Memorial Day – 2019

PICT0051Memorial Day! The very sound of the name resonates with deep feelings within the minds of some Americans. Parades with marching bands and the rippling Red and White stripes with the Blue field of white stars (one of the most famous flags in the history of the world) will be a major event in many towns dotting the landscape of the United States of America.

This Memorial Day, let’s take time to honor our fallen Americans and give thanks to Almighty God for the freedoms we have. Memorial Day is a celebration of freedom!

So I want to honor the one who taught me to honor God, my country, and my fellow man. This memorial is about my late father: Captain Stanford E. Linzey, Jr. Chaplain Corps, USN.

Stanford was born in Houston, Texas on October 13, 1920. Always involved in the community, at age 16 he attained the rank of Eagle Scout and became Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 13.

He lettered in varsity as he played right guard on the high school football team in Mercedes, Texas. He was also first-chair clarinetist in the band; and with his mother accompanying him, he won the Texas State Championship for instrumental solos in 1936.

Texas A&M and other schools wanted Stan to attend their schools on music scholarships. But at age nine, he heard John Philip Sousa and the United States Marine Band on Sousa’s last tour, and Stan developed a burning desire to be a Navy musician.

Nine years later, passing the music test administered by Chief Musician John Liegl (who had been assistant director under Sousa), Stan was sworn into the Navy on January 11, 1939. Sixteen years later when I was nine years old, John Leigl became my own music instructor, for which I am deeply grateful.

At age nine, Stan had also accepted Jesus into his life and suspected that he might become a preacher. He stayed away from alcohol, but by the time he joined the navy he had begun smoking cigarettes. However, a change was coming: he met a beautiful girl named Verna May Hall who liked the clarinet but didn’t like cigarettes.

Verna lowered the boom: “I won’t marry you if you keep smoking.” So Stan decided to quit. But after a two-week cruise on “The Original Fighting Lady” (the USS Yorktown CV-5), Stan came back smelling like a chimney.

“You said you were going to quit.” Verna challenged.

“I tried, but I couldn’t.” Stan was smoking almost three packs a day.

“Did you pray about it?”

Stan retorted, “No.”

But at Verna’s encouragement, he prayed then and there. The Lord helped Stan; but Stan also exercised his God-given will power, and never touched a cigarette again.

When he gave up smoking, Stan also totally rededicated his life to the Lord, and his shipmates nicknamed him Deacon. In everything he attempted to do from then on, he endeavored to honor God.

During the Battle of Midway, the Yorktown was severely damaged by bombs and torpedoes. Believing the ship would capsize, Captain Buckmaster gave the order to abandon ship. The USS Balch, a small warship called a destroyer, rescued Stan and many others. (The Yorktown sunk two days later.)

Stan recognized a sailor who was a Christian and said, “Let’s get together for a prayer meeting.”

The sailor moaned, “Deacon, I’m the only Christian on board the ship.”

Stan didn’t believe it. He scouted around and found eight other men, each of whom thought he was the only Christian on board. Stan got them together for a praise service on the fantail (stern) of the ship. Eventually, thirty-two men met each night as more sailors accepted Jesus Christ into their lives.

Stan was transferred to the USS Portland – a heavy cruiser with 850 men on board. He ordered Gideon Bibles and started a Bible Study group.

After the war, Stan left the Navy, continued his schooling, and in 1954 reentered the Navy as a Chaplain. He spent another twenty years serving the Lord and his country to the best of his ability. He retired with the rank of Captain.

Dad was not loud or boisterous (if he didn’t need to be), but was boldly dedicated to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dad taught me that living to please our Lord was more fun than living to please myself or the world. He said quite often, “I’m only going this way once; I might as well make the most of it.” Applied in a Christian sense, I’ve found that to be true.

Dad taught me the motto attributed to Davey Crockett: Be sure you’re right, then go ahead. Of course, I’ve made mistakes, but I do my best to honor God, Country, and Dad.

Dad passed away in 2010, but I’ll see him again when I get to heaven.

Origin, Meaning, Morality, Destiny

Where did we come from? Why are we here? What do we believe? Where are we going? There are many hypotheses, some theories, and a few facts that try to explain why and how humanity came into existence.

  1. Let’s begin with the first law of thermodynamics – well-accepted by the scientific community – which informs us that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. Matter can change shape, form, or state (ice, water, vapor, plasma), but matter cannot be made out of nothing or annihilated into nothing. That invalidates any Big Bang hypothesis – scientific or not.

To believe that something can be made out of nothing is either absurd, or is a manifestation of faith. Therefore, logically and scientifically, the mere presence of matter is a miracle and that requires a Creator. That takes us back to the Bible and answers the first question of our origin: God created us.

  1. Next, what is the meaning of life – of your life? Why are we here? If humanity and all the cosmos were merely a statistically impossible happenstance of nature, and if creatures such as the Spotted Owl, rare New Mexico Jumping Mouse, Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, or a kitten were more important than mankind, why do so many well-meaning people who don’t believe in mankind’s importance endorse expensive self-improvement, image-enhancing, and self-esteem seminars? Those would be a waste of time; but negating mankind’s importance does explain their obsession of infanticide by fetal abortion.

The fact that humans are self-aware supports the fact that there was planning and purpose for our existence, and that we were made in the image of our Creator. Those who accept that fact might understand the dynamic meaning for our existence. So, why are we here? God created us to fulfill HIS purposes. However, we must study the Holy Bible and ask God to reveal His specific purpose for our individual life.

  1. What about morality? Through the years I’ve read about many religions, andhave been surprised at their moral contradictions. Many who believe in being
    good, kind, etc., give no basis for doing so. Their standard is to “be good for goodness’ sake”. (Sounds like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.) However, there must be a reason for being good, or goodness means nothing. There must be a standard by which to measure goodness, otherwise no one knows if they are being good or not.

Many today claim that there is no absolute truth, and that we all must make our own path. My questions are, Who made up the law that murder is wrong? And if there is no absolute right and wrong, Who decided that slandering your integrity is wrong? Where did we learn that stealing is wrong?

Surprise! There is a standard – the Holy Bible – and God put moral laws in place for our good and to accomplish His purposes. God placed His law in our consciences which gave us the capability of being self-aware and of knowing Him (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 2:13-16). This defines mankind as special and separates us from the animal kingdom.

  1. So, what is your destiny? Think about it. Since God created us, God gave us meaning, and God established morality, then our destiny will dynamically involve God. Keep in mind that your and my beliefs neither eradicate nor establish truth. Truth stands on its own foundation and we either accept or reject it. A group of people can sit in a circle for as long as they desire and think world peace as intently as they know how. But judge for yourself: Is it working? Of course not, because the world rejects the Prince of Peace – Jesus. If you don’t believe me, look at the Middle-East today.

Well, you don’t have to look that far: look at our own government.

How can we create our own eternal destiny? The simple answer is: we cannot. If we break our nation’s laws, the choices are set before us. Many times we are penalized in some way (pay a fine or lose privileges) or we go to jail. In like manner, when we break God’s laws the choices are set before us in Scripture – with our eternal destiny at stake. We cannot create our destiny, but we can choose one of the two options. God wants us to choose Door #1 and that is eternity in heaven with Him. But that requires us to put our faith in Jesus Christ for this option. The only other option, Door #2, is eternal separation from God. So, where are you going? John 3:16 – God so loved the world – that includes you and me – that He gave His only begotten son – Jesus, who died for us – that whosoever believes on Him will not suffer eternal death, but will live eternally in heaven with Him.

What Constitutes “Wickedness”?

Dr. Chuck McCullough, my long-time friend, JBU Graduate, and writing partner in New Mexico, gave me permission to reprint an article he wrote for his Bible Answers column as a spring-board for discussion. Chuck wrote:


 “Does God have it in for wicked people? Does He want to damn them to hell for all the bad they have done?”—Brian

The Bible makes it clear God is not happy about “wickedness”. He issued specific commands to keep it in check (Ex. 20:1ff). The writer of Proverbs told his readers what God abhors (Prov. 6:16-19). There were some pretty severe judgments upon wickedness in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 19; Josh. 7)

The New Testament provides several lists of serious infractions (I Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-9).  This sort of behavior is clearly not what God intended for His highest creatures. He “hoped” for better, in a manner of speaking.

But hear two other pertinent thoughts:

First, God doesn’t relish the destruction of the “wicked people.” The Book says as much (Ezek. 18:23, 32). God has gone to unimaginable lengths to reach all people (the “world” of Jn. 3:16) in our brokenness, to rescue us from an eternity apart from Him (Rom. 1:17; 5:6-10; Eph. 2:4-10; I Tim. 2:4). He does not want any to perish (II Pet. 3:9). Indeed, Jesus did not come to condemn the world; rather, He came so that the world might be saved (Jn. 3:17-21).

Second, the Scripture presents a cautionary message to those who wish to identify the “real” sinners and condemn them to hell. Before we draw the line, attempting to spell out who is worthy of grace and who is not, we should remember that “all are sinners and fall short of God’s perfection” (Rom. 3:23).

Thus, from God’s standpoint, all of us may be considered “wicked” and desperately in need of rescue by His grace (Eph. 2:1-9). God’s great desire is that all people will come to faith in Him (I Tim. 1:12-15; I Thess. 5:23; II Thess. 3:3-5; Titus 3:1-7; I Jn. 1:5-10).

Dr. Chuck McCullough, former pastor of White Rock Baptist Church, Los Alamos, NM; published in The Los Alamos Monitor, Los Alamos, NM on March 28, 2014


Well said, my friend. Thank you for permission to reprint your article because people have asked me, “What constitutes wickedness? What makes a person wicked”?

One of our grandsons said, “A wicked person is someone who kidnaps a kid and is mean to him.” An adult in New Mexico said, “Wickedness is doing things like dropping atomic bombs on Japan!” When I asked him if Japan’s prior attack on Pearl Harbor was wicked, he said, “That wasn’t as bad as dropping those bombs!”

Hmmmmm…. I suppose people judge wickedness on a sliding scale, but God doesn’t have a sliding scale. We either pass or fail. We are either wicked or we are righteous. So, what are the criteria?

 Wicked is spelled out in the Scripture listed in Chuck’s article, but is briefly defined as evil or sinful. Evil is the absence of good; sin is the attitude or act of violating God’s will; and a righteous person is one who does what is right. But since Romans 3:10 says, “No one is righteous; no, not one!”, and since Jesus said in Matthew 19:17, “There is no one good, but God.”, how can Matthew 13:49 tell us the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous?

That’s easy: Romans 5:19 tells us if we repent (turn away) from our sins, accept Jesus into our lives, and live for Him, Jesus will declare us righteous. Jesus can do that because He, as God, took our place when He received judgment for our sin on the cross.

Conclusion: anyone who has ever broken any of God’s laws is wicked and worthy of judgment. But God doesn’t want to damn us; that’s why Jesus came to rescue us, and the remedy is given in Scripture. “Jesus did not come to condemn the world; rather, He came so that the world might be saved” (John. 3:17-21).

Also, Luke 19:10 says that Jesus came to save those who are lost. So, what should we do?

When the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” the Apostle Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).  That’s the answer. You will no longer be wicked, but declared to be righteous.

If you have not responded to Jesus, please read the blogs for the past two weeks. Jesus loves you and wants you in his family.

You Can Change Your World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Worry?

IMG_1791Over 13 million Americans worry every day. The worries range from national, state, county and town issues. People worry about school, grades, war, the economy, home finances, children, grandchildren, their job, retirement, and so much more.

But worrying causes problems. One third of all visual problems are caused by worrying. Worriers get sick more easily. Worriers don’t get good-quality sleep. Worriers have a harder time digesting their food. Most worriers have difficulty trusting others.

Many years ago, the director of the YMCA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had worried himself almost to a nervous breakdown. He was working about 85 hours a week while worrying about the myriad of problems that surrounded him. He couldn’t sleep well and was having a difficult time making proper decisions. Sad and depressed, he finally went for counsel.

The doctor said, “George, you’re going to ruin your health – or kill yourself – with worry unless you back20100208_172053 off. I know it will be difficult, but you must cooperate with God. You must turn all your worries over to God – and let them go – and learn to trust your staff.” George always thought his feelings and actions were directed by the Lord, so that surprised him.

After thinking it over, George took a long walk in the woods. Sitting down against a tree, he got out his pencil and paper, and wrote:

Dear God, I hereby resign as Executive Director and General Manager of the Universe.

Love, George

 “Wonder of Wonders,” George said, “God accepted my resignation!” Now eating and sleeping better, within days his strength returned and he could think more clearly. And within a few months the YMCA operations improved dramatically.

Worrying dishonors God and actually generates problems for ourselves. Why? Believing that we must personally control everything, we take our focus off God and place the focus onto ourselves. But note this:

            40% of things we worry about never happen.

            30% are in the past, and cannot be changed.

            12% are about criticism.

            10% are about health problems (and worrying makes it worse).

            Only 8% may be legitimate.

God’s prescription for our worry and stress is in Philippians 4:1-8.

     Verse 1: Stand Fast in the Lord. (Accept God’s teaching as your foundation for life.)
     2: Live harmoniously with others. (Avoid disputes and arguments.)

     3: Help others. (Remove your focus from yourself.)IMG_1799B

     4: Rejoice in the Lord in every way. (Live cheerfully. Romans 8:28 says that everything works for our good IF we cooperate with God.)

     5: Let your moderation (mild manner, appropriate actions, gentle and understanding attitude) become manifest in your everyday life.

     6: Be careful for nothing. (Don’t be concerned over what you can do nothing about. Train yourself to stay focused on the issues at hand (Rom. 12:2). Through prayer and thanksgiving, talk with God about your concerns. Converse with Him as you would a friendly counselor. Talk or pray aloud; it is okay.)

     7: The Peace of God, which no man fully understands, shall keep your hearts and minds.

(Keep = Protects or guards you in the presence of the enemy. HOW? We must REFUSE to worry, but place our lives in God’s hands.  God can’t protect us if we refuse to cooperate with Him.)

8.    Whatever is true (not hidden or imagined, but obvious),

Whatever is honest (worthy of honor and respect),

Whatever is just (right; innocent, without speculation. Don’t waste time guessing about people’s motives),

Whatever is pure (sacred, consecrated, not mixed with evil. Seriously pray about the books you read, the movies you watch, and your daily activities),

Whatever is lovely (friendly toward God, accepted by God. If God doesn’t approve of something, it isn’t lovely: leave it alone),

Whatever is of good report (reputable, wholesome),

If there be any virtue (excellence, moral goodness, high regard. This again warns us to stay away from movies, videos, books, magazines and activities that promote ungodliness),

If there be any praise (something commendable),

Think on these things (reckon, meditate, dwell).

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

This is how we live without worry. This is how we live without stress. We must not attempt to take God’s place as the Executive Director and General Manager of the Universe – or even of our own lives. We don’t have the credentials for the job. And we must live within the boundaries that Jesus would accept.

Stop worrying; seek help if necessary.

Critical Thinking

When I was a teenager, people told me, “Stop being so critical!” Have you ever been told that? “Stop being so picky!” is another version. Yet another exhortation, “Listen to that he means, not what he says.” Wow! Since I cannot read minds, THAT’S a tricky one. 

However, we must intelligently analyze life to understand life.

For over a century our educational system diligently taught critical thinking as part of its mission. And wePICT1473 are told that nearly all American educational institutions still teach critical thinking; but do they really? My answer is a resounding NO! Several years ago, we found that “post-modernism” discarded critical thinking. Let’s look into it.

Critical Thinking: “Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence. The mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” The word “critical” comes from “kriticos”, a Greek word meaning “discerning judgment.” So, a critical thinker is searching for truth. My father taught me how to think critically, yet without being condemning.

Ruth Mayhew of Demand Media said, “Critical thinking is ‘self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably.’”

Clear thinking is essential for making appropriate decisions about what to believe and do, whether for personal decisions such as religious beliefs and who to marry; and vocational decisions, or civic decisions such as voting or serving on a jury. Without a well-informed, critically-thinking citizenry, freedom and democracy will falter and justice will be non-existent. Have you assessed our judicial and political systems recently? Many Judges and lawyers often discard truth in favor of procedures, word-games, personal agendas, or intimidation. I saw on the news yesterday [as of this writing] that a man on death row for murder – who had testified that, indeed, he murdered the girl – was released by a judge because of a technicality in the judicial process.

We should employ critical thinking during conflict resolution which requires understanding issues from several viewpoints. Understanding people’s needs requires critical thinking. Socrates talked about the important role critical thinking plays in our ability to consider an issue and decide what to do or believe. Critical thinking should be employed while shopping or caring for children.

DSCN1300Critical thinkers must take the context of every situation into account and think on a multi-level platform in order to come to proper conclusions. Homeschoolers have an advantage for learning critical thinking skills because they can incorporate these lessons into it their curriculum – as every educational system should do. When a person is able to make correct, intelligent choices on complex matters, he is considered intelligent and competent.

Critical thinking is required in deciding whether a claim is true, partially true, or false. It is a tool we use to arrive at reasoned conclusions based on a reasoned process. Fortunately, as with all skills, we can learn to think critically.

Now let’s apply the principle.

We read that: 1) It’s possible for a “rogue planet” to hit the earth and wipe out humanity. 2) If we vote for this person he’ll stop the problem in Congress. 3) It’s inferred that this automobile will get you the prettiest girl. Let’s address the politician first.

Regrettably, it takes only one person (US President or a judge) to negate good morals and legalizeDSCN5212 immorality. But it takes a distinct majority of the Senate and House to change direction or change a law for the better – and even then, one judge is allowed to negate the will of the people. This is wrong. Why doesn’t the US Congress apply the checks and balances which are built into the US Constitution? They are not thinking critically.

Thinking critically would entail: How will this bill or law affect the people in my district, my state, and the nation? Do the people understand the repercussion of the bill? If they don’t, I need to tell them. To say, “Let’s pass this thing so we can see what is says” does not display critical thinking. Rather, it was one of the most absurd and ignorant political statements in the history of our nation.

How about a “rogue planet”? Thinking critically we should ask: “Is this a hypothesis, theory, or fact? Is this someone’s imagination, or is there substantiation for the fear? Does he have solid evidence on which to base his claim?” Well, [thinking critically] since Scripture says that Jesus will rule this earth for 1,000 years, I don’t think we need to worry about an imaginary rogue planet.

And the car? THINK! Is the girl attracted to you or to the car? If she is attracted to a nifty or spectacular car, you won’t want her unless you are a flake. It takes more than a car to attract an intelligent girl.

Critical thinking produces information on which we can base our lives. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And Godly wisdom is mandatory in critical thinking.

A BLESSED CHRISTMAS

Said the shepherd boy to the little lamb, “Do you see what I see?”

Way up in the sky little lamb, “Do you see what I see?”

A star, a star, shining in the night, it will bring us beauty and light.

It will bring us beauty and light.

    DSCN4172Thinking about that song brought many thoughts to my mind.  Allow me to share them with you.

     The shepherds, watching their flocks out in the field, looked up into the cool fall sky. Suddenly, one of the shepherds jumped up and cried out, “Look! Do you see what I see?” The others quickly looked – and in Luke 2:10-12 the lead angel made the announcement as the other shepherds shielded their eyes from the bright light:

“Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: You will find a new-born baby wrapped in white cloth, lying in a manger.”DSCN0574

     The shepherds, following the heavenly directions, quickly went to the cave or animal stall where Joseph and Mary were. When they saw the new-born baby who was declared by the angels to be God, one of the shepherds slowly knelt down, and incredulously asked, “Do you see what I see?” And their lives were changed forever!

     Anna, the 84-year old prophetess, was in the temple when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus in to be circumcised and blessed. When Anna saw the 8-day old Baby in Mary’s arms, she said gently and worshipfully, “Do you see what I see? I thank you, O Great Jehovah, for allowing my eyes to see the salvation of Israel.” She then prayed over baby Jesus, and began telling everyone what she saw: “People listen. This Little One is the Messiah for whom we all have been waiting. Let’s Worship the King!” And her life was changed forever!

     The Wise Men spent much time studying the sky. They were the scientists of their day and were advisors to their king. They were probably from Persia, which would include DSCN0309Iran and Iraq today. One night, one of the astronomers suddenly called to his colleagues, “Look! Do you see what I see?” The others gathered around and were amazed at the startling message unfolding in the sky, for it told them that a new King was born in Israel. Because of the writings left by Daniel back around 560 BC, they had been expecting it, and within six months, they left on a caravan for the Promised Land. Finding the house and kneeling down in front of Mary who was holding the child who was nearly a year old, the noblemen worshipfully said:  

   Here, most highly honored King, exalted by God in the heavens. We give you Gold: a treasure which does not tarnish or rust, it is a gift to royalty and conveys our life-long worship to you.

   We give you Frankincense: an aromatic treasure which we hope conveys the aroma of our love and adoration of You to the exalted God in the heavens.

   And we give you Myrrh: to make Your life on earth sweet.

And their lives were changed forever!

     Do you see what happened? Whenever people encounter the Living God, their lives are changed! And when someone’s life is truly changed, that person will change the world around them.

     As the shepherds went back to their flocks, they told everyone they met about the new Messiah for months to come because their lives had been changed. And they changed their world as they spread the Good News.

     At eighty-four, you know that she told people about the new Messiah for the rest of her life because her life had been changed. And she changed her world as she told folk who came to the Temple to worship.

     And the Wise men made an international impact, for they changed their world whichPICT0057 was the Middle-East. They told people in the trade caravans, the scientific community, kings and nobility about the new King.  That’s because their lives had been changed.

     Has your life been changed? Do you tell people about Jesus our Savior, or are you afraid of offending someone? God is calling you to change your world by being a faithful witness about what you have both seen and heard. Go ahead – people need to hear the Good News.

     Have you seen what I have seen?

CHRISTMAS QUESTIONS

Christmastime is almost here again. It seems like just last month people were resting up after last year’s Christmas-New Year’s rush. But here we are again, and in my mind I can hear Handel’s majestic Hallelujah Chorus.

Questions about Christmas have been asked for centuries, and I would like to give a brief response to two of those questions that people have asked me. Don’t laugh now, because they are serious questions.

Was there really a Santa Claus? My children want to know.PICT0540

Believe-it-or-not, there was a pastor named Nicholas in the third century AD in what is now Demre, or Kale, Turkey. The one to whom I refer came from a wealthy family, became the Bishop of Myrna, and upon the death of his parents used his inheritance to help the poor. Years after his death he was declared a Saint.

Nicholas became known by many titles in various areas of the world: four of which are Saint Nicholas, Saint ’Ch’las, and Sinterklaas, which were appropriate; and recently Santa Claus. The name Kris Kringle apparently originated in Germany from “Christkindl”, which means Christ Child (sometimes, referred as Christ’s Helper). But the image we have today of a fat, jolly ole St. Nick – Santa Claus – may be attributed to a poem in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (also called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”).

Why do we treat “Santa Claus” as a non-religious person? Post-Christian America builds up Christmas as they do Valentine’s Day or Halloween: it isn’t considered religious, but as a money-making endeavor. Also, it is politically correct to deny the reality of Jesus Christ, Biblical morality, and the intrinsic truth behind Jesus and the real Saint Nicholas.

     However, Saint Nicholas was a compassionate pastor who represented a caring, loving God. Nicholas represented Jesus Christ Who died for us, but raised from the dead three days later to redeem us from our sin. For many years, Pastor Nicholas gathered donations of clothing, shoes, and food, and distributed them to the poor; and not just in December. He did this year-round. Yes, there was a Pastor Nicholas whom some people called Saint Ch’las, or Santa Claus. 

Who were the three wise men?

     Matthew 2:1-2: “…wise men came from the east to Jerusalem saying … we have seen his star in the east….” Matthew 2:11: “When they entered the house, they saw the young child with his mother….”

     Many ethnic groups claim the wise men as their own, and the east is a big area so we need to know what eastern societies employed astrologers or astronomers. China, Persia, and India are prime candidates so let’s briefly look at them.

At that time China claimed their leader as god and viewed other national rulers with some contempt. So they are out. The basic religions of India were Jainism and Hinduism, and they were not astronomers nor would they have traveled anywhere to honor a new king. That leaves us with Persia. The main religion in Persia at the time was Zoroastrianism, and their priests were of a class called “Magi” – magician. (Zoroastrianism today is not the same as that in Ancient Persia.)

     Until about 220 AD, Zoroastrianism was sympathetic to any religion – including Judaism and Christianity – that taught kindness, justice, righteous thinking, truth, and monotheism. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego introduced Judaism to Nebuchadnezzar and his empire around 586 BC; and after Nebuchadnezzar recovered from his illness, he declared to his empire that Daniel’s God was the supreme God of heaven (Daniel 4:37).

The wise men of Persia (Magi) were scholars or educated priests. They had various fields of expertise, of which astronomy/astrology was one. When a heavenly sign or starDSCN0716 indicated a royal birth (Psalm 19:1), a delegation (minimum of three) was sent to acknowledge that royal event; timing their arrival when the child would be six months to a year old (Matthew 2:11). For safety purposes, the royal delegation traveled with a large trade caravan, and there could have been five to ten Persian scholars or Magi who visited Jesus’ family at the house. The reason our tradition mentions three is because of the three gifts they brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Today, people ask: “Are you ready for Christmas?” That’s an interesting question, for it reveals their lack of understanding of the celebration. A more pertinent question would be: “Are you ready to publicly acknowledge Christ as did the shepherds and the Magi?”

     The good news is: God reveals Himself to whomever truly wants to know him. Jesus is no longer a baby-in-a-manger. He is our living God Who created the entire universe. (John 1:1-4, 14)

The Purpose of Miracles

What is a miracle? Several years ago, a man told me, “If you can explain it, it wasn’t a Question Markmiracle!” I found that rather humorous; but because the man was serious I didn’t want to insult him by laughing. However, that is not a criterion for miracles.

I find two basic types of miracles, with several variations of the theme. 1) Supernatural: God works above, against, or outside the laws of nature. 2) Natural: God uses natural phenomena or natural laws; but inexplicable timing is the key element.

The Veritas Bible commentary says,

Miracle may be defined as that which takes place by Divine power outside the ordinary course of nature. Miracles are not an end in themselves but are intended to show either the truth of what is taught or the presence of God in the person who teaches. The object of Christ’s miracles was to prove His Divinity so that men might come to salvation.

I agree. The purpose of miracles is to glorify God, although mankind does benefit from them.   Let’s address the supernatural element first; and I want to start by saying that LIFE is a miracle.

The first miracle I find in Scripture is creation. A long-standing scientific principle says, “Matter can be neither created nor destroyed; but can merely change state.” That is: change from solid, to liquid, to gas, and (temporarily) to plasma. You and I create things out of stuff that exists. That is fabricating, but isn’t a miracle. God, Who exists outside time and space, created stuff out of nothing. That’s a miracle.

So, if matter cannot be created, but it exists – and matter cannot spontaneously appear from nothing – we know there is a God Who has always existed outside time and space. God is the great “I AM” – the eternal, self-existent One; the first cause of all things. (Remember that phrase because nothing can happen without a cause. That is also a scientific principle.)

Another above- or outside-nature miracle is raising the dead to life. Stated very simply: PICT0122man can neither create life nor restore life; but God – Who is outside time and space – can. Physical healings are sometimes miraculous. And, of course, one of the greatest miracles is exemplified in our eternal salvation. Looking at a baby reveals the miraculous power – and love – of God. But (don’t think I’m beingIMG_1439 funny here), watching an egg hatch also reveals the miraculous power of God. Think about it: man cannot instill or create life.

Now, for miracles in the natural realm.

An example (inexplicable timing) of the second type of miracle is found in Joshua 3:14-17 where the Jordan River stopped flowing at flood-time for the Israelites to cross over. DSCN4904Verse 16 says, “the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho. (NLT)”

A supernaturally-timed land-slide temporarily blocked the river’s flow. When the nervous priests reluctantly, yet obediently, stepped into the flooded Jordan River, they didn’t know the water level was about to recede. Then, after more than a million people with all their animals crossed over, the temporary earthen dam gave way and a tsunami of water, rocks, and mud came crashing down the Jordan River. God caused the heavy landslide at the right time which blocked and contained the water until the right time. The timing was miraculous.

The Bible records about 37 miracles performed by Jesus, and He said in John 14:13, “If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it for you so that the Father’s glory will be shown through the Son.”

THAT is the purpose of miracles: that the Father’s glory will be manifested, and that His purposes will be fulfilled on earth and in heaven.

Miracles are not for our self-aggrandizement or to puff up our reputation. They are not even primarily for our benefit. This is where many in the Church make their mistake: they focus on the miracle or on what they think they did through “their word” or by “their faith.” We must face the fact that, although man does benefit from them, miracles are for the purpose of exalting God.

Jesus said in Luke 10:20, “Don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered as citizens of heaven.”

So, don’t brag about your faith or your prayers. Learn to align yourself with God. Pray, act, and speak in concert with God’s will, in Jesus’ name, and allow God to receive the credit. He’ll bless you for it.Bible.docx

Just remember: The Bible lets us know that the purpose of miracles is to glorify God.

BibLe cOdeS?

You might think the Bible Code fad had faded into oblivion, but that isn’t the case. When IMG_1799BI was asked about it, I found it is alive, and it’s been thriving for millennia. I don’t believe in hidden messages in so-called Bible Codes, but it is interesting.

     From the Gnostics in Jesus’ time who prided themselves for possessing hidden knowledge, to the Rosicrucian’s who held to “esoteric truths of the ancient past concealed from the average man”, to Sir Isaac Newton who predicted that the world would NOT end before 2060, to Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code”, the concept of hidden knowledge in the Bible has attracted world-wide interest. The original Bible Code was known as the Torah Code.

     There is a Jewish tradition about “hidden text” in the Pentateuch (the Torah, first five Books in the Bible), consisting of words or phrases expressed in the form of Equidistant Letter Sequences (ELS’s); that is, selecting sequences of equally spaced letters in the text. Since this tradition was passed on orally, not much is really understood of the early legends. Rabbi H.M.D. Weissmandel was the first modern scholar to try to show the possibility of such a “hidden text” in 1958 by finding patterns consisting of ELS’s. This concept has been described as “a method by which specific letters from the text can be selected to reveal an otherwise obscured message.”

     Using the ELS system, I’ve been told every 50th letter of the Book of Genesis (in Hebrew) starting with the first taw (“T”), the Hebrew word “torah” is spelled out. The same may happen in the Book of Exodus. Computers have been used to search for similar patterns and more complex variants. Bible code proponents usually use a Hebrew Bible, and most Jewish proponents use only the Pentateuch. The Jewish group Aish-HaTorah uses Bible Codes in their Discovery Seminars to persuade secular Jews of the divinity of the Torah, and to encourage them to trust in its traditional Orthodox teachings.

     The general public learned of Bible codes due to Michael Drosnin’s book titled “The Bible Code.” Instead of reading the words of a text normally, hidden words are found by picking every 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, (etc.) letters, skipping over the letters in between. This can become very complex, and a skip pattern can be over 8,000 letters. Using pre-programmed spacing, computers are used to look for matches for selected names or words, and the skip spacing is adjusted until the programmer “discovers” what he/she wants. This produces self-fulfilled predictions. Not good, but interesting.

     Dr. Dave Thomas, physicist and mathematician, wrote in 1997, “Hidden messages can be found anywhere, provided you’re willing to invest time and effort to harvest the vast field of probability. All you need is the power of chance combined with the brute force of computers.” And he proved it by applying code programming to Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” finding many words, names, and predictions “imbedded” therein.

     The theologian Grant Jeffrey said, “Hebrew codes do not contain any hidden theological or doctrinal messages. There are no secret sentences, detailed messages, or sentences about theology in the [supposedly] encoded words. God’s message of salvation and His commandments for holy living to humankind are found only in the open words of the Scriptures.” And I say, “Amen!”

     Those who favor Bible codes ask, “How could words and “messages” be a product of random chance?” But I ask, “With a computer, imagination, and innumerable attempts, how can we NOT find them?”

     As mentioned above, I do not believe in so-called “Bible Codes” because we also find numerous negative concepts. If “Bible Codes” are really inspired by God, then how do we account for the following “codes” which have all been found in the Torah?  ‘Jesus is Satan”; “Please drive out Jesus”; “God is not YHWH”; “There is no God”; “Jehovah is a liar”; and many others. 

     We must get back to what the Bible is, and its purpose. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

     And Jesus said in John 14:26, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” Jesus does not want anything to be hidden.

     Let’s invest our limited time in studying the revealed word of God, not in self-generated revelations.