Freedom to Express Our Faith

In 1994 while working at a scientific laboratory, I was told to remove my Bible from the top of my desk 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 become a religion-free work-place.

You may imagine some thoughts that raced through my mind. I wouldn’t argue because I was on government time and I desired to honor my authorities. I did, however, realize that this was one side of a double-standard aimed against Christians. So, remembering a recent Laboratory-sponsored event, I said:

“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 their meeting by reciting their tribal prayer. If the Lab supports or allows the Native Americans to pray to their gods on government property, 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. Why? Simply because I lived what I believed; supported my beliefs with fact and laboratory precedent; 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 asked Charles, “Do you want to listen to this?”DSCN4637B

That took Charles off-guard and he was speechless, so, I said to the social-worker, “Charles is my step-dad, and we talk openly and freely together.” It was her turn to be dumb-founded, and she walked away. Mom passed away shortly thereafter, and Charles and I still love each other.

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 Christians are to respect people and obey our authorities, we should stand up for truth and righteousness. No one else will. 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, it is very important to vote into office godly people, then pray for them to stand for truth. Our leaders must retain our historical, inalienable/Constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

But many in the world live under a different historical and cultural setting. They don’t 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?

DSCN2701My answer ultimately applies to everyone in the world – living in the United States of America or anywhere else. We are to live according to the principles as found in Holy Scripture: the Bible. My reasoning is simple: if we live to please and honor Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, we will have a home in heaven forever even if we are killed here on earth for our faith. This life is so short anyway; why not prepare to live forever with God in heaven?

That way, we will have the freedom to express our faith as long as we live. No one can take that freedom from us.

Problems Continue to Infect Us

What I will say today might be equally true for other nations, because many nations have turned away from the ideals of their founding fathers.

America’s convoluted concepts of preferential freedom of speech, inequitable freedom of religion, promotion of inverse morality, approval of re-written history, and the love affair of corrupted, degrading, murderous, and perverted entertainment are accomplishing within the United States of America what the Nazis, Communists, drug-lords, crime mafia, Taliban, Al Qaeda, et al, could not do. That is: degrade, demoralize, and desecrate our nation. Interestingly, our esteemed presidents and the US Congress – both parties – have been helping this to happen. What am I talking about?

For starters, we are told that if guns were banned less people would be murdered. That is foggy thinking because the criminal will steal or keep his own weapons and the mentally sick person will steal his, while the up-standing, law-abiding citizen will obey the law and be left defenseless.

Evil is in the heart and mind of man – not in the pistol, rifle, blow-gun, bow & arrow, poison, knife, rock, baseball bat, chemicals, abortion tools, brass knuckles, or the rest of the endless means of ending a person’s life. Banning implements used for killing people will never solve the problem because evil minds are very creative in forming new ways of killing.

Murder originates in the mind, not in an object. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22,250px-Chimp_Brain_in_a_jar “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Anyone who murders another will be judged.’ But I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged.” (Several of the early Greek copies refer to “angry without a cause.”) The point is: murder does not happen – it is planned.

Also, we’re told we must be tolerant of other worldviews. What they mean by that is: we must deny our Christian worldview in order to show approval of opposing beliefs which want to overturn ours. It is interesting that our own government leaders are blind to what is taking place. This is absurd, because it is our heritage that created the very environment that allows the freedom for those people to try to shut us down.

Please think this through: When people didn’t like what was happening in Communist countries, they left if they could. Many were killed trying to leave. Millions who stayed were killed. When people didn’t like what was happening in Nazi Germany, they left if they could. Many were killed trying to leave. Millions who stayed were killed. And when the people did escape, they went to where they would be free.

Please listen: If those who would subvert our American heritage are successful, they would lose the freedoms they presently enjoy. Why don’t they just relocate to where their worldviews are already being propagated and experienced?

The answer: It isn’t their purpose to experience freedom. It is their purpose to subvert the United States of America.

Yoga, transcendental meditation, visualization, and a host of other New Age or Eastern forms of religion are taught in European and American schools under the guise of helping us become better people. And those systems or methods are parts of or extensions of religions. Yet teaching the basic religion on which our nation was founded – Christianity – is outlawed. That is insane. Or outright evil.

We do need to respect others. However, people have been voted into political offices whose purpose is to reduce the impact and effectiveness of Christianity and our form of government. And because America has agreed to the mindless absurdity that teaching Christian values tends to warp the minds of children and tends to be intolerant of other’s beliefs, we set Christianity aside. And instead of teaching the values which have made us a healthy and prosperous nation, we allow intolerant people to dominate us – in the name of tolerance, of course.HW

We allow Hollywood to brainwash us, propagandize us, and coach their celebrities to take the lead in fighting against truth and against good moral values. We, who have created a nation where even our enemies have the freedom of speech, are sinking to the depths of depriving our own citizens of our own freedoms. We have become blind to those who would deny us the rights secured by our own Constitution and Amendments.

The only hope for our nation is to prayerfully return to our historic roots: reverence for and worship of Almighty God, and respect for truth. The only hope for people world-wide is the same.

There is no proper way to end this Reflection because the problems continue to infect us. So I’ll just say: See you next time on a different topic.

Singing Benefits Breathing

Have you been coughing or sneezing lately? Allergies take a toll on us, but a worse Polluted Airproblem involves difficulty in breathing. Several causes are asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, and a big title called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, or COPD. You have probably seen the advertisements for numerous medications.

I’ve found four common causes of COPD. 1) Cigarette smoke is by far the most common reason people get COPD. But cigar and pipe smoke are also guilty. Secondhand smoke is considered a fifth cause, but it is still tobacco smoke. Therefore, I lump it in with the first cause. 2) Breathing chemical fumes, dust, contaminated city air, or toxic substances can cause COPD. 3) We read that about 3% of people with COPD are genetically inclined in their DNA: the code that tells your body how to work properly. This is called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, or ATT deficiency. The affected lungs lack a certain protein needed to protect them from damage which can lead to severe COPD. 4) Least common, asthma can also lead to COPD. If you don’t get medical treatment for asthma soon enough, it can eventually cause lifetime lung damage.

People with damaged or diseased lungs tend to take rapid and shallow breaths, but doctors tell us that this aggravates the problem. Instead: longer, slower, deeper breathing is more soothing, helps clear the lungs, and promotes relaxation; all of which retards lung tissue deterioration.

There are many treatments for breathing disorders and I don’t disparage any of them. However, there is a little-known treatment that costs nothing. It is called: SINGING. Okay, I like to sing. But read on.

I read the following in a health report: “In a third-floor room of a London hospital…a dozen people gathered to perform vocal exercises and sing songs. While the participants were drawn to the session by a fondness for music, they also had an ulterior motive for singing: to cope better with lung disease. The weekly group is led by a professional musician and is offered to people with respiratory problems including asthma, emphysema, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. Doctors at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital started the program after reasoning that the kind of breathing used by singers might also help lung patients.”

Those of us who sing a lot, especially in choirs, know that singing requires better posture and teaches us to manage our breathing. Dr. Hopkinson said, “In a study comparing patients who went to the singing class versus those who attended a film discussion group, only the patients who sang reported feeling physically better afterwards, even if it couldn’t be measured objectively. Other experts agreed the singing therapy was an unusual but worthy approach.”

Dr. Norman Edelman, former chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, said, “Controlled breathing, like the kind you might learn in singing, is very important because people with COPD should try to take deep breaths and slowly synchronize each breath when they’re doing something like walking up stairs.”

Would singing help everyone with lung deficiencies? I don’t know, and many people don’t like to sing. Also, although they know that slow, deep breathing does help, many folks don’t remember to do their breathing exercises. But if they got into the habit of singing, the exercises would become routine. However, those with severe lung problems will find it difficult to sing.

I am not encouraging you to stop taking medication; I am merely encouraging you to add something that doesn’t cost anything. Additionally, singing is beneficial spiritually and emotionally. Psalm 9:1-2 says, “I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart. I will tell all the miracles You have done. I will be happy because of You; God Most High, I will sing praises to Your name.” and Proverbs 17:22 says, “A happy heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength.”

Many people in their 70s and 80s have agreed that singing helped them breathe easier. Diagnosed with severe emphysema in 2002, a man named John Cameron Turner said he tried various medicines with not much relief. He said, “I have damaged lungs, but singing helps me use as much of them as possible.”

So I encourage you to sing joyful songs with a wholesome message. You can even hum happy tunes. You have nothing to lose and much to gain.

Are You a Practicing Atheist?

A vast majority of you will say “No, I’m not an atheist,” while some will say “Yes, I am.” But why would I ask that question? Back to that in a minute.

Atheism has been defined as a lack of belief in God, a total denial of His existence, Atheist Symboland variations of the theme in between.  The word atheism comes from the Greek negative article “a” which means “no,” and “theos” which means “god.” Therefore, atheism is the belief that there is no god. Did you catch that? A belief that there is no God. On the other hand, many of us believe that there is a God, He is knowable, He loves us, and is involved with mankind.

The polytheistic Romans in Jesus’ day, who believed in hundreds of gods, accused Christians of being atheists simply because Christians believed ONLY in the HolyDSCN0464 Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); while the Jews accused Christians of polytheism BECAUSE they believed in the Holy Trinity. The accusations depended on the point of reference. But that’s a story for another time. (This cross is on Mount Helix in San Diego County, just four miles from where I grew up.)

Many atheists probably don’t consider themselves anti-theists, but non-theists. Many are good, ethical, moral citizens, and strong Americans; and most atheists claim that atheism is not a belief system or a religion. But I call atheism a religion. Why?

In the atheist’s belief system: there is no God; nothing formed itself into a well-organized, majestic universe; organic life evolved from rocks; man evolved from … who knows?; there is no life after death; belief in God is wrong; and so on. But all of that is a matter of faith, and that is religion. Simply put: the atheist’s non-belief system is, by definition, a belief system. Biologist George Klein wrote: “I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith. The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God, is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.”

Many strong atheists are often aggressive in their conversations with theists and try to shoot holes in theistic beliefs. (And, sadly, many Christians are equally argumentative.) Atheists like to use logic and anti-biblical “evidences” to denounce God’s existence. However, I’ve had many interesting discussions with scientific atheists in the past, and most of them are still my friends because we didn’t hammer, degrade, insult, or malign each other. Rather, we expressed our beliefs – yes, religious beliefs – and allowed each other freedom of religion, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression.

Remember, we cannot change anyone’s mind. We must, as simply or as complex as the situation requires, present our beliefs and convictions to them and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their heart and mind.

Question MarkBut now I have several questions for you: If you are a Christian, are you a practicing atheist? Keep reading.

1.       Do you effectively deny God by your lifestyle: your language, actions, thoughts, motivations, work ethics, choice of humor, the places you go, what you watch at the theaters, on computer, or on television?

2.      When someone begins to bad-mouth God or another person, do you just sit by? Or worse, do you join in the negative conversation?

3.      If you attend church, do you attend for social purposes, out of obligation, or for business contacts?

4.     Without being abrasive or overbearing, do you openly proclaim Christ to the world, or do you hide your Christian faith in the social shadows?

5.      Would some folk be surprised if you told them you are a Christian?

A “yes” answer shows you are effectively denying God: being a practicing atheist. But if you claim to be a Christian, I want you to think about your relationship with God. Do you truly desire to live for God? I am not encouraging you to cram your religion down someone’s throat; that would be wrong. But we do need to openly, definitively “let our light shine” for the Lord – if indeed we are Christians. 

Matthew 10:32-33 says, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I willBible.docx also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Let’s not try to intimidate others, but let’s allow them to experience truth and life through our lives. Let’s give them a glimpse of Christ by the way we live.

Insufficient Power

In November of 2012, Carol and I were in Dulce (pronounced:  Dool-say), a small town on the Jicarilla (Hickareeya) Apache reservation in Northern New Mexico. On Friday afternoon, Carol was preparing lunch and I was preparing a sermon; but my computer was having difficulty conducting simple operations.
Then it informed me that the battery was exhausted and would shut down in ten minutes. It had been plugged in all day, so how could it be that tired?  Thinking that a restart might wake it up, I decided to shut it down manually; but I first saved my work and printed my sermon notes. Good decision! An unhappy surprise was awaiting me.

Upon restart, an information box appeared. It told me that the computer requires a 130-watt power supply to operate, but that I was using an insufficient 65-watt supply. I remember buying this travel transformer when I bought the computer, so how could it be the wrong one? Then the dreaded order appeared: “Restart using a 130-watt power supply.” Guess what? I had left my primary power supply at home 854 miles away.

I took the fussy computer – and the insufficient power supply – fifty-three miles to a computer shop in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. During the interrogation, it slowly dawned on me: the 65-watt transformer came with my previous computer! When I upgraded to my Dell Precision M6300, I didn’t think of purchasing an updated travel power supply, and had not needed a backup power supply again until this trip.

I had two options: either go home to retrieve the primary power supply, or … no. Driving a round trip of 1,708 miles in eighteen hours was impractical. Even if I could average 95.44 mph for the entire trip, the police wouldn’t approve. I had only one, real option: buy another one!

The store manager said she could have a new power supply in two weeks and my machine would be down-n-out until then. But after making an emotional appeal – and paying an extra $20 – the 130-watt power supply arrived in only five days. “Live and Learn” is what they say. But I was happy that I had printed my sermon notes!

Do you realize that we humans sometimes develop the same problem of exhausting our batteries? We often find ourselves with insufficient power to finish the job at hand. Sometimes we even start a job without the appropriate power. Perhaps we are either not plugged in, or maybe we are plugged into an improper power supply. Attempting to operate on low or inappropriate power often works for a while, but living that way can eventually generate a nasty little condition called burnout. Or even Failure!

There are various reasons for exhaustion or lack of power, but a major principle that my friend (Tom Whittlesey) and I learned decades ago addresses many of them. A simplified version is: “God’s work, done in God’s time, done God’s way, will never lack God’s provision.” Let’s break it down for easy understanding.

  1. A pastor in New Mexico decided to tear down a historic church edifice and build a modern one. He presented the idea to the church body and it was voted down. Nevertheless, he persuaded the board to approve it. He then overcame numerous roadblocks, and arduously accomplished the project. Half the people left the church, and the other half was saddled with an almost bankrupting million-dollar debt. The pastor had his monument but his anticipated feeling of accomplishment and elation never materialized. It wasn’t God’s work; and demoralized, he resigned within a year.
  2. William Booth was a pastor/evangelist with the Methodist Connexion in England. Ministering to thousands every week, he was stopped one day by a beggar who said, “Mr. Booth, if I believed what you say you believe, I’d do something about it.” During the next few weeks, Booth began to realize that it was God’s time to start a different kind of ministry. He resigned from the pastorate and in 1865 started what became the Salvation Army. It was God’s time.
  3. 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 myriads of problems that surrounded him. Depressed, he finally went for counsel.

The doctor said, “George, you’re going to ruin your health with worry unless you back off. You must turn all your worries over to God, and learn to trust your staff.”

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 later, “God accepted my resignation!” Within days his strength returned and he could think more clearly. And within a few months the YMCA operation improved dramatically. He learned to do things God’s way.

  1. God rewards and blesses those who cooperate with Him to the best of their abilities.

Living this way, we can experience a fulfilled, balanced life. We’ll get sufficient rest, eat properly, see life more clearly, and our batteries won’t run down.

God’s work, done in God’s time, done God’s way, will never lack God’s provision.

Hot Air Balloons

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

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

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

From an historical news clip, we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guided by GPS

navigation-system-147970I’ll never forget the first time I asked to be guided by a GPS gizmo. Ron, our oldest son, and his family were with Carol and me as we were traveling. It was night time, and we were looking for the motel. Ron said, “I’ll look it up on my cell phone.” That was a bother for my wife who had been my navigator all of our married life.

Carol said, “I can find it on the map like I’ve always done.” But I wanted to try out a new scientific gadget for the first time.

“Okay, Ron-ole-boy; find the motel.” So he programmed in the address, and we drove up to the side gate of an army base. As I turned the car around, Carol said, “I can find the right street by using the map.” But I wanted to try the GPS.

Ron reprogrammed and we drove around town, only to find a different gate to that army base. By this time Carol was a little irritated.

Ron reprogrammed once more, and we found the main gate … to that same army base. So I drove up to the soldier and asked him for assistance. He directed us to a 7-11 store. There, the clerk informed us that there were four (yes: 4) streets in town with that name, and the primary street was on the army base.

Have you ever been stabbed with a visual “I Told You So!”? Carol found that motel for us, but the “weather” remained cool for a while. (She forgave me the next day.)

GPS programming improved dramatically in the ensuing decade, and it seems that a great many folk have a GPS unit of some sort. I heard on the news that presently, there may be 10 billion cell phones with GPS apps installed. But what is GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system consisting ofearth a network of at least 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS was originally intended for military applications, but in the 1980s, the government made the system available for civilian use.

These satellites circle the earth twice a day transmitting signals to earth. Receivers triangulate this information to calculate our precise location. The more satellites that are involved, the more accurate the results, and GPS units today are very accurate. Carol even likes using them now.

It’s fun watching the little blue dot (we call it the Blue Bug) moving across the screen of the cell phone as we drive across country. Carol often says, “The Blue Bug is staying with us.” But at times she will say, “The Bug is getting lost.” That’s when I make a correction and get back on the right street.

However, since the GPS units know our location, they also know our altitude. They enable precise operation for our interactive maps and our compass apps. The little gizmo can tell us where the restaurants, motels, and gas stations are, and can even tell us the temperature outside – all within seconds.

When we take pictures with our cell phones, the built-in GPS units record when and where they were taken. And when we cross a time zone, Carol and I always have a contest: whose phone changes time first?

Some folk worry that these technological advancements are a way for the government to keep track of us. That is correct. But they are also a great help to us. Many vehicles are equipped with OnStar which has helped a great many folk. OnStar located my car several years ago after it had been stolen.

But another GPS is available to those of us who honor Almighty God. I call this GPS “God’s Protective Service”.

Bible.docxAs I live by Godly principles that are found in the Bible, as I live for the Lord, as I as I honor God in every way that I know how, the Holy Spirit guides me. He knows where I am every second of the day, and knows what kind of difficulties I am facing. He sees what lies ahead of me, and gives me precise directions. If I am about to make a wrong decision, God sends a signal to get me back on track – if I’m listening.

Have fun with the GPS gizmos; but tune in to Almighty God for both temporal and eternal directions.

Forgive, and … What?

I overheard Clarence give the following advice to a mutual friend in Tulsa, “Forgive and forget, then forget what you forgave – otherwise you have not forgiven.” (A colleague had lied to the boss about Richard’s ability to do the job.) Later I told Clarence, “If the Bible says that, I will believe it.” Within a day or so he came up with the following verses:

Isaiah 43:25 – “I, I am the One who forgives all your sins, for my sake; I will not remember your sins.

Psalm 25:7 – Do not remember the sins and wrong things I did when I was young. But remember to love me always because you are good, Lord.

Hebrews 8:12 – I will forgive them for the wicked things they did, and I will not remember their sins anymore.

However, according to my studies, they did not verify Clarence’s statement, so the discussion turned to God’s character and the word “remember” in these verses. Agreeing that God is perfectIMG_1799B in every way, which includes His memory, Clarence asked if God can choose to forget. I suggested that we not confuse the issue, but stick to what the Bible says.

The word “remember” means “to be mindful or cognizant of” and “to hold in continual remembrance.” So, if God “remembers my sin no more” it means, based on my repentance, God forgives me and does not keep thinking about my error. Another way of saying it is: He does not hold that sin against me. I’ve been pardoned.

We then moved to the word “forgive.”

 “To forgive” means “to remove the blemish on the record resulting from the wrongdoing” or “to pardon.” The act of forgiving does not erase the offense or the event in real time because we cannot erase the past; but it is focused on purging the legal record related to the offense.

When President Obama pardoned seventeen people, he “… granted these individuals clemency because they have demonstrated genuine remorse and a strong commitment to being law-abiding, productive citizens and active members of their communities.” Obama did not eradicate what they did, but removed legal liability. That’s what God does for us, and is what we are supposed to do for those who offend us. The offense or event in real time is not erased, but the judicial verdict or sentence related to the event is expunged from our record.

When we allow the Lord to heal us from hurts caused by others, the memory of the offense may actually become clearer and the details of the offense take on sharper focus; yet the pain will be substantially lessened – and possibly erased. Nevertheless, although the offense often IS forgotten, forgiving does not necessarily include forgetting.

Forgiveness is a decision based on our attitude towards God and relationship with Him. One woman in California fabricated a rumor about someone she was jealous of in church. With the intent of damaging the woman’s reputation, the rumor made its predictable circuit and grew substantially in the process. Not yet knowing the outcome of the rumor, the perpetrator’s conscience began to bother her so she went to her victim, confessed, and asked to be forgiven.

The victim said, “I will forgive you, but first let me tell you what you did.” As she recounted the repercussions (which included the breakup of her marriage) of the rumor, both women were deeply sobbing with their arms around each other and the two women became life-long friends.

Personal forgiveness does not always set people free from legal mandates or from physical consequences on the human level. For these two women, repentance was deep, forgiveness was genuine, reconciliation was complete, but the memory remained for life.

In the later 1960s a man in Southern California was arrested for murder. The family of the victim showed up in court and in Christian love truthfully told the judge, “We forgive this man and would like to set him free.”DSCN5212

The presiding judge wisely said, “It is good for you to forgive him, and both God and I honor you for it. Your forgiveness clears the record between you and God. However, this man has also offended the United States of America and justice must be dispensed.”

dscn0464[1]Forgiveness is not about letting the offender off the hook, but returning the right to dispense justice back to God and to the appropriate human authorities. Forgiving others, and asking to be forgiven when we err, keeps our consciences clear.

Clarence and I cleared up the allegations about Richard’s abilities, and the slander backfired on the perpetrator. But the memories remain; so along with the Apostle Paul, we are to humbly forgive others, and use those memories as stepping stones for personal and spiritual growth.

What Does it Take ….?

I’m sure you’ve heard the question many times: What does it take to be a good leader? Of course, the answer depends on who is responding to the question.

Two major concepts are: a leader is born; and training produces a leader. Government and many large organizations lean toward the latter: proper training makes a good leader. And if someone fails, just retrain him or refresh his training. If he fails big-time, replace him and start over.

The late Dr. Lem Boyles, Col. ChC. USAF (Ret.) said in his book, Leadership: The Minister’sIMG_1819 Responsibility, “The need for well-trained, highly qualified leaders in the Christian realm is one of the most critical problems we face in the church today.” I agree, and that also applies to the secular world. Without well-trained leaders, our churches and organizations are faltering. But Dr. Boyles taught that training alone is not sufficient. True leadership entails more than just filling a vocational slot: true leadership involves a higher calling.

So, what does it take to be a good leader? I have an interesting book by Hans Finzel titled The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make. In other books we find many formulas and lists of qualities such as: “10 Keys to Successful Leadership” (different sets of ten by Sonya Shelton, Jill Geisler, Jonas Clark, and others). There are other sets of three, five, seven, twelve, and more. Various writers call out attributes such as emotional intelligence, influence, or authority as the key. But although those qualities are involved in leadership, they fall far short of being the keys.

John Marks Templeton stated a good point in his book Discovering the Laws of Life, “Someone who possesses good leadership abilities can accomplish much more [by leading] than one who pushes.” A leader is not one who stays in the background pushing for his agenda, but is out in front leading by example. Pushing people is similar to herding cats–it doesn’t work.

PrinciplesIn his book, Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey said, “…we often attempt to short-cut natural processes–substituting expediency for priority, imitation for innovation, cosmetics for character, style for substance, and pretense for competence.” Although they might not realize it, this is designed failure by incompetent leaders.

Covey stressed that true leadership is practiced or manifested “from the inside out.” Ruth Simmons, 18th president of Brown University, emphasized “There is no formula for inner work. Leadership is a habit of mind.”

Covey and Simmons point us to the true person: the core of our being: character, integrity. Character is involved in every aspect of our lives. Poor character is based on a façade of some sort, but good character is based on a foundation of truth. And good character is built into our lives by habitually choosing proper responses in every situation. As living and working safely is a result of good habits, so is good character.

So, what does it take? It takes a person of Godly character; one who listens to counsel but is not swayed by pressure. It takes a person who has committed to live by a high moral standard no matter what the circumstances are. Whether one is to be a leader in church, scouting, military, local or national politics, school, or business, the multiple and diversified qualities that are required can be boiled down to one word: Character. Make that two words: Good Character. Good leadership is character-based leadership.

So, what is good character based on? Humanism? No, that includes relativism. Reliable or trustworthy character can never be based on a “whatever is right for you” philosophy. That denies leadership. Is good character based on “all religions lead to the same destiny”? No. Various religions contradict each other; and some religions mandate killing people. That generates confusion and results in tyranny.

The bottom line is: Good character, integrity, is based on God’s law. And JesusCross summarized the law in His statements in Matthew 22:37-39; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This is the foundation for good character and sound leadership.

Do you desire a leadership position? Establish your relationship with God and ask Him to guide you. Establish a wholesome relationship with people. Take proper training. Excel in your vocation. Don’t push people. And when the opportunity arises, humbly accept the responsibility and remain accountable to others.

Slow Down and Live

Some years ago, I was sitting at my typewriter – actually at my computer – looking out the window. It was cold with a light breeze blowing. The clouds, which are usually water vapor, looked more like swirling snow ready to grace our countryside. My snow shovel was ready, my boots were at the door, and Carol could have hot coffee or hot chocolate ready within five minutes if I needed to leave my comfort zone to clear the sidewalk and driveway.

We lived in a community of 3,000 people in the hills of northern New Mexico at 7,825 feet above sea level. (For comparison, Albuquerque, NM is about 5,000 feet in altitude.)  

A winter storm would often drop two to three feet of snow at a time, sometimes up to five feet,PICT0181 and we would be temporarily locked in the house. That was great for the skiers, and it made the landscape look more beautiful than words can tell. And if there was no wind while the snow was falling, the big fluffy snowflakes absorbed all the background noise which created a living Winter Rockwell Painting. Beautiful!

If the snow was less than two feet deep, my 4-wheel drive vehicle with good tires would get me anywhere I wanted to go. But if it was deeper than two feet, we just stayed home. Carol would get out the coffee or hot chocolate; maybe bake several dozen cookies. We would start a fire in the fireplace, make sure the cat and dogs were warm if they weren’t playfully romping out the in the field; and Carol and I would do what we enjoyed doing best: Spend Time With Each Other.

With our schedules jammed and our lives so full of activity, being snowed-in gave us time to tell each other what we meant to say several days or weeks previously. We had time to actually LISTEN to each other.

PICT1265With critters in front of the fireplace, a table nearby with a puzzle or a scrabble game on it, steam rising from two cups of hot chocolate or coffee, a big window across the room with snow gently falling outside–we have another Rockwell Painting. Periodically I would go out and clear the walks and uncover the car before the snow got too deep.

Carol and I understand the value, and the need, to spend time together; so at times we still declare a “snow-day” and stay home. Years ago, we decided to slow down and live. Slowing down can actually make our lives fuller and richer. Not fuller with more things to do or richer with more money in the bank; but fuller and richer with what really counts in life.

Since we don’t have a guarantee that we will be alive on earth tomorrow, why not invest our time and our lives into people now? After all, material possessions can give satisfaction for a little while, but healthy, wholesome interaction with family and friends can last a lifetime–and beyond.

It’s called making memories together, and it’s more enjoyable than watching a football game.

When family members or friends that we love leave this life, we will miss them. We will be sad, and tears can flow. But if we invest our lives into them while they are here, we will have those memories to hold on to, and those memories will help sustain us in our sorrow.

More importantly, we should invest our time studying the Bible and learning to know Jesus. First Thessalonians 4:13-14, which applies to those who live for the Lord, says “But we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. (NRSV)” What a promise! Therefore, even in sorrow we can experience joy.PICT0192B

Well, it didn’t snow that day, but my boots and the shovel were ready just in case it did. 

Oh, Carol just told me that lunch is ready. I think I’ll turn off the computer and spend time with her. Maybe we’ll play scrabble. We like that game. As of this writing, we are tied at 368 wins.