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.

Seven Helpful Habits

From 1994 to 2005 I was an operations officer in the Nuclear Physics division at the Los Alamos7 Habits National Laboratory. One of my responsibilities was to assure that our staff’s training was up-to-date. One day I read about a seminar titled, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.” That intrigued me, and I attended the seminar to see if I should recommend it to our staff. I’m glad I did, and it was my privilege to meet and talk with the speaker, Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Dr. Covey condensed his seminar into a book titled by the same name: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” (He passed away in July of 2012. America misses him, but his teaching will go on. And yes: I recommended this course to our staff.)

Covey taught that developing good habits presents more long-term benefits than trying to build a good image – corporate or personal. He said:

“The difference between the two approaches is similar to the difference between cramming for an exam and taking care of a farm. ‘Cramming’ is an image-based approach that nets temporary results, whereas taking care of a farm requires continuous, daily attention that will provide long-term dividends.”

And ‘taking care of the farm’ is the phrase he used for developing good habits for living.

The first three habits deal with the Personal Level. Individuals develop Independence by adherence to these habits.

Habit One focuses on taking control of life: Be Proactive. Don’t create or accept excuses for failure or lack of progress. Blaming or accusing doesn’t help anyone. And stop being overly concerned about things over which you have no control, but respond properly to situations. Covey called this: “response-ability”.

Habit Two is the development of a Personal Mission Statement: Begin with the End in Mind. Leisure time? Travel? More efficient teamwork? More effective sermons? Quicker meals? Whatever it is, define it. Whether you are a husband, wife, business owner, student, pastor, etc., develop goals to define your direction. This can be difficult; but once accomplished it will help you develop more effective leadership qualities needed in your personal or business life. It makes life easier and more enjoyable.

Habit Three is the essence of personal time management: Put First Things First. Separate tasks or projects under “urgent” – “important” – “necessary” – “desired.” This takes insight, planning, preparation, and promotes efficiency. It also greatly reduces time spent in crisis-management. That, in itself, is rewarding.

The next three habits deal with the Interpersonal Level. This section is more complex because practice of these habits leads to valuable Interdependence, which leads to personal and corporate maturity.

Habit Four is the philosophy that creates more productive, long-lasting relationships: Think Win/Win. We do not have to step on someone in order to succeed (except for sports games: one team must win). We need to fix in our mind that in order to truly get ahead we must depend on and help others. No one ever succeeds by himself. We must ignore our competitive instinct and help others succeed. The Win/Win concept requires courage and trust, but pays big dividends.

Habit Five is the skill that allows Win-Win to work: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” This concept made a long-lasting impression on me. Learning to actively understand someone else and his/her point of view is mandatory in order to effectively communicate our thoughts. If the other person realizes that I am concerned about him, he will be open to hear from me and perhaps willing to help me.

Habit Six is Synergize. Often (but not always) a corporate concept produces a better solution than our individual ideas. And this is actually the fruit of Habits four and five.

And Habit Seven is Sharpen the Saw. Our skills and methods are never perfect. Therefore, we need to continually hone or refine them.

PrinciplesThe information I gained at the seminar, and in reading the book, did not guarantee quick fixes to any personal, interpersonal or business problems. But I was supplied with tools to improve my communication skills, my outlook on life, and reduce unnecessary friction.

I also recommend two other books: “The Leader In Me” and “Principle-Centered Leadership.” To learn more about the “7 Habits” and other Covey books, contact Franklin Covey Co., Debra Lund, 801-244-4474; Debra.Lund@FranklinCovey.com.

Enhanced Character Reduces Stress

So you want to improve your character? Zig Ziglar said: “The foundation stones for a Dad's 85th0009balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.”

So how do we improve our character or integrity? Think about the following account.

An acquaintance of mine was on his way to an appointment when his right front tire blew out. He immediately lost control of the car; he hit the guard rail, bounced into another car, and finally came to a stop in the median. It was called an accident.

A legal definition of accident is: an unforeseen event that occurs without anyone’s fault or negligence.

Sooooo, was this truly an accident? The answer is No. Why? It could easily have beenPICT0027 prevented! He knew that his tire pressure was very low but he wouldn’t take time to inflate it to the proper pressure. “I’ll take care of it next Saturday.” he said. But he didn’t.

Proper tire care can prevent many automobile calamities, and really, we are never too busy to be safe. My friend understood the benefit of punctuality (honoring others by being on time) but he didn’t quite figure out the benefit of initiative (accomplishing what needs to be done in a timely manner).

While not all problems are this simplistic, many of them are. A fatal situation I read about some time ago was when a father ran over his five-year-old son in the driveway of his own home. Was that truly an accident?

The father said that he didn’t know the child was out of the house. Guess what? The kid is dead! All the dad needed to do was walk around the car to check for children, bicycles, toys, etc. before putting the key in the ignition. If the father had made alertness part of his daily habit (being aware of what is happening around me so I can respond properly), the child might still be alive today. Believe me: he does the walk-around now.

Jesus wants us to be safe and aware of what is happening; so being alert enhances not only our character, but also can make us more like Christ.

So I ask the question again: were these events truly accidents? The answer in a great many situations will be “No.” Instead, these situations were caused by negligence, ignorance, apathy—or a combination of the three. So what is needed to rectify those situations? What does it take for personal growth?

You can call it character, integrity, reliability, or spirituality. I don’t care. Whatever you call it, I call it Godly Character. Character is what determines a person’s response regardless of the situation.

In Reflections On Faith & History [found at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-Front cover - finalkeywords=Reflections+On+Faith+%26+History], I addressed numerous questions that many people asked me through the years. My desire was to help people grow both spiritually and intellectually by helping them to gain a more complete understanding of the Bible. I did this by presenting some of the history and culture of the times as it related to the Scriptures. Learning also helps us grow in our character or integrity. It is actually learning to become like Christ.

1) We learn to know and to incorporate the mind of Christ.

2) We learn to interact with others in a wholesome, uplifting manner.

3) We learn to stop being self-centered.

4) We are enabled to fulfill our destiny and enjoy life.

I was a bi-vocational pastor while working at a national laboratory. I had previously worked in the aerospace industry, direct sales, and several other areas. Wherever I went I watched people at work, at play, in the stores shopping, and driving their cars. It was apparent that many people–including Christian–were either uninformed about how to properly conduct themselves, or they didn’t care. It didn’t make sense to me until I began studying about character and integrity.

I found that if we attentively–the key is attentively–read about the Lord and study His integrity, His character, His nature, and diligently apply Biblical principles to life and life’s circumstances, we will be surprised at how our lives will be changed for the better. We will be able to traverse life with less stress, less frustration, more understanding of people, more personal contentment, and live a more fulfilled life. Reading First Corinthians 13:4-7 will help.

So, how does this reduce stress? I’m glad you asked.

As I grow in my understanding of life, I have less reason to get upset over mistakes, errors, or misunderstandings. I am more apt to see things from Jesus’ point of view, and can more easily forgive people. This allows peace to flow through my being and I can share that peace with others.

As you think on the character of Jesus, I pray that you, too, learn to incorporate His integrity into your life.

Do You Worry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, George

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

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

            40% of things we worry about never happen.

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

            12% are about criticism.

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

            Only 8% may be legitimate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever is honest (worthy of honor and respect),

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

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

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

Whatever is of good report (reputable, wholesome),

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

If there be any praise (something commendable),

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

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

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

Stop worrying; seek help if necessary.

Critical Thinking

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

However, we must intelligently analyze life to understand life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let’s apply the principle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEAVEN

     You have politics coming out your ears, but have you thought about heaven? The word “heaven” is in the Bible (KJV) 457 times so it must be important. What is Heaven?

Dumbbell nebula
Dumbbell nebula from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telesco

Heaven is contemplated on three levels: The firmament, or atmosphere; (Gen. 2:19); the stars or outer space (Matt. 24:29); and God’s throne (Deut. 10:14). Heaven has various names: New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12), Everlasting Kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11), Eternal Inheritance (Heb. 9:15), a Better Country (Heb. 11:16), and My Father’s house (John 14:2). There is neither suffering nor evil in heaven (Rev. 21:4). 

     Where is Heaven? This is difficult to answer because the Bible doesn’t tell us. However, heaven is where God the Father is, and is where Christians go when our bodies stop breathing. But heaven is not a million miles away. Heaven isn’t “out there” somewhere. When believers close their eyes in death, they immediately wake up in Heaven.

     1Thessalonians 4:13-18 says (NLT) says:

DSCN0508B
Total solar eclipse from my camera

“And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words.”

 

     One little commentary on that Scripture: It appears that the Christians’ spirits will come back from heaven with Jesus and be reunited with their bodies coming out of the graves.

     How do we get to Heaven? Whenever we want to go somewhere: we know where we are, we decide where we want to go, we enter a vehicle and GO. So where are we? In a sinful world. Where do we want to go? To Heaven. How do we get there? Jesus is the only way to Heaven (John 14:6). We must accept Jesus into our life, and live for Him. And until Jesus returns, we go through the door called “death”. But for believers it is the “Door to Life”.

     Jesus said in John 14:1-3 (NLT) says: “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

     Jesus died to redeem mankind. Defeating death, He returned to life and will live forever. He wants you to live forever with Him. You will never have to lock your doors again. You will never be afraid again. You will never be hurt again. But if Jesus does not return soon, we all will die.

     What does that feel like? Many times our kids fell asleep on the couch or on the floor of the living room but woke up in their bed. In the morning they asked, “How

PICT0033
Our children – decades ago

did I get here?” And my Precious Wife told them, “After you fell asleep, your father picked you up and took you to your room.”

 

     That is what death is like for the Christian. Whether we leave this life because of sickness, an accident, or old age; we merely fall asleep here in our “living room”, but we wake up in Heaven because our Father took us to our new home.”

     Are you living the way God wants you to live? If you died today would you go through the door that I call LIFE and live with Jesus, or go through the other door? Is there anything you need to ask God to forgive you for? Don’t be afraid to talk to God about it. He loves you very much and wants to forgive you. He wants you in Heaven with Him.

Christmas – X-Mas?

Through the years I’ve asked many folks what they thought about Christmas, and I was saddened at many of their responses. PICT0077Most of them talked about crowds in the stores, traffic-jams, discourteous people, gifts they had to return, the price of the gifts, how much to spend on family members, Christmas debt, and a lot more. Several folks even said that they wish Christmas didn’t exist. For them, the season was merely X-mas. Or more appropriately $$-mas!

Very seldom did I hear a response about Jesus, the Holy Son of God, His entry into the world, going to a Christmas Cantata, or worshiping the Lord for HIS gift to humanity. I’ll come back to this in a minute, and in more depth next week; but let’s look at some of the data related the seasonal stress.

Do you know how much a family spends during Christmas? Here are a few numbers – admittedly several years old, but it gives you an idea of the problem.

According to an MSN article in December of 2011, Americans planned to spend approximately $271 per child. When one mother was asked about that amount, she said that wasn’t nearly enough. In that survey, almost 10% of the responders planned to spend over $500 per child.

One father figured $50-$75 per infant or toddler, $100-$150 per elementary age kid, and $200 or more for high school age. Others said $400 per child is not bad.

Of course, the amount of spending can depend on where you live. Some shoppers in New York City (families of four) planned to spend a total of about $1200, while same-sized families in Texas wanted to top out around $700. I also found that some lower income families spend as much as upper middle-class families – they just go deeper into debt.

I read that the average spending in 2001 was $1,052 per family; dropping to a low of $417 in 2009; but back up to $882 per family in 2015. Please remember, those are averages.

Recently there has been a decline in the complaints of crowds, traffic-jams, and the rest because a tremendous amount of buying is done online. That does save money for the buyers. Another benefit is that it reduces traffic, which, in turn, which reduces traffic accidents. But buying online has also caused thousands of business – including many Sears stores across the nation – to close down. That eliminated many thousands of jobs.

But I have a question: Is any of that truly about Christmas?

To answer that, let’s look at the word.

DSCN4498Christmas came from Christ’s Mass – a worship service about Christ. (Christ is a title which came from the Greek Christos. The Hebrew word is Mashiach, translated as Messiah. They both mean anointed, or anointed one.) In the 14th century, Christ’s Mass evolved into Christmas.

So, is all the hustle-and-bustle of shopping really about Christmas? Is all the debt, stress, worry, gift-giving, traffic-jams and all the rest truly about Christ? The answer is a resounding No! It’s a terribly expensive misunderstanding. Apparently true worship of Almighty God has devolved into a financial, secular frenzy which brings disgrace on the name of the Lord.

How do we get back to the truth? We start by reading the Truth.

 Luke 2:8-15 says, “That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!

“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.’

“When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”

Regarding an event that took place almost a year later, Matthew 2:9-11 says, “The starDSCN0309 appeared to them (Wise men, Magi), guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Getting stressed out over buying and giving causes us to miss the joy of Christ. We miss the purpose of Jesus coming to earth. We join the secular world in actually disgracing the Lord Jesus Christ.

But Christmas, if we celebrate it, is supposed to be about worshiping Almighty God. Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to give US a gift – the gift of eternal life. We can give gifts to others, but our primary response is to give God a gift – the gift of ourselves. 

We’ll talk more about this next time.