Is Sincerity Enough?

“I don’t believe I have to become a Christian in order to be good. Won’t God accept me as long as I am sincere about my beliefs?”

That question from one of our readers has been asked for centuries. My question for him was: “Are you inferring that ‘sincerity’ on whatever topic is equal to truth?” He couldn’t answer that.

Sincerity is an admirable character trait. It derives from sin-ceré, which literally means “without wax.” The second-rate potters in ancient times often filled the cracks in their pottery with wax, then painted over the dried wax to make the item look like a first-class vessel. But when the pot was heated the wax melted and the liquid leaked out. Therefore, the respectable potters began writing on the bottom of their pots sin-ceré. The buyer knew she could trust this merchant and his merchandise.

Sincere is used today as: not feigned: true; presenting no false appearance. However, you probably understand that this word is often used insincerely — that is, as a smoke screen. Many times, when someone asks a question like the one above, rather than seeking truth they’re actually attempting to justify their questionable lifestyle. That is not being sincere.

Some people think they are living a good life, but Proverbs 16:25 says: “Some people think they are doing right, but in the end it leads to death.” I read of a professional basketball player who playfully pointed his gun at a friend. Sincerely believing the gun was not loaded, he pulled the trigger. When the resounding explosion subsided and the smoke cleared, his friend was dead.

Sincerity does not make something true; rather, truth substantiates faith, or exposes ignorance.

No one can make a rotting apple fit for human consumption. Likewise, Christianity was not instituted as a program to make people good. Matthew 19:16-17 says: “Someone came and asked Jesus, ‘Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?’ Jesus responded, ‘Why do you call me good? There is only one good person; that is God: but if you desire eternal life, keep the commandments.’” (Read the rest of Matthew 19 for the remainder of Jesus’ message.)

Attempting to become good, or turning over a new leaf doesn’t change us. Rather we need to recognize that human beings are basically self-centered, hedonistic, self-gratifying. Our apple is rotting, and we need to replace it. Then we need a brand-new start, and that new start comes with accepting Jesus Christ into our life. (Acts 4:12, John 3:16)

The ancient Canaanites (among other ethnic groups) sincerely believed in gruesomely killing their children as an offering to appease their gods. Some tribes in South America and Africa sincerely believed that if they captured, killed, and ate other people, they would receive their (the dead person’s) wisdom, knowledge, bravery, strength, etc. Other groups have done even more horrid and gruesome acts to appease their gods. Some groups have taken wood, stone, and/or metal, shaped them into images, assigned personality to the images, and called them gods. Yet other people say, “There is no God!”

Does sincerity of any of those beliefs validate them? You realize, of course, the answer is “No.”

Jehovah, God, is the God of Truth. Jesus said in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father except through me.” And in John 18:37b, Jesus said, “…all who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” And He cannot place equal value on our lies or misconceptions as He does on Truth.

If two people are talking with you, and one is known for his knowledge while the other is known for his ignorance, you also will place greater trust in the knowledgeable person — and rightly so. If you don’t, then your integrity is in question.

The Biblical concept of sincere is: without blemish, perfect, upright, complete, pure, honest. So I repeat: Sincerity of our beliefs does not make something true; rather, truth substantiates faith, or exposes ignorance.

Therefore, sincerity is not the issue. Truth is the issue. So, will God accept you? Yes, but not on your terms. Don’t attempt to decide for yourself what truth is. Rather, accept the “tried-and-true” gospel — the Good News — found in the Bible.

We must come to God on His terms. What are they? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting Life” (John 3:16).

Base your sincerity on what the Bible says.

The Serpent

Some time ago, a man asked: “Pastor Linzey, I am sure you have heard about Eve talking DSCN8248with a snake in the Garden of Eden. Do you really believe that non-sense?”

I’ve been asked that question on numerous occasions, but normally it’s worded a little more kindly.

The Scripture in question is Genesis 3 which starts with (KJV), “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field.” The narrative continues with Eve carrying on a conversation with this being; then verse fourteen says, “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” This story is crucial to understanding the history of mankind, the Bible, and our faith.

Several different Old Testament words are used for serpent and the translations or applications are: serpent, snake, image, dragon, fleeing serpent, whale, sea monster, river monster, dinosaur, fiery serpent, majestic beings, seraphim, afraid, worms, and crawling.  The word for serpent in Genesis 3:1 is nachash and has been rendered serpent; not because it was a snake, but because it hissed. In medieval literature we read that witches hissed. This word hiss means to prognosticate (know the future), whisper a magic spell or an enchantment. Snakes cannot do that, and that is the first clue that the serpent was not an animal.

Another thing to consider is that snakes don’t have vocal chords. That’s the second clue.

Thirdly, Genesis 1:28 says in part, “…Rule over the fish in the sea and over the birds in the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Therefore, Eve would not take instruction from an animal even if it could talk. But she would take instruction from a god-like being. Hold on to that thought.

Genesis 3 starts out: “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field….” The fourth clue is that this word “subtil” (subtle) means in part: cunning, crafty, shrewd, clever, intelligent. It also infers being bare, smooth, no fur, and to give bad counsel. The better versions do not say “more subtil than any other beast”; rather, “more subtil than any beast.” Even the wording here sets this serpent apart from the animal kingdom.

The serpent (snake) was considered a type of god in many other cultures around the world, and even in parts of Europe up to the 18th century. For example:

>Ningizzida (supposedly the ancestor of Gilgamesh) was sometimes depicted as a snake with a human head, eventually becoming a god of healing and magic.

>The Cambodian Khmer people are said to be the descendants of the Naga (snake god) – Princess Soma – and her husband.

>Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent depicted here), was the principal god of the Aztecs.

>Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great and a princess of the land of Epirus, claimed that the serpent (title for one of the gods) was Alexander’s father. This allowed Alexander to be deified. All involved fully understood that a snake was not being called Alexander’s father.

>The word serpent is of Latin origin (serpens, serpentis), is commonly used in a mythical or religious context, and was often related to deity.

Where am I going with this? Eve was not approached by a snake climbing a tree and eerily hissing or whispering at her. Eve, created in the image of God, would not have been persuaded by a lowly animal – even if it could talk.

It was, also, Lucifer, the fallen arch angel – not a snake – who met with and tempted Jesus in the desert. The Apostle Paul said (2 Corinthians 11:14) that Lucifer can appear as “an angel of light” (knowledge). God created Adam and Eve, and granted them more wisdom and knowledge than any other humans in history. They didn’t have a sin nature so they could not be tempted to sin. But God instilled a free will so they could make their own decisions.

As Lucifer tempted Jesus, he previously tempted Eve. Jesus was not deceived, but Eve was. Adam was not deceived: he disobeyed and made a bad decision.DSCN1638

The phrase “on your belly and dust you shall eat” is an old curse still used in the Middle-East today, and is meant to humiliate someone; but it doesn’t mean that the person will actually grovel in the dirt and eat dirt.

Conclusion: Eve, who had not seen God as Adam did, did not converse with a snake. Lucifer appeared in a form (Angel of Light) that resembled Adam’s description of God. We do not disdain or disparage women because of Eve. She was not ignorant or stupid: Satan tricked her. Eve was the most intelligent and the most knowledgeable woman ever to grace this planet. But Eve did not speak with a snake; rather she spoke with a being who looked like Adam’s description of God.

What is an Occult Religion?

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First of all, let’s clear up a misunderstanding. Many people confuse Occult with Cult, but the words are not the same. Occult has the same root as ocular, and involves the lack of sight or vision. It refers to “not apprehended by the mind; beyond the range of ordinary human understanding; secret or esoteric; of or pertaining to magic, astrology, or any system claiming use or knowledge of secret or supernatural powers or agencies.” Christianity does not fall into this category because it is an open religion. The Bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God;.Jesus came to reveal the Father, His majesty and power. We also have open Scripture upon which to base our faith.

It is true that in the Old Testament, God tell us that His ways are not our ways and He has wisdom that is beyond our understanding. However, the New Testament tells us that Jesus came to make His ways known to us. In fact, the last sentence in First Corinthians chapter 2 says, “We have the mind of Christ.” That means God’s thoughts and desires are available to those who truly love the Lord and live for Him.

Cult, on the other hand is “a specific system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and deity; a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centered on sacred symbols; from cultus: cultivation, refinement; which is derived from colere: to tend, guard, cultivate, till.” Christianity and Judaism have sometimes been erroneously called cults. Why? Because although part of this description fits, Christianity and Judaism are not centered on symbols; but on God, Himself. Again, Christianity is an open religion. It is based on a relationship with God, not on feelings or unknowable mysticism.

Cult is etymologically related to culture, for culture also stems from colere. But culture took a turn in its meaning: it eventually added “cultivation through education” and “the intellectual side of civilization.”

Occult qualities have no rational explanation. For example, in the Middle-Ages, magnetism was sometimes called an occult quality. Newton’s theory that “gravity was effected through action at a distance” was harshly critiqued by his contemporaries as occult. Of course, they didn’t understand Newton’s concept.

All occult practices involve the invocation of a deity or deities. Therefore, occult systems are religions. Occult practices also include rituals and ceremonies which somewhat parallel traditional religions. For example, shamans – also called medicine men – are the healers and magicians of their tribes and villages as well as the religious or spiritual leaders.

Some folk attest that the traditional Judeo-Christian religions are also occult; however, there is a distinct difference when it comes to Worship. Where the occult is concerned with contacting the forces of nature (“the Force be with you”), spirits, or the imagined Masters of the Universe to affect a desired change, the true Judeo-Christian belief system is focused on worshiping, petitioning, and obeying Almighty God. True Christianity views the occult as being anything supernatural which is achieved by or through the work of Satan, evil spirits, or man himself.

Gnosticism, which has many branches and could have originated as early as 600 BC, was the basic occult philosophy that is addressed by a number of the New Testament letters. Of course, Gnosticism has its roots in the Ancient Mystery Religions which predates Noah’s flood. The Gnostics [“knowers”, or those with knowledge] believed that “knowledge” was the key to life; and that if we gained knowledge, we could achieve salvation – or at least, attain a higher spiritual position. There are several well-known organizations today which espouse the same philosophies. Rather than promoting a relationship with Jesus Christ or God the Father, they promote learning, attaining knowledge, seeking truth, or seeking light. One of the basic tenets of one organization denies the deity of Christ while exalting man. Today, the New Age Movement encompasses all of Gnosticism and a myriad of other occult religions.

It would take a number of books to list all the occult groups and their beliefs and practices, but here is something to consider:

Occult [read the definition above] practices include, but are not limited to: tarot card and palm readings, witchcraft and wizardry, self-realization, psychics, and horoscope dependency; praising and idolizing activities, music, and people; self-improvement and meditation systems that deny or circumvent Jesus and/or Jehovah God; any religion or organization that exalts the human body, mind, or spirit without depending on God, makes Lucifer equal to or greater than Jesus, makes man equal to or greater than God, or who worships anything, any spirit, or any god other than God in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ. Any religion or organization that says we can achieve or attain salvation, immortality, or perfect light without Jehovah or Jesus is an occult religion. The Bible gives us true knowledge, and leads us to our Creator, Almighty God.

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.

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.

God’s Amazing Grace

Have you read and thought about the words to John Newton’s famous hymn “Amazing Grace”?

Let me refresh your memory with the first verse:

     Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

     I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.Boy

As a teenager I told my dad, a Navy Chaplain, “I can’t sing the song because I am not a wretch.” But my father, a wise man, said, “The man who wrote that song was speaking about himself. You need to read about him. But before you do, look up the word.” So I did.

“Wretch” is traced to the Old English “wrecca” which means “banished person.” It also means “a despicable, worthless, contemptible, or vile person.”

Well, that didn’t apply to me as a thirteen-year-old boy. The worst thing I ever did was lie to my parents and fight with my siblings. Maybe I talked back to my parents, and cheated on a test. Oh whatever – but I decided that I was NOT a wretch!

When dad asked me what I found out, I gave my report about how bad I was NOT. Granting that I was overall a good boy, dad asked me a strange question: “Are you in the same category as Jesus – one who has never sinned?”

“Of course I have sinned,” I said. “But I’m still not a wretch!” What was dad getting at anyway? Had I done something really bad that I had forgotten about? I didn’t think so. Well, I did shoot at cars with my Red Rider B-B gun one time; but the B-Bs never even came close to the cars which were a quarter-mile away. And I’m sure dad never knew about that.

Dad had turned to James 2:10 in the New Testament and read: “And the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God’s laws.” He then asked me what it meant. All I did was to repeat the verse because it was self-explanatory.

“So,” dad asked, “are you any better than John Newton?”

Rev. John Newton was born July 24, 1725 and died December 21, 1807. In his later years, he was an Anglican minister, hymn-writer, and supported the English abolition of slavery. So, what’s the deal about a wretch? There’s more to the story.

The son of a British shipmaster, the Royal Navy captured John – a common way of drafting men into the military, sometimes called “shanghaied.” Somewhat of a rebel, he was flogged and sold into slavery. He referred to himself as “a servant of slaves in West Africa.” But he was eventually set free; and, although having been a victim of slavery, he became a slave trader.

ShipAlthough it was totally demeaning, barbaric, and inhuman to the captured Africans, it was a lucrative endeavor. Not only that, it was a joint-effort: black Africans were capturing neighboring black Africans and selling the ones they didn’t kill to the white slave-traders.

Newton married a Christian, and made a confession of faith in Christ, but continued in the evil, inhumane business of treating human beings worse than he treated his dog.

When offered a better position, Newton quit the slave trade and grew in his understanding of the evil nature of slavery. By the late 1760s Newton’s conscience was gnawing at him in such a way that he finally realized the wretchedness of his malevolent, cruel involvement, and how much he had offended God.

God had revealed His “Amazing Grace” to Newton, and the song was written in 1773. InCross 1788, thirty-four years after Newton left slavery, he wrote a pamphlet titled “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade.” He described the hellish conditions of the slave ships, and said, “It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” He joined William Wilberforce, and in 1807 they led the charge of ending the slave trade in England.

Dad was waiting for my response. I said, “According to James 2:10, since I have sinned in other areas, I am no better than a slave trader, a murderer, or anything else. I guess without Christ I did fit the ‘wretch’ category.”

Dad said, “Good boy. That is the correct conclusion.”

I now could sing the song. But it took me many years to fully understand the true wretchedness of a person without Christ. And I also understand, decades later, that if I fail to live for the Lord in the best way I know how, I would still be a wretch. 

Want about you? Have you thought about it?

THANKSGIVING DAY

“What did you say?” The man just looked at me. He made a statement that I found very img_1798[1]interesting and I wanted to hear his reasoning, so I asked again, “What did you say?”

He hesitantly reiterated: “It seems like we’re getting ready for Armageddon instead of for Thanksgiving.”

That was a powerful statement. When he realized I was not challenging him, he relaxed and we began discussing international events and the perplexities of the nations as mentioned in Luke 21:25-26 which says, “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”DSCN1112B

That was interesting because what Luke said approximately 1,974 years ago seems to be happening now. Strange signs in space could be thought of as: solar flares, blood-red moons DSCN0406with eclipses on Jewish holy days, and comets approaching (or hitting) earth.

How about nations in turmoil and perplexed by roaring seas? 1) Roaring seas could be the increased number of massive hurricanes, while strange tides could be increased tsunamis and hurricanes. 2) Nations in turmoil and perplexity could also be thought of as nations and kingdoms in such political, religious, and economic messes that they seem impossible to resolve. 3) And people around the earth are terrified by the wars, rumors of wars, political intrigue, and horrendous, outrageous murders taking place.

There is a lot happening and much of it has not been pleasant. Massive hurricanes creating myriads of problems across the eastern and southern USA, while horrendous forest fires devastate states on the other end of the country.

     The international political scene is heavy with uncertainty. The Israeli predicament looming continuously on the horizon directly affects the entire world. And Islamic terrorism continues to push throughout the world which generates confusion and fear – the magnitude which has not yet been imagined by most world leaders.

     Our own government has been actively endorsing various foreign religions, yet continues to denigrate the very religion – Judeo-Christianity – upon which our nation was founded. Thus, we have been gradually losing our right to espouse our own beliefs while being forced to accommodate the beliefs of others. This has been going on for decades – but with current leadership, it might be turning around. We pray that it does.

     With all this in mind, what in the world do I have to be thankful for? I’m glad you asked. Question Mark

     According to the Bible, we have freedom to turn to Almighty God for help. Our own founding fathers knew this and appealed to God numerous times for divine assistance. Even Benjamin Franklin wisely advised the colonial leaders to beseech the Almighty for help when they reached a stalemate in forming our government.

     So, can I be thankful today in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? Yes!

     Henry Morris IV (Director of Donor Relations at Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX) pointed out that we are “not to give thanks FOR everything—rather, we are to give thanks IN everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).” Did you catch the difference? Read his statement again. The ATTITUDE of thankfulness is equally important – if not more so – than the ACT of being thankful.

     But when I add Romans 8:28 (And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. NLT), I realize that I actually can thank God FOR things that happen to me.

     And because we humans are so easily distracted by the problems, predicaments, and perils of life, I am grateful that on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt and Congress officially established the fourth Thursday of November as our annual Thanksgiving Day celebration. This resulted from repeated proclamations by most or our US Presidents and the US Congress.

     Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith no one can please God. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him.” And we find that a person who is habitually thankful is usually a patient and loving person. Why is that important? Patient and loving people help solve problems.

     dscn0464[1]Back to the statement the man said, “It seems like we’re getting ready for Armageddon instead of for Thanksgiving.”

     All I can say to that is, focusing on Armageddon cannot prepare us to face life’s challenges; but placing our faith in Jesus Christ can help us prepare; and we can be thankful for Jesus Christ, our Savior and Friend.

Life After Death

Joe asked, “Stephen Hawking made the statement that there is no life after death. Wouldn’t that mean that Jesus is still dead? How might Scripture respond to his comment?”

The following is a quote from No Heaven? Why Stephen Hawking’s Comment Doesn’t Matter by Stephanie Pappas on May 16, 2011. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” Hawking said in The Guardian. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

I appreciated Joe’s question, but here is an eye-opener: Hawking’s statement is nothingIMG_1085B less than a statement of faith. Why? Because believing that there is no God is a religious conviction. Hawking was a dedicated scientist with a background in mathematics, physics, and cosmology; not religion or theology. Also Hawking had Lou Gehrig’s disease, was a quadriplegic, was confined to a wheelchair, and had no use for a god who wouldn’t heal him. His humanistic faith was based on the fact that he could not see God and couldn’t prove that there is a God.

Going one step further, Mr. Hawking placed his faith in science. In reality, that made science his god.

This is indeed a shaky foundation, because many scientists throughout history were and are devout followers of Jesus Christ and Jehovah God. Their scientific endeavors have verified to them that there IS a God.

I am continually surprised by the number of people who put faith in famous actors, theologians, scientists, and philosophers who disavow faith in Almighty God. We need to wake up. Fame doesn’t grant access to sources of spiritual knowledge that are inaccessible to the rest of mankind.

Some say that we Christians and Jews cannot prove there is a God, and they are correct. By the help of the Holy Spirit and through Scripture we can know Jesus, but we cannot prove to others He is alive or that He is God. Believing in someone or something we Atheist Symbolcannot prove is, by definition, faith.

But hold on now: NOT believing in someone or something without proof is also, by definition, faith. Hawking did not believe in life after death because that includes heaven and hell; which, in turn, requires a belief in a Creator: God. Mr. Hawking had a very strong faith that declared there is no god.

Psalm 14:1-3 describes the condition of those who refuse to believe in God. Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 say that whoever does not believe in God is foolish. I didn’t say that; Scripture did. Also, Proverbs 18:2 informs us that whoever is not interested in gaining [spiritual] understanding is foolish, for they are interested only in expressing their own opinions.

There is no scientific proof for or against life after death; either way it is a matter of faith. And believing that God is either real or a myth are both matters of faith. But there is more to faith in God and Jesus Christ than mere believing.

In the Bible and throughout history many people have spoken of their interaction with God. People have experienced, in powerful, personal ways, strong affirmations of God’s healing, presence, and provision in this world as well as His promises concerning life in the next (Luke 23:43; John 14:1-6; Rev. 21-22). Untold millions of people have studied Biblical claims and extra-Biblical claims; some have returned after dying and have a dynamically different conclusion from Hawking’s. Scripture teaches us about life after death which is called eternal life. Scripture alone is proof for us, but we cannot, in turn, prove it to anyone else. It’s a matter of faith.

Billy Graham could not speak authoritatively on science or the universe, but he was aSatellite Dish giant in the kingdom of God. In like manner, Mr. Hawking has credibility in cosmology and physics because of his work in the field (although I don’t agree with him on several scientific issues); but he has no credibility in the realm of Scripture or spiritual matters.

We all have faith, but the Bible leaves it up to each individual regarding where we will place our faith. Nevertheless, the historical declaration in Scripture is: Jesus Is Alive! There is life after death.

The darkness to which Hawking refers is reserved only for those who reject God. And that statement refers to God as found in the Holy Bible – not some other god. Therefore, examine Scripture, seek the truth, and choose life.

Freedom to Express Our Faith

In 1994 while working at a scientific laboratory, I was told that I needed to remove my Bible from the top of my desk – it was in public view – and to refrain from praying on government property. I asked the question typical of a five-year-old: “Why?” The response was, “This is government property and we need to observe separation of church and state by becoming a religion-free work place.

Now, you may imagine many of the thoughts that raced through my mind. I didn’t want to argue the matter because I was on government time, my supervisor was giving the order, and I desired to honor my authorities. I did, however, realize that this was one side of a double-standard that was aimed against Jews and Christians. So remembering a recent Laboratory-sponsored event, I said:

DSCN0691B“Last week we observed Native American Heritage Week here in the laboratory’s main auditorium. Every day at 8:00 AM and again at 1:00 PM for a total of ten meetings, a different Native American group opened the meeting by reciting their tribal prayer. Now, if the Lab supports or allows the Native Americans to pray to their gods on government property, then I also claim that same privilege of praying to the Judeo-Christian God. And if there are any questions about that, you know my phone number.”

That settled the issue. I was never challenged at the lab again. Amazingly, I was asked to write weekly articles based on good integrity, ethics, and character for our division, and send them out by e-mail. Why? Simply because I lived what I believed; supported my beliefs with the Bible, fact, and recent history; did not condemn or look down on others, and loved people. Did I confront people? Yes. But was I “confrontational?” No. Non-Christians and I do not have to agree with each other, but we all work well together because we do not intimidate each other, and we respect each other. 

A number of years ago while visiting my mother-in-law in a nursing facility, I was speaking with her husband, Charles, about trusting the Lord while knowing that Mom could die soon. A social-worker walking by stopped and rather sternly askedDSCN4637B Charles, “Do you want to listen to this?!”

That took Charles off-guard and he looked at me with a blank face; so I said to the social-worker, “Charles is my step-dad, and he doesn’t have a choice.” It was her turn to be dumb-founded, and she walked away. (Charles and I love each other. He laughed, and we continued our discussion about life with Jesus Christ.)

Zig Ziglar said in an interview with Michael Ireland on March 11, 2006, “The biggest lie Satan has ever told is that ‘it is okay to talk about your faith in church or at home, but otherwise, it is a personal matter.’ The reality is, everyone else has come out of the closet, and Christians need to come out and make it clear where they are coming from. Now, the life that they live will be totally believed if they live as Christ taught us to live. However, if you do not follow the ten commandments, if you do not have the Fruit of the Spirit, if you do not go out in the Full Armor of God, if you do not go out believing that the Golden Rule is a wonderful, working rule in your relationships with all people, then all of the conversations that you will have will fall on deaf ears. What you are speaks louder than what you say.”

 And to that I say a hearty “Amen!

While we, as Christians, are to respect people and obey our authorities, we should stand up for truth and righteousness. No one else will. (Note: We are to obey those in authority over us UNLESS they demand that we disobey God and Holy Scripture.) We are not to be argumentative but freedom of speech applies to all sections of our society. So let’s exercise that freedom. As Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Therefore, the only time we will lose the right to pray or speak openly is when we vote into office ungodly – or fearful – people, then cooperate with them when they attempt to deny us our inalienable/Constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

If we want to retain our freedoms, we must vote into office people who also want us to have those freedoms.

But many in the world live under a different historical and cultural setting. They do not have the freedom of speech or freedom of religion built into their culture. What are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to live?

My answer ultimately applies to everyone living in the United States of IMG_2639America and everywhere else. We are to live according to the principles as found in Holy Scripture – the Bible. My reasoning is simple: if I live to please and honor Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, I will have a home in heaven forever even if I am killed here on earth for my faith. This life is so short anyway – why not prepare to live forever with God in heaven?

That way, I will always have the freedom to express my faith as long as I live. No one can ever take that freedom from me.

Mel & Mary (M & M – a Sweet Couple)

We had the privilege of having lunch yesterday with Mel & Mary Hinz. They are 88 yearsDSCN6647B old, and are friends going back to 1968. Mel, a bi-vocational pastor, and I worked at Boeing in Everett, Washington together in the tooling shop; also called the jig shop. Tools, in this sense, are not hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers. Tooling is a specialized field, and those tools are what the production workers used to actually build the Boeing 747s.

Often on a Saturday, Carol and I would take our kids and visit Mel & Mary. They had 6 or 7 kids and lived south of Seattle in Federal Way. Their children are grown but Mel & Mary still live there.

DSCN0024BWe would have dinner with them, then spend the evening discussing theology, Bible doctrine, church beliefs, personal understandings of Scripture, and a lot more. When we discovered it was two in the morning, they told us to spend the night and ask Carol & me to sing for them in the church service.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m glad you asked.

Those weekends with Mel & Mary made a strong impact in our lives. Where I had beenPICT0184 quite firm in some of my beliefs – church beliefs outranked Bible doctrine at the time – Mel helped me to grow in my understanding of the Bible, and in understanding of Who Jesus really was – and is. Mel always talked about Jesus because Jesus was – and is – the most important Person in his life. Mary comes next.

Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway – Carol & I love Mel & Mary Hinz (M & M – a Sweet DSCN8640BCouple) more than words can say. We are grateful that, in our formative years as a family, they invested valuable time into our lives to help us become who we are today. That is a primary reason that we, in turn, invest time into other’s lives.

Thank you, Mel and Mary, for your friendship andIMG_5089B love for us. But mostly we thank you for your love and devotion to each other and to our heavenly Father; for that is what made you who you are today.

We love you dearly.