Thankfulness from the Heart


When the desire to extend our thankfulness to someone, we will go to all lengths to insure that act of thanksgiving is delivered promptly and in all sincerity. Unfortunately, that is not always the case with some people. It was reported several years ago that American Greeting Cards lowest card sales were in the ‘Thank You’ category.

I have met people who believe God’s whole purpose of being is for Him to give us whatever we need; no matter when or what that need may be. A ‘cosmic Santa Claus’ if you will. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he wrote “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)

I did not understand thankfulness from the heart until I understood God’s gift of salvation. I have read Isaiah Chapter 53 many, many times. Those verses of Scripture humble me every time.  (v.1“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”)   The power and the glory of God exhibited through the prophet Isaiah to write this extraordinary prophecy is my foundation of Thanksgiving. For God to give me (and the rest of the world) the opportunity to understand what His will for Jesus was to be is simply astounding. Where does one begin to express Thanksgiving to God for this knowledge?

An expression of Thanksgiving to God is the desire to live ‘pure in heart’. Imagine living a life that you lay before God is truthfully in you; not what ought to be in you. The Psalmist wrote, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; (Psalm 19:8).  Paul expressed that same thought in his First letter to Timothy (1:5), “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heartfrom a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” Again, to bring before God what is truthfully in us does not only show contrition, but the sincere act of Thanksgiving to our Lord, our God.

In Matthew 5, Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” One view concerning this verse which has provided discussion over the centuries is only the ‘pure in heart’ desire to see God.  If I live daily in Thanksgiving, I cannot help but believe my earnest desire to see God is as real as my sincerest prayer. Over the course of time, if a person is not thankful yet claims ‘faith’ in the Lord, then it could be said that he is not particularly interested in the most important part of  our communion with God.

 

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Thankfulness from the Heart


When the desire to extend our thankfulness to someone, we will go to all lengths to insure that act of thanksgiving is delivered promptly and in all sincerity. Unfortunately, that is not always the case with some people. It was reported several years ago that American Greeting Cards lowest card sales were in the ‘Thank You’ category.

I have met people who believe God’s whole purpose of being is for Him to give us whatever we need; no matter when or what that need may be. A ‘cosmic Santa Claus’ if you will. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he wrote “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)

I did not understand thankfulness from the heart until I understood God’s gift of salvation. I have read Isaiah Chapter 53 many, many times. Those verses of Scripture humble me every time.  (v.1“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”)   The power and the glory of God exhibited through the prophet Isaiah to write this extraordinary prophecy is my foundation of Thanksgiving. For God to give me (and the rest of the world) the opportunity to understand what His will for Jesus was to be is simply astounding. Where does one begin to express Thanksgiving to God for this knowledge?

An expression of Thanksgiving to God is the desire to live ‘pure in heart’. Imagine living a life that you lay before God is truthfully in you; not what ought to be in you. The Psalmist wrote, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; (Psalm 19:8).  Paul expressed that same thought in his First letter to Timothy (1:5), “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heartfrom a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” Again, to bring before God what is truthfully in us does not only show contrition, but the sincere act of Thanksgiving to our Lord, our God.

In Matthew 5, Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” One view concerning this verse which has provided discussion over the centuries is only the ‘pure in heart’ desire to see God.  If I live daily in Thanksgiving, I cannot help but believe my earnest desire to see God is as real as my sincerest prayer. Over the course of time, if a person is not thankful yet claims ‘faith’ in the Lord, then it could be said that he is not particularly interested in the most important part of  our communion with God.

Tribulation Solving 101


Heaven Speaks

Last year I was having coffee with some friends and we were discussing air travel. One of my friends asked how many miles can be seen from an airplane window. One guy said at least 20 miles, another said 100. We were going back and forth until one gentleman, a retired math teacher, jumped in and said, “It depends how high you are.” We all listened intently as he wrote on a napkin the formula to solve this problem. He used basic geometry with known measurements. We did not say a word. We watched and listened for the answer.  When he finished, we believed him. After all, he had the “formula!” *

God’s written word establishes the ‘formula’ for understanding who He is. As well, His word tells us why we need to be saved and how it is to be done. Tribulation is not only a futuristic calamity as spoken in Matthew 24:21. Jesus spoke of it in the Parable of the Sower, (Matt 13:21) “yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

When we tangle ourselves in religion and discuss the right and wrongs of our belief(s) without God’s word, other questions surely will arise: What constitutes forgiveness? Is Baptism necessary? Considering the information available to us in God’s written word, how did stealing, lying, and adultery become debatable topics? What is a white lie anyway?

In his essay, The Problem of Pain, CS Lewis wrote; “tribulation does its work in a world where human beings are ordinarily seeking, by lawful means, to avoid their own natural evil and to attain their natural good, and presupposes such a world.” Meaning, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I can plan a certain course of action for my life. If God’s word by Scripture is not applied in any plan, His trials and tribulations will surely arrive. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

In 1 Peter 1:6-9 we read, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

With faith in Christ, we will not be led to solve an unsolvable problem. His promise is made to all mankind in God’s word. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

*Pythagorean theorem was applied. On a clear day at 32,000 FT, you can see approximately 222 miles.

Hello In There


Castle on Rock

Macduff asked Malcom in Macbeth (Act IV, Scene 3) how things were going in Scotland, Malcom replied; “Each new morn new widow’s howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face…”  In comparison, it would be like an American delegate asking a Syrian delegate how are things going.  No doubt nothing but pure misery. There are times when we ask a person how is it going we have a feeling it will be nothing but bad news. So we don’t ask.

Recently a friend and I had coffee. I had not seen him in 5 years. I first met him when he was sleeping behind a 7-11 and in a homeless shelter. After many visits with him behind that 7-11 building, he agreed that he needed a recovery (Heroin, Alcohol, Rx abuse) program. He wanted me to be his ‘counselor’, but that was not to be. Instead I became a friend. He has now been ‘clean’ for 2 years. He has suffered throat cancer, unemployment and worse of all, in his words, no friends. He dreaded the night because of the loneliness and the day brought him “unpleasant” sojourns of people and places. I had no idea this was going on in his life until I asked. After a couple hour visit, he hugged me and said thank you for being available for him. I said anytime and he walked on his way home. What I walked away with from our visit was his “fond” remembrance of us sharing of God’s word so many years ago. He mentioned Psalm 91:3-4  He held this close to him all this time;

“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler”

His humility was contagious. I wept praising God that afternoon in joy. Yes, we all can share in that exuberance when, in all humbleness, we ask a person how they are doing without fearing it may cost us something. In Galatians 6 Paul wrote; “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.”

One of my favorite songs is John Prine’s ballad, “Hello in There”.  This verse really hit home with me the other day;

“You know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder every day.
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “hello in there, hello.”

It’s not only the old. It is all ages.  Is there a lack of young people in church or few friends in your life?  Say “Hello in there” to someone and see what happens.

The Ultimate UFC Match (The Last Judicial Duel in France)


Knight Fight

I was listening to a podcast of TED TALK concerning the most violent times in history. Many people like myself considered the 20th century would win hands down. Wrong…the history of civilization going back in time seems to be incredibly violent.Especially hand to hand combat.(Battle of Visby stands out)

What gripped me was Seth Paces description of hand to hand combat between Jacques le Gris and Jean de Carrouges.

“Described as a large and physically imposing character with a reputation for womanizing, Le Gris was a liege man (feudal retainer) of Peter II of Alencon and a favorite at his court, governing a large portion of his liege lord’s territory in addition to his own ancestral holdings. Le Gris’ insistence on defending his case by chivalry ‘Trial by Combat’ rather than opting for the safer church trial (to which as a cleric in minor orders he was entitled) attracted widespread support for his cause among the French nobility, and controversy continues to this day as to where the real guilt lies in the case.”(Wikipedia)

Seth Pace writes;

“While describing the exceptionally rare circumstance of a judicial duel, the accounts of the fight between Jacques le Gris and Jean de Carrouges are particularly telling of what symmetrical combat was like between two well-armored knights. The two knights tilted at each other, hitting one another three times and remaining stunned, but still on their horses. On the third strike, the lances shattered (one account says a large splinter lacerated one’s thigh, and he made the mistake of pulling it out), so the two regained their balance then started hacking away at each other with battle axes (“becs de corbin”). This wasn’t going anywhere until le Gris severed Carrouges’ horse’s spine with the axe, forcing the latter to dismount. Carrouges was being severely overpowered by the younger le gris, ultimately resorting to knocking le Gris off his horse by stabbing it in the gut. The two fought with swords on foot and eventually, the stronger fighter–le Gris–stabbed Carrouges through the thigh. At this point, le Gris backed up to gather energy to finish the job, but before doing so Carrouges jumped forward and knocked him to the ground. The two wrestled until le Gris was firmly pinned down, at which point Carrouges started furiously hacking at le Gris’s head with the sword. Le Gris wouldn’t give up and Carrouges couldn’t find any weak points for a clean stab, so he cut away at the armor lacing until he was able to pry open access to le Gris’s face. (Imagine opening a can of sardines with a hatchet.) Carrouges demanded a final confession for the crime (the rape of Carrouges’ wife) and le Gris refused, so Carrouges took his dagger and shoved it through the newly-widened gap in the visor, fatally stabbing le Gris in the face”. (Seth Pace) 

“Great men are not always wise, Nor do the aged always understand justice”. Job 32:9

Can you imagine in these United sates if Judicial Duel(s) were the norm? Last man standing would be an understatement. As we all have had thought justice was not not served us in certain times in our lives, we do know that God through His Son Jesus is the righteousness we all seek

“Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, Nor go to your’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away”. Proverbs 27:10

War surrounds us everyday…seek peace, do God’s justice. Help the widow and the sick, feed the hungry, help the poor.

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables* Revisited


Fifteen years ago last week, I was sitting in the Trans World Airlines cafeteria located in Hanger 12, JFK Airport in New York. I was talking to some crew members who had just finished their FAA required Annual Emergency Review. As their instructor for this class, I always enjoyed hearing the in-flight adventures of the cockpit and cabin crews. Later on that day I would be traveling to Oklahoma to attend a FAA safety up-date conference. The crew members who were at these tables were discussing their scheduled flight assignments. Some off to London, some to San Francisco, others to Madrid and at one table; approximately 10 crew members headed to Paris on flight 800. This group of men and women were part of the crew who had been working together for the month of July. The First Officer (Co-Pilot) and a group of the assigned Flight 800 Flight Attendants were making dinner plans in New York City that night. The next day everything changed. TWA 800, a Boeing 747-131, exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York, on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 persons on board. 30 were crewmembers; 15 were “deadheading” to Rome to cover another flight.

Two days after the accident, I returned from Oklahoma and was told to report to Hanger 12. The cafeteria temporarily was transformed into an operation center which would handle the incredible public relation workload. I was assigned as family survivor liaison; an assignment I began immediately. As I was leaving the cafeteria to meet with my first family, I looked toward the NE area of the cafeteria where a few days ago at that table, those TWA 800 crewmembers were planning their night. Their next day. Their lives. Two of the flight attendants were husband and wife. Two others were engaged. Those chairs and tables sat empty. In my heart, empty forever. As I started towards the exit, the reality of what happened hit me; the death of one family member is always hard. Imagine 30.

In James (4:13b-14) it is written that “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow, you are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” On a daily basis, we are consistently making plans for ourselves, our family and our employment. Yet, on each day given to us, we are subject to our ‘last day’.

CS Lewis wrote concerning that last day: “There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen…”

The boarding announcement for our eternal flight home will only be heard by us.

*Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Les Miserables: Boublil/Schonberg, 1985

Disneyland: Who Has Bewitched You?


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15

As a child of the 50’s and now entering the 6th decade of my life, I looked forward to ringing in this new and exciting decade by going to Disneyland. To walk down Main Street U.S.A, to hum ” Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, My, oh my, what a wonderful day.” Watching actors dressed like Mary Poppins, Snow White, Goofy walking around, posing for pictures with whomever. Banjo music, barber shop quartets and John Phillip Sousa type bands marching while Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Snow White, Alice and the Mad Hatter are skipping down the streets, waving to the children and smiling.

But wait! Mickey head is now like a jack-o-lantern? Donald Duck dressed as a vampire? Pluto wearing a skeletal costume? This was not what I imagined Disney to be…”So different now from what it seemed..Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.” (Les Miserables)

Imagine the excitement of a young child and parents looking forward to their first trip to Disneyland and only to find Main Street, USA decked out for Halloween. What kind of impression did they leave Disneyland with?

A young child nearby me asked his father “where is Mickey Mouse” even though, Mickey wearing a pumpkin head, was no more than 15 feet away. The father responded, very slowly, “we’ll find him before we leave.” I told the father that I did see ‘the real Mickey’ at the pier, in a gazebo, not far from the smoking section. The father smiled, thanked me and headed in that direction.

I didn’t come to Disneyland for ‘scary things.’ I wanted a day or two to leave the world of Sarah Palin, natural disasters, scandal, and traffic. I found myself unable to retreat from the world; the world broke through the gates of Disney.

As I walked down Disney Main Street, I thought on how the world (and I) can be deceived so easily. The Greek’s defined the word deceit as ‘bait.’  Paul wrote to Timothy that “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13). I blogged recently on how some church pastor’s push their own books and agenda instead of God’s word; the Bible.  Cleverly masked amongst the crowds, Satan’s deception is alive and well.

Don’t let me be misunderstood–I wasn’t dragged screaming and crying into Disneyland. But isn’t it true when we “wish upon a star” on how things can and should be, but becomes something else, we are left a bit disillusioned? No matter what age, Disneyland can be and is great fun. But it is of the world and the things that I thought were good for me and were of this world have not done me well. They never lived up to the expectations I dreamed.

With Christ, I’ve never been disappointed. In Joshua 23:14, Joshua is in the midst of his farewell address. He knows he will die soon and says: “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.”

During the flight home, I looked down to the earth from the airplane window, and thought back of my years on this earth and concurred with Joshua; God has not failed me. Not once. My failures and tears were when I trusted the world for happiness, security and love. If grandchildren enter my life, I will bring them to Disneyland. We will walk down Main Street and look out for Mickey and the rest of the Disney gang.

But not in October.

Church Size and Bible Knowledge: Are They Growing Together?



The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”
Isaiah 40:8

I recently was asked to share to a community church located in rural Oregon. This church has opened its doors every Sunday since 1892. Every Sunday! The message I shared  was  from 1 Peter 1:22-25           and why it seems that books about the Bible are more popular in some churches than the Bible itself.

As I looked around at the total of 12 pews and the 13 people sitting in them, I couldn’t help but think of what worship services were like not only in Oregon but worldwide before “mega churches.”  The folks who ‘claim’ this church number about 25. It is small, very small.  Depending on the harvest, planting, and other seasonal work, there may be 50 in attendance and sometimes there are 4.  No matter how many show up,the doors open every Sunday. They do not have an army of pastors. In fact, two gentleman share the basic responsibilities. One shares God’s word and the other leads the praise and worship singing. They rotate every 6 months. The fellowship before and after the service is their answer to counseling sessions, support groups and other “programs” that some churches have that never seem to end. These folks love each other and love whomever enters that church door. None are rich nor is their need among them. The oldest is 81. (Her mother is 101 this week). The youngest is 17. She is a foster child of one of the families. She has been attending for amount of time she has been with her foster parents-10 years.

It was a wonderful service. No videos, no DVDs, no pamphlets on how to get to Heaven and so forth. No bands playing at a decibel higher than a 747 engine. Oh yes, there were no books about the Bible. There were only hymnals (one guitar) and Bibles. These folks knew the Scriptures!

In the heart of Seoul, Korea, the Yoido Full Gospel Church sits directly across from Korea’s National Assembly. The building is large enough to seat 26,000 people, with overflow sent to nearby buildings who watch events in the main church on telescreens. As of 2007, membership stands at 830,000, with seven Sunday services translated into 16 languages. (Wikipedia, August 2009)

According to Outreach magazine (2010 Special Edition)Lakewood Church located in Houston, TX and pastored by Joel Osteen  ranks number one among the top 100 largest churches in the United States with a membership of 43,500.  Charles Stanley’s son Andy, is pastor of North Point Community Church located in Alpharetta, GA  with 24,325 members in a town of 52,000 and is the second largest and fastest growing church.

By comparison, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Oregon and Montana did not have a church with a population of over 5,000. Number 100 on the list is Christ fellowship located in Miami, FL with a congregation of 5,518.

Interestingly,the median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday mornings, according to the National Congregations Study http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/

Living in the United States, (and certain countries of the world) we are truly blessed to attend any church we desire. 3,000 or 30, to some the numbers do not matter. Back East, I attended a non-denominational church with a congregation of a couple hundred at each of its three Sunday services. Sunday evening there were about 300 people. As my faith grew as well as my knowledge of Scripture, it really didn’t matter to me how many were in attendance. My focus was and still is on the teachings of an excellent pastor. He taught from the Bible, not books about the Bible. A friend of mine has been attending Catholic services for over 5o years and cannot recall ever bringing a Bible to church with her on Sunday.

I had a ‘pop-up’ advertisement recently from Rick Warren ministries promoting his latest book, “The Purpose of Christmas.” Why would one who reads the Bible need to read a book such as this? This is one example that I discovered in that many of the mega-churches in the United States, the head pastor does a lot of promoting his or hers books. I understand that the sales of these books help offset costs of administering to other ministries here in the U.S. and abroad.  But a question remains: Are churches becoming more knowledgeable about ‘other’ books than the Bible? I don’t know the answer to that, but I have my suspicions.

The New York Times religious writer Laurie Goodstein reported that researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.  The survey’s authors concluded that there was “widespread confusion” about “the line between teaching and preaching. (NY Times 9/28/10) (my italics and highlight)

As we approach the 400th year of the King James Bible (1611),I can’t help but wonder what a powerful unification there would be in all churches; large and small, if the Bible was the best selling book in that church, not the pastor’s.

9/11-Forty Three Years Ago


In was in the late fall of 1967, I had just turned 17 years old when my father took me to the job site of what would be called the World Trade Center. New York City was in the midst of a building boom. The 1964 World’s Fair had just finished a few years back and it seemed everywhere you walked, drove or took the train, something new was being built.

When my dad and I arrived at the WTC site, I still remember seeing this monstrous hole in the ground. I can still remember looking down at this hole through the ‘peep-holes’ of the plywood barriers. The men working deep in this pit looked like ants in a colony. I must have asked my dad a thousand questions from “how did they get the cranes in the hole and how will they get them out” to “how high is this thing going to be?” Looking uptown, my dad pointed towards the direction of the Empire State building. “Taller than the Chrysler building, even the Empire” was his response. It was hard to imagine anything so tall. “How do they get water to the bathrooms at the top floor? Why are they building two?” were another series of questions I asked him.

When I returned from Vietnam in April of 1970, I can recall seeing these towers from my airplane window rising as we were landing at Newark airport.  The North tower would be done around December of that year and the South tower in July of 1971. I had dinner at the Top of the World restaurant in the early 90’s. I don’t remember much of the people I was with as much as I remember the view at sunset; especially watching the outbound aircraft traffic from Newark airport. You felt like you could wave good-bye to them as the airplanes seemed so close.

On a 9/11 website I recently looked at, there is a hole in the ground with construction workers once again looking like ants. I’m a month away from being 60 and I’m thinking of calling up my sons to make a visit to this site. In the late fall, of course.