Death Is Not Final

I read an article many years ago titled: “Was Jesus the First Psychiatrist?” I think it’s worth reading. The author mentioned that there are “300 or so [mental] disorders” that plague mankind; and discusses what he sees as the similarity of Godly teachings and the teachings of psychiatry. 

Please remember that where all Scripture is correct (2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”), not all conclusions in the field of psychiatry and psychology are correct.

I thought long on the following statement: “People suffer to the extent that they are removed from the truth.”

That is partly true, and the reason it stuck in my mind is a conversation I had earlier with a very close friend in the southwest. His wife was nearing the end of her life, and Chuck was experiencing anger and frustration. When I mentioned that facing the truth promotes emotional healing, he blurted out, “I don’t want the truth! I want my wife to live!” I asked him if he wanted to face reality. He exclaimed “NO!”

I understood; his precious wife meant the world to him, and he didn’t want to lose her. Later, in deep depression, Chuck said several times regarding his wife’s condition, “It’s hopeless.”

Dr. Charles Allen (United Methodist minister, deceased) who received an honorary doctorate from John Brown University, and is author of “God’s Psychiatry” said, “When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” However, people must not give up on life, but neither should we demand what God is not giving.

Meditate on those statements.

Chuck had given me the freedom to talk bluntly with him. He knew that I loved him unconditionally, and I gave him the freedom to vent his frustrations at me without fear of reprisal or ill feelings. And I went to be with him when his wife left this life.

Later that day Chuck expressed his appreciation for my helping him to face reality, and said, “A load has been lifted from my shoulders; thank you for helping me accept the truth.” And that reflects another statement from Dr. Allen: “The mind is like the body. It can be wounded. Sorrow is a wound. It cuts deeply; but sorrow can be a clean wound and can heal unless something gets into the wound, such as bitterness, self-pity, or resentment.”

Bitterness, self-pity, and resentment oppose faith in God. I continued working with Chuck: a loving, passionate man with a tendency toward depression.

People must reawaken what they were born with: the God-given, inexplicable, ultimately undefeatable capacity to move in the direction of their own interests, abilities, beliefs and dreams. That’s why the image of Christ is such a powerful one.

It’s not wrong to ask the Lord to heal someone. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary to have a living, vital relationship with Jehovah-Raphah – the Lord who heals. Doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists help, but God alone can ultimately heal the body and mind.

We must all remember that until Jesus returns, physical death is part of life; and for the Christian, death must not be feared for it is the door to heaven. Psalm 90:10 tells us that our lifespan will be an average of 70-80 years although individual lifetimes vary. My father lived to be eighty-nine, his father lived to ninety-nine, and my mother left this life at the age of 97. But until Jesus returns, we all will leave this life. 

Chuck was facing the reality of his wife’s immanent departure. Was the situation truly hopeless? The answer was a resounding “No.” Death is not the end of the story. Those who trust God with their lives will be given eternal life. 

Chuck’s wife left this earth, but accepting the truth had set him free. Was there sorrow? Yes, but not as others sorrow. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 says, “Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died.”

Chuck will see his wife again.

How’s Your Attitude?

The longer I live, the more I realize how important our attitude is. Our attitude is more important than our past, our circumstance in life, education, skills, good looks (or bad), and more important than what people think of us. Our attitude can determine the success or failure of a church, business, or home.

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always choose our attitude; therefore, our responses.

Charles Swindoll on his Insight For Living broadcast said, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to the circumstances.” I agree with him, and that’s why problems seldom trouble me. (However, contrary to popular opinion, I do get bothered sometimes. That’s why I, also, need encouragement.)

Some years ago, I read of a man who received life-threatening injuries when someone robbed his store and shot him. As Jerry was being prepared for emergency surgery, he noticed the grim look on the doctor’s face. When the doctor asked Jerry if he was allergic to anything, in his dangerously weakened condition Jerry mumbled, “Yes. I am allergic to – bullets. Operate on me as though I will live.”

At first the doctor smiled, then laughed and said, “I’ll do my best for you, but it is your golden attitude that will bring you through.”

Yes, Jerry did make a full recovery, and his attitude mirrored another Swindoll quote: “The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. And attitude governs the way you perceive the world, and the way the world perceives you.”IMG_0091

Do you know how your attitude works for or against you? Very simply: When a person is happy, certain endorphins and hormones are secreted which produce clear thinking, enhance pleasure, and reduce physical pain. When a person is upset, other endorphins and hormones are secreted which enhance anxiety and increase pain.

Years ago, I encountered a man who harshly confronted me. Afterwards, one of our daughters asked, “Daddy, how did you keep from blowing up when that man attacked you like that?” I answered, “Oh, he wasn’t upset with me. He was ticked off about something else.”

At that, she asked, “Is that one of your mind-games?” Laughing, I said, “It might be, or it might be the result of a decision I made to not let people bother me. Then I leave the results up to God. I know He can take care of me, and that’s my primary reason for having a good attitude.”

A good attitude is a decision I make based on my faith in Jesus Christ. And I have to make the decision several times every day.

When I was told that there are many factors which contribute to bad attitudes, I said, “The difficult part is, most of us have been programmed as a child to respond in a negative manner. We also are born in sin with an innate selfish mindset. So we start life with a double-whammy that we must overcome: 1) we must learn to overcome the negative, and 2) we must ask God to forgive us for our own sin and help us to become like Jesus. Then we have a foundation from which to work. It isn’t always easy, but it can be done.”

So, how do we generate and keep a good attitude?

4 generation Linzeys0016bMy father taught me, “Son, you think and feel the way you dress and act. So purposely dress nicely, make correct decisions, keep happy thoughts in your mind, and live for the Lord.” Even though I’ve made mistakes, that counsel has served me well.

A poor attitude generates low self-esteem; but a good attitude with enthusiasm brightens your life, and brightens the attitudes of others around you. So treat others the way you would like to be treated, and don’t be concerned if they don’t reciprocate. Either way you will be a healthier, happier person.

Psalm 42:5 says, “Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled? I will put my hope in God, and once again I will praise him, my savior and my God.” Also, Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and don’t forget the benefits of serving God.”

So believe in, and actively trust in God. Loving God and loving people are the foundation for good attitudes. That reminds me of the chorus of a song Bill Gaither wrote:

Loving God, loving each other; making music with my friends.

Loving God, loving each other; and the story never ends.

What Do You Own?

Several decades ago when I was asked what I owned, I had to stop and think. I began recounting my stuff: lawn mower, chain saw, pickup truck, hand tools.… But I didn’t get very far when the missionary interrupted me and said, “You apparently didn’t understand the question.”

He asked again, slowly: “What do you own?” He said he would let me think on it for a while and walked away.

I never had the opportunity to discuss it with him again, but I pondered that question for weeks before I forgot it. However, many years later that question re-surfaced in my mind and I came up with some interesting conclusions.

The verb to own means: to possess; hold as personal property; keep control over; maintain mastery. That’s an interesting concept, and I totally revised my philosophy of ownership.

So, what do you consider to be your property? Make a mental list, and I’ll help by naming several items: clothing, car, surfboard, animals, land, business. What else came to your mind? But do you really own these things? Read the definition again.

Can you truthfully maintain mastery over something if someone can take it from you? No. If you really OWN something, no one can take it from you. Pause and think about that for a minute. Stop paying taxes on your paid-off property and find out who thinks they own it.

Now, let’s consider permanent ownership.

In Leviticus 25:23 God said, “The land really belongs to me, so you can’t sell it for all time. You are only foreigners and travelers living for a while on my land.” Remember: God created it, so the land is His.

Friends, in reality, not even the government owns anything because God maintains mastery over it all. But He requires us to be good stewards (manager, guardian, administrator) of His property.

In Psalms 50:10-11 God said, “Every animal of the forest is already mine. The cattle on a thousand hills are mine. I know every bird on the mountains, and every living thing in the fields is mine.”

Titus 1:7-9 says, “As God’s managers, overseers must not be guilty of doing wrong, being selfish, or becoming angry quickly. They must not drink too much wine, like to fight, or try to get rich by cheating others. Overseers must be ready to welcome guests, love what is good, be wise, live right, and be holy and self-controlled. They must hold on to the trustworthy word just as we teach it, because overseers can help people by applying correct teaching ….”

So God gives us abilities, talents, skills, and property; but we erroneously focus on them and too often think we own them. Friends, we don’t even own our abilities. God loans them to us, but we can lose them in a moment by accident or sickness.

How about money? In Matthew 20:8-15, God said, “I can do what I want with my money.” Even money is not ours: ever hear of a stock-market crash?

How about wisdom? In Luke 21:15, God said, “I will give you the wisdom to say things that none of your enemies will be able to stand against or prove wrong.” God owns wisdom, and God owns you. So, is there anything in the world that we can claim as our own? Yes: we are supposed to own (possess, control) our emotions. The Biblical term is temperance.

The point I am trying to make is this: you own nothing except your thoughts, your will and your emotions. God did not create robots or automatons; He created and owns people. And He expects us to use our thoughts, will, and emotions to bless and honor Him.

Let’s add another item: we own our responses to what happens in life. That means we are capable of controlling ourselves. No one can make you angry or make you happy. It’s your choice. YOU decide how you will respond.

Corrie ten Boom told a pastor some years ago: “Pastor, let go of all the things you think you own while you can. Otherwise, God will pry them out of your dying hands.”

There is nothing wrong with having things as long as we understand that we are only stewards of the things that we bought – with the money God helped us to earn. So, use things for their intended purpose and get the job done.

What do you own? You own your thoughts, will, emotions, and personal responses. And that sets the stage for owning a clear conscience with joy, peace, and contentment.

So, once again: What do you own?

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.