man who puts in long hours to provide for his family. Success is the person who struggles with a crippling disability in her body yet gives glory to God by her very life.

“Success is where you are with God. Not all of us will be famous or well-known by the world, but what matters most is being recognized by God our Heavenly Father. Living PICT1171for His glory, His honor. You will be successful when you surrender everything to the Father and live according to His plan and His purpose.”

Earthly success is temporary at best but can leave you feeling empty. Jesus informs us true success comes from knowing God and completing His will for our lives. (John 4:34)

We never achieve fulfillment by attempting to live for ourselves. That’s been proven millions of times. We achieve fulfillment when we purposely live to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Real Story

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

*******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the Trip

SWOOOOOOOOSH!! It seems that a powerful gust of wind blew into our house, flipped 1280px-Strommast2the pages on the calendar, turned our hair a little whiter, took money out of our wallet, and blew back out of the house leaving us a little off balance. The birthdates of our kids and grandkids seemed to be but a blip on the radar screen. Does time fly that fast for you? Time seemed to 0go a lot slower when we were younger.

When Rebecca, our younger daughter, was in high school she asked me, “Daddy, how can I make time go faster?” I said, “Either learn to like what you are doing, or become very busy.” That didn’t quite satisfy her at the time. But when she went to college and loved her time there, time began to fly. Now that she is a wife and mother of five children (four girls and one boy), she is wondering how to slow time down.  However, she told me recently that she is learning to make the most of each day with her kiddos – and logging the life-enriching memories.

With the days and months seemingly whizzing by, is there something you have been intending to do? A project waiting for you? A book you want to read? A trip you want to take? Maybe something you want to write? Don’t wait too long because we never know what tomorrow brings.

Some years ago, Carol and I found a way to slow time down – a little. We refrain from putting too many items on our calendar, and we spend more time with each other, helpingjanuary-2019-calendar2 each other. Relating life to a cross-country trip, Rev. Chuck Swindoll summed it up in six syllables: “Stop, and smell the roses.” He informed us that merely putting miles behind us does not enrich our lives. We must stop! Get out of the car. Walk around. “Smell the roses.” In other words: Don’t just finish the trip – enjoy the trip. Learn something. Do something meaningful for yourself.

Make your life count or be significant within the context of other lives. This doesn’t require a New Year’s Resolution, a Masters’ Degree, or $25,000 in the bank. Instead it requires the desire to really live life fully – in a Godly context, of course. And it produces peace, less stress, a gentler pace of life, and most likely a longer life.

All that is sometimes difficult to do because we have a hard time deciding what to eliminate from our hectic, overcrowded schedule. You’ve probably heard the statement: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.” But you can ask for help getting back into the boat, and seek counsel to make better plans.

Some of the best counsel you can receive is found in the Bible. When my grandfather was 96 years old, he told me, “Everything you need to know is in the Bible. You can learn a lot of things, but everything you NEED to know is in the Bible. Study it.” He is right. Read the Psalms and Proverbs. You will be surprised at the wisdom for everyday decisions you will find there. The added benefit is reading, studying, and living by the Godly principles there enables us to experience a more peaceful and enjoyable life.

So, cut out a lot of the unnecessary busyness, and think about that project to do, book to image00771read, trip to plan and take, or book to write. Lighten the load by eliminating unimportant things. Keep the important items. Don’t make your life more hectic, but more valuable.

Spend time with family. Attend worship services regularly. Stop and smell the roses.

And all year long remember this: God loves you.

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.

Anti-Social Hummingbirds

“Hummingbirds are so cute” Carol said. We saw then flitting around the yard several times, and Carol suggested that we buy a feeder to give them a treat. At Wal-Mart we found two feeders: one for a dollar and one for six. We bought the cheaper one just to see if the critters would flock to our yard.

There are about 300 species of these aerial acrobats. They live only in the western hemisphere: twelve of which spend the summer in North America. They flap their wings from 50-200 times per second, fly up to 34 mph – even upside down, weigh up to three DSCN8828Bquarters of an ounce, average four to five inches long, have a heartbeat of 225 beats per minute at rest and up to 1,260 beats per minute in flight, and have an average lifespan of about four years.

We bought the feeder and a bag of Instant Hummingbird Nectar Concentrate. Filling the container with the red juice, we hung it on a pole just outside the dining room window so we could observe the poor little critters as they enjoyed our gift of life. At first one or two visited us, but then all activity stopped. Curious, I stepped outside to see if there was a problem with the feeder.

There wasn’t a problem with the hummingbird feeder, but with a hummingbird eater. TheDSCN8421B neighbor’s cat was waiting for breakfast to appear. But when he saw me, he sauntered off for less populated pastures.

Within minutes, a green ruby-throated hummer zoomed up. He came within six inches of the port, hovered as he looked around, nervously darted back and forth, seeing if anyone was going to attack him. He finally inserted his needle-like bill, had lunch, and zoomed to the nearest crepe-myrtle tree.

I thought he had tired himself out hovering while drinking and needed to rest. Wrong!

As Carol and I watched, two other hummers zoomed up, stopped in mid-air to see if it was safe, and approached the ports. The first critter came back at full-throttle and attacked the newcomers! Apparently, as the first visitor, this pugnacious little rascal had laid claim to my feeder.

I wanted to catch the little beast and take him miles away, but I learned that another one would just take his place. They are territorial, and it is definitely first-come-first-served. But upon reading about them, I found that they need to eat/drink more than their weight in nectar each day merely to stay alive. That alone explains why they are viciously protective of their find. It’s a fight for survival.

So, where we hoped to make life easier for these cute little creatures (that are relentlessly in search of food) by being nice to them, we were merely successful in creating a new battle-ground for them.

That reminds me of back in 1958 when my father asked me, “Would you like to see someone become angry by being nice to him?” I incredulously asked, “How can that happen?” Dad said, “Just watch.”

Relativity 15BHe called for two of my brothers. Dad gave one a dime, and the other a nickel. The one who received the nickel exclaimed, “That’s not fair! I should get a dime, too!” Dad asked, “What’s not fair about it? You both received a gift. You didn’t earn it and it is not part of your weekly allowance. It’s extra. Go spend it.” The one brother was unhappy and began fussing until Dad gave him another nickel – which was his plan anyway. Then Dad told me, “Don’t forget that lesson. It will come in handy sometime.”

It sure did. Throughout my adult life, I’ve worked to support and accrue benefits for my family. But some of our citizens are truly handicapped and cannot support themselves, so our elected leaders have made benefits available to them – and rightly so. But many others have seen “the feeder with the red juice” and zoomed up full throttle to claim and demand gifts that are not rightfully theirs.

But there is a better way to live.

If people could see who Jesus really is, see all that he offers to those of us who listen, and the minimal he asks from us in return, life would be much more meaningful. Matthew 6:33Bible says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you [assure that you have] everything you need.” Living by that principle would greatly reduce stress and result in greater fulfillment in life. 

I’ll continue feeding the hummers, but I strongly admonish you readers: live to honor Jesus, and reap his rewards.