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.

Is Evolution a Religion?

All the talk about Darwinian evolution, punctuated evolution, punctuated equilibria, natural selection, convergent evolution, co-evolution, adaptive radiation, mutation, genetic drift, theistic evolution, intelligent design, Biblical creation, etc., can be confusing! In the midst of this confusion, I’ll attempt to take some mud out of the water.

First, we must understand that not all those who believe in evolution agree with Charles Darwin and not all those who believe in creation are Christians, for there are variations of each concept. Here are several important definitions:

  1. Hypothesis – a conjecture; an unsubstantiated idea. Everyone has many.
  2. Theory – an hypothesis with some substantiation, but not yet proven. Everyone has several.
  3. Fact – something that has been proven. Hopefully we all know at least one.
  4. Religion – a) a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or groups; b) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

Side-stepping the Bible, Darwin was trying to understand the common ancestor of life which might point to the origin of life, and many modern scientists are looking for the unifying force that ties the universe together – whatever that means. Both correctly share the idea that there must be one original spark of life – somewhere – from some place.

Some hypothesize that we may have been seeded or planted by civilizations from other solar systems or galaxies, while others go straight to the hypothetical Big Bang. But neither hypothesis provides a plausible answer.

Does it surprise you that many of the strongest supporters of evolution are atheists? The March 9, 1907 edition of the New York Times refers to Ernst Haeckel as the “celebrated Darwinian, and founder of the Association for the Propagation of Ethical Atheism.” Conversely, a study was conducted in 2011 which revealed that many high school biology teachers were reluctant to endorse evolution in class. Rather, they are encouraging the students to employ critical-thinking skills when considering life and its beginnings.

The reason? The concept of evolution is actually an hypothesis; but many misguided people call it a theory and teach it as fact. That is not science. It is actually faith, which places it in the field of religion.

Consider these facts:

  • Organic life requires the simultaneous (emphasis on simultaneous) presence of three highly complex, coded macromolecules – RNA (Ribonucleic acid), DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), and proteins. Proteins consist of amino acids. I read that the protein hormone insulin has fifty-one amino acids; and using those 51 acids there are more than ten trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion different possible sequences. That’s just for insulin. (For comparison, the human body has somewhere around 75-140 trillion cells.)
  • According to the basic evolutionary concept, all organic life originated from dissolved rocks: a rich soup of dissolved minerals. But without the direct intervention of the divine Creator, God, it is absolutely impossible for organic life to evolve from dissolved rocks. Also, a portion of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy) reveals that nature does not become more complex, but degrades with time.
  • The first law of thermodynamics informs us that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. It can change shape, form, or state, but matter cannot be made out of nothing or annihilated into nothing. That cancels any Big Bang hypothesis. Therefore, logically and scientifically, the mere presence of matter is a miracle and requires a Creator who resides outside time and space. That takes us back to the Bible and a Creator: God.
  • John 1:1-2 says; “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” And verse fourteen informs us, “The Word became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt among us.” So it was Jesus Who was actively involved in creating everything.
  • To believe that something can be made out of nothing is either absurd, or faith. Either way is not scientific, and the concept of evolution takes its place among the many religions of the world.

Accepting a Creator also requires faith, but it isn’t blind faith. Consider this: Timex watches and space shuttles don’t just happen; they require dreamers, planners, engineers, builders, and more. When we study the intricacies of the simple one-cell amoeba or massive 200-billion-star galaxies, it is obvious that there was a dreamer, planner, engineer, and builder. The classic Big Bang hypothesis and humanistic evolution make intriguing science fiction, but do not stand the test of time. Rather they are diversions which turn us away from truth: from Almighty God who created us, and from Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us.

God – not limited by man’s imagination – created the laws of physics then created matter and arranged matter into various forms. It is fascinating, and almost beyond the comprehension of mortal man. Religions that accept spontaneous materialization without a Creator and gods creating themselves, are blind religions based on human imagination; but Judeo-Christianity is a revealed religion based on nature and Scripture.

Origin, Meaning, Morality, Destiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Constitutes “Wickedness”?

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


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

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

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

But hear two other pertinent thoughts:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passover

This year, 2019, Passover begins at sunset on April 19, and ends at sunset on the 27th.

I know most calendars mention Easter but I prefer to call the event by the correct historical term: Pascha, derived from Pesach: which is Passover.

The eight-day festival is a celebration which dates back roughly to 1450 BC when the Israelites were set free in Egypt and left in that famous mass-exodus. And by following the customs or traditions of Passover, the Jewish church has the ability to relive and experience the freedom that their ancestors gained.

But as you read through Scripture, you find that the Passover, in which innocent lambsDSCN4172 were sacrificed, foreshadowed the crucifixion of Jesus; for Jesus, the Christ, was ultimately the true innocent Passover Lamb – not just for one nation, but for the world. Let’s briefly recap the history that led to the Passover Celebration.

Ten of Jacob’s sons were jealous of young Joseph because Jacob had given Joseph the coat of many colors – the robe of authority denoting family leadership. Eight of the brothers sold Joseph to a trade caravan and Joseph was taken to Egypt.

Rising in authority in Potiphar’s household, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison – probably under Potiphar’s jurisdiction. Joseph interpreted dreams and was taken to the reigning Pharaoh – probably of the Hyksos people who were not native to Africa.

After Joseph died, the native Africans (probably Cushites and Nubians) defeated the Hyksos and regained control of Egypt. But because the descendants of Jacob ethnically resembled the Hyksos, the Egyptians thought the Israelites would rise up and fight for the Hyksos. Therefore, the “Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” ordered them enslaved.

Eventually, Moses was born, placed in the Nile, rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised in the Egyptian court. He was schooled in every phase of Egyptian aristocracy, could speak several languages, and traveled throughout the kingdom.

However, although becoming a general in the Egyptian army, Moses never forgot his roots and killed an Egyptian task-master who was brutalizing an Israeli. But killing an Egyptian officer without the Pharaoh’s permission was a capital offence – even for the esteemed Moses – and he fled for his life.

PICT0061Deprived of his royal background, he became a lowly shepherd for forty years; but God never abandoned Moses, and commissioned him to return to Egypt to be the human element in setting the Israelis free.

It was understandable why the Pharaoh refused to free his subjects: by now, economics prevailed. So God began to apply leverage to force Pharaoh’s hand. The last straw was the tenth plague. God set the day when this would take place.

God gave Moses specific instructions about how to prepare the last meal in Egypt, for each item and its preparatory procedure would reflect, in some way or other, on the death of the final Sacrificial Lamb. So Moses gave the order to put blood on three places outside the door, and eat the meal with their traveling clothes on. After the meal, they would head out.

The tenth plague that Egypt experienced was death of the first-born male. Cows, mules, and horses also suffered this fate. The term passover derives from pesach which essentially means to pass over something; and in the Land of Egypt, the death angel passed over the houses which had the blood applied to the doorposts. The people who were covered with the blood of the lamb were spared.

Pharaoh’s son died, so Pharaoh finally submitted to Moses, allowing Moses to lead the people out of bondage and into freedom. (Many tumultuous years were in store for the Israelis, but that’s another story.)

In Israeli history, Moses became their servant-ruler, which reflects on our Savior, our Redeemer.

The Temple Sacrifice was instituted to reveal the severity of sin (disobeying God), and also pointed to the final Sacrifice – Jesus, the Messiah.

But there is a significant difference between the traditional sacrificial lambs and our final Sacrificial Lamb. Where the yearly lamb died to gain forgiveness of sin for a year, Jesus died and raised from the dead to grant us forgiveness forever, and inherit eternal life.

dscn0185[1]Passover is a picture of the sinless Lamb of God – Jesus – Who suffered the penalty of sin for us (death), raised Himself back to life, and set us free. All we need to do is to accept Jesus into our lives, ask Him to forgive us for our self-centered lifestyle, then purposely live for Him. We will be covered with the blood of the Lamb and forgiven.

Passover points to Calvary.

Next time we’ll get a glimpse of happened during that famous Passover Week leading to Jesus crucifixion.

Postmodernism

Have you thought about postmodernism lately? Do you know what it is? Let’s take a look.

One report says, “Postmodernism assumes that ‘truth’ is based on an individual’s ownQuestion Mark personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything.”

Another report says: “Postmodernism denies the existence of ultimate principles or absolutes, and rejects scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain objective reality.”

But philosopher Richard Tarnas presents the built-in paradox: “Post-modernism cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the post-modern mind has defined itself.”

Therefore, postmodernism is inherently self-conflicting.

Here are three terms with brief explanations:

1)                Pre-modernism: Ruled by authority. The individual is governed by objective reality and tradition; such as a world-view based on Bible consciousness.

2)                Modernism: The humanistic rejection of tradition and authority in favor of reason and science; such as natural or Darwinian evolution. This is based on viewing the autonomous individual as the sole source of personal meaning and truth. There are no absolutes.

3)                Post-modernism: A rejection of the self-determining individual with an emphasis upon the collective experience; such as the dissolution of distinctions, the merging of subject and object, self and other.

Postmodernists reject objective truth – perhaps best exemplified by French philosopher René Descartes’s famous statement: “I think, therefore I am”. My Biblical response to Descartes is: I am, therefore I think.

The postmodernist distorts reality and attempts to destroy the foundation of truth in order to justify his own reality – that means, he is attempting to justify his own lifestyle. For example, we read: “The term ‘justice’ means many different things to the post-modernist, depending on the positions of the members of the discussion. Outside any DSC02812.Bdiscussion of ‘justice’, there is no meaning which we can find. The concept of ‘justice’ exists only as long as we negotiate its meaning between ourselves in our society.” And that makes as much sense as me trying to push around a 300-pound gorilla!

No wonder our judicial system is in a quagmire today. They cannot identify truth. Here are several examples of postmodern confusion. The courts and lawyers do not argue for objective truth. The battle is over who can win the courtroom debate. That is a great loss for the United States of America.

  1. The concept of right and wrong has no foundation or meaning except what the individual decides – and that varies day-by-day. Many of our judges, congressmen and women, and scientists don’t know who or what the human race is. Upon launching a space probe searching for extra-terrestrial life, Carl Sagan said: “When we know who THEY are, we’ll know who WE are.” Evolution tells us that human life is an eventual product of a chance electrical discharge in the carbon-rich primordial soup millions of years ago. But the Bible tells us we are created by God; made in His image.
  2. Although our medical profession endorses pre-natal care, they don’t know or acknowledge when life begins; and some people feel free to murder these humans for whom they prescribe pre-natal care.
  3. Although A) the Bible clearly defines marriage as a union between man and woman, B) it’s obvious that the human race cannot continue without the interaction of man and woman, and C) we have proof that the family with a mother and father provide for the best chance of healthy children, postmodernists deny it all in a futile effort to deny God.

When I asked several postmodernists if it was okay to murder someone, they said, “No! That is wrong!” I asked, “On what basis?” They wouldn’t answer because the answer required a standard of right and wrong – a standard of truth that they rejected.

The world without the Bible is lost in a white-out of deception. They are in a spiritual and intellectual vacuum where truth has been sucked out. They are in a spiritual and mental vertigo without any instruments to tell them which way is up or down, left and right.

But the esteemed apologist, Dr. Ravi Zacharias presented reality when he asked: “How can something that has been current for so long be ‘post’?” He meant, How can the BibleBible and objective truth, which has been our proven standard for life for so long, now be wrong? Without a solid foundation in God and the Bible, life is hopeless, worthless, meaningless. That’s why there are so many suicides, murders, drug usage and overdoses: life is void without faith in a caring, loving God.

But Jesus Christ lived, died, and raised from the dead to offer us eternal life. That is truth you can base your life on. Choose life – and live!

Your Reality – My Reality

Critical Thinking 2“Your reality may be good for you, but I have my own reality.” Have you ever heard that? Have you ever said that?

Statements like that have made the rounds for decades, if not centuries; but the question is: Do we have our own realities? I think the answer is a qualified “yes.” Hold on now, and let me explain. My reasoning is simple: we all perceive, feel, and think differently. I experience things and situations differently than you do.

What is real to me (what is understandable, comprehensible, vivid, important, beautiful, unpleasant, detestable, etc.) may not be real to you. You may not have seen someone die, I have. Your favorite color may be yellow, mine is blue. You may enjoy the mountains while I enjoy the oceans. You might be moved by country-western and rock music while I listen to church hymns and John Philip Sousa marches. You may study art, music, and eating habits, while I study the Bible, science and history. What strongly impacts your emotions or mind may not appeal to me. And, of course, you and I have different family backgrounds, personal histories, and possibly different religious beliefs. Even my siblings (I am one of ten children) and I view life differently.

However, although you and I may have different realities in a temporal or philosophical sense, we must not confuse these differences with absolute reality or absolute truth. I remember when a philosophy instructor exclaimed, “There are no absolutes!” One student asked, “Is that absolutely correct?” How should the professor respond? Either “yes” or “no” would invalidate his primary statement. So rather than try to unsuccessfully pry himself out of that predicament, the professor merely changed the subject. The Prof didn’t realize that absolutes, or absolute laws, govern the universe, and that his statement was self-contradictory.

Normally when a person states, “I have my own reality,” the statement is based on relativismIMG_1797. That is the concept that all truth is relative to the individual, time, or place. However, relativism is a faulty philosophy that attempts to negate absolutism. Absolute means: complete; not limited by restrictions; unconditional; unrelated to and independent of anything else. Interestingly, after a short investigation we find absolute truth in math, history, the Bible, and in every-day life. Often, the denial of absolutism is not about life, but is aimed at the reality of God and the deity of Jesus Christ. And the one who claims his own reality actually claims to be the supreme ruler in his own life; but living for just twenty-four hours will prove that is false.

An example of the difference between a temporal reality and absolute reality is: A blind and deaf person may not know you exist. Therefore, you are not real to him, and you are not part of his reality. However, you do exist. But when you are brought into his presence where he is allowed to touch you and is “introduced” to you through a Braille or hand-manual message, you are incorporated into his reality. Absolute truth hasn’t changed; but his understanding, or his temporal reality, has changed.

In the same way, many folk do not know that God exists because they are “blind” to His existence. But they can be introduced to God and Jesus Christ through the “Braille” of Holy Scripture and Holy Spirit-directed lives. Many of us need a guide, such as a blind person needs a guide dog or as wagon trains on the Oregon Trail needed guides to get them across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The guides we need today to help us understand absolute reality are pastors, teachers, and primarily the Holy Spirit. Temporal realities change all through our lives; but absolute reality never changes.

pict0377Another example of absolute reality: God knew you would be born and that you will live forever – somewhere; but it is your choice as to your eternal destination. Whether or not you believe in heaven or hell does not change the reality of either place: our personal belief neither establishes fact nor eradicates truth. Absolute truth stands on its own foundation.

Your reality? My reality? We need to align our temporal realities with the time-tested truths of absolute reality as found in the Bible, and prepare ourselves to meet the author of absolute truth: Almighty God.

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.

You Can Change Your World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.