Labor Day

The Linzey family has a current memory of Labor Day. On August 31, 2012, our oldest son, Ron, and his family came to visit over the Labor Day weekend. We had a great time with Ron, Tanya, and their twelve kids. On Monday, September 3, Ron said, “Well, we better get going. The new baby is due in three weeks and we have some preparations to make.” So they loaded up the van and headed back toward Oklahoma City.

As I was growing up in Southern California, I learned about Labor Day in school. However, at times I confused it with Armistice Day because my sister Janice was born on Armistice Day – which was renamed Veteran’s Day in 1954. That made things worse: for how could Janice be born on Veteran’s Day when she was actually born on Armistice Day. Are you dizzy yet? As a child, I easily became confused. Let’s get back to Labor Day.

   Ron’s family hadn’t been gone long when the van pulled back onto our driveway. Ron said, “For some reason, baby has decided to be born that evening. May we spend the night?” And a new memory was created: Little Daniel was born within the hour … on our bed … on “Labor” Day.

     Although most Americans observe Labor Day as a holiday, some are aware of the meaning of the day. What are some of your memories? While you’re thinking, let me share some historical data with you. We won’t discuss Jolly Old England, but will stick with the US of A.

This day is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It’s an annual tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. But if we look at it objectively, we should not celebrate labor OVER management or company owners. No; our achievements are a product of overall cooperation between management and laborers. But we did have quite a time getting things straightened out between the two sides as labor unions became politically oriented. However, without business organizations, laborers are not needed; and without laborers, business organizations could not exist. But someone had to be the authority over the workplace. Although that necessarily fell to management, the compromise was that labor became a cooperative partner.

There have been many labor disputes, such as the massive “Pullman Strike” and the poorly named “Haymarket Massacre.” But not all problems have been between labor and management. Many times the problems were between the laborers themselves and other problems were within management and/or between companies.

Company owners and laborers alike have made mistakes. Some mistakes were based on “company greed” and others on “laborer greed.” But both are encompassed in “human greed.” Many times laborers had proper grievances, and when cool heads prevailed, problems were resolved. Sometimes it was hard to find those cool heads.

But historically, Americans built a strong country. The pilgrims were diligent workers who believed in and honored God. The United States is a blend of people from around the world, and most of them had a desire to be self-sufficient. They wanted to send word back to their motherland that they were doing well. They detested receiving handouts but would rather give a helping hand to others. These folk helped to establish a strong, powerful working force that could solve any problem that arose. I applaud them, and hope America will reestablish that mindset today.

Some of you may have been involved in union strikes. If you have, you know it’s seldom an easy task to clearly define the issues, because both sides act like Republicans and Democrats: too often they create their own problems, hide their own ignorance, and blame each other.

We as a nation have become like I was as a child: we have become confused. Having “grown up” in the 19th century, we regressed in the 20th. I matured because I received a Biblical work ethic from my father who also taught me to believe in Jesus Christ. But America has forsaken our Biblical heritage, rejected a foundational work ethic, and is floating precariously down the river of shame and disgrace. As a nation, we are in trouble.

Our only hope to become stabilized is to reestablish our foundational belief in God and live according to Biblical principles.

Thoughts on Godly Character

It’s interesting how different folk prioritize character traits, or Godly attributes, as having a higher value than others. For example, one person considers honesty as the highest character trait on the list, while someone else views compassion as the most important. Yet another extols humility. So, which one is the most important?

That can’t be answered because it misses the main point, and it reminds me of when a friend asked me some years ago, “Which of your five children do you value the most?” I told him, “That question has no answer because they are all equally valuable.” And it’s the same with the various attributes of God: they are all equally important.

Character is a transliteration of χαρακτήρ, or carakter, which denotes express image. The idea is a brand, an engraving or indelible mark – in this case, an image or imprint on the soul. Therefore, a character trait of God is an attribute which characterizes or closely represents the nature of God.

Having worked with an organization which taught about living with high integrity and good character, I helped teach what I unofficially called the character traits of God. There are quite a few identified in the Bible, but here is my list. Don’t go to sleep now. Read this list slowly and think about God as you read each word (in alphabetical order).

Depending on the circumstances, God is: Alert, Attentive, Available, Bold, Cautious, Compassionate, Content, Creative, Decisive, [shows] Deference, [is] Dependable, Determined, Diligent, Discerning, Discrete, [manifests] Endurance, [is] Enthusiastic, Faithful, Flexible, Forgiving, Generous, Gentle, Grateful, Hospitable, Holy, Humble, [shows] Initiative, [is] Joyful, Just, Loving, Loyal, Meek, [Jesus was] Obedient, [is] Orderly, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Patient, Persuasive, Punctual, Resourceful, Responsible, [Jesus was] Reverent, [is] Righteous, Secure, Self-Controlled, Sensitive, Sincere, Sovereign, Thorough, Thrifty, Tolerant, Transcendent, Truthful, Virtuous, and Wise.

Still awake? Good. Almighty God is more amazing than you or I could ever imagine! After reading this partial list, can any one of them be considered more important than the others? The answer is a definite No. It takes all of them – plus more – to describe or define Who our God is.

But we can truthfully say: depending on the circumstances, several may be more applicable than others.

For Example: If I am going for a job interview, a Loving or Reverent attitude might not be as relevant as being Attentive and Punctual – depending on the job, of course. And if the house is on fire, we can forget Hospitality; but being Decisive, Determined, and Dependable would really help.

A friend manifested no less than 31 Godly character traits as he repaired the air conditioning unit on my RV. It’s amazing how much we represent God as we help others. Why is that?

When God created mankind, He programmed us to be like Him. In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let us make man in our image; to be like us.” Therefore, as we endeavor to live a good life, it isn’t just our duty and responsibility to represent God – to be His ambassadors – we can’t help it because it’s part of who we are. And as we help others we are the extension of God’s hands and feet.

But there’s another side to this.

Some folk purposely live in rebellion against God. Some thrive as they steal or defraud others, damage reputations, hurt or commit murder. Some are greedy, ruthless, haters of good. I could continue, but you get the point. These folk are blocking God’s eternal plan for their lives.

However, if they repent and honestly ask to be forgiven, God will Forgive them although they may face the consequences of their poor decisions.

Living with Godly character and integrity produces a wholesome life now, and a wonderful life for eternity.

 What kind of character are you? What are you doing with the time God has given you here on earth?

Identification Generates Change

I’m sure you were asked as a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As I did, you most likely had a ready answer. I wanted to be a Navy Chaplain like my father. Many of my friends gave answers such as: a policeman, fireman, doctor, race car driver, a movie star, and so forth. In the 1970s, two other common answers were: a rock singer or an astronaut.

Why do kids respond like that? The simple is: identification. Identifying with something or someone we admire gives us a sense of belonging, a sense of importance.

As a Californian, I liked the San Francisco 49er football team. When the 49ers won a game, “I” won. When they succeeded, I succeeded. When they lost, I lost. I’ll never forget when WE won OUR 5th Super Bowl Ring! Had I ever met any of them? No, but what difference did that make? I liked Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Jerry Rice.

But I truly admired my father, and I strongly identified with him. I always liked dad better than the 9ers, anyway.

I also learned to admire other men who talked and sung about Jesus, and in high school a southern gospel quartet from Mississippi became my focus: The Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Not having met them, I referred to them by their first names, and sung along with the records I bought. I learned all four parts of all their songs and learned to sound like them – somewhat. When I finally met them near Boston, Massachusetts, my spirits soared!

A few others whom I admired and wanted to emulate were the Apostle Paul, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Graham, Paul Harvey, and Dr. J. C. Holsinger (Carol’s and my history professor in the university).

Identification with a person, group, or event generates change. Why? We mentally gravitate toward the object of our focus.

I tend to think like dad. I’m for a unified nation as was Lincoln. I focus on the Bible like Billy Graham. I learned to sing like several of the Blackwoods. Fifty years ago, I could sing tenor similar to Bill Shaw; but as the years passed, I began singing bass similar to J.D. Sumner – but not nearly as low as he did. I learned to study like Dr. Holsinger. I learned to tell stories similar to Paul Harvey. I learned to think theologically and philosophically like Paul.

Since identification generates change, identifying with these men gave me direction in life.

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines identification, in part, as: “A largely unconscious process whereby an individual models thoughts, feelings, and actions after those attributed to an object that has been incorporated as a mental image.” The person changes as the thoughts and feelings become a part of his life and his worldview.

An extreme form of emulation is idolatry and leads us away from God. But admiration, properly applied, is beneficial if it leads us toward God, maturity, and wholesome living.

But there is one more person with whom I have identified, and who has changed my life more than any other: Jesus Christ.

My favorite quote from Billy Graham is: “The Bible Says!” So, let’s go there.

John 14:23 says – “If people love me, they will obey my teaching” (NCV).

Romans 6:4 says – “When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life” (NCV).

So, obedience is another way of identifying with the Lord. Obedience includes actions, lifestyle, and manner of speaking. And we find that water baptism is our statement to the world that we have totally identified with Jesus: in his life, death, and resurrection.

Remembering that we mentally gravitate toward the object of our focus, I have learned to focus my life on Jesus Christ. I know who I am, and to whom I belong.

Some who call themselves Christian but who do not live according to Jesus’ teachings, have not identified with Him. If your life – words, actions, lifestyle, attitudes – does not openly verify identification with the Lord, there is a question as to the sincerity of your faith.

Identification with Christ grants strength, security, belonging, power. Not power to rule people, but power to overcome evil and spiritual darkness. Those who identify with Christ receive authority to become adopted children of God. Identification with Jesus will help us throughout eternity.

Who do you admire or look up to? With whom do you identify? As you contemplate your eternal existence, will your role-models help you or hinder you? Think about it. Pray about it. Jesus is ready and willing to help you.

Hardships

The word hardship came from England back in the 1200s, and it described sturdy ships that endured the brutal storms of the North Atlantic.

Today it’s defined as a condition that is difficult to endure. It refers to suffering, deprivation, and oppression: something hard to bear, lack of comfort, constant toil or danger.

As we think about hardship, we need to remember that life is not supposed to be about us. Life, including eternal life, is about Jesus and our relationship with Him. However, although Jesus should be the center of all human existence, most people put Him on the sidelines, or not in their life at all.

Then, generating our own hardships, people get all limp and wishy-washy about life, or get hard and bitter. We have a difficult time doing things God’s way because we don’t spend time getting to know our heavenly Father.

But God has been saying all along: Please give me the reins. I can tame this team of horses, but you need to cooperate.

A young woman who didn’t know how to cooperate with the Lord told her mother about how life was so hard for her. There seemed to be no end to her problems, and she wanted to give up. She couldn’t understand that she was creating most of the hardships for herself.

Her mother sent up a silent prayer, then took her daughter to the kitchen. Filling three pots with water, she placed them on the stove and turned the heat to high. In the first pot she placed carrots; in the second, she placed a couple of eggs; and in the last, she poured a cup of coffee grounds.

Without saying a word, she let them boil for about twenty minutes, then turned off the burners. She fished the carrots and eggs out and placed them in separate bowls. Then she ladled the coffee grounds out and placed them in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she said, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee grounds.”

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots and peel an egg. The daughter noted that the carrots were soft and the eggs were hard boiled.

“Now, check the coffee grounds and water.”

The daughter smiled. “The coffee grounds look the same but wet. But the water was now … coffee, and I think I’ll have some. Mother, what are you getting at?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the very same adversity: 212-degree boiling water for twenty minutes. Each reacted differently. The carrots went in strong, hard, and stiff, but after sitting in boiling water, they softened and became weak. Inside the shell, the eggs had been fragile. Their thin outer shell had protected the liquid interior, but after bumping around in the boiling water, the insides became hardened. The ground coffee was unique. The oppressive adversity (boiling water) released color and flavor.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When hardship knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg … or … coffee?”

The daughter, drinking her coffee, understood the lesson.

So I ask you, dear reader: Are you the carrot that is strong when there are no problems, but with pain and adversity you wilt and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable attitude, but becomes hardened with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a break-up, a financial hardship, or some other trial, you became cynical? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you inflexible?

Or are you like the coffee? Do you change the circumstances that bring the pain? When things are at their worst, do you cave in or help change the situation around you?

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, how do you handle adversity?

Remembering that hot water releases the fragrance and flavor of the coffee grounds, perhaps you can remember to sincerely turn to God for guidance. He is always willing to help us. God tells us in Isaiah 43:2-3, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

That is true if we cooperate with God. How do you respond to hardships?

Walking with God

Several people have asked the question, “What does it mean to walk with God” and everyone in the world should be interested in knowing the answer. I’ll start with Billy Graham’s response. The following Q & A is from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association “Answers” blog, February 13, 2017.

Question: “I’ve heard preachers say that we need to learn to walk with God, but what exactly does this mean? I’d like to walk with God, but I don’t know how. And anyway, how would I know if God was actually with me?”

Answer: “I’m thankful you want to walk with God—because He wants to walk with you! He wants to assure you that He is always with you, and He also wants to talk with you—and you with Him.

“Look at it this way. By nature, we are cut off from God, because we have sinned and turned our backs on Him. But when we come to Christ and commit our lives to Him, God cleanses us of all our sins, and we are no longer separated from Him. Instead, He makes us part of His family, and we become his children forever. The Bible says, “Now if we are [God’s] children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

“How, then, do we walk with God and grow closer to Him? Just as we do with our children, the most important way is by spending time with Him—listening to Him as He speaks to us in the Bible and talking with Him in prayer. Just as human friendships wither and die if we never spend time together, so our relationship with God will grow cold if we never spend time with Him. Set aside time every day—even if it’s only a few minutes at first—to be alone with God.

“But Christ is also with you every moment of the day! Even when you’re busy, you can still talk with Him and follow Him. Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

I like Billy’s response. My prayers are often short, to the point, and I receive answers. I don’t play church, and I am not super-spiritual. But I know that walking with God is a vital reality and is a necessary part of life if we are to be an active child of God. But we have to reduce the noise and busyness in our lives and pay attention to God in order to hear Him!

God in heaven doesn’t play church, and neither did Jesus on earth. And no one ever walked with Father God as closely as Jesus did. Enoch came close.

Genesis 5:21-24 says: “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were 365 years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (NKJV).

Enoch being “taken” is another story for another time, but what made Enoch different, or special? What set him apart from the rest of humanity? He purposely lived a Godly life in the middle of a corrupt and perverse culture. He didn’t water-down or modify his ethics, morals, and faith in order to win the world or to be relevant to the world. Enoch had set his mind to know—really KNOW—the God who walked in the Garden with Adam.

And in case you haven’t noticed, we live in a corrupt and perverse world just like Enoch did. Sadly, many Christians are immersed in their own lifestyle, they have deleted consecration to God from worship, and are oblivious to the idea of walking with God. A great many Christians desire God’s favor and ask God to bless them, but their lifestyles do not reflect the nature or the character of Jesus. Many Christians are so busy living for themselves that they cannot hear the Lord’s voice when He speaks to them.

To boil the answer down to a few words: Walking with God requires knowing how and what He thinks, what He wants of us, and obeying Him. It’s that simple. The emphasis is on learning to know Him and obeying Him.

When we learn to know the Lord by studying His thoughts as found in Holy Scripture, First Corinthians 2:16b becomes reality: “We have the mind [thoughts] of Christ.”

Are you one of those who wants God to care for you, to help you, to bless you? I can almost hear the Lord say, “You quit asking Me to bless you, and you start walking with Me and obeying Me. That’s when I’ll do something with your life.”

God is waiting for you to truly turn to Him.

Enjoying Life

When we lived in the hills in northern New Mexico, we had two dogs and a cat. Both dogs were larger than the cat, but the cat was still in charge. They grew up together and had no traditional cat-dog animosity. In fact, they loved each other. The dogs were Flicka and Tyke (Flicka was Tyke’s mama), and the cat was Tiggy. The family called her Tig. I called her Critter, but today we’ll go with the family name.

One day when I returned home from work, I saw Tig stalking something – or someone. I slowly got out of the car and crept up to look over the white picket fence.

The cat’s eyes were intensely focused, her belly was barely touching the ground, and her tail was twitching as she ever-so-slowly inched her way forward. Her target? A hapless Tyke, taking a nap about 22 feet away.

I almost held my breath, waiting to see what Tig would do.

Suddenly, like an F/A 18 Super Hornet being catapulted from the deck of the USS Reagan, Tig bolted toward Tyke! Reaching the sleeping victim in a second, she leapt over him, smacking him on the rump with her right front paw as she flew over. As she touched down, Tyke, jerked out of sleep, was up and after her. He instinctively knew the game.

But Tig had it all figured out. Her attack was not intended to include a chase this time, but to show superiority. By the time Tyke could get out an obligatory bark, but before he could generate any momentum, Tig was up the tree that was five feet away.

I can still see it: Tyke standing on his hind legs with his front paws against the tree, vociferously discussing things with the cat; while Tig, hanging onto the tree by her needle-sharp talons about eight feet off the ground, looked down and issued a gentle hiss at the dog. The hiss is translated as, “I win – again.”

 In a few minutes the game was over. Tyke asked for his evening dinner while Tig enjoyed a few minutes in the arms of her adoring owner: our daughter, Rebecca.

Do you enjoy life like that? No, I’m not inferring that you are an animal. Do you take time out of your busy life to have fun?

With all the stuff going on in the world – for example: one mighty nation invading a much smaller peaceful neighbor, people committing murder in the name of their religion, people manifesting intolerance while demanding tolerance from others, people insisting on political correctness while simultaneously distaining common sense, and more – it is sometimes difficult to find time to enjoy a happy moment; but it is possible, and necessary.

Some years ago dad and mom came to visit us. On the second day a gentle breeze was blowing, and dad said, “The temperature is just about right; how about a game of tennis? I’m here to take a break from my hectic schedule.”

We went to the court and began the contest. But within fifteen minutes it began raining. Not a gully-washer or a torrential downpour, but a gentle, refreshing drizzle that encourages rosebushes and lilies to blossom.

“Oh, goodnight! There goes our tennis game.”

“Why, dad? What’s wrong with playing with a wet ball? And with our new shoes, we won’t slip on the court.” Dad relented and we continued playing.

We played hard, and those balls looked like a sideways Saturn as the water spun off. After a half hour, the rain let up and the clouds parted.

“I haven’t had this much fun playing tennis in years. Where’d you learn to play in the rain?”

“You probably enjoyed it because you beat me.” I replied. “But you taught me long ago not to let little things bother me; and this rain was not a bother but a joy. We need the rain.”

“Thank you for learning and thank you for feeding it back to me. I needed the lesson, and YES! I enjoyed beating you.”

We laughed, got dried off and I treated dad to a chocolate milkshake. That was the price for losing. But spending time with dad was never a waste of time. We enjoyed being together.

Do you know that our Heavenly Father enjoys it when we spend time with Him? Hebrews 13:5 quotes Jesus saying, “I’ll never leave you.” That statement alone should give us a great sense of security.

There is nothing we can do about many problems in the world, but we can place our trust in Jesus. Then no matter what happens in the world, when we die we will be with Him forever. Rain or shine, enjoy the time with God as you study the Bible and honor Him in everything you do.

Current Actions Produce Delayed Results

The phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, I answered, “Howdy Paul.”

“Hey Eugene, what are you doing June 21 through June 24?” Paul was an army chaplain, recently retired, and is now a supporting chaplain at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

I responded, “Nothing’s on the calendar for those days – yet. What do you have in mind?”

“You want to fly to Montana with me?”

“Are you driving?”

“No, big brother. We’ll fly commercial.”

“Are you looking for grizzlies, moose, bison, or what?”

“Wrong on all counts. I want to see the shortest river in the world. You coming with me on this ‘brother’s trip’ or not?”

“Count me in!” And that started an adventure that two close brothers will never forget; and will result in a co-authored book.

Flying out of Oklahoma City, we changed planes in Salt Lake City, then made Helena, Montana home for two nights.

Over dinner, we discussed the purpose of the trip. Up near Great Falls, Montana, there is a natural phenomenon called Giant Springs from which flows what has been dubbed the shortest river in the world. Paul informed me, “Both the Springs and the River are why we are here.” The next day, we drove 75 miles to Giant Springs.

The Little Belt Mountains are sixty miles from Great Falls. As it rains and snows in those hills, water seeps into the Madison Aquifer. Most of that water flows underground into five surrounding states and up into Canada, but a portion travels to Giant Springs. There, approximately 150 million gallons push to the surface every day through openings in the limestone overlaying the Madison Aquifer. Situated on the east bank of the Missouri, some spring water flows directly into the Missouri, while the remainder enters the Missouri by way of the 201-foot-long Roe River. Fish eggs are called roe, and a portion of the short river is diverted into the fish hatchery. Therefore, the name Roe River.

As Paul and I approached the water, I incredulously asked, “That’s a river? That’s shorter than a football field.”

“Sure is. I was on a business trip in 2004, and I always wanted to come back and study it.”

Well, study it, we did – and still are. Various reports say it takes the water twenty-six to fifty-six years to make the sixty-mile trek through the Madison Aquifer, flowing from the Little Belt Mountains to Giant Springs. Yet other reports say some of the water is diverted through different layers of limestone and takes 3,000 years for the journey. Why is there a diversity of opinion about how long it takes? There is an answer, and we will find it.

Another point: the water becomes impure as it seeps into the ground. It can become contaminated by animal droppings, dead animals, mold, and so forth. But as it flows through the limestone, much of the impurities are filtered out.

But what’s the point of it all? I’m glad you asked.

There is a cause and effect working here. The mountain rain and pristine snow (the cause) and the beauty and majesty of the springs (the effect) remind us of the timeline of human life. As it takes many years for the water to seep through sixty miles of limestone to the Springs, things also happen in our lives that often produce a delayed response.

As a child you may have been told, “You’re dumb; you’ll never amount to much!” Or, “You can’t do anything right!” Those are devastating blows that contaminate life; and the clock begins ticking for results to push to the surface. But as the limestone removes the impurities from the water, someone’s intervention can remove those impurities from life. Loving interactions heal wounds.

On the other hand, you might have heard, “You are GOOD at this! You will do well in life.” That, also, sets the clock ticking, and what bubbles to the surface years later can benefit both humanity and God.

The point is: events and personal interactions shape us, but it may take years for the results to show.  So be kind to others and guide them. Help shape lives in a positive manner. Love others as God loves you.

Well, after the working part of the trip, we drove to the town of Stanford, Montana, where Paul treated me to lunch. He said, “I’m taking Stanford (my first name) to Stanford for lunch in honor of your first name.” It was sixty miles out of the way, but who cares? We had a wonderful time up in Big Sky Country.

Who Are You?

I recently heard a portion of a conversation. A man named John went to a hospital to visit a bed-ridden, dying man. The name of the man in bed was Tom. (The names have been changed.)

In the early portion of the visit, Tom perceived that his visitor was troubled concerning his vocation. Not wanting to be nosey or pushy, the dying man realized, however, that John was the one who needed to be encouraged. Also, Tom noticed that John was an up-front, forthright kind of man, so Tom jumped right in. As close as I can recall, here is what I heard.

“John, who are you?”

That took John off guard. “Uh, I’m a basketball coach. Why do you ask?”

“If basketball went away, who would you be?”

John thought about it, then mentioned his other vocations, adding that he is a father, a lay-leader at church, and ….”

“John, you’re missing the point of my question. All those things are what you do or have done, and every one of those things will someday not be so any longer. I’m asking you one simple question. WHO are you? If you became an invalid, as I am, who would you be?”

John is like most of us – he never thought of that before. But Tom wasn’t through. He had one more question.

“My friend, here’s how you can figure out who you are. When you die, as I will soon, you will be none of those things you mentioned. As you enter heaven, none of those titles, jobs, and positions you filled will be part of you. None of your importance, influence, prestige, reputation, or money will go with you. Who will you be then? Think about it, John. Who are you?”

John left the hospital perplexed, and that question began rolling around the corridors of my mind. Who am I? I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Dear reader, you and I could spend several days or weeks trying to impress each other about our jobs, our accomplishments, how we’ve changed our company, church, or society. We also have a culturally imbedded idea that what we do is who we are. I am the president of this. I’m the CEO of that. I started this company. I am a pastor. I’m the chief mechanic over this operation. On and on we could go because we strongly identify with what we do.

But is any of that who we are? If we sleep in a garage, does that make us a car?

Bed-ridden, dying Tom was pointing to eternal reality. When all the temporary things in life vanish, when we breath our last, the eternal question is: who will we be? If we can answer that question, we’ll know who we are.

So, who am I? I’ve learned not to tell folks about my accomplishments because it could be considered a matter of pride. Even while I was a pastor, I truthfully said that I didn’t have a ministry. Why? The Ministry belongs to God, and He graciously allowed me to be a part of what He was doing.

Who am I? I am a King’s Kid. I am an adopted son of the Living, Loving, Eternal, Creative, Almighty God. That’s who I am. And I’ll be that forever.

I remember a 1796 song written by Charlotte Elliott. The first verse is: “Just as I am without one plea, But that thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

I asked the Lord to accept me into His family when I was five years old, and I’ve never turned my back on Jesus. Do I sin? Yes, but when I realize it, I ask the Lord to forgive me. And He does. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Today, I listened to a 1992 song written by Mosie Lister. In addition to being a song-writer, he was a great pianist. The words to the chorus are, “Beyond the Cross is a tomb that is empty, you won’t find Me there anymore. And beyond the tomb is life ever-lasting, and hope forever more.”

Jesus died for us, but He raised back to life three days later. He is alive, and I’ll be alive with Him forever. Who am I? I am an adopted son of God!

Friend, who are you?

Pray for Others

A friend sent a rather lengthy tale to me several decades ago, but I never learned the identity of the author. The story is not a historical account, but more like a parable to illustrate a moral, and the following is a portion of the narrative.

**************

A ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men survived and managed to get to a small island. Not knowing what else to do, they agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

The first thing the one man prayed for was food. The next morning, he saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the island, but the other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a puppy. The next day, he found a pooch swimming to his side of the island. On the other side of the island, nothing came ashore.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. Each time, somehow, the food and the material for all of these came ashore.  However, the second man still had nothing. The first man did, begrudgingly, share some of his food with him.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his puppy could leave the island. By morning, the wind had blown a deserted boat to his side of the island. He boarded the boat with his puppy and decided to leave the second man on the island.

He thought the other man was unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.

As he was about to leave, he heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them. His prayers were all unanswered and so he doesn’t deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you wouldn’t have received any of my blessings.”

“What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“His only prayer these past two months was that I would answer your prayers.”

**************

In the legend, both men initially understood their plight, realized that prayer was the only recourse available to them, and amicably began their experiment.

The reason this stood out so strongly to me is that I’ve seen the same qualities in people wherever I go. Some folks are humble, good-hearted, and want what’s best for others. They go out of their way, even to the point of depriving themselves of some benefits of life so they can reduce the hurt and pain others are experiencing. These people are obeying Jesus.

But I’ve also seen other folks who are out to get what they can for themselves. Not helping others in a material way, these self-centered people sometimes go out of their way to destroy reputations, mock others, and make life hard for their imagined enemies.

What those self-absorbed people don’t understand is, the people they are attempting to hurt could be cherished friends if allowed to be.

But let’s continue about the fable above, and perhaps we should reconsider the concept of prayer.

The blessings we receive might not always be the fruit of our prayers alone, but are perhaps benefits from others praying for us. I can write a book about dangerous and life-threatening situations people have faced and how they escaped or survived, but I’ll tell about only one.

My father was in the USS Yorktown during WWII, heading for what would erupt into the Battle of Midway. A terrible fear gripped dad’s mind and he couldn’t do his job. Five thousand miles away, mom had a powerful burden to pray for him … not even knowing where in the world he was. After an hour of intense prayer, mom stopped praying, and the fear suddenly lifted from dad’s mind. Unknown to dad, God answered mom’s prayers.

I encourage all you who are reading this blog: when someone comes to your mind, pray for him or her. Pray however you feel like it, but pray. You may be the “ministering angel” God uses to rescue or help someone.

It’s all about Jesus

December 25 was a special day of the year. Having said that, you might expect this to be about Christmas. But have you ever … wait a minute. Let’s start somewhere else.

 Joy to the World the Lord Has Come! Angels We Have Heard on High…. Those songs, and others, were prompted by the message given to the shepherds out in the fields with their sheep. Silent Night, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and many others, were written about a special baby that was born. We Three Kings, and others, were written about several Persian noblemen who visited Joseph, Mary, and the toddler Jesus about a year later in their home.

Who was this famous baby that changed the world? Or, since babies don’t change society, the question should be, Who is this Person that changed the world?

The Book of Matthew starts with Jesus’ genealogy, then verse 18 begins the detailed account of his birth. Mark starts with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Luke starts with the history behind Luke’s Gospel, then verse 26 begins a detailed account of Jesus’ birth. But the Gospel of John starts prior to the beginning of mankind and prior to the creation of the earth.

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 3 tells us the Word created everything in the universe. Verse 14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 1:2 bounces me back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” By this we know that the Word, Jesus, Who had no beginning, created the cosmos.

Okay, now we can think about Christmas, December 25. Was Jesus born at this time of year? Probably not, but that’s another story and don’t worry about it. We’re celebrating the birth of the Person mentioned in John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 – God in human form. He is the greatest dichotomy of all time. For the first – and only – time in history, a real God was born as a human.

The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and many others developed myths, legends, and fantasies of gods creating themselves, gods being born, gods squabbling over territorial rights, fighting and killing each other, and a whole lot more. Their pantheons of gods were memorials of either great imaginations, or possibly of demon activity within mankind’s history.

Many citizens of those nations worshipped their gods out of fear, and offered sacrifices, including their own children, to those gods to appease their anger and to gain good business ventures and harvests.

But Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, and the remainder of Scripture tell a different story. The one and only God did not create Himself, because He never had a beginning. He is The Great I Am. God didn’t come to squabble or fight with anyone. Instead, He came to give life, redeem us, give peace, forgiveness, security, and a lot more. It would cost Him His natural life to accomplish it. But He came prepared with that in mind, and nothing would deter Him from fulfilling His mission.

The angels told Mary to name the baby Jehoshua, which means Jehovah is salvation. Through time, it was shortened to Joshua, and through Latin influence, we eventually have the name Jesus.

Have you ever thought about all that? That’s what Christmas is all about. (Christ-mas: a mass or meeting about Christ.)

“In the little village of Bethlehem, there lay a Child one day, and the sky was bright with a holy light, o’er the place where Jesus lay.

“’Twas a humble birthplace, but O how much God gave to us that day, from the manger bed what a path was led, what a perfect, holy way.

“Alleluia! How the angels sang. Alleluia, how it rang! And the sky was bright with a holy light, ‘twas the birthday of a King.”  By William Harold Neidlinger; 1890.

Display your lights, give gifts, share your meals – either scrumptious or meager. Listen to concerts, sing the Hallelujah Chorus and Christmas carols. Visit family, renew friendships.

But always keep in mind why Jesus came. Even as a baby, He was God. But He came to grow up and give His life for us so that we may have eternal life with Him in heaven.

The wonderful greeting of Merry Christmas is joyful, beautiful, and fitting one month out of the year, but Praising God and blessing people is fitting all year long. Be kind to one another and help others in this difficult time in history.

%d bloggers like this: