What Do You Believe?

June 19, 2021

I’m seeing more articles, news-casts, emails, blogs, postings, etc… that want to tell you their interpretation of the Bible, and its stories and passages. Much of this is wrong, terribly wrong.

As an example the most recent thing I’ve seen tries to explain why David was an evil man, and that no one should use Psalms as it is mostly written by an ‘evil man’.

Actually, Psalms is a very good book to read, as are all the books of the Bible. So, what does one believe, and how can we tell the truth from the nonsense? How do we know if someone is giving us the right scoop on a Bible or religious topic? There is one simple answer – you must read it for yourself.

The preacher can help you. The Sunday School teacher or Bible teacher can help you. There are books and seminars, YouTube videos, blogs, and FB postings that can help. But, none of these will take the place of you reading it for yourself.

Most everyone knows about Psalms 23, but what about Psalms chapters 1 – 22? Those are pretty good, too. In fact, there is tremendous insight into the character of David presented in these writings, and it is certainly not evil.

Of course, for the Christian our foundational truths are outlined in the New Testament. But, this does not exclude the lessons that can be learned from the Old Testament. It all works together. Even the long list of ‘begats’ (so and so begat so and so, etc..) have a purpose. If for no other purpose they put names to people to show that these people actually existed, lived, and had a history.

A little study on your own can reveal many interesting things. For example, while most people know that Methuselah is the oldest recorded human being, dying at the age of 969, few know that Methuselah died in the year of the flood (Noah’s flood). We can’t say for certain that Methuselah died as a result of the flood, but it is interesting nonetheless. Is this in the Bible? Yes, it is, but you have to read it and do your own calculations from the information given.

How many other interesting things are there to discover? You will only know when you start to dive in and read for yourself.

Touch One Life

June 10, 2021

Life is complex. We set personal goals, business goals, family goals, short-term goals, long-term goals. We have things we must accomplish this month, this week, today. Things get messy, and there are times when we wonder if we’ve made any progress at all, or have we simply be going around in circles. Running through life, like we were on a treadmill, but not really going anywhere.

But, if we could somehow touch the lives of millions of people like Billy Graham did, we might be satisfied that our life was worthwhile. But, most of us realize that we may not have that opportunity, so we adjust our sights to just touch the lives of a few thousand people. And then a few hundred. And then a handful. And then maybe just our family, our children, or grandchildren.

At some point we may even wonder if we have helped anyone. Well, I’m here to tell you something amazing, something so profound, that it may seem untrue. You only need to touch one person. That’s right – one person.

Now I can hear the voices of my readers saying, “That simply doesn’t make sense. Just one person? That’s not very much.” Really? Not much? Then my counter question would be, “How do you know?”

By our simple act of touching one person, we may change the course of history itself. And, even if it does not change the history of the world, it might change the trajectory of that one life, and probably many more.

What does it mean to ‘touch’ a life? Of course, a good hug is always a good thing, but I’m talking about something else. To me a ‘touch’ means you have poured something into someone. You have given something you have and have shared it with someone. Of course, the most valuable things you can give someone is not money or possessions or things. It is something very personal to you. It is a part of you. It could be your advice. Your correction. Your attention. Your ability to listen. Your time. Your praise. Your encouragement.

Just one life. Are you willing to take up the challenge? Can you make a difference to one life?

Lessons from The Preacher

June 3, 2021

The book of Ecclesiastes is different. It is quoted in part in songs, poems, movies, and literature, but is mostly misunderstood. The book is attributed to King Solomon, written at a time in his life when things were not going particularly well. By the time he wrote Ecclesiastes Solomon had done everything, seen everything, possessed everything that could be possessed, and had power and position like no one had ever had before. He should have been on top of the world, but he was somewhat depressed.

Solomon had great wisdom given to him directly from God. According to the scriptures Solomon had wisdom greater than anyone before him, or after him. But, wisdom without God is one of torment and depression, which is exactly what Solomon got.

Now, we have to be clear here. Solomon was no pagan. But, he had drifted away from the God of his foundation. In this ‘drift’ he found himself with great wealth, privilege, and wisdom, but it was all for naught. One of the most common words in this book is ‘vanity’, or simply worthless, without meaning, without value.

So, when Solomon declares that there is nothing new under the sun, and that there appears to be no justice in the world, and all the hard work a man does is not worth anything, it is coming from a mind that has been granted so much wisdom, that it can only be harnessed and channeled by God, which Solomon had left behind somewhere in his life.

We might even go as far as to say he was close to madness. He still had his reasoning power, but from the standpoint of human perception and reasoning it was failing him. For wisdom without God could drive a person to madness.

Slow minded folks don’t have this problem. They don’t think deeply and simply take life as it comes. They don’t think too much about the future or the past, and just focus on the moment. This is truly a blessing, as those who are gifted with wisdom and deep understanding ponder those things that lie beyond the present, and even contemplate how the past factors into the present and beyond. In short, people gifted with too much wisdom and knowledge can find themselves simply too smart for their own good. In fact, it can become a torment, which is clearly evident in some of the passages in Ecclesiastes.

But, as you make your way through the book you find that Solomon eventually finds his way back to his roots, and an acknowledgement that a life without God makes no sense whatsoever. He even acknowledges that wisdom, although it can bring pain and sorrow, is better than being a fool. A fool may be happier, but wisdom is better.

Summary – wisdom and knowledge is a blessing from God, but apart from God it can embody it’s own torment and lead to depression. But, wisdom and knowledge PLUS God is truly the best combination, with God being at the top of the pyramid, holding everything together.

There are many lessons to be learned from this overlooked and misunderstood book of the Bible. One has to wonder why God allowed it to be included? It is not entirely an uplifting book, with many dark passages and thoughts. But, it gives us a glimpse that God understands our condition, and that life without Him is something that is not fun or hopeful.

Right or Wrong?

April 6, 2021

Most people would say that choosing between right and wrong is simple, straight-forward, and binary (it is either right or wrong, no in-between). While this concept works for many situations, life is actually a bit more complex than this and some decisions don’t fall neatly into one or the other.

This is not to say that I advocate ‘gray decisions’, or compromises of character or deceit. I only point out that our simplistic view of deciding right and wrong is many times more complex than we give it credit for. Maybe an example will help serve to illustrate my point…

Imagine that you are traveling down the road and come across a squirrel (or any other animal), that has been hit by a car and mortally wounded. The squirrel, however, is not dead but still alive. You stop your car and ponder what should you do? You have a few basic choices:

  1. Get back in your car and hope things turn out for the squirrel. After all, it is not your responsibility and it will either survive or die.
  2. Try to care for the squirrel in the hope that you can nurse it back to health, somehow.
  3. Kill it, and put it out of its misery, as there is little hope of recovery.

As you can tell right away, there is no real right or wrong decision here. There is a judgment that must be made based on your best experience and conscience. Killing the squirrel may be the right thing to do, but you may have reservations about killing a living thing. Trying to nurse the squirrel back to health may also seem the way to go, but if it is mortally wounded it will probably suffer and die anyway. Driving away is always an option, as you might be able to forget about it, and move on with your life. After all, there was really nothing you could have done, was there?

Why do I bring this up? I bring this up because we are faced with many decisions in life that fail to fall in the neat categories of “right” and “wrong”. They are typically hard decisions, ones with no clear answers or precedence. Do I put my ailing mother into a nursing facility? Do I take my father off life support? Do I pay down my debts now, or do I save my money for a rainy day? Do I invest my money in a new business, or do I put it away for my child’s college? Do I keep driving my car, and pay repair bills, or is it time to go into debt and buy a newer one? Do I chance that my roof will last another year, or should I go ahead and spend the money now?

While some questions might be answered through knowledge or experience, there are clearly some that defy any kind of clear “right” or “wrong” categorization. Life is full of these kinds of questions, but amazingly we mostly refuse to acknowledge they exist.

Interestingly, these types of decisions were not new to Jesus, who had to make many choices where the answers were not clear-cut. Of course, Jesus did not do anything wrong, but in many cases it was not clear to those around Him if His decisions were the right ones. When Jesus was 12 years old he wandered off from the caravan, and spent several days in the temple talking to the doctors of the law, while his parents were in despair looking for Him. Was this right?

When Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus was sick, he stayed where He was for two more days before making the journey. During that time His friend died, and there was grieving and lamentation over his death. We know that Jesus later brought Lazarus back from the dead, but what about the grieving sisters and relatives? Was this right?

These examples show us clearly that sometimes the right decisions are not always the pleasant ones. In fact, at the time they sometimes seem like the wrong ones.

So, what do we gain from this? At least a few things:

  1. Not all decisions are clear-cut and fall into nice “right” and “wrong” categories
  2. Sometimes the “right” decision is not always the pleasant one
  3. We need God’s help in making the right decisions, as it is not always clear which choice is the right one

Little Things

September 24, 2020

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve made a posting. It is now Sep 2020 and what a year we have had. The only other time I can remember that has been even closely as chaotic as this year was back in 1968.

But, I don’t want to use this post to talk about ‘big things’. I want to look at ‘little things’. You know, the things that make up everyday life. The things that don’t seem to be important. The ‘trivial’ things.

The real mystery is that these ‘trivial things’ may be the most important things we do in this lifetime.

By way of example I use the following true story.

Back in the early 1990’s I was going to Taylor’s Bookstore to buy a technical book. As I got to the store I could tell buying a book was going to be a problem as there was a line a city block long, waiting to get in. I went over and asked someone what was going on. He said, “Margaret Thatcher is signing her book.” I said, “THE Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the UK??” “Yes”… so, I promptly got in line and waited my turn along with the rest.

As the line slowly inched forward we eventually made our way into the bookstore, but the line was still long and was people were stacked to and fro. But, it gave me a chance to see what the procedure was. You purchased a book, you handed it to Ms Thatcher, she signed it, you said, “Thank you”, and moved on. Simple enough, I thought. Too simple. I was not going to let this opportunity to meet a dignitary pass with only a “Thank you.”

As I handed my book to Ms Thatcher I casually commented, “Oh, I thought this line was for Ronald Reagan!” (For those who do not know, they were great friends as well as chief of states). She looked up, and for a moment I thought security was going to force me to the ground and put the cuffs on me. But, she brightened her outlook and began a conversation with me. “Yes, I just talked to him the other day. He is doing very well.” Just as if me and Ronny were the best of friends and simply updating another old friend. She chatted with me for several minutes, and I smiled and acted as if we had known each other for years. Security was annoyed, and the people behind me were not amused, but I had a great time, and so did she.

Afterwards I thought about this encounter. Why would someone so important take the time to talk to a ‘peasant’? After all, it was a ‘little thing’ wasn’t it? Was there really any benefit I could give to her? And then it dawned on me – signing books, one after the other, has to be one of the most boring jobs ever. I offered a moment where she could take a break from the monotony. Even though I was a ‘common’ person, it didn’t matter. She treated me as if I were royalty, and I immediately could tell why she was so popular and successful as a PM. Her discussion with me was not a ‘put-on’ but was real and engaging.

A little thing, right? But, then why would the memory remain after almost 30 years? It really wasn’t so little, after all.

What influence do we have on others? A word, a piece of advice, an encouragement, a thank you. Trivial things, or are they?

Who is God Looking For?

March 27, 2020

How audacious and arrogant I am to think I can answer such a question.  This is a question for the ages, and has been asked for thousands of years by millions, if not billions, of people.

But, I’ve never shied away from difficult questions, so why start now?  Only God can be the judge if I have stated things correctly or incorrectly, but He will bear witness that my intent has been clean and pure.  I just want to help people if I can.

Who is God looking for?  Well, first of all, it’s not always who we think.  God is not impressed with the things we count as important in this life, such as status, fame, wealth, charm, or physical beauty.  He is not swayed by our intelligence, wisdom, or ability to mesmerize the crowds with our humor or wit.  He is not impressed with even our Bible knowledge, or our ability to understand Greek or Hebrew.

I think the thing that confused a lot of people, including Christians, is that God can accept anyone, from any background, whether they seem worthy or not.  His ability to ‘bend’ the rules and accept people we deem unfit is what confounded the Pharisees, Sadducees and religious leaders during Christ’s ministry here on this earth.  Jesus accepted the poor, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lepers, those who did not have social status.  He also accepted the rich, the prosperous, the dignified.  He accepted those with physical handicaps as well as those with mental handicaps.  He accepted thieves who were condemned to death for their crimes.

Now, all this does not mean God is not strict, or has changed his rules of acceptable behavior.  It does mean that our view of what is ‘acceptable’ and ‘not acceptable’ is often different from God’s view.

If we were to examine closely who Jesus dealt with during His 3 1/2 year ministry we would find clues to what got and held His attention.  He was not impressed with the crowds, or those who wanted to ‘touch’ Him.  But, He was impressed with the woman with the issue of blood who wanted to just touch the hem of his garment.  He was impressed with Zaccheaus who was despised by the Jews, but climbed into a sycamore tree to see Jesus as He passed by.  He was impressed with blind Bartimaeus who yelled out for Jesus even though others told him to shutup.

When we take careful study of who Jesus paid attention to, we do find some common threads:

  1. People who were hungry for God
  2. People who had an open honesty, no pretense
  3. People who often had no hope, no respect in their community
  4. People who others despised, or found unworthy
  5. People who were persistent
  6. People who acknowledged their own failings and dependence on God’s mercy

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I will never forget the events I watched unfold on 9/11, and the horror of seeing desperate people leap to their death from open windows.  One individual forever sticks in my mind.  He stood in the window, smoke billowing out from behind him.  He crossed himself, in the manner of a Catholic and some other denominations.  He then jumped into eternity.  Some might argue that just crossing oneself is insufficient for entrance into the arms of God, but I disagree.  You see, people come to God in many different ways, and some of those ways are not ways we agree with, or align with.  But, it doesn’t make any difference.  If God accepts a person, that’s all that really matters.  It doesn’t matter what kind of life that man lived, it only matters that when faced with death, he turned his life over to God.

We need to be careful how we judge individuals.  It is God who is the great judge of the hearts of men and women.  If they have asked for forgiveness and mercy who are we to say they are unacceptable?

On that topic, what about the dope addict who asks for forgiveness every day of his life?  Are we so bold to declare that he is unfit for the kingdom?  Be careful.  But, for the grace of God, go I.  We need to understand that everyone falls short of the glory of God.  We stand by His grace and forgiveness alone, and not by any great works we have done.  There is no room for boasting, or for judging and condemning others, based on our own standards.

I have to admit this is a bit different than my normal posts, but I don’t apologize.  I ask you to think about these things, and judge within your own heart what is right, and if I have spoken the truth, or am I just a rambling fool?

 

You Don’t Have to Like Worms to Use Them as Bait

January 23, 2020

Now there is a title, if ever there was one.  This is a short note to the ‘church’ body, including leaders, ministers, and laity.

There’s a lot going on in the church world today.  We have sound systems, lights, cameras, production assistants, and specialists handling all different aspects of the service.  And, of course, there is a lot of resistance that goes along with all these changes:

  1. “We’ve never done it this way before!”
  2. “Why, it is disgraceful what they are doing!”
  3. “I don’t think the church needs to stand for this!”

Granted – the sanctuary needs to be treated with respect and not become a Hollywood production platform.  We don’t need to make ‘stars’ out of our music leaders or ministers.  But, on the other hand – and thinking about this differently – we also don’t need to like the ‘bait’ we use to catch fish.

Hence the title of this posting.  If a good music system and lighting is what it takes to attract people to the House of God, then we need to make some adjustments in our thinking.  You don’t have to like these things to understand that it takes bait to attract some people.

So, try a little tolerance, and be mindful of the fact that people are not attracted to a church if it is grimy, old fashioned, stodgy, discriminating, and filled with ‘exclusive members only – all others need not apply’.

Progressive music, and judicious use of new things – cameras, lighting, and sound need to be kept modern if we are to attract the lost.  This doesn’t mean we turn the church into a night-club or stage with performers, but it means we need to be mindful that if you are going to catch fish you need to use bait, and you don’t have to like the bait.

3000, 2999, and 1

December 27, 2019

Now that’s a strange title if I ever saw one.  Let’s see if we can make sense of it.

I wanted a number of days to represent roughly 10 years of time.  But, that would be somewhere around 3650, which is not a nice round number, so decided to simply use 3,000.  3,000 days – that’s a lot of days.

But, like most everyone, there are some ‘bad days’ that we cannot avoid.  These bad days take on many shapes.  They can be the loss of a loved one.  It could represent losing a job.  It could represent an accident.  No one really needs to be educated on those bad days, as we all know what they are.

For sake of argument let’s say I have one bad day in my 3,000.  That still leaves 2,999 good, or not bad (some days are neither good or bad), days.  We often think of those bad days.  We wonder if they might come again.  And we wonder when they might reappear.  That gives us 2,999 days to think about the past and worry about the ‘next’ bad day that might be coming in the future.

As I thought about these things, and how they affected me personally, I wondered if others also might have the same problem.  I thought about what a waste of time it was to worry about the 1, and how that worry might affect the 2,999.  How could one enjoy the 2,999 if there was constant worry about the 1?

Now, you can’t just not think about it.  That doesn’t work.  The more you try to forget, the more you remember.  The only thing that seems to work is to think on other things.  After all, the human mind can only really focus on a few things at a time.  If you are thinking about other things, the less you are focused on the 1.  Maybe that is what Paul had in mind when he penned Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

 

The Same – Yet Different

December 11, 2019

There is a commonness to humanity.  We eat.  We sleep.  We communicate.  We have joys, and we have griefs.  We have those we love, and those who love us.

One of my friends told me years ago that his mother instilled into him, “You are not better than anyone else, but you are not beneath anyone else, either.”  This was the motto he lived by, but somehow I knew there was something wrong with that saying.

It is true, we have many things in common, and in so many ways what my friend expressed showed a certain humility, and awareness that we are no better or worse than anyone else.  You may be smarter, but someone else is wiser.  You may be prettier, but someone else is more caring.

But, while we are in many ways the same, there is also a uniqueness that accompanies every individual who has ever been born.  There are no two human beings who are exactly alike, nor has ever been.  There are now billions of humans living on this shared planet, but each is unique and different from all the rest.  Each person is irreplaceable, and yet we are mortal.

Who can unravel this puzzle, this mystery?

Well, of course, it is in the hands of God.  Although my view is not always shared by many, I take the stand that God has a purpose for each life.  This purpose is unique, and not shared by anyone else, although others may participate in the purpose, or be affected by that purpose.  Sometimes the purpose is clear to everyone, but often it is only known and understood by God, Himself.

Your very existence is the result of an extraordinary event, even a miracle.  You would not be here today and reading this if certain events had occurred at a different time or place.  If a different ‘seed’ (this is a family post) had met with a different egg, you would be an entirely different person than you are today, or you might not exist at all.  The very fact that these events came together at precisely the right time and place, makes you unique.

Add to that the experiences you’ve had in your life, whether good or bad.  These have also shaped and molded you into what you are today.  Add to that the choices we’ve made along the way, some good, some not so good.

While unraveling the mystery of life is beyond this post (or any other), there are some things we can say with some certainty:

  1. God created you to be the unique person you are
  2. God has a purpose for your life
  3. Life has meaning, although we may not always understand what that meaning is
  4. Our life has meaning beyond this mortal existence
  5. While some choices can be debated, it’s never a bad thing to help someone else in need, or who is less fortunate than ourselves
  6. What you do for God will be rewarded, if not in this life, in the life to come

So. yes, in many ways we are the same, but we are also different, unique, special, and one-of-a-kind.

Q-tips

December 10, 2019

Time to buy another box.  Ok, so I use two a day.  Enough about personal hygiene, though.  Let me get to the point.

I get a brand new box, and it seems there is an endless supply.  In fact, it diminishes so slowly I hardly even notice a change from day-to-day.  But, over time I’ve made a dent in the box, but still nothing to be concerned about.  As time passes I’ve used half the box that when new seemed endless.  Still nothing to be concerned about, certainly not planning on going back to the store anytime soon.

When there is only 1/4 box left, I begin shifting q-tips around a bit in the box, just to make them easier to get to.  And then it happens – there are only 10-20 left.  I’m a bit amazed, although I shouldn’t be, that the ‘endless’ box is almost at its end.  After all, it’s not something very important in my life that I pay much attention to.

So are the days of our life.  Just like q-tips it first appears there is an endless supply.  And even when half are gone, nothing to worry about.  And then we get down to 1/4 and began shuffling things around some.  By the time we get down to 10-20 we are suddenly surprised, even though we shouldn’t be.

I know – this sounds like a real ‘downer’ of a posting, but it is not intended to be.  It is just a reminder that life is precious.  Days are not endless.  So, with God’s help we need to try to make every day count.  There’s no need to wait until we get to 10-20 before thinking about our relationship with God, either.  Today is the day….