Archive for nonfiction

Natural or Spiritual Thinking? Dedicated to my brother

For four years I studied in two different higher educational settings.  These studies were almost entirely in the secular realm and dealt with natural thinking.  God gave us our ability to reason, but reasoning without God, the Bible and the help of the Holy Spirit often leads to all manner of wrong think and ultimately wrong actions.  That is where I ended up at that time in my life.

Generally, natural or secular or even liberal thinking usually concludes that the correct party or politician or government is the cure-all for every problem.  On the other hand, spiritual thinking sees the Christian church and Christian ministries as the answer for most of the ills of society.  Now, it is quite easy to find huge government waste in multitudes of different programs,  The Christian realm is not without its faults, but for the most part funds used to help people by a Christian ministry are much more likely to meet real needs than huge government programs.

Let’s look at a clear case in point where the results have been measured: education.  Very clear studies have been done comparing children in secular and Christian schools.  By the time children in Christian schools are in middle school, they are much more than a grade ahead of those in public schools.  Why is that?  There are probably a variety of factors involved, but the one I believe is most important(and I taught in Christian middle schools for five years) was Bible study and prayer.  When God is brought on the scene, the atmosphere changes, and the Holy Spirit goes to work to help students.  When parents, teachers, students and administrators pray, educational advancement occurs.  What is amazing is that the average cost per year for students in a Christian school is less than half of what it is in a public school.  I rest my case.

Note: Even though this blog was written awhile ago, I decided to dedicate it to my brother who recently passed away.  Most of his working life he spent teaching in a Christian school.

Postscript: This blog is in no way meant to denigrate those godly, righteous teachers who are working in secular education.  Almost certainly they are doing the best they can with their hands tied, so to speak, in terms of bringing biblical values into the classroom.

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Japanese Kids & Christmas

The timid youth hid their emotions as we began the English class.  Today, the last class before the break we would talk about Christmas.  Not about the pagan origins of the celebration that still remained to a vast majority in Japan but about the Christian meaning.  When I asked what Christmas was about besides Santa Claus, the blank stares I received reflected more than lack of English ability but little or no knowledge whatsoever of Jesus’ birthday celebration.  I had been surprised before in my English classes but never more than now.  These students seemed to never have heard of Jesus.  It was a wonderful opportunity for me, but I wondered if these junior high students might never have heard about Jesus if I had not come to Japan.  When I talked about the cross, the resurrection and the fact that Christians believe Jesus is God in the flesh, there may have been a glimmer of recognition in one or two pair of eyes.  The bottom line is that I am thankful that I did come to Japan and share the Good News of the Gospel because I not sure they would have ever heard the message otherwise.

Note: This is throwback article written a number of years ago while I was in Japan.

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Labels Can Block Healing

Most everyone is fighting against some type of infirmity in their life.  In many cases a doctor labels us this or that medical term usually with a correct diagnosis.  The problem, though, with accepting such a label as “truth” and calling ourselves by such a word is that it can block God’s healing power in the process.  What we say about ourselves has tremendous power as this verse in Proverbs declares: “The power of life and death is in the tongue.”

Now, I am not suggesting that we stop going to doctors or stop taking medication if we in fact we are.  What I am suggesting is that we recognize that there is a higher truth that supersedes a doctor’s diagnosis.  When we feed spiritually on God’s words of healing in the Bible and proclaim  those words over our life, the labels of infirmity fall away and healing can begin.

This process often takes time and energy and so some give up, but with an extended effort over a period of time even the worst infirmity can see marked improvement.  “With God nothing is impossible.”

Motives And Purposes

What motivates you?  Is it some particular activity you enjoy?  Is it a particular purpose?  All of us have motives that drive us, but I wonder how many of us have examined our own motives or the motives of others.

Let me give you an example.  There is a religious group that continually condemns racism.  On the exterior that looks positive.  However, because the group is predominately of one minority, the motive of that condemnation is to get more members and to keep the members it already has.  In fact, in that particular religious group the leadership has condemned other ethnic groups in a kind of reverse racism.  Motives are not always easy to discern.

What is important is to try to keep our own motives and purposes pure.  Only with God’s help, the Bible and the Holy Spirit can we begin to face our own flaws and overcome them.  Motives matter because God judges the heart and why we do what we do not just outward performance.

Banish Liars…

Recently, in two different directions I have had to deal with big time lying.  What happens when you confront a liar?  They just lie some more or say they don’t recall what they said or some such words.  Even in the face of two witnesses they can maintain their innocence.  So what do you do in a relationship that is going nowhere fast?

You can take the conversation to a higher authority and let them be the judge: in a business that may be a boss, in a family that may be a parent.  As a Christian we can even go before the throne of God in prayer and plead our case.  If Jesus is our Savior, he is also our attorney in heaven.  If our cause is just, we can trust the God of the universe to vindicate us and bring enduring justice.  This may not happen overnight, but trust that God has the final say.  Forgive the other person as God forgives each of us and leave it in God’s hands.

Teachable or Intractable?

As we navigate the curves and straightaways of life we all have lessons to learn that God is trying to teach us. If we learn them quickly through following God’s biblical guidelines and praying ahead of time, we can usually avoid many of the more serious problems in life. However, if we cling to our stubborn ways and harden our hearts to God’s life lessons, then serious problems will almost certainly face us. Jonah is a great example of someone who ignored God’s directives and ended up in a disgusting place. Let’s come humbly and repentantly before God when our errors confront us and willingly do what Jesus, our Master and Savior, wants us to do. Such a route is by far the easiest in the long run.

Power Of The Sword

At times the Bible refers to the sword of the Lord as the word of God. As we pray God’s words in the Bible we release what God wants to happen in the spiritual realm. The power we have access to in this direction is amazing. Because of that fact many countries and leaders have attempted to keep the Bible out of the hands of people.

In the 1500s William Tyndale translated the Bible into the English of his day. For that act he was arrested, tried and executed. His dying prayer was that the eyes of the king of England would be opened. Perhaps, because of that prayer we have one of the most beloved Bible translations of all time, the King James Bible, which was an outgrowth of a change in policy by the king of England two years later.

Today, countries like Saudi Arabia and North Korea have outlawed the Bible. Twice while traveling into Saudi Arabia to teach I had my Bible and other Christian materials confiscated. I had to pay a stiff fine just to get the rest of my things out of customs.

Don’t take lightly the precious word of God we have in the Bible and our freedom to own a copy. It is a treasure for all of us to mine.

Pressure Or Peace?

Recently, I was listening to a very good message by a pastor that could easily have been titled “Pressure Or Peace”. In our fast-paced world people often make decisions based on pressure and not “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding”. Following Jesus, our Prince of Peace, will almost always lead us to a place where we want to be. Following pressure will generally result in circumstances that are less than God’s best.

Play To Your Strengths

Many of us spend too much time focusing on our weaknesses rather than playing to our strengths. I am not suggesting that we totally ignore the areas where we are prone to falter or fall. We certainly need to keep ourselves covered in prayer in those areas and continue to pray “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from evil”. What I am suggesting is that our God-given gifting, our talents, should consume the majority of our time and energy. Developing our strengths to their maximum potential will do more to expand God’s kingdom than any other activity. We were created for a purpose, and as one well-known missionary from history said, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.” Do you feel God’s pleasure when you run the race God created you to run? I am not saying everything we are called to do is enjoyable. Some tasks can be tough to accomplish, but we can count on God to give us the grace to perform them. However, if we are finding little or no pleasure in our work, perhaps, it is time to set new priorities and bring our lives into alignment for our assignment.

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