Tuesday, December 25, 2012

B.C. & A.D.

This is a popular photo of a lamb and lion.  I wish I had my great aunt's painting to share.

I still remember a Christmas card my grandmother received years ago from her twin-sister that was very meaningful.  It had a painting that she made herself of a lion and a lamb together which is a  symbol of the restoration of all things.  She was a gifted artist.  Inside the card she wrote how time was split because of the birth of a baby.  Our history is written in the terms of B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, which means "in the year of our Lord."  Each year that goes by bears this signature that Christ has come. 

      During  this time of year there was an old movie that was popular years ago called "It's A Wonderful Life."  The story taught a moral like a good story should.  The lesson it gave was that one person's life has a chain reaction that influences many lives to a degree that is impossible to calculate.  Taking a look at Jesus' life we can see that he influenced people to a greater degree than any other person in history.  In a writing that is popular with believers and non-believers alike, James Allan Francis in 1926 wrote the following short description of Jesus' life entitled, One Solitary Life:
"Let us turn now to the story. A child is born in an obscure village. He is brought up in another obscure village. He works in a carpenter shop until he is thirty, and then for three brief years is an itinerant preacher, proclaiming a message and living a life. He never writes a book. He never holds an office. He never raises an army. He never has a family of his own. He never owns a home. He never goes to college. He never travels two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his way of life. While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him. One denies him; another betrays him. He is turned over to his enemies. He goes through the mockery of a trial; he is nailed to a cross between two thieves, and when dead is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend.

Those are the facts of his human life. He rises from the dead. Today we look back across nineteen hundred years and ask, What kind of trail has he left across the centuries? When we try to sum up his influence, all the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life…"

      The Bible says he came in "the fullness of time."  This is evidenced by the way he fulfilled prophecies that would not be fulfilled at any other time in history.  The Seventy Weeks of Daniel give the very time period that he had to live in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled.  After 70 A.D. the genealogies of individual Jewish families were destroyed and no other man would be able to prove the credentials of the promised Messiah like the detailed lists in the gospels.

      Christ came at the fullness of time and changed time for all time.  Have a blessed Christmas!

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Where Does the Blame Lie?

I've held on to this sketch for a long time.  I'd like to thank  the artist.   It portrays well what we do when we make ourselves the center of everything.

Two brothers were walking out in the field together.  They had great parents and they had everything they needed.  Their parents were well educated and the boys were given the best education available.  This walk in the field was different from others, and it became all the more obvious when one brother returned alone.  He had blood on his hands.  I'm referring to the first murder of human history found in the Bible by the very first brothers. 
I share this story to shed some light on the recent school shooting in Connecticut and other heinous crimes that have happened recently. 
The blame has been going in all the wrong places.  The sad fact is that things like this are used as opportunities to give people that are power hungry more control.  It is the concept that the government will take care of us.  They want to tell us they will prevent these things in the future.  How? Look at the 9-11 tragedy.  They started a new government department and took away Constitutional rights of citizen's privacy in airports.  Look at the hurricane disasters.  "We'll stop that from happening again!" More power and money granted.  The point is that there are many things beyond the scope of the government's help  and it's wrong for them to pretend that they prevent certain things. 
     When Cain killed his brother it wasn't because he was off his medication (though who would say he was in his right mind?)  He recognised after the fact that his life would be in danger and his reputation was done.  You couldn't say he didn't get a good education as his parents were the wisest people living at the time.  You couldn't say he grew up in a bad environment as his righteous brother was brought up in the same environment.  It certainly wasn't the club or weapon he used that was the problem.  The problem was his love of self.  God had already confronted him about how he needed to change, but God left him with a free will; and with that free will he did the unthinkable and the unknown until that time.
     I watched a video of a father of one of the victims in the Connecticut shooting explain that he knew that this happened as a result of free will and that free will is great gift though it can be used so wrongly.  For that reason God continues to seek to reason with men just like he did with Cain saying,  "Come and let us reason together..."

      There is an email that "went viral" back a few years ago that was the testimony of Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Joy Scott, a victim of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado.  He gave it on May 27, 1999 before the Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee. These are his words:

"Since the dawn of creation there has been both good & evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers." "The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field.
The villain was not the club he used. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain's heart. "In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA.
I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA - because I don't believe that they are responsible for my daughter's death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel's murder I would be their strongest opponent."
"I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy-it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room.
Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. "I wrote a poem that expresses my feelings best. This was written way before I knew I would be speaking here today:"
Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You've stripped away our heritage,
You've outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question "Why?"

You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!
"Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, soul, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and reek havoc. Spiritual influences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation's history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact.
What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine's tragedy occurs politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties.
We do not need more restrictive laws." Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts.
Political posturing and restrictive legislation are not the answers. The young people of our nation hold the key. There is a spiritual awakening taking place that will not be squelched! We do not need more religion. We do not need more gaudy television evangelists spewing out verbal religious garbage. We do not need more million dollar church buildings built while people with basic needs are being ignored.
We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!" "As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, He did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right!
I challenge every young person in America, and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him. To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA- I give to you a sincere challenge.
Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone! My daughter's death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!"
God asking men to reason with him.
Cain kills his brother.
Darrell Scotts testimony


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Doctor's Condition Diagnosed By God's Word

This is a true story as related by Brother Norman telling how a doctor was brought to freedom by the testimony of a dying workman and his cherished Bible.

      William P. Mckay grew up in a Christian home, but at an early age he rebelled against the faith of his parents.  He didn't need God!  He would do his own thing!  He would be glad when he could leave home and do as he pleased -- call his own shots-- make his own way -- pursue his own career.

      At last the day came when he was leaving home to enroll in a university for the study of medicine.  As he was packing up for his departure, his mother gave him a new Bible.  She had written a loving note on the flyleaf encouraging him to read God's word and assuring him of her love and untiring prayers for him.  He had indifferently stuffed it into his bags and set off for college. 

    He never opened the Bible his mother had so tenderly given him and never gave it another thought.  Then one day, short of money, and needing some incidental item at school, he sold the Bible for a few coins at a pawn shop.

     Years went by.  McKay got his degree, graduated from medical school a full-fledged doctor and set up a practice in a bustling Scottish city. 

     More years went by.  One day a poor workman who had fallen from a high scaffold was hastily carried into Dr. Mckay's clinic in great pain.  Upon examining him,  the doctor sadly looked into the young man's face and said, "Son,  I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but there is nothing I can do for you.  You have suffered massive internal injuries.  You cannot live more than a few more hours--- a few days at most."

     The workman blinked a few times and then, giving McKay a weak smile through his pain, said, "Well, that's alright, Doctor. I guess that just means I'll get to see the Lord Jesus sooner than I ever thought.  He is my Savior, and if I die---well, then, I'll get to go to Heaven and be with Him."

      Somewhat startled by this reaction, McKay sympathetically asked, "Do you have any relatives that we can contact for you?"

     The young man answered, "No, my parents have both died and I am all alone in the world.  But I wish you would send for my landlady where I am rooming.  I owe her a little bit and I have enough in my pockets to pay her.  Ask her when she comes to please bring me the book."

     "What book is it that you want?"  the doctor asked.

      "Oh, just tell here to bring the book," the man replied, "She'll know which book."

     When the landlady came she brought the injured man a well-worn Bible, which he read almost constantly as long as he had strength to hold it.

     The young man held onto life for four days, then slipped away.  Often the nurses mentioned to Dr. McKay how cheerful he was in spite of his pain and how courteous and easy to care for he was.  They also shared bits of conversation he had with them about how Christ had changed his life and of what he was looking forward to in Heaven.  In spite of himself, the doctor was reminded of the Christian home he had grownup in. 

     A little while after the undertakers had come fr he young workman's body, a nurse brought an armful of items in to the doctor and said, "Dr. McKay, these are the belongings of the young man who just died.  What shall I do with them?"

     "What are they?" asked the doctor, hardly looking up.

     "Oh, just his coat and boots and wallet--- and of course, that old Bible that he was always reading as long as he could hold it up."

     "I'll just lay it all here on my desk for now," said McKay, reaching them from the nurse.

     As he laid the things down, he held onto the Bible for a bit, then, impressed by how much use it had obviously had, he opened it near the back and slowly let the pages fan through his fingers.  The pages were smudged with much turning.  Many passages had been underlined and some notes had been written in the margins.  He read a few of these and thought of how much this Bible had meant to this young man and how he must have loved it.  At length he came to the flyleaf just inside the front cover.  Suddenly his hands trembled so that he nearly dropped the book.  There was the inscription his own mother had lovingly written to him so many years ago.  The very Bible he had neglected and later sold for a trifle had transformed the life of this poor workman and led him to  faith that enabled him to smile at death.

      Well, you can guess the rest of the story.  The worn old Bible wasn't done in its work of  redemption.  It was also the means of leading the one for whom it was originally intended back to the God of his parents. 

     Perhaps you have met Dr. McKay before.  Have you ever sung in church that grand old Gospel song, Revive us Again?  In your hymn book, where it gives the authors of the songs, you will find the name, William P. McKay above this one.  This is the same William McKay who long ago had carelessly stuffed his praying mother's gift Bible into his luggage and set out for college.  He later became a dynamic preacher of the faith that he once tried to ignore. 

     Here are the words of his well known revival hymn:

Go here for Willaim McKay's own words describing this story:


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nature vs. Nurture


Nature                 vs.
           A while back, I remember a conversation that I had with a purported atheist.  He introduced me to the Nurture-Nature debate.  I discovered that this is an argument that is used as an excuse for immoral behavior.  Of course, without God morals become simply an opinion.  The idea is to stand behind the side of "nature" and say "I was born this way, therefore it's okay."  The truth is that even from a Biblical paradigm we were born with sin.  Believers can agree with those that make this argument in this respect.  He informed me that there is an opposite behavior called "nurture."  Nurture is considered unnatural and undesirable from his point of view.  It is from a parent or anyone that tries to change "natural" behavior.  While believers can agree that it is against our nature, specifically our sinful nature, to follow prescribed laws that come by revelation (the Bible), yet we hold firm to the belief that obedience to Christ and his precepts are both desirable and healthful.   

     Please understand that these words are being used in ways that stretch their real meaning.  As I said, when he said "nature" he was unknowingly referring to sinful nature.  We could take the word "nature" and use it in a way that would mean "the established or regular course of things" and the word would mean something positive for those of us that adhere to divine revelation.

     This is an interesting study and what I related above isn't reflective of all the ideas behind this debate.  The Marxist and Communist believed that it was the environment that determined men's beliefs and that was the basis behind concentration camps.  They thought if you just put man in an environment where there was no beauty and no good that man would throw away his belief in God.  Those that didn't fit this experiment were destroyed. The Fascists took a different approach and thought that everything was determined by ones' genes.  The best would survive in the end and they thought they would help it along.  This was a type of theistic evolution where they thought they were doing their god's work, but through the Darwinian survival of the fittest.  Counter wise, Biblical Christianity has a long history and of the strong and fittest protecting and helping the weak. 

    I find it funny that honey bees are now being thrown into the Nurture-Nature debate with recent studies that are said to support the nurture side.  As a beekeeper, I like telling people how the bees give a diet to the queen bees that makes the difference whether they develop into queens or worker bees.  Researchers have found that the diet actually changes the genetic structure of the queen bees in the short term.  Of course, the queens lay eggs that produce bees with the same genetic code bees always have had, but the special diet makes gene changes within the queen.

     There is no question that our genes play a role with how strong or large we may be and how quick we might think.  There is no question that our environment has an influence on all these things.  Studies suggest that almost 80% of health problems like cancer are influence by our diet and environment.  Some of these things are in our control and others aren't.  We aren't in Eden anymore. The role of genes and the influence of our environment does no negate the fact that man has a free will.  I believe that the influence of our genes and environment are huge in many ways.  The thing to be concerned with is what we do with what we have been given (see Matthew 25:14-30).  When it comes to the moral issues of our day we can be swept by the current, or we can swim against it. 


Here's a message about genes by A. Wilder Smith

The Bible, Matthew 25:14-30

Early definitions of nature and nurture:


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Monday, December 10, 2012

The Blessing of 55 Cents

     One day I was trying to figure out how many glass honey jars would fit into a flat rate box .  I had folded the box, but had not taped it because I didn't plan to use it right away.  I had left it on a stool with the glass jars still it (not the best thing to do).  My youngest sister, Charity, who was ten years old and just turned eleven, came along, and as it was her duty to clean the kitchen she grabbed the box to use the stool.  Much to her surprise, the bottom opened up, and all jars fell to the floor. One glass shattered.  I heard the noise and came to see the result of leaving my jars in a precarious position.  As I cleaned my mess, Charity asked me how much the jars cost.  I said, "Around fifty some cents."  She said, "Just a minute, I'll be right back."  And she was right back with 55 cents in her hand.  I said, "You keep it," in a gentle way.  Later when I came to my room.  I saw some change on my bed stand.  I tried to think where it came from until I noticed it was 55 cents. After relating this to my sister, Wendy, she said that was cute, but it was my fault for leaving the box as I did.  I agreed, and assured her that Charity would get her money back.

      Perhaps the reason this incident blessed me so much is because it is the common courtesies and the sense of responsibility that is so missing in our culture. I just saw a handmade sign that said sarcastically, "Thanks for hitting my cat and not stopping." With the irresponsibility comes a lot of anger because of thoughtlessness.  This isn't the first culture to go through this.  Edward Gibbon spoke of this in his classic book "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" when he wrote:
      "In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security.  They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all - security, comfort,and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again."

     Gibbon's analysis of what happened to Athens could very easily become a future historian's analysis of America if there isn't some major changes in personal responsibility.  It will have to be individuals that recognise their responsibilities.  I believe it must come with a spiritual revival with many people recognising that even if they don't see all the rewards of their labor here in their lifetime that they will see all things made right in the life to come when all things are judged rightly.  Whether or not we live to see our culture embrace responsibility, we can see a little slice a paradise in our own homes with God's help.