Saturday, December 31, 2016

Taking the Looooong-term view

We Americans, Christian and non-Christian alike, tend to focus mostly on the short-term.  We are micro-wave folks that can’t even wait for that.  I read several places recently that the Average American has only like $5000 is his/her bank account.  Wow!
One KEY problem with this short-term view is heaven.  Heaven is a ways off—at least we think it is a ways off.  We think, not about heaven, but about the tv show coming on next.  We think about something that is going to give IMMEDIATE pleasure.

One POSITIVE aspect of old age is that we realize that life is short, and that we do NOT have much longer on this earth.  These are good reminders to think looong term- eternity- rather than short term pleasure.  You are realizing probably, that I have said this over and over.  And, astute readers will realize I am MOSTLY talking to MYSELF!

Like most of you, I am struggling  to take this long -term view.  I want the here and now to be wonderful and I want to orchestrate all my circumstances to make it as great as possible- even if it is short term.

It is a struggle.  I write to you, dear reader, to remind myself- it is a struggle.

But, this too shall pass, and pass quickly.  On the other hand, eternity, as you can tell by its name, is the real-deal, long term.  Let’s think about that a while.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mistakes and Apologies- MINE

As we approach the New Years, and the time to make resolutions, let me resolve to make more mistakes.


Yes, that is not a typo- this time-  I resolve to make more mistakes.  I resolve it, because it is one resolution I will likely keep.  If you have been reading this blog long, you realize that my prediction is safe.  I make errors ALL the TIME!!  I just had to correct a typo in the post that came out today (early November).  It is likely I made other errors I didn't catch.  If you do stuff, you make errors.

Most errors aren't that bad.  I read a book recently which described a Company's policy as saying, errors aren't a problem... as long as we learn from them and get better.

At my age, I am not sure I get any better- in fact it seems I am getting worse at a LOT of things.  But I still accept my errors.  It's not that big a deal- as long as no one gets hurt but me.

That said, I apologize for my frequent errors and ask your indulgence and forgiveness.

G^d KNEW that man would make errors- sins.  He was NOT caught by surprise.  He tells us that the Christ as crucified BEFORE the foundation of the earth!   He was NOT caught off guard (that repetition was intentional, not an error).

G^d has made provision for my intentional and unintentional errors- what we call sins.  Christ gave his life to correct my errors.

Thank you L^rd for your grace and mercy!  L^rd knows I need them!

Good to know.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Celebrating Easter-- Christmas Day

My son-in-law has a dual role- he is also my pastor, and a friend too.  Because a LOT of people will be gone Christmas Day, a Sunday this year, including the pastor, he asked me if I would give the Christmas Day sermon.

Of course!

I prayed and meditated and heard G^d say, "Talk about Easter".


"You heard me!"

And so today's sermon was titled, "Celebrating Easter".

You see, without Easter, Christmas would NOT be celebrated at all.  Plus the distractions of Christmas are much LESS obvious at Easter.

The text of the sermon is Luke 24: 1-11, with a focus on v. 5, which asks the crucial question, "Why do you seek the Living among the dead?"

What does this say about Christmas?  Lots.  Our Christmas celebration starts with "Black Friday" wherein Americans spend  lots of money, thinking that the perfect gift will make the holidays joyous.  Sure, materialism rules!

It seems America, including Christians, and really the whole world is looking for life in the cemeteries.

Materialism, greed, the prosperity gospel- all are destined to die!  Why not invest in spiritual matters, that will not pass away!Image result for looking for life in the cemeteries

Merry Christmas!!

I felt compelled to change the usual blog schedule a bit, so as to post on Christmas Day.  As everyone knows, this is the Christian celebration of the most important birth in mankind's history.

As many have said before, the significance of the birth of The Christ often gets lost in the commercial and cultural distractions of the season.  "Merry Christmas" has been replaced with "Happy Holidays", and many other changes distract us.

Enough said. If you have lived very long, you have seen and experienced the de-spiritualization of a KEY spiritual event.

But, whereas we may have minimal impact on the larger culture, we can influence our own families and customs.  My suggestions:

  1. Stop right now and pray.  Thank G^d for intervening on our behalf, on my behalf!
  2. Remind those around you of the Birth, life, Death, Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and what that means for us.
  3. Take a few minutes, either with others or alone, to savor the signficance of G^d become man and living among us, and saving us from our sins.
  4. Smile and forget the commercial, enjoy the event.  remember we will be rejoicing in it for ALL of eternity!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Organize your Emotions- Optimize your Life

On Friday evening last, I heard a key-note speech by a woman who has written a book with the title, Organize your Emotions- Optimize your Life.  That's a catchy/appealing title, eh?

She was an excellent speaker and had some excellent visual aids.  The talk seemed very well received.  Her thesis is that all humans have 9 emotions battling for dominance inside of us.  The emotion that is winning is the one we express at that time.  By understanding these 9 emotions and cultivating the ones we need the most, and recognizing the more dominant and recessive emotions, we can organize them and live happier, more fulfilled lives.  She used her own wrestling with her desire to "take brain breaks" to illustrate her points.

Soooo, apparently if I buy her book, and organize my emotions, most of my internal struggles will recede- and at a rapid rate!  Sounds good.

Some of my graduate students were sitting in nearby seats hearing the same presentation.  They asked me, "What did you think of that?"

Good question!  What do YOU think of that?- and I realize I have compressed a 45-minute talk into just a few lines.  But what do you think of her basic premise?

I answered, "She is a bright lady, and clearly she has given a LOT of thought to this and come up with a thoughtful, interesting approach to a very real problem.  In fact, she is addressing a problem brought up by the Apostle Paul over two thousand years back.

Romans 7:14-25  says,  "14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."
So, the author has addressed an age-old problem- the war within between our old sin nature and our desire to overcome evil.  The author means well in suggesting we overcome evil with better "organization".  Paul draws a different conclusion- "Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
I think Paul got it right!

Monday, December 19, 2016

To Whom Much is Given...

 We, or at least I, take a LOT for granted.  In the USA we have freedom, plenty of educational opportunities, plenty of economic opportunities.  And, as a Latino, I add, with very little regard to race, creed or religion.

We, as Americans have been given very much, the above freedoms a major part of this.  and, I think about the Scripture, Lk 12:48, "And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more."

We have resources lacking in much of the world.
  • We have access to information.
  • We have travel opportunities.
  • We have opportunities to earn a good bit of money.

So what are we, what am I, doing with the MUCH that has been given us.  The great temptation is to use what we have for our own isolated pleasure.  We earned it, we deserve to ENJOY it.

But, what have I that has NOT be given me by G^d??  

To whom much is given... that would be me.

Much will be required of me.  What shall I do with that which I have been given.  I have to ask myself that over and over.

How about you and the MUCH you have been given??

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I Have Been BOUGHT with a Price!

"...for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body."  1 Corinth 6:20.

Ever consider this?  I haven't much- until recently.

I, you, we, have been bought with a VERY high price- the blood of the Christ.

We have been bought, so we are NOT our own.  Our bodies, our lives, our ambitions, are NOT ours, they belong to the One who bought us.  My plans  must be put aside.

What matters is the desires of the One who paid that great price.  My thinking MUST be readjusted.   Otherwise I continue to put myself ahead of whatever palns G^d might have, and continue on in my selfish- and improper- ways.

So all that advice about:

  • Follow your dreams!!
  • Go for the gusto!
  • Dance to your own music.
  • And lots more I can't recall right now!

It's all wrong?



Monday, December 12, 2016

A Bad Word-- Obedience??

Those who know me, know that I occasionally mention the "curse of the evangelicals".  Because G^d gifted me in prophecy (not telling the future), I am compelled to call out the church in some areas. One area where we evangelicals seem off base is in the area of obedience.

We evangelicals are strongly committed to "sola fide", that is, we are saved by faith alone, not by works.  This is UNDENIABLY TRUE!!  BUT.

Yes, a big BUT, that is important.  BUT being saved my grace alone does NOT obviate our need, indeed our requirement to be OBEDIENT to the G^d who created us and saved us (by GRACE alone, not by works).

Scripture clearly tells us, Obedience is better than Sacrifice!"  (I Sam 15:22).

Yeah, but that is OLD Testament.  Everyone knows that that OT stuff was superseded by the New Testament.

Ok, fair enough, I disagree, but let's go with that for a moment.  One of the verses I have mentioned over and over in this blog is a quote form Jesus, "If you love me, keep my commandments."   (Jn 14:23).

How about, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. ( I Jn 3:18).

How about, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."  (Matt 16:24)

This has been driven home to me recently.  I want to be obedient to G^d, whether I am THRILLED about it.  I want to OBEY!

Easier said than done, but I'm a tryin!!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

God Loves You, but the Plan for Your Life is Kinda Up in the Air

The late founder of Campus Crusade, Dr. Bill Bright, was instrumental in creating the famous Cru gospel presentation, The Four Spiritual Laws.  Thousands and thousands of people have come to Christ thru that presentation.

The first of those 4 Laws says, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!"

The TRUTH of that Law is undeniable,  Our interpretation of that last part, "wonderful plan" is largely wrong, at least in my view.

Most people, at least most Americans, interpret a "wonderful plan" as a life filled with success and joy and other good things.  The "health and wealth" preachers play on that interpretation to the extreme.
But, I would argue, our interpretation of "wonderful plan" may NOT be correct.  G^d undeniably has a "wonderful plan" for us in eternity, but in the here and now, maybe NOT so much.

Consider some of the great characters of the Bible:

  • Jeremiah- known as the weeping prophet,
  • Moses- the leader of Israel, suffered greatly in his task,
  • David- did pretty well, but his sons were a mess,
  • Paul- spent quite a bit of his time in jail, only to be martyred outside the walls of Rome,
  • Many of the disciples were jailed and martyred,
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer was martyred,
  • Rachael Scott of Columbine, CO, was martyred,
  • Many modern day Believers are being killed for their faith. 

Now, we have to stretch a bit to consider those folks' lives as "wonderful".

But their eternity certainly is!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Happiness

I once heard the late Howard Hendricks speak of a "Happiness Cult".

He may have been only half right.  Happiness, and its pursuit promised in the Declaration of Independence, is MORE than a cult, it is full blown religion- even among Christians.

On Facebook, and other well-meaning outlets, we can read admonitions to:
"Dance like no one is watching",
"Pursue your dreams",
"Follow your heart",
"Use the good china".

Now, I don't really argue against any of this nice advice, but the end goal is arguable.

Somehow most of the world, including many, many Christians, are pursuing happiness as the highest possible outcome.  In fact, us very competitive folks, are seeking to have MORE happiness than any of our competitors.  We accept the advice without second thought.

But think a second time.

Is this really consistent with Christianity, with G^d's plan for man, with Scripture?

I think NOT!

Scripture constantly reminds us to "take no thought for tomorrow", to seek to OBEY G^d, whether or NOT this obedience makes us happy.  Consider the prophet Jeremiah, the leader Moise, the disciples, the apostle Paul.  None of these pursued personal happiness.  Paul ended up primarily ministering from prison before he was hauled outside the city walls of Rome, and beheaded.

Does that sound like fun?

What does sound like genuine fun?  How about eternity in the presence of the Holy Creator G^d? Perhaps G^d did indeed create us for fellowship, for obedience, to do some tasks that may NOT be fun.

For those who do NOT know the Christ, happiness for a few years is about the BEST we can do.  For the rest of us, I say we ought to aim a bit higher.

Now to put that to practice!!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Contrary to Common Thought... Following G^d Not Aways Joyous!

Somehow, I along with MANY fellow Christians, came to believe that following the Christ would be jolly good fun.


Some Health and Wealth proponents would have us believe that G^d's plan for us is universally joyous.  Remember, "God has a wonderful plan for your life"?

Well, that is TRUE, but our translation of "Wonderful" is often wrong.  We interpret "wonderful to be "Happy, healthy, wealthy, content, satisfied, fulfilled".


There is absolutely NO Scriptural basis to believe that G^d has a life of ease and pleasure in mind for us.  What do these names bring to mind?

  • The Prophet Jeremiah,
  • The Exile Daniel,
  • David, while being chased by his son who was trying to kill him,
  • Hosea, married to a prostitute,
  • The Apostle Paul being shipwrecked, beaten, threatened, tried, and ultimately killed for his faith,
  • Early Christians being burned alive in Nero's garden,
  • Detrich BonHoeffer.

Hmm, hardly the cushy life promised to, and expected by, many Believers in this day and age.

And how about me?  I hate to admit it, but somehow I had come to believe that Christians, when following G^d, ought to be happy, happy, happy.


We may well be happy in following Christ, but it is NOT a cause and effect.  We may be tired, persecuted, even martyred.  But it is WORTH it.  But that thought requires FAITH.

"I believe, help thou my unbelief!"