A New Dynamic

When I started LRPSP three plus years ago, I had no intention or desire to have a blog.  I did not set out to simply archive my thoughts for all the world to peruse. If you have read any of them and taken pause, been blessed, or given new thought to some subject, then I am truly humbled and pleased.  However this was not my original goal.

What I really envisioned when I started this journey was a discussion. A debate of ideas. And debates and discussions take multiple parties. The Scriptures say that  “iron sharpens iron”. And one lone voice cannot sharpen itself nor lead others to sharpen themselves.

I have long believed that we must each run our own race. I can no more stand before God in your stead than you can stand before Him in mine.  Therefore you must grow as I must grow. And you must seek truth as I must seek truth. And hopefully I may intone a thought that inspires others to think deeper, but others will intone a thought that causes me to think deeper.  I don’t want to just share on a blog, I want others to begin or continue a journey in their lives that will lead them to a Creator that loves them and desires a personal relationship with them, as He does me.

I have also desired to consolidate voices into one strong accord. A choir of voices if you will. A choir is made up of parts, yet when they sing together, each part comes out in beautiful harmony that pleases the soul.  I know your time is valuable.  And I also know that there are many great voices, most much greater than mine, out there that may bring true value to your life.  I’ve desired to bring voices together here on LRPSP to help maximize your time and search for that material.  I’ve longed to build that choir.

Today I am very happy to announce that LRPSP is beginning to build that choir.  It is with great humbleness and honor that I welcome a new Contributing Editor to this site.  My Christian Brother Mitch White is joining LRPSP to add his voice and his part to the discussions that take place here.

This will afford you, those that linger on this site to read a few words, a new perspective.  You will now be able to consider topics from a different point of view and perspective.  And I know that will bring even greater insight and blessing to your life.

Welcome Brother Mitch, to LRPSP.  I, and I hope others, look forward to all that God has to share with us through your voice.  It is truly a New Day here on LRPSP and it is exciting to look forward to all God has in store for us as we each journey to know the Great I Am more personally in each of our lives.

Do You Make A Difference?

In 2008 The Oak Ridge Boys asked the question “Did I make a difference in somebody’s life?” through a pretty thoughtful melody.

They inspired people though song to consider whether or not they were making a difference in the world in which we all live.  The song is asking us whether or not we are making a positive difference.  And it embodies the idea of sacrifice in making that difference.  When the songwriter states “When my race is run, when my song is sung” it captures the idea of when at the end of my life, how will I be judged?

In reality, we all make a difference.  The very fact that you are alive and here on Earth means you have already made a difference.  Your presence has impacted the world.  All of our presence has impacted the world.  Some for good, and some for evil.  And using any reasonable world standard, we could all be judged to have impacted those around us with a little of both.

But what is the real difference we make?  Maybe I should ask what difference do you want to make?  Most of us want to make a difference, I might say that most of us try to make a difference.  After all, is that not how we are judged?  Isn’t that how we judge one another?  By the impact, or difference, someone makes in our lives?

When we are at our jobs we strive to make a difference.  That is the way we get noticed and are singled out for advancement.  When we court a sweetheart we want to make a difference.  That is how we gain their attention and eventually their love and affections.  When we interact with friends, relatives, and even strangers, we make a difference.  That is why we tell young people that first impressions are the most important.  Some of us make a difference by volunteering, helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, or working in public service.  Some of us become Fire Fighters, Police Officers, Doctors, Nurses, or join the Military.  Because we want to make a difference.  Most of us want to make a difference, but few realize that we always do.  That we are constantly making a difference in someone else’s life with either positive or negative impressions whether we want to or not.

But to what end or gain?  What does it avail us to make a difference in the world?  What is the motivation?  What should be the motivation?  What do we hope to accomplish and how do we hope to be judged?  I’d like to consider this thought from our three primary base views.

If you are agnostic in your world view, I might ask (as I always do) why do you even care?  The agnostic is completely indifferent to making a difference or to those making a difference on them by sheer definition.  If the agnostic is working to make a difference, it is for their own gain or self-gratification.  Even if the agnostic is working “just in case there is a god”, they are hedging their bets and trying to garner good deed points in their own stead.  Just in case they actually are judged.  Since the agnostic is “rolling the dice”, as it were, they cannot possibly be working towards any other means other than their own good.

If you are atheistic in your world view, I have news for you.  It doesn’t matter whether you make a difference or not.  Void of a god, there is no moral relevance in your life.  I’ve had atheists argue that our moral values are a result of a common societal conscious agreement.  But that doesn’t hold water.  Consider the fact that the ancient Roman Empire considered it perfectly acceptable to put essentially defenseless civilians into an arena with lions, tigers, bears, and great Roman gladiators, in order to watch them meet their deaths for sport.  Today we would consider that barbaric.  The atheist would argue that our morals have evolved.  But that is exactly my point.  There is no relevance. No base.  And they cannot predict where evolutionary morals will take us next.  And whose to say what is right or what is wrong?  Perhaps the Romans were right in their time and we are wrong today.  Without a moral relevance it simply does not matter what difference you make other than for your own self gain.  And even then it is pointless given that all of the universe is just one great big chemical and physical reaction.  The true atheist, the one that has thought their world view through to its logical conclusion, realizes that it is all just natural processes following set laws and is completely without meaning.  And if there is no meaning, what does it matter whether or not you make a difference?

If your world view is theistic however, making a difference gains a whole new importance.  For the theist, making a difference is not about meeting man’s law, but rather meeting the law as prescribed by their god.  There are consequences to ones actions and making a difference determines how one will be judged by their creator.

There is one group of theists that have a quandary though.  For the Christian we are taught there is no one good, not even one (Romans 3:10).  Christianity is the only world religion that teaches there is nothing an individual can do to obtain favor with their God save he intervene in their lives.  Given that there is no one righteous in the Christian world view, even to the extent we cannot obtain our own salvation apart from our Creator himself, it is an amazement to me that so many Christians run around the world trying to “make a difference”.  How can you make a difference apart from The Great I Am, the Creator, the one true God?  You see, for the Christian it should be a different paradigm.  Not one of making a difference, but rather one of being made a difference in.

I wonder every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day of every single year if I ever do, or ever have, made a difference.

Which is why I have to constantly remind myself that it is not about me making a difference in the world, it is about Him, the Great I AM, making a difference in me.

Are You Rich?

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, recently addressed the Harvard University graduating class during which he said:

“We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas,”

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a concept that has gained quite a bit of attention recently.  Finland has recently started experimenting with the idea and Canada and India are giving it consideration.  Finland may be the first country to practice UBI, but it is hardly the first Government to do so.  The city of Livorno, Italy began a UBI program in June of 2016.

Switzerland rejected a UBI referendum by more than 75% of voters.

It is interesting that supporters of UBI view it as the means of addressing income inequality in society today.  It is interesting that this particular reporter terms it as an urgent necessity.  Definitely something we must absolutely have.

In my estimation, UBI is nothing more than a repackaged welfare (see definition 3) program that is completely socialistic in nature.  These ideas are nothing new and have been around for thousands of years.  Consider the account from Mark 14:3-8 in which some self-righteous people where quite upset at what they considered a waste of money.

It is interesting to me that we hear very little about the fact that Jesus was in the home of Simon, a leper, when this story is recounted.  Or the fact that the woman that brought the box of alabaster apparently had the resources to possess it, and yet she also came to the house of the leper (something a person of wealth would not normally do).  But these are thoughts for another time.

The point I’d like to get to in the account is that there were those that pondered the thought that the ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred pence and the proceeds given to the poor.  Basically welfare.  Socialism.  Sell the goods of the rich, and give them to the poor.  A concept put forth by the Jewish culture some 2,000+ years ago.

As long as there has been inequality in the world, which Spiritually occurred about the instant that Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit, and Physically has been since about 30 seconds after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, mankind has been looking for ways to make things equal again.

Of course in doing so we have been ignoring the words of Jesus when he answered those very same self-righteous distractors with:

And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.  For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.”

I relish the fact that Jesus told them that (basically) they could do good for the poor whenever they wanted to.  I kind of feel the same way about those crying out about inequality today.  No one is stopping you from helping the poor and you don’t need to wait on anyone else to start.

The interesting thing about all of these social experiments to me is that the terms are all relative.  Compared to most (or perhaps even all) of my wife’s family, we are very rich.  However, compared to the people that live just six miles down the road from me, I might be considered poor (the houses in the community six miles down the road average $2,750,000.00 per home.  About 7.37 times the cost of my home).  And those folks could even be considered poor when contrasted to Mr. Zuckerberg.

Another interesting thing to me is that Jesus actually said that those that would inherit the kingdom of heaven, would be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).  And with good reason too.  God cannot help you if you are rich.  The rich people of the world don’t run to God every night asking for their next meal or a place to lay their head.  Only the poor people do that.  Sometimes we lose our dependency upon God because we become too rich for him.  We no longer need his help.  We are self-sufficient without him and are happy to keep him on the shelf in the event that bad times come our way.

And yet we still feel like we need to play social games with society.  We need to wipe out inequality.

Alright, I’ll play along.  I’ve got a proposition for Mr. Zuckerberg:

Hey Mark, if you’re reading (and I know you’re not) let’s try a small scale UBI experiment right here at home.

I currently make a little over $130,000.00 USD/year.  I’ll use that as a round number.  I have (roughly) six years to retirement (I could conceivably retire earlier, but lets go to minimum retirement age).

My idea of a “new idea” is to purchase a yacht (how about this one: Sea Ray Fly 460) and to make the Great Loop while writing about the experience and the people I meet here on this Blog.

But obviously I can’t do that on my present income.  I would, of course, still need to meet my basic family expenses, for six years at my current salary that would be $780,000.00, I’d have the cost of the yacht, about $750,000.00, and I’d have the operating expenses of the yacht itself, lets estimate $200,000.00/year or $1,200,000.00 for six years.  That would be $2,730,000.00.  We could just round that up to $3,000,000.00.

Why doesn’t Facebook hire me for a $3,000,000.00 USD contract for six years (I’d bring some diversity to the company since I’m sure you’d agree my political, social, and religious views are different than your own) and I’ll become an ambassador traveling around interviewing people about their situation in life, compiling statistics on exactly what a correct UBI would amount to, as well as exploring the mechanics of such a plan to see if it could realistically be met.  At the end of the six years I’d sail off into retirement, and you could evaluate just how well your $3,000,000.00 was spent.  A social experiment and you get an employee out of the deal as well!

I’ll be waiting for your call ………………….

Does Your Life Have Meaning?

Here we are at another Easter.  April 16, 2017 is the 55th Easter I have encountered in my life.  Many of my early Easters were spent with family and friends hunting for Easter Eggs, trying to fill baskets with Easter candy, and having Easter Day meals.  All of these have been joyous occasions and comprise many happy memories.  But none of these ascribe meaning to my life, or meaning to my very existence.  However, the meaning of Easter, the true meaning of Easter, the Religious aspect of Easter does bring meaning and value to life and to my existence.

I had the great honor and privilege of attending a talk by Dr. Ravi Zacharias this past week.  I’ve mentioned Dr. Zacharias in my posts on occasions in the past and consider him the greatest Christian Apologist in the world, alive today.  In his talk this past week he talked about four elements to the ultimate pursuit of Truth in one’s life.  He stated that those four elements are ‘Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny’.  These four elements are all met in the celebration that is Easter Sunday.

Today you really have but one question of existential relevance before you.  And that is “Do you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”  Because how you answer that question will shape your world view and provide the foundation for how you conduct yourself in your life.

If you answer the question with a resounding “Yes” you should be compelled to believe that He is the only person in human history to ever do so of His own accord and that would lead you to find relevance in all His other claims – that He is who He said He was, the Son of the one true and living God.  That He came to die for our sins, and to bring life more abundantly.

If you answer the question with a flat “No” or a “maybe” or an “I don’t know” the rest of His claims are left in doubt and bring no relevance to your life.

But how you answer the question is how you will discover whether or not the four elements are met.

Science may claim to answer the question of ‘Origin’, where we came from, but it cannot answer the questions of ‘Meaning’ or ‘Morality’, or ‘Destiny’.  The answers to those question ring hollow and are without substance with the pursuit of Science.

Philosophy may claim to have the answers to ‘Meaning’ or ‘Morality’ or ‘Destiny’ but without an ‘Origin’ these answers do not provide purpose or relevance to one’s life.

However, there is one answer that provides all four.  If Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, as is recorded in history, then His claims of being the Son of God must also be true and that must mean there is a God.  And that answers the question of ‘Origin’.  If Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead, then we must be created beings, made by a living God.

If Jesus Christ is who He said He was, then the account of Genesis must be accurate and true and that answers the question of ‘Morality’ and gives meaning to right and wrong.

If Jesus Christ is who He said He was, then the purpose of His coming to earth, of dying for our sin, of providing us a path to a more abundant life, must also be true.  And that answers the question of ‘Meaning’.  It provides a purpose to our lives.  Not one that we invented or made up, but one that the One True God laid down from the foundation of time.

And if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, as history records, then the warning of a Heaven and a Hell must also be true.  And that answers the question of ‘Destiny’.  We can know why we are here and what our ultimate endpoint in all of eternity will be.

The reality of ‘Origin, Meaning. Morality, and Destiny’ are all met in the person and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  No other pursuit of Truth, relevance, or logical consistency are met anywhere else in life,  Only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ do we find answers to all four elements.

So the question is – “Do you believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”  But before you answer, let me pose another question to you, and that is “For how long have people been trying to get you to believe that the answer to the question is no?”  Would you believe me if I told you that the answer is “Since the day He died”?  Because on the day He died He was sealed in a tomb and a Roman Guard was placed to watch over it.  Why?  Why would a Roman Guard be placed to keep watch over a sealed tomb of a carpenter from Galilee who had been executed upon a cross?  If not to keep you from learning that He had risen from the dead?

Why were Christians persecuted from the earliest of times and sacrificed in the Roman Colosseum?  To keep you from learning that He had risen from the dead.

Why have governments for centuries tried to control and stamp out the Christian faith?  To keep you from learning He had risen from the dead.

Why does Science teach evolution and denounce the Bible?  Why is the world seemingly so threatened by the Christian faith?  To keep you from learning He had risen from the dead.  And what does it threaten them?  After 2,000 years, why is the world so consumed with you not knowing that He has risen from the dead?

The answer is because He is the TRUTH, the Life, and the Way.  And that TRUTH meets all four elements of ‘Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny’.  And that threatens not the world, but rather the Prince of this world, Satan himself.  He does not want you to know the TRUTH.  And thus he does everything in his power to propagate the lies.

Does your life have meaning?  You can find new purpose and meaning in your life today by knowing the TRUTH, the Way, and the Life.  Purpose and meaning are found in the person of Jesus Christ.  But that truth starts at the foot of the cross and is found in an empty tomb.  And is obtained through belief in Him.

How Do You Walk the Line?

In my last post I talked about the judgements we use in our day-to-day lives.  It is clear from Scripture that God intends for us to use good judgement in our lives.  However it is also clear we should not condemn those around us.  The grey area comes when we try to become judge, jury, and executioner with our judgements.  And this might be a much finer tightrope to walk than one might imagine.

So, exactly where do you draw the line and how do you ensure you are walking it?  In the post: Why Did The Tree Have A Name? I stated that the knowledge of good and evil was a dangerous thing.  In this post we are about to find out why I believe that.  But simply put, Satan told Eve that eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would make her “as a god” (and later on, God agreed with that statement).  When we start applying our knowledge of good and evil, when we start judging others, when we start discerning actions around us, quite simply, we have become as gods in our own realm.  And trust me, the last thing we ever want to do in our lives is replace God’s understanding with our own.  Do you want a quick check as to whether or not God (Jesus Christ) is sitting upon the throne of your life?  Look at your judgements.  Check your discernment.  Consider whom you condemn and whom you forgive.

In I Corinthians 5 we have a seemingly difficult case.  Paul of Tarsus has received a specific report of a specific individual who is not only embroiled in an immoral act, but is actually publically boasting about it at the same time, and apparently receiving the approval of the Church.  And Paul calls for the individual to be handed over to Satan.

Contrast this situation to the adulteress who was brought before Jesus Christ in the Temple as recounted in John Chapter 8.  Here we had another individual embroiled in an immoral act and Jesus Christ offers complete forgiveness, yet we might perceive that Paul of Tarsus calls for condemnation (turn him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh).

The difference between the two situations is that in the one case the immoral act was being committed outside of the Church, I might even argue in secret (except that the scribes and Pharisees obviously knew about it), and no one in the Temple was either bragging about It or boasting of it.  In the other case the people of the Church were not only well aware of what was going on, they were encouraging it with their boasting.

In the case of Jesus Christ, he knew that if sinners outside of the Temple were to find nothing but condemnation, they would never come to the Temple.  Who wants to go to the Temple to be condemned?

In the case of Paul of Tarsus, he knew that if sinners outside of the Church saw the Church as boasting and encouraging immorality, they would see nothing but hypocrites.  And who wants to go to Church with a bunch of hypocrites?

In both cases, in the case where the judgement ends in forgiveness, and in the case were the judgement ends in (seemingly) condemnation, the sanctity and the integrity of the house of God (the Church or the Temple) was being maintained.  And that, is good judgement.

Personally, I like to apply the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego test.  Remember these young men in Daniel Chapter 3?  They were the 3 young men who refused to bow down to the idols the government (the king) had set up for all the people of the land.  Why?  Because they knew that if they did, no one in the land would ever want to bow down before Jehovah God ever again.  Why would they?  If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego bow down before idols, why waste time with God?  He must not be any better than these idols the king set up.

So what if we were to apply the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego test to some of the biggest issues of our day?  What do we think that would look like?  In my case it would look like this:

Abortion: I’m sorry, I love you, and I don’t condemn you, but only God is the author of life and to not recognize the sanctity of the life that God gives is to deny him.  The Church must continue to preach and to teach against it.  You will always find forgiveness within the Church, but the Church should never support your so-called “right” to usurp God.  The Church should celebrate life, not death.

Same sex marriage: I’m sorry.  I don’t hate you, nor do I condemn you.  But clearly your actions are against the very design of God and the teachings of the Bible.  You may try to erase those teachings, twist them into something else.  You will fail, and the Church should never have to support you in your sin by being forced to conduct wedding ceremonies for your so-called “rights”.

(So called) Hate Speech: I’m sorry.  But when I proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father, it is not me that made the claim, rather it was Jesus Christ himself.  I am simply teaching history.  History you may want to rewrite, but history nonetheless.  And for me to teach anything else is for me to deny my faith and to turn my back on my religion.  It is actually those that try to silence the truth that are intolerant and non accepting.  Not myself.

Where do I draw the line?  I draw it at the feet of Jesus Christ.  And I draw it at the foot of the Cross.  That is the point where I cannot step over the line.  The line that I attempt to walk, is the line that lifts up Jesus Christ and gives him all the Praise, and all the Honor, and all the Glory.

In the beginning God told Adam and Eve, do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because bad things will happen.  Turns out God was right and bad things did happen (and continue to happen today).  About 4,000 years later, God, in the person of Jesus Christ, came to earth and basically said, ‘OK, you didn’t listen to me in the beginning and because of that you’re in this huge mess.  But I’m going to give you some advice as to how to get through this predicament you’ve placed yourselves in.  And the secret is in your judgement.  Use it wisely and justly.’

Do You Use Good Judgement?

1Judge not, that ye be not judged.  2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”  Matthew 7:1-2 KJV

And with these words a lot of people in the world want to “throw the baby out with the bath water” (a euphemism for inadvertently getting rid of the good thing while disposing of the bad thing).  And by this I mean that the complete lack of understanding of judgement is astounding these days.  And the lack of understanding basically comes from bad Theology.  Both Theology that has been taught, and Theology that has failed to have been taught.  From our greatest theologians, to our humblest of Bible study teachers, we’ve failed.  We’ve failed at the basics, and we’ve certainly failed at setting people off on a path that would allow them to seek after a Holy God with all their heart, and all their soul, and all their might.

And that small word judge has a lot to do with it.  That word judge there, in the Greek it is the word κρίνετε (pronounced: krinete).  Now that we’ve all learned our Greek word for the day, let me ask you what you think the definition of krinete is?  A Greek language purist will tell you that properly, it is “to pick out, (choose) by separating”.  In other words, the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action.  Or, I might say, to JUDGE.

The word actually means judge, just as we understand judgement today.  The same definition we apply to the word today would apply to the word that Jesus Christ actually used as recorded by Scripture.

So the Bible (actually the very words of Jesus Christ himself) state quite unequivocally that we should not judge (because by the same measure we judge, we will be judged).  Right?  That is what it says, isn’t it?

But wait-a-minute, do you really believe we are not to judge?  Should we really (and truly) not use judgement in our lives?  Doesn’t Scripture also tell us:

13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  Hebrews 5:13-14  KJV

See that word discern?  Our discernment is what allows us to be discriminatory.  And I will argue that you cannot discern, without the application of judgement.  And I’d argue that discernment is a pretty important thing within our lives.  It allows us to separate good and evil.  And that would seem like a pretty good thing to me.

Seemingly we have a contradiction here.  On the one hand we are told not to judge, but yet on the other we know we are to use our good judgement to discern between good and evil.  There are those right now that are going to try to separate those two entities by applying judgement to people and discernment to actions.  Don’t even try.  People without actions are dead, and actions without people is Nature.  You can’t separate the two (unless you are God, that is) so let’s not play  word games by pretending that we can really and truly separate them in our hearts and minds.  That leads us to silly quotes like “God hates the sin but loves the sinner“.  And while there may be a kernel of truth to this, it really is putting words into God’s mouth.  We are not God, and we cannot compartment our hate and our love.  God must do that for us and we should not believe that it is perfected within our lives.

So what is the answer then?  What is Jesus really telling us?  And why would Scripture tell us not to judge (really judge) and then tell us to judge (really judge)?  Especially when we know (beyond any shadow of a doubt) that we need to judge in our everyday lives.  How could our courts, our Government, our business, our very society survive without judgement?  How do we survive without judgement?

Fortunately these words are from Jesus.  And that means they are recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).  And fortunately Luke recalled perhaps a more complete account of the time than Matthew might have.  Here is how Luke recorded the same event that Matthew is relating to us:

37Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”  Luke 6:37-38  KJV

Luke adds in a couple of extra thoughts here.  First of all he tells us that the judgment being talked about here is the kind that condemns.  In other words, Luke has qualified for us that we should not use our judgement to punish, convict, censure, or pronounce unfit for society, those around us.  And Luke adds in a second thought here, and that is we should forgive instead of condemn.  In other words we should grant pardon to those that offend us.

Scripture clearly tells us that we are to use our good judgment.  But it also tells us that we should not use our judgement to condemn those in the world today.  Condemnation does not win people.  Forgiveness is what wins another’s heart.  And Scripture tells us why we are to act this way:

It is found right there in the second half of the statement.  Because by the same measure that we judge or forgive people, that is what will be reciprocated in kind.  In other words, if I am judgmental and condemning to you, that is exactly how you are going to respond to me.  Try it.  Tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do.  Won’t they usually do just the opposite?  If we are forgiving and do not condemn however, we are much more likely to find an open heart and a listening ear.

My prayer today is that we all would use good judgment in our lives, and recognize that means a little more forgiveness towards others and a little less condemnation.

Do You Have A Bucket List?

In 2007 Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman brought us The Bucket List, a movie about facing death and accomplishing your life’s goals.  The basic premise of the movie is that two men facing certain and imminent death, decide they have not yet lived life to the fullest and make a list of things they wish to do before they kick the bucket (so to speak).

In the past ten years since that movie taught us that it must be really, really important to make a list of things we’d like to accomplish before we die and then cross each item off that list, family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers off the street, have all shared their Bucket Lists with me.

In all that time, I have never once shared my Bucket List with those that have shared theirs with me, or anyone else for that matter.  It would be pretty difficult for me to do so since I do not have a Bucket List, nor will I ever have a Bucket List.

You may ask: Don’t I have goals and aspirations?  And the answer would be “Of course I do.”  But the concept of creating some fanciful list that I’m going to complete before I die is the kind of thinking that has completely warped our world views for the past several decades.  Where is the focus, and what is the object of me creating a Bucket List and then attempting to mark off each item?  Is it not Me?  And if you have a Bucket List, is it not You?

Let’s consider the concept of a Bucket List from each of the three base world views:

If you are Agnostic in your world view, why in the world would you care about completing anything specific before you die?  After all, life is Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will be, Will be) for the agnostic world view.  The idea that there is any meaning whatsoever in accomplishing a certain number of pre-defined tasks before one dies makes absolutely no sense from an agnostic world view point, other than to simply please oneself.

If you are Atheistic in your world view, I might almost argue that the concept of a Bucket List is some feeble attempt on your part to find purpose and meaning within creation.  It probably makes you believe you will have accomplished something, completed a set of goals, you may even believe it will provide you with a sense of satisfaction.  To know that you have managed to complete those things that you have desired within your lifetime is fulfilling and thus assigns purpose and meaning to your existence here on Earth.  But once again, the atheist fulfilling their Bucket List does nothing for the rest of us.  It is for them, and them alone.  Oh sure, we may be happy for someone marking one of their life’s goals off the list.  We will rejoice with them at their point of triumph.  But in the end, we go our separate ways, time passes, and goals, triumphs, victories, are lost and forgotten.  And I would still ask:  Did you, personally, completing some task before you die, really and truly answer the question of life, its purpose and its meaning?  If so, would you mind sharing it with the rest of us?  Because I think we’d all be quite curious about that.  The true atheist has actually come to grips with the fact that (in their world view) there is no purpose or meaning to it all.  Its just the laws of nature playing out over time and even their Bucket List was prescribed within the physical laws at the moment of the Big Bang (and the one before that, and the one before that, …).

However, if you are Theistic in your world view, there is a creator (or creator(s) depending on your specific Theology) and there is hope of life beyond death.  It is with the Theistic world view and the concept of a Bucket List that I am most intrigued.  Why in the world would we, who have hope of eternal life, ever need to complete some self gratifying list of tasks before we die?  Would we, no, will we not, have all of eternity to complete the most wonderful adventures that an eternity could possibly offer?

Some might be asking right now what is wrong with having a set of life goals and with wanting to complete them in this lifetime, before one dies?  And the answer is absolutely nothing.  However, for the Christian I would ask, “Who are you completing them for?”

For you see, not once in the last ten years, have I ever had someone share their Bucket List with me and have any of the items on it be “Honor God above all else”.  “Follow after Jesus Christ with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my might.”  “Learn to know my Creator more than I know myself.”  “Lift up Jesus Christ and give Him all Honor and all Glory and all Praise.”  These have not even been items on the list, let alone the very FIRST item on the list.

You might be arguing right now that those things are already foremost in your life.  They wouldn’t be things that you would put on a Bucket List.

I’d like you to consider something if you are one of the ones making that argument.  If He, The Great I Am, is foremost in your life, why do you even need a Bucket List?  Does it bring Him Honor and Glory?  Did He direct it in your life?  How does you pursuing some arguably arbitrary goals put Him first in your life?  And if He really is foremost in your life, why do even need a Bucket List in the first place?  Shouldn’t taking up your cross and following in the footsteps of Christ be all that you need?  Isn’t keeping our eyes on Christ about all we, as humans, can hope to accomplish?

Perhaps if we were all to spend our time seeking after Him, instead of our own life goals, we would all find a few more of our life’s dreams and aspirations fulfilled.  Perhaps we should all consider making it more about Him and a little less about ourselves.

What Do You Do In Times Of Trouble?

Recently I was asked about life’s good times and bad times,  The expression ‘When it rains, it pours.‘ (to describe multiple events of a like or same nature occurring together in a short period of time) came to mind.  I was reminded that sometimes we are overwhelmed by life’s events and we wonder whether or not the whole world is against us or if God (and we caveat this in our own minds with ‘If there is a God‘) even cares.

It is in times like these we might tend to sink into hopelessness and despair.  It is also in times like these that we may find others giving us sage advice, offering words of comfort, or simply offering a listening ear or a hug,

Personally, I believe God places us into trying times like these for His own Honor and Glory.  It is in our weakness that His strength is shown.

Have you ever watched a wrestling or a boxing match?  Two mighty champions will climb into the ring and flex their muscles in front of the crowd.  They will both show their prowess and agility as they dance around the ring.  They will stare each other down and predict a great defeat for their opponent.  But whom amongst us is impressed?  The real answer is “No One”, and if you answered differently, you didn’t understand the question.  All of the bravado means nothing.  Oh sure, the fighters may be trying to psych each other out and whip the crowd into a frenzy cheering for them, but this does not win the fight.  What eventually gets written about in the history books is when the fight begins and one fighter confidently walks over and takes his opponent out with a single blow.  That is the point that the crowd becomes impressed.  When they see a great display of strength and skill and prowess.

In some regards, God is the same way in our lives.  He can tell us in His word of His strength and greatness.  He can show us the majesty of His creation.  But what do we do?  We do not listen to Him when He speaks and we ascribe His creation to a process He is not part of.

However, when God steps into our lives and demonstrates His great strength and His love and His mercy, that is when we are impressed.  That is when we see Him for who He truly is.  That is when, in wonderment, we look around and ask “How did that happen?” and the only answer is: “God”.

But there is a condition.  You have to let God into the ring of your life.  Just like the great fighters who climb into the wrestling or boxing ring will only fight the opponent they are scheduled to fight, God will not take His intervention into someone’s life who does not want it and has not scheduled with Him.

This is why I always become uncomfortable when people start offering people in need advice or comfort.  When we try to solve the worlds problems through our own wisdom and understanding, we keep God out of the ring and don’t allow Him to work in our lives and the lives of others.

And more importantly, I believe we rob the individual going through the trial or tribulation.  God is trying to show His strength in their lives, not ours.

I am able to illustrate this in a very simple way.  Find an atheist and describe God’s goodness in your life.  Tell them of all of your experiences with God and what it has meant to you.  I can almost certainly tell you that the atheist will point to anything else in the world other than [a] God, to explain your experiences.  The atheist doesn’t need your experiences for proof of God.  The atheist needs an encounter with God.  Their own personal encounter.  And the same is true of us when we encounter trials and tribulations.  God wants us to interact with Him in a very real and personal way.  Not through someone else’s experiences, no matter how similar.

I am reminded of a King who lived a few thousand years ago.  This king was the King of Israel.  And he has been regarded as a great King indeed.

King David experienced his own set of trials and tribulations.  He may not have known the expression “When it rains, it pours”, but he would almost certainly identify with its sentiments.  King David allowed God to work in his life during these times.  He sought out a personal encounter with God in the close confines of the ring of strife within his life.  And King David walked out with his own answer as to how to address troublesome times.  Not someone else’s answer.  Not the answer of some program, or a counselor, or friends.  He walked out with a personal answer from God.

I like King David’s answer.  God asked him to write it down for us.  And he did.  King David’s answer to troublesome times in his life is this:

Psalms 23:
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  King James Version.

King David simply had to remember that it was THE LORD who was his Shepherd.  It was THE LORD that was doing the leading.  It was THE LORD that was restoring his soul, leading him in the paths of righteousness.  It was all about THE LORD and nothing about him.

How about us?  When we find ourselves in times of trouble do we invite a Holy God into the ring of our trials and allow Him to show us His strength?  Do we make it about Him?  Or do we stand there in our own bravado and face the situation without Him?

Do you want to prove to yourself there is a God who loves you and wants to show you mercy?  Invite Him to show you His strength the next time you face trials and tribulations and you will have your proof.

Do You Have An Affliction?

Are you afflicted by something in your life?  Perhaps it is a physical affliction.  Perhaps it is an emotional affliction.  Or perhaps it is a spiritual affliction.  Maybe you are one of those rare cases where it is multiple afflictions.  Whatever your affliction may be, it would seem that the world today has an answer.

My real question today though is not what your affliction is, but rather what your treatment of that affliction is.  For you see, I have a hypothesis that the world today is full of answers to our afflictions that make us feel good, but perhaps don’t actually treat the afflictions themselves.

You can see evidence of this through a simple Google search.  Try it.  Google your affliction and count the responses you get back that offer a world view that is non Theistic in its foundation as opposed to those that are.

Now before I go any further, let me make it plain that there is nothing wrong with treating afflictions through medical, psychological, or therapeutical means.  If you have poor eyesight you need glasses to correct that.  If you have a cold, medicine can help you.  If you are heartbroken, counseling may be a path to recovery.  My problem with the world today is where our focus is.  And I perceive that to be more on our afflictions, and the cures for them, than on the Creator and the sin cursed world that has brought about the afflictions, that we suffer, in the first place.

We seem to think that we have all the answers to our afflictions, or at least more answers than have ever been available before in history, yet we never consider what God has to say about them.  In other words we never consider the Biblical approach to our afflictions but rather only what medicine or psychology has to say about them.

Afflictions are not new in the world.  They have been around since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.  Paul of Tarsus told us of his afflictions (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), Job was afflicted, I’d argue that both Cain and Abel were afflicted.  And perhaps there are those around us that may not be as normal as we perceive them to be.  Some may hide their afflictions very well.

Certainly our afflictions today cannot be so great as to compare to the afflictions of the early church, those that have experienced hardship during times of war, and certainly not the thieves on the cross (Mark 15:27).  But many will still cry out about how they were born with their afflictions or else cursed with them through no fault of their own.  Perhaps they should consider the blind (John 9:1-3), or the lame (John 5:5-9), or the deaf (Mark 7:31-37), or even the spiritually tormented (Matthew 8:28-34).

Personally, I know of no other living person today whom I would consider more greatly afflicted than those that have had all possession of their faculties compromised.  Such as those that may suffer from Down’s Syndrome or are in a coma.  I have long contemplated the thoughts those that suffer from such afflictions must possess.  Imagine living out your entire life, or even a piece of it, unable to express your deepest and innermost desires or dreams.  And yet, but for the Grace of God, there go I.

But as I stated, I am not interested in what your affliction today is, but rather your treatment of that affliction is.  I am more than sure I could survey enough people to come up with a book full of afflictions that each and every person thinks is the greatest burden any living person has ever had to bear.  However, the number of people that have met their afflictions head on through Faith and Grace, those are rare and hard to come by.

Today, there seems to be a cure for all of our afflictions.  We have adult play doh, adult coloring books, puppy therapy,  Dr. Phil, and a whole host of other so-called treatments for all of our self-diagnosed woes that I neither have the time, nor the inclination to parade before you.  We have cures for our illnesses such as have never been available to mankind before in the history of the world.  When did the Disciples of Jesus Christ ever get to stop at a local drug store and pick up some aspirin?  You want to consider some folks that must have had some colossal headaches for their day, the Disciples of Jesus would have been perfect candidates.  Just as I’m sure that the people dying from the plagues of the middle ages would have loved to have penicillin and some of the other miracle drugs that are available to us today.

People in the past had to cope with whatever came their way because they did not have anywhere near the arsenal to draw upon to fight their afflictions that we seemingly have today.  And yet, in some ways, I’d argue that people in the past fared far better when facing their afflictions, than we do today.

My problem with the treatment of our afflictions today is not that there is a treatment, but rather that we consider the treatment to be the paramount answer in the cure of our afflictions.  We have traded Faith in God for faith in some man made, non-theistic world view, cure to all our ills.  I could care less if coloring therapy does wonders for you or not.  If it does, great!  That is if it really and truly does.  What I care about is whether the coloring therapy is keeping you from spending time with the God of the Universe.  Whether it is compromising your Faith in the Creator.  And whether or not it has become a crutch to replace seeking after him.

Consider the blind man, who had sinned that he should be blind from birth?  The answer was “No one”.  Not he, nor his parents, nor anyone else in his life.  His affliction was solely for the Glory of God.  What about our afflictions today?  Are they for the Glory of God?  Or are they just some annoyance to keep us from seeking after Him?

WHY DID THE TREE HAVE A NAME?

I have a question, the answer to which, is not 42.  The answer, “42”, is an esoteric reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a science fiction work by Douglas Adams.  In Douglas Adams’ fantasy realm, the Earth is actually a Super Computer, named Deep Thought, running a 10 million year-long program to calculate the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything“.  A rather fanciful way of asking “What is the meaning of it all?”  And the answer, “42”, has become a euphemism to state “The answer is too complicated for you to understand”.

In reality, the question asked in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is not too complicated to be understood, as long as one goes to the correct source to research the answers.  And that source is the Book Of Life, the Bible, which is the real guide to the universe that God himself provided to mankind.

Of all the other sources available to us, none provides an exact answer to the questions surrounding good and evil with the clarity and finality that the Bible does.  Not Science, nor Religion, nor Philosophy, nor Politics, nor any other source you may care to name.  The answer to the meaning of it all is found in the Bible.  And at the root of that study is the answer to good and evil.

In Genesis chapters 1 & 2, we have the great creation story.  And within that story we have the Garden of Eden with two main inhabitants, Adam and Eve.  And very early on we are introduced to the concept of good and evil.  In Genesis 2:9 God made the plants to grow in the Garden of Eden, two of which, had a name,  One is the Tree of Life and the other is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  And my question today is: “Why were those trees, specifically, named?”  Of all the plants that must have grown within the garden, two were specifically, and deliberately named.  Why did the tree have a name?

The first tree, the Tree of Life, is interesting in and of itself.  It’s purpose is found in Genesis 3:22.  Eat of the Tree of Life, and you live forever.  Pretty straight forward.  Perhaps I’ll come back and revisit the Tree of Life someday, but for now, the tree I’d like to contemplate is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This tree brought death.  At least the taking of the fruit did (Genesis 2:17).  God specifically said that the day Adam ate of this tree, he would surely die.  This is an interesting statement to me because at that time the world did not know death.  Neither Adam nor Eve had any basis for understanding death.  And yet they clearly understood that there were consequences associated with eating of the fruit of this tree.

However, eating of the tree also brought something else.  It brought with it knowledge.  Specifically knowledge of what was good and what was evil.  This is interesting to me because the tree brought knowledge of, not the substance of.  And knowledge is gained by learning, by being taught of something, or by discovery.  Clearly the concept of, and the very existence of, both good and evil existed before the Garden of Eden.  Otherwise there would not have been a tree that provided knowledge of them.

It is also clear who the teacher of the knowledge was (and who held the knowledge prior to the planting of the tree).  In Genesis 3:4-5 the Serpent told Eve that  God knew her eyes would be opened, as gods, knowing good and evil.  Obviously for God to know this, he had to have prior knowledge of good and evil.  And this is not a situation of God possessing all knowledge (epignosis) as the Serpent was aware as well, prior to either Adam or Eve eating of the fruit.

No, God did not simply know the future, that Eve, and then Adam would eat of the fruit of the tree and that evil would suddenly enter into the world.  Evil was a concept that already existed and could be taught.

I also note that the Serpent was partially accurate in what he relayed to Eve.  The tree really did bring knowledge of good and evil.  And more to the point, that knowledge made Adam and Eve (and by extension all of human kind) as gods (Genesis 3:22).  God acknowledges that Adam and Eve had become like Him (the phrase “as one of us” is in reference to the triune God in the form of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to know good and evil.  That is, by eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had learned of good and evil.  And human kind has known of good and evil ever since.

The sin, for Adam and Eve, was disobeying God and eating of the fruit.  The consequences that it brought into the world is knowledgeKnowledge that humans did not know how to deal with then, and still don’t know how to deal with today.  Dangerous knowledge that God had intentionally protected with  a commandment that Adam and Eve not eat of the fruit of the tree.  God did not warn Adam and Eve of the knowledge they would gain or the consequences thereof.  The Serpent did that.  And he did it rather convincingly since Eve understood that the fruit of the tree would make one wise (Genesis 3:6).

It is interesting to me that the definition for the word wise contains the words power, discernment, and judgement.  Because that is exactly what most of us think of ourselves as.  Powerful, discerning, and judges of right and wrong.  We have become as gods, all because of knowledge of good and evil.  Knowledge that is dangerous in our hands.  Is it any wonder that Christ warned us not to judge (Matthew 7:1-5)?  Because though we may be as gods, we are not The God, who judges rightly and perfectly in every case.

Another thing that knowledge of good and evil does to us is to make us believe we are self-sufficient.  We have power (knowledge), and discernment (to chart our own course), and judgment (to rightly align those around us).  Nothing is further from the truth.  It is the greatest deception of all time.  Those are exactly the things we should be crying out to God for and relying solely on Him to provide in our lives.  But because we have not, we stand in our own understanding and then wonder why we have conflict and struggle in the world.

So you see, there is a reason as to why the tree had a name.  The question is, are we going to understand the reason and apply it to our lives?

The discussions that matter.

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