Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there. It’s a special day of remembrance of our fathers, be they still with us here on planet earth or have been promoted to the next realm. The role of father is very important in the life of a child. Learning about the respect for authority, living a principle-centered life, and being responsible for one’s actions are common themes taught by a Dad. I was one of the lucky ones to be blessed with such a father and to have such wonderful parents.
Unfortunately, there are many who are not as blessed as me. Sometimes these lessons of how to behave and become an adult are learned through a child’s observance of how not to be–through the sins and failures of a father. This is a tougher path. Yet, as many psychologists will say, having a father, even a not-so-good one, is still preferred over no father at all. That void of fatherhood leaves a gap and a deep wound of abandonment that can really scar a child in a multitude of ways.
In the greater scheme of life, there is hope–there is good news! We have a Father in heaven and He is a Perfect Father. He loves us with an everlasting love! It is a love so profound and so deep that we truly cannot fully conceive of it. No matter what our earthly situation is, we can trust our heavenly Father in all things. He will never leave us or forsaken us. He always has our best interest at heart.
We should make note that as a Perfect Father, His greatest concern for His children is not prioritized on comfort, but on character. God desires the best for us which is to bring out the best in us.
The apostle Paul wrote of our heavenly Father’s love and the level of commitment He has for us through His Son: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39
As the apostle John writes, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10
That’s a love that’s continuous and dependable. That’s an amazing love!
Wherever we are in life and whatever circumstances we may find ourselves, we can be confident and have that assurance that our heavenly Father is near. Be it in joy or in terror, be our lot successful or scary, whether we bask in the light of great fortune or grieve in our darkest hour, we can always cry out “Abba, Father!”
And He hears us!
While in this world, we see in a mirror dimly–we do not know full truth and thus we must walk and live in faith. Our heavenly Father walks with us and His Spirit serves as our mentor to guide us through all the trials, successes, and tribulations in our life.
As we recognize the immense heroism displayed 75 years ago on the beaches of Normandy, we are reminded of a quote from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13
Roughly 4,400 men paid that ultimate price on June 6th, 1944 to initiate the march of freeing the world from Nazi tyranny.
My wife and I along with another couple recently visited that Normandy landing site. We stood at a German “pill box” overlooking the expansive sandy beach, weakly trying to imagine what it must have been like trying to cross it under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. Mere words are inadequate to express…
Earlier that day, we had visited the gravesite at the Brittany cemetery of 1LT Thomas Caswell McAllister–my Dad’s cousin and childhood friend that he recognized by naming me in his honor. LT McAllister was a P-47 fighter pilot of the 365th Fighter Group (the Hell Hawks) who was killed in action ten days after D-day.
Though very capable in air-to-air combat given its eight 50-cal machine guns (4 on each wing), the P-47 Thunderbolt was a rugged aircraft that was often relied upon for close air support of ground operations and could carry 5-inch rockets or a bomb load of 2500 pounds. In support of Allied infantry combat forces, Tom’s fighter was hit by ground fire and as he tried to eject from his wounded aircraft, his parachute caught the tail of the plane and it carried him down. Despite being killed in the early weeks of the invasion, the intensity of the conflict is demonstrated in the fact that he had already accumulated 6 Air medals. He was later awarded posthumously the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for his exemplary actions in his last mission. He was 23 years old.
Warfare brings out both the best and worst of men. And until Christ returns, there will always be wars and rumors of war in the physical sense. More importantly, we all need to recognize the great struggle and battle that we are currently immersed. This is a battle not of flesh and blood…but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12)
As we honor the heroic efforts of our fellow men and women in time of war, let us also pause to recognize and respond to this current spiritual battle we are now engaged. Unlike the D-Day invasion, the outcome of this battle is certain. It has already been won at the cross of Calvary where our Lord paid the ultimate price for all humanity–He gave Himself as a ransom for all so that we may escape death and have eternal life with Him.
Though the war has been won, we are still fighting the battles as our mission is to be useful servants/soldiers to our Lord to help reclaim the prisoners and the lost, to assist the wounded and the hurting, and to encourage and exhort our fellow, faithful brethren.
So, onward Christian soldiers! Let us not grow weary, but go forth armed with the sword of Truth and the saving medicine of God’s love. Victory is ours!
How do you live the Christian life? How do you walk in the Spirit?
There’s not a short answer to that, but we can address the critical concept that must be recognized.
We can understand the procedure that gets us there. As the Gospel John tells us, “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven” (John 3:3). Romans 10:9 states that “if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” To walk in the Spirit requires the presence of the Spirit and the presence of the Spirit within you requires the profession of faith in Christ as your Lord.
When that sincere profession is made, a miraculous change transpires as described in 2 Cor 5:17 where it states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
So what changed?
If we think of the human persona, we can consider three aspects: our physical being, our mental and emotional being (often called the psyche), and our spiritual being. Visualize this as three concentric rings with the physical self being the outer ring, the psyche being the middle ring and the spiritual self being the inner ring. When you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are transformed. You are born again or born anew. You become a new creation and the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within you.
Well, my body didn’t change. I didn’t grow taller or thinner (sadly). My mind wasn’t suddenly filled with all sorts of knowledge and wisdom. I still feel the strong pull of temptation in my heart. So what’s different?
The spirit within you changes. It was dead and now has life–eternal life as a child of God! The inner ring of your persona changes and becomes aligned with your Creator. This is the new you! This is the true you. This is the “you” that God sees “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.” Gal 3:26.
Using our concentric ring illustration, consider how we make decisions each day. The vast majority of input comes through your five senses. You see or read things, you hear things, you smell, touch, and taste things. This information input goes to the second ring where you process and evaluate that information with your mind and your emotions. Here a response is formulated and goes back through your physical ring into action. You think, say, or do something. This happens numerous times a day.
What’s the spiritual aspect of your persona doing during all of this? That’s a great and important question! What should it be doing?
To be Spirit-led, we need to listen to that still small voice inside us for guidance. We need to be conscious of God’s presence within us and to be constantly seeking His wise counsel. This is why the apostle Paul tells us to unceasingly pray about everything (1 Thess 5:17, Phil 4:6, Eph 6:18). Prayer is our connection to God.
We should strive to possess a Kingdom of God point of view–to see the world as God sees the world. That can only happen if we keep our communication lines open with the Holy Spirit. Thus, in our decision-making illustration, data or information comes in through our senses, our psyche evaluates it, then seeks advice from our Spirit, then forms a response. It’s an extra step, but it is sure worth it! How many bad decisions have we made by not consulting God’s Spirit within us before giving a response?
It’s an easy answer. All of them.
This new way of thinking, living, and acting takes time to develop. It’s a process. In order to grow, you must focus on improving from the inside out–to have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to you. This is why following Christ cannot be achieved through behavior modification. That’s an outside in process. The apostle Paul describes this in Romans 7 where he states, “I don’t understand what I do.” Ever thought that? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Paul goes on to state that the things he wants to do, he doesn’t do, but the things he knows are wrong and don’t want to do, he does. He summarizes his state with, “Oh, what a wretch man am I!”
It must start within our spirit which is connected to God’s Spirit when we accept Christ as our Lord. Starting from His perfect Spirit we surrender and submit to His will and let it flow through us flushing out or getting rid as James states (v 1:21) the moral filth and evil expression within us. As we spiritually grow to be like Christ from the inside out, we reflect His good character and nature in our actions. Like a good branch attached to the true vine (Christ), we will produce the fruit of the spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. (Gal 5:22).
Who doesn’t want to produce a crop like that?
So to walk with Christ is to think inside out. Let His Spirit radiate outward from you and may you enjoy the fruits of the Spirit and be a bright light for the Lord!
The year 2019 marks the
160th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s epic thesis, “On the Origin
of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races
in the Struggle for Life.”
The premise of that elongated mouthful of a title is that all living creatures evolved through naturalistic methods from a common ancestor. At the time it was a clever and intuitive proposal leading to the modern-day creation of evolutionary biology science. Its model has always sparked intense debate and that remains until today.
Science has made
significant strides since this theory was introduced so under the modern microscope
of this new learning, does Darwin’s theory still hold up to the scrutiny?
In Darwin’s day,
microscopes were very rudimentary, and the existing viewpoint of living cells
was largely confined to the concept of a cytoplasmic gel. What we now know
about living cells is that they are incredibly complex. Within every cell are intricate
manufacturing and transportation systems as well as information sharing on a
radical scale. In its microscopic world, it functions like a small city.
So, can natural cell mutation successfully navigate through the increased levels of complexity necessary for evolution? It’s not just that mankind descended from apes, but we must formulate an unbroken evolutionary chain all the way back to Billy and Barbie bacilli bacteria. Does natural evolution possess the speed necessary to blindly transverse from a single-celled organism to human beings in (using the old earth model) less than 5 billion years? Can Chance be our Creator?
Well, let’s do the math.
Mutations are relatively uncommon, and the vast majority of mutations are either
neutral or defective. To produce an
enhancement is very rare although we unfortunately witness these occurrences
when disease-inflicting bacteria develop a resistance to the penicillin used to
try to kill it. For a single cell to mutate or replicate is not a difficult
feat, but for it to transform to a different type of cell is levels of
magnitude more challenging.
The human body has more than 200 different types of cells—blood cells, skin cells, muscle cells, brain cells, etc. Thus, a single-celled organism must successfully mutate into these two hundred different types of cells without death or failure. So, let’s create a highly simplified math model to simulate that process and give every possible advantage to natural evolution:
First, let’s make the outrageous assumption that every mutation has a 50% chance of being a successful enhancement and migration to a new type of cell. The other outcome is failure. In order for a single-celled organism to evolve into a 200-celled creature, we’ll need two hundred consecutive successes. Thus, using basic probability, we calculate the chance for success of (1/2) raised to the 200th power which roughly equals 1060.
In giving evolution every courtesy of advantage, we’ll use the old universe model and let’s say the earth was formed immediately after the Big Bang making it roughly 15 billion years old. To maximize opportunity, we’ll assume that every square inch of the earth’s surface was instantly covered in bacteria—say 1000 bacteria/square inch which is about double what you’d find under a toilet seat at your local, public bus stop. We’ll also greatly increase the typical mutation rate to once every second.
Thus, we’ve leaned quite heavily in favor of Darwin’s theory. We’ve started with the earth fully covered with bacteria since the beginning of the universe (adding at least 10 billion years to reality), mutating at the rate of once per second (actual average cell division rate ~1/day and way less than half of those are actual mutations) and having a 50% chance of being a successful or favorable mutation (where reality is typically < 1/1000).
So, we have (103 bacteria/sq. inch) X (8×1017 sq. inches of earth’s surface) X (1 mutation/second) X (1018 seconds of the universe’s existence) and we get rounding up 1039 bacteria which divided by 1060 leaves us with 1 chance in 1021 of a single celled organism successfully creating the 200 unique-celled creature known as homo sapiens. That’s one chance in one with twenty-one zeroes after it. Even with all those advantageous assumptions: It’s not going to happen. The math simply does not add up.
The fossil record confirms this. First, the evidence does not show a gradual expansion of species as an evolutionary model would forecast, but incredibly rapid growth at a certain stage. In the Cambrian era, there was an exponential increase in the number of species on the planet. This fact is often referred to as the Cambrian explosion where virtually all 33 phylum classes were created in a very short period of time (roughly 50 million years or 1% of earth’s estimated existence). Scouring the fossil record, there is no evidence of a single transient species to show where migration occurred from one species to the next. There’s not one from Billy & Barbie bacteria to Adam and Eve.
Second, the gaps between species also show almost innumerable examples of irreducibly complex organs and cell functions—a death knell to Darwin’s theory that he even admitted in his book by stating, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
To drive the proverbial stake deeper into the heart of Darwin’s theory, we have the intelligence and information aspect of DNA. Darwin had no clue of DNA’s existence. In simplistic terms, DNA is the information system that tells a cell what to do. As Bill Gates once observed, “DNA is like a software program far, far more advanced than any software ever created.” This screams the question, “Well, who wrote it?”
As an illustrative metaphor, to believe Darwin’s version of evolution is to think that a small, thin, flat rock, given enough time, could evolve into a cell phone complete with firmware and software. That’s laughably absurd, but to think we’ve evolved through natural physics and chemical processes is even more ludicrous. Both the “hardware, firmware, and software” of the human persona is far more sophisticated.
So, why are we still
teaching this archaic and indefensible theory in school?
It’s not that Darwin’s theory is so admired—it’s the alternative that gives so many people angst. I once asked Christian theologian and famous apologist Dr. William Lane Craig why so many scientists don’t believe in God and he provided an interesting answer, “It’s not because of science.”
The greater evolutionary leap comes in the creation of life or organic matter. If life evolved from unguided natural, chemical processes, then logic dictates that inanimate matter somehow had to evolve into living matter. Billy and Barbie bacteria are now the offspring of Quinton quark and Edna electron. Known as spontaneous generation, it’s the theory that living organisms can be produced by non-living matter.
It is no longer
considered viable, but don’t let the impossible interfere with “science”. Famed
biologist and Nobel prize winner George Wald stated with stunning cognitive
dissonance, “One has only to contemplate the magnitude
of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is
impossible. Yet here we are—as a result, I believe, of spontaneous
generation.” – Scientific American, August 1954
Here we are indeed!
We know that the
universe has a beginning and logically this initial start-up event was due to
either chance or design. When the math doesn’t add up for chance, we’re left
with design and that implies a Designer. For many scientists that thought
becomes a Maalox moment.
It’s time to be bold and toss off the emperor’s new clothes of fear and loathing of a Creator. Naturalism, as a viable explanation for the existence and complexity of this universe is mathematically untenable. Its philosophically-extended brother, atheism, is dead. We’re all deists now (at least). Even should one cling with fervent hope as Linus to his blanket and Great Pumpkin theory, that maybe…just maybe, we got really lucky, one still must objectively admit the pragmatic odds are just too extreme. They extend exponentially past the plausible and natural into the realm of the miraculous. And if the miraculous exists, by definition, there must be the supernatural—there must be a God.
“What kind of God?” is worthy of debate (and for those who are skeptical or inquisitive, I would direct the reader to peruse through the previous set of blogs from February 14th – April 24, 2019). However, the math clearly shows that we humans are not the product of unguided physics and chemistry, but specifically designed and created. It’s time to put a fork in Darwin’s theory of evolution—it’s done and destined for the dustbin of extinction.
Well dear reader, for all of you who have travelled along thru this series of blogs, we have now reached the end of the writing part so it’s time to transition from thought and word into action and deed. If you’re just now joining us, well, you’re catching the epilogue, but if this post seems sufficiently enticing, then you can go to the first blog (Feb 14th) and read through to now to get the thrilling and thought-provoking details.
Therefore, before we begin our trek of actions and deeds, let’s take a look back at our thoughts and words in a summary format and review a la the infamous Cliff Notes method:
We began with the metaphor that “Life is a Journey” and we asked the Question, “What’s the Best way to travel?”
We utilized the typical questions one asks when going on a journey: Where am I going? Why am I going? What should I pack? How shall I travel? Who is travelling with me? Whom shall I tell about my journey? How do I make the most of my trip, how do I help others on their trip and what attitude should I have?
We also had to consider road conditions. What is the truth about the environment in which we are travelling? What is the scorecard for measuring success? To answer that, we started with some very big “If’s”:
is a Creator of the universe whom we’ll call God and…
has prepared for mankind a life after this earthly life that is far greater in
terms of duration and potential i.e. it lasts for eternity and is far more
fulfilling and enjoyable than anything currently on earth and…
we say, think, do, and believe in this earthly life somehow affects what our
status will be in this next life…
Then…how should we live our life?”
Using science, mathematics, logic, reason, and scripture, we then evaluated and validated each of these “If” statements in a series of six blogs (refer to the blogs from March 5th thru March 18th) to create a description of the environment, the metrics for success, and a worldview from which to navigate.
From these questions, conjunctive ponderings, and established worldview, we built a road map for our journey and we anchored it to the One we are to follow: Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We are to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Him.
In this site’s very first blog written on Valentine’s Day (see Feb 14th post), we contemplated the meaning of the cross that we must carry and determined it is a cross of love. We pick up our cross of love each day and follow Truth (Jesus) for that is the Way we are to go and the Life we are to live. Christ is both our ultimate destination (be like Him) and the way to get there (follow Him).
We noted that the cross of love that we carry comes from the Greatest Commandment and it contains three loves: Love God, Love Others, and Love Yourself. Therefore, to make the most of our journey and to optimize or find the absolute best way to travel, we need to maximize these three loves. We need to determine how to love ourselves best, love others best, and love God in the very best way.
To love ourselves best is to be our best, to love others best is to share our best, and to love God with our best is to glorify Him in all that we do.
NOTE: We’re throwing the word “best” around a lot! So, to determine what we mean by “best”, we must review again and define what is success. Our ultimate success is to align all our actions (thoughts, words, deeds, beliefs) with our Creator. We all will one day appear before Christ to receive His evaluation and the goal of our life journey is to be complimented by Christ with a hearty “Well done!” To receive praise from Jesus is a journey travelled well!
Now, for each of these three loves, we described three life disciplines that address the tactical, strategic, and holistic aspects for optimizing our travel. These are the tactical day-to-day management, the strategic leadership and guiding principle, and the holistic or driving mindset (motivation) that we are to have. Using the “Climb the ladder to success” illustration, good management is the tactical efficiency of climbing the ladder in the most effective way. Good leadership is the necessary strategy to ensure the ladder we are climbing is leaning against the correct wall. The holistic aspect describes the accompanying motivation and mindset to synergize the two. When put all together, this produced the 9 P’s or Disciplines to possess, maintain, and continually develop in order to pursue the most excellent and exceptional life journey possible!
Wow! That’s quite an intro!
There’s a lot of planning and prep work for travelling well! So with that lengthy introduction, here are the 9 P’s associated with the three loves of Loving God, Loving Others, and Loving Yourself:
PREPARATION – Put on the full armor of God
PURPOSE – Glorify God
PRIORITY – Seek God’s Kingdom first
We tactically prepare and suit up each day in God’s armor to make good and wise decisions for every choice we face. We know our strategic purpose is to glorify God in all our actions, and we holistically maintain the mindset to seek His Kingdom first in all that we do. We strive to see the world as God sees the world. This is how we become our best “self” which is how we love ourselves best.
Concepts to Ponder: Our purpose is to give glory to God in all that we do. We face a multitude of decisions every day. To be wise is to filter our choices such that we have a Kingdom of God perspective (seek His Kingdom first) and then evaluate our choices so that we take in consideration the uniqueness of our past, our current circumstances, and our future hopes and dreams. Then choose the wise action to take. If we are seeking God first and foremost and making wise choices on a daily basis, then we are being the best we can be and the possibility of personal regret will be minimized.
PROCESS – Love like God
PROCLAMATION – Tell others about God
PERSPECTIVE – Trust God
In all our day-to-day actions, we do everything in love, submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ. Strategically, we share the Gospel as the greatest form of love we can offer is to share the truth about Jesus Christ. We have the proper mindset and we guide our actions by trusting God, knowing that He has the ultimate plan to bring His children together into one loving body.
Concepts to Ponder: If we interact with others in love (patience, kindness, no envy or boasting, mercy, serving, accepting, forgiving, encouraging…), then we are treating them in the best way possible. If we share the Gospel message we encourage fellow believers and witness to non-believers God’s wonderful gift of eternal life. If we maintain an attitude of trusting God, knowing that we are just a small piece in His great mosaic artwork and by striving to unify the body of Christ (the Church) towards greater synergy and efficiency, then we are sharing our best with others.
POTENTIAL – Submit to God
PASSION – Make disciples of God
PARTNER – Walk with God
We maxmize our potential by surrendering to God so He can use all of us for His purpose. By doing everything in love, we create the miraculous “upward spirals of love” that maximize His glory. We strategically obey the Great Commission which is to make disciples and implement a replication process–growing and developing the body of Christ (the Church). Finally, we get to travel each and every moment of our lives with the Creator of the universe and that’s so cool, there aren’t words adequate enough to describe it!
Concepts to Ponder: God has the very best possible plan for our lives tailored down to each individual. Anyone Who can speak into existence 200 billion galaxies each with 100 billion stars (and knows each one by name), can certainly manage down to the cellular level the activities of man. God not only knows your heart, He knows what’s going on with every living cell in your body. He guarantees to lead us to victory! We must submit our will to be aligned with His will for this to fully work–to completely be our best. We then encourage others to do the same thing. Imagine all the world aligned with God’s plan. That would be full optimization–the closest scenario to perfection we could ever achieve here on earth. It would be the fulfillment of our prayer, “…Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Living in this manner is how we walk with God! The ultimate life experience is an intimate stroll with the Father, Son, and Spirit. It’s the greatest possible way to live that we can have in our mortal state!
This is the theory of the 9 P’s of Travel. More simply, this is The Way.
If we dedicate ourselves to mastering these nine disciplines, we will experience the most extraordinary life journey possible! It is certainly challenging, but it is exceedingly rewarding! It is “The Way” to travel and will certainly end with success. Imagine upon the end of our life’s journey, hearing a “Well done, good and faithful servant!” from God. “Come and share your Master’s happiness!”
In our ongoing “Life is a Journey, what’s the best way to travel” series, we are now down to our last “P”.
It’s the most important.
In the previous blog, we covered the Great Commission to make disciples. The last sentence of that commission is the most comforting verse in the Bible. Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
That is certainly something to behold! Hold on to Him with all your might!
Our final “P” is our PARTNER. It is our travel companion for our life’s journey. We will have many travel partners while here on earth–our spouse, family, friends, and some may leave us, but Christ will be with us–ALWAYS!
Imagine having the honor and privilege of travelling with the Creator of the universe!
He is the first and the last. We started our journey with Christ because He is the Gate. He is the Way to eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. He is the last. One day He will return to set up His Kingdom–a Kingdom that will never end.
But it’s not like Jesus makes a couple of cameo appearances in the beginning and end of our life journey and the rest is up to us. He’s there with us through every step of the way!
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev 3:20).
It’s the ultimate, “Guess who’s coming to dinner” moment. Back in Jesus’ time, people were greatly concerned about their next meal. They didn’t have Waffle Houses that were open 24/7 where you could get your hashbrowns scattered and smothered, chopped and chunked. So dining together was an intimate experience–a bonding moment.
It still is today, if we recognize it. Having dinner together as a family strengthens family ties. Going out for a meal is a bonding moment for a husband and wife. Sharing a meal produces fellowship.
In today’s world where we often measure our efficiency by how many events we can cram into our calendar, we often sacrifice quality for quantity. Busyness is the enemy of intimacy. Eating out where everyone at the table is on their cell phone texting is not sharing a meal, but eating separately in the same location. It defeats the purpose.
Considering our busyness, do we make time for Christ? Is our dining with the Lord analogous to a quick trip through the Drive thru? “Hey, Jesus. Do you want fries with that?” That’s not intimacy—that’s indigestion!
Perhaps, He is still standing at the door knocking. That’s no place for Christ to be.
He is always with us, but do we cultivate that relationship or do we have Jesus on speed dial for emergencies only? The double-edged sword is that we have a choice and it cuts both ways. We can choose to be with Him or ignore Him. We can choose to be conscious of His presence or be oblivious to it.
We should always desire to sense His presence and receive His input–to have an ear to hear what His Spirit is saying to us. To illustrate this, let’s consider a very happy moment…at least it started as a happy moment and hopefully for all, it remains a happy moment. This is the big event–your wedding day! It’s a day where you want everything to go right.
Now a marriage ceremony can be small or elaborate. For the more sophisticated ones, couples often hire a wedding planner as the logistics for such an event can become quite complex. Now imagine if you could hire Jesus as your wedding planner. How confident would you be that your wedding day would be a great success? It would be guaranteed! Think of all the potential problems Jesus could easily solve:
The caterer did not show up and there is no food! Jesus fed 5,000 with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread.
There’s a big storm coming and it will ruin our outdoor wedding! With just a word, Jesus can calm any storm.
The caterer has run out of wine! Jesus already has this one on His resume as He can change water into the finest Cabernet.
There’s no situation or scenario that Jesus could not handle to ensure your wedding day is an unqualified success. He’s the perfect wedding planner! So, if you would want Jesus to be with you on your very special day, the important question is this. Why wouldn’t you want Him to be with you every day?
The cool thing is, He wants to be with you!
As a personal note, I recently experienced the Big day, getting married almost three years ago. While my soon-to-be wife Ellen and I were shopping for rings, the jeweler noted that he could inscribe a saying on the inside of our rings. So, we decided that I would pick a Bible verse for her ring and she would choose a verse for mine. Of the 31,102 verses in the Bible, we both chose the same verse for each other, 1 Corinthians 13:8 “Love never fails.” That’s a neat “Awwww” moment isn’t it?
In the interest of full disclosure and knowing what my future wife would have to endure being married to me, another verse that I considered came in a close second, John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”
[Note: check out the video in an earlier blog I did on this verse]
We, as the Church, are preparing for the Big Wedding where Christ is the Groom and we are the bride. It will be the most amazing celebration ever! Imagine a banquet held by our Heavenly Father. It will be quite a show!
Until that wonderful day, we soldier on and what better commander can we have other than Christ? We are fully confident in our victory!
As we travel here on earth, the astounding thing about commander, our Lord, and our travel Partner, is the depth and breath of His compassion and love for us. He will weep beside us in our days of trouble, He will rejoice with us in our victories, and He will encourage us all those days in-between.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col 1:15-17)
Jesus holds the whole universe together!
He is the greatest of all travel companions and when you travel your life journey with Him, you will have a most excellent adventure and you are guaranteed to get to your final destination! This is The Way we are to travel.
To Jesus be all the glory and power forever and ever.
If you had a great story to tell, wouldn’t you be excited to share it with others?
If you discovered a great secret that would be helpful to others wouldn’t you want others to know it? If you went on an amazing vacation and stayed at an incredible resort, would you not post the fun you had on social media?
If you answered yes to the above, what if you had found the ultimate life hack–the best way to enjoy your relationships, your work, have a peace about you, and live life to the fullest? Would you not wish to impart your newly discovered wisdom with others?
Hopefully, that is what we would do. If we’re doing all things in love, and having the best interest of others in mind, then sharing our faith and our journey’s “travel tips” is the way we need to be, encouraging one another in our collective life journey. It’s not just a cool thing to do, but a command from Christ to obey. It’s our mission and it’s called the Great Commission. Here it’s presented in context:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matt 28-18-20)
Using Business lingo to review the scripture above, our Heavenly Father remains Chairman of the Board, but He has placed His Son as CEO of the universe. All authority in heaven and on earth are His. He’s the Boss! And He has given us an order–a mission to complete. To be better aligned grammatically with the original Greek phrasing, it might be better stated, “Therefore, as you are going, make disciples…”. The emphasis is not on the going, but of making disciples.
That is our mission.
In order to make a disciple, you must first be one–preferably a mature one. This is why this discipline is given next to last. It’s a “We must first remove the log from our own eye, before we remove the splinter from our neighbor’s eye” kind of thing. It’s not like we must be perfect, but it is an act of coaching and mentoring, so some skill and experience is involved. If we have established our purpose of glorifying God within our lives and have refined our abilities to see the world from a Kingdom of God perspective to make wise decisions and if we are speaking the truth in love to our neighbors, then we can be successful in making disciples. As we purify our hearts and surrender our will to God, this should become our PASSION.
Think about it. If we are loving others, then what better way to love them than to share the Good News and assist them on their life journey. It’s the best form of love you can share.
In the business world this approach aligns with Servant Leadership. Servant Leadership stresses training, mentoring, and empowering your peers and subordinates to be the best they can be. In essence it takes the company Org chart and turns it upside down where the CEO is at the bottom. His job is not to be served, but to serve. If it’s a publicly traded company, he answers to the stockholders who, in essence, is his (or her) ultimate customers. Using this inverted organizational model, he is to mentor and empower his lieutenants to be their best who then do the same with their Directors onto the managers and finally the workers who are at the top as they are typically the ones doing the work of building the product or providing the service. You lead through example by serving others.
Similarly, the “Best Practices” in personnel development in the business world is to help your employees chart their career. You sit down with Suzie or Sam and say, “Where to you want to be in three or five years? You’re a business analyst, do you want to move into project management, go the more technical lead route, or do you think you have talents more suited for sales and business development?” Then, depending upon their answer and the needs of the company (think win-win), you share with them the skills to develop and experience to gain so that they can achieve their goal.
Why don’t churches do that with their congregation? Why don’t we sit down with our members and help them discover their spiritual gifts and assist them in their spiritual development to better glorify God? Would that not enhance unity and improve the health and vitality of the church?
Jesus taught this and He spent three years mentoring His disciples so that they could carry forward what He instructed them to do and how to live. He led by example as He practiced what He preached. We mentioned in the last blog that He came to serve and graphically illustrated that point by performing the lowliest of functions by washing His disciples feet. He explained that if you wanted to be the greatest in God’s economy, you must act like the least and be servant of all.
We also mentioned in the last blog what Paul stated in Romans about being a living sacrifice. Let’s review again the next verse. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:2).
We live in this world, but we are not of this world. We renew our minds and meditate on God’s Word and put it into action. We try to see the world as God sees the world. As we purify our hearts, we will see God in action and find His will for our lives. Then we can assist others to discover His will for their lives. It becomes a replicating process. It grows and strengthens the Church. It enhances the life of every believer.
And it glorifies God.
This is our mission and let’s make it our Passion! We are ambassadors for Christ to offer His salvation to a lost world–a world full of zombies who are dead in their sins, and most of them don’t know it. We are God’s chosen workers to bring the light and hope of eternal life and to lead the lost to the correct life path–to lead them to The Way.
Think about it. What greater honor can you have and what greater act can you perform here on earth than to be a chosen vessel–God’s chosen instrument to impart His gift of eternal life to another? That’s love! That’s truth! That’s a blessed life!
Want to be your best? Then, it’s time to give it up for the LORD!
As a Southerner, it is quite distasteful and bad form really, to quote a Yankee General, but the specific terms U.S. Grant offered to Confederates at Fort Donelson during the Civil War War of Northern Aggression perfectly applies to our spiritual life—unconditional surrender.
Our current President may have wrote a book on the Art of the Deal, but this is the greatest deal ever, although at first appearance, it may not look so good. Jesus’ command to follow Him requires that level of unconditional commitment. In the business world it would be like signing a blank contract with the Lord. Whatever Jesus asks, we obey. Now, who in the right mind would do such a thing?
Actually, it’s people in their “right” mind who would sign it right away because they would know Who they are signing a contract with. (My apologies to all my English teachers for ending a sentence with a preposition). Signing a blank contract with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is not risky, but a slam dunk guarantee to have the best possible outcome for yourself! His burden is easy and His yoke is light and His path is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
The apostle Paul put it this way, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:1-2).
Sacrifices tend to not have a lot of say about their future.
Is this the right choice? We’re supposedly seeking how to optimize our journey through life–to maximize our POTENTIAL and the solution is total and unconditional surrender? To be a living sacrifice? One would be sufficiently tempted to say, “What else you got?”
Here’s how it works. God knows all. Our knowledge is like a thimble full of water on the ocean of God’s wisdom. God loves us far more than we even love ourselves. Thus, we can trust God–that was our Perspective discussed in the previous blog. If we trust God, then it’s quite obvious that when it comes to directing our lives, Father knows best.
There’s a direct correlation between how much we give of our heart to God and how much He can use us for His will and purpose. The more we give, the more He can use. Thus, to truly “optimize”, we need to surrender all.
One of the “Blessed” verses from Matthew chapter 5 is verse 8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” That’s some pretty heady stuff. For those with a pure heart–those who have laid it all on the altar, will see God. I’m not wise enough to explain the depth of that verse, but this aligns with our desire to see the world how God sees the world–to have a Kingdom of God perspective. If we operate with a pure heart, God can use all of us for His glory and we are blessed to see God in action. This is how Jesus went about it, stating, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19).
For those with a pure heart, they get to see what the Father is doing and go and joy in the fun!
A pure heart is not a perfect heart. None of us have that, but a pure heart is a sincere heart–an honest heart that contains no deceit or selfish desire.
Jesus humbled and emptied Himself to be in full obedience to the Father. Though entitled (as one day every knee will bow and tongue will confess Him as Lord), He came not to be served, but to serve. He washed His disciples feet and told us to do likewise–to serve one another. Our King became a sacrifice for us and there’s no greater love than this than for one to lay down his life for one’s friends. (ref John 15:13). He went all in and gave Himself up for us so that we may have eternal life with Him. What an awesome Friend we have in Jesus!
Often called the Golden Rule, it’s a quote from our Lord Jesus (Matt 7:12). Simple in concept, profound in purpose, balanced in justice, it is a universal maxim that members of every faith, be they those that believe in no god, one God, or many gods, can embrace. It is the accepted standard for human behavior and it forms the base of our divine triangle of love.
We are to love others and love ourselves. So, let’s take a moment to review where we’ve been in our journey and discuss our six previous P’s that reflect and describe these two loves.
We started with “In the beginning, God…” and that the whole universe owes its existence to God and all things were created for His pleasure and glory. We spoke of His Son, Jesus Christ, Who commands us to follow Him. In following Him, we are to deny ourselves (put God first), pick up our cross (a cross of love–loving God in the vertical and our neighbors in the horizontal) and follow Jesus. We also noted that the greatest commandment contained three loves: love God, love others, and love thyself.
We started with love thyself and we stated that the best way to love yourself is to be your best. We want the best for ourselves so to have the best is to be the best we can be. In our life journey we realize that we are where we are in life based on the decisions we’ve made. So, we must PREPARE ourselves so we can be wise in our decision-making to make the right decision in every circumstance that we face. Next, we need to understand our PURPOSE or why we are here. As we travel, we must have a PRIORITY system to direct our journey.
When we analyze these three disciplines, we discover that adhering to these principles will enable us to be the best we can be. We know the objective which is to glorify God, we have the tools (the armor of God) to guide us through each and every decision (step) we take and make, and we have the proper priority and mindset to seek His Kingdom first or see the world as God sees the world. We’re dressed for success, we have our objective in sight, and the means and mindset to get there. We are ready! We are positioned to be the best we can be and therefore, have fully loved ourselves.
Next, we discussed how we love others. We think win-win and we do everything in love. Love is the motivational force for all that we do. It is the measuring stick for how we value our actions. If we do things not motivated by love, then it profits us not. The PROCESS in which we travel is to love our way through every situation. Do all things in love.
We then build relationships with others. We seek first to understand them, then share our thoughts and experiences. We speak the truth in love. We PROCLAIM the Good News of God’s amazing grace. We recognize that we each have different or unique paths, but we’re all part of God’s family. We have the PERSPECTIVE that we work together in unity–that we’re all part of the body of Christ and we function best as a synergistic whole. We anchor that concept by our trust in God.
The first three P’s address how we love ourselves best. The next three P’s described how we love others best. This forms the base of the divine love triangle and is the second half of the greatest commandment…to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Now, we are ready to connect these two loves with loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave His final instructions to His disciples. John records much of that discussion. Jesus stated that He is the True Vine and we are the branches–that if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit, but apart from Him we can do nothing. Just as a branch grows, it begins to look more like the vine; we are to abide and grow in Christ and look and behave like Him.
Jesus also gave us a new command. He stated it twice so when the Lord repeats something, we should pay special attention to it. (See John 13:34 & 15:12). We are to love others as He loves us. If the Golden Rule is to love others as we love ourselves, then this is the Platinum Rule. Love others as Christ loves you.
This is how we, the branch, become more like the True Vine. This is how we grow to do things beyond our own capabilities and wildest dreams. This is where we fully align ourselves with God’s will and break out the popcorn to see what God will do through you. This is where the journey gets amazing!
The next three P’s describe these disciplines. They are POTENTIAL which describes how we grow in Christ. PASSION which is to discover God’s specific will for you and help others find God’s specific will for them. And we finish where we started—the alpha and omega, the first and the last, our PARTNER which is walking with the LORD.
That’s a peek at coming attractions, so tune in next time at the same Bat channel. Until then, be blessed and be a blessing to others!
In taking a journey or trip, it’s important to have a good attitude. To maximize our enjoyment in our travels, we need to have a proper mindset. If, as a kid, we thought going to Disney World would be really neat, we need to have that viewpoint when we travel in our life journey with the Creator of the universe! I mean seriously, think about it–how cool is that?
PERSPECTIVE is our 6th P and the last of the three associated with Love your neighbor. We are to trust God and know that He is sovereign and has the best possible plan for all of mankind of which our individual journey is a part. The goal is to create synergy with everyone’s journey–to collectively be the best we can be.
The first P of this series of loving thy neighbor was Process–we do everything in love. Love is the tactical action that guides us each and every day. The next P was Proclamation which is our strategic objective. If we love our neighbor, then we want the best for them, and there is nothing better for them than to receive eternal life and walk in the ways of Christ. We meet them where they are and share the Gospel message. Now, our Perspective is how do we make this journey together as the body of Christ to be the most effective and receive the most fulfillment?
Let’s ponder this for a moment. In our life’s journey, accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior is an individual act. No one can do that for us. It is the most important decision you or I will ever make. However, following Christ is a team sport. We are God’s children, the Church is the body, and Christ is the head to use a common analogy. As the body, we must work together in love and harmony to accomplish our mission and purpose–we’re on Team Jesus to glorify God!
The famous verse(s) Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
Although this was spoken to the nation of Israel, it applies to us individually and to us as the universal Church as well. God is sovereign, not even a lowly sparrow falls outside His will, He has a plan for each of us, He has a overall plan for the entire world, and His plan has our very best interests in mind. If this is not true, then everything descends into chaos. If it is true, then trust God!
There are two major points to consider. A body that does not work together is dysfunctional. Imagine if our heart pumped blood but it did not make it to our organs. Imagine if our eyes sent images to our brain, but the brain did not receive them. In the first case, we would die, and in the second we would be blind. The human body is a complex set of systems—nervous system, digestive system, circulatory system, etc. that must work together to be healthy and functioning properly. We as the body of Christ need to do so as well.
This is an area where the Church has much room for improvement. Of all the people of the world less than a third profess to be Christians and we are fairly confident that we do not have a 100% batting average. There are some who are Christians in name only (refer to Matt 7:21). Given that, we spend an inordinate amount of fairly useless time declaring our differences among the various denominations. Granted, we do not want to preach heresy as a little leaven can ruin the entire dough. However, that is not what I am addressing. Though we can debate whether Jesus changed the water into wine or grape juice, whether women should or should not be senior pastors, or whether you, dear reader, was predestined from before the foundation of the world to be reading this blog–those are all interesting topics, but the greatest point of all is that Jesus is Lord! That is what we need to focus upon and that is why we (the Church) need to come together in unity to be a bright light for Him! We’re already outnumbered by more than two-to-one so why this internal bickering? It’s a target-rich environment out there–the world is full of lost people and we’re going to argue about secondary doctrine? It is at best an inefficient use of time and resources. It is far better to rally behind the Lordship of Christ and be a united force for good in the world. God greatly desires for His children to get along and to thrive.
The second point is understanding that as a team player our way of measuring our success is not to compare ourselves with one another, but compare our actual self with our ideal self. Think of a football team. The left tackle doesn’t compare his job or his stats with the quarterback. His job is to block and how well he blocks determines if he is successful. What the quarterback does is his responsibility. Likewise, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling…meaning we examine ourselves in the context of our specific mission, purpose, and calling from God. Each of us is to measure how well we are doing as compared to our best. Yes, we work with others, we love and support them, we function as a team, but we measure our individual success by our unique calling. The ultimate goal is that the team performs better than the sum of its parts. By working together our collective light shines brighter.
The final takeaway is the confidence and peace that passes all understanding that a proper Perspective we will give us.
A quick story: My wife Ellen and I went on a mission trip to Guatemala during the week of Thanksgiving a few years ago. There, we and others built a house for a family. The house, which was a single-room cinderblock building which would be no more than a glorified storage shed for most Americans, was an amazing blessing for this family. (We Americans need to be more thankful in the great blessings God has bestowed on our nation!) At the end of the week, the family was given the keys to the home and served us a meal inside. To see the joy in this family and especially the children was humbling. There was not a dry eye in the room.
During that weekend, there was the big rivalry football game between Georgia and Georgia Tech. We could not watch it, but were getting texts from people back in the states on the status of the game. Georgia Tech, my alma mater, was behind the whole game, but came back to win in the end. When Ellen and I got back home, we made some appetizers, poured ourselves a tasty beverage, and put on the video of the game. During the game, Georgia would score, yet I was not worried. The refs made a bad call, but I did not yell at the TV. It was the most peaceful football game I have ever watched. Why? Because I knew how it ended. It ended in victory!
God is sovereign. He is in control. He loves us with an everlasting love! No matter what we must endure on planet earth and many of us will have some very difficult circumstances to venture through, God is in control. He is right there beside you. He will never leave you or forsake you. And we have the confidence–that blessed assurance that we will win in the end! Amen!