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Archive for the ‘Priorities’ Category

I am not a fan of politics.  In fact I am quite disturbed by the shenanigans taking place in the world of politics these days.  But I realize I must not let what I read and what I hear stir me to such a state that I act purely based upon emotion and the sliver of information that has caused the emotion.  Why?  Because in most cases there is more to the story than initial reporting would lead us to believe.

Working in the industrial environment for over 35 years, with much of that being in roles handling problem-solving and root cause analysis, I’ve learned the importance of gathering data in a prompt and thorough manner.  A benefit in the industrial setting is that the equipment failure information is generally less influenced by personal bias and agendas.  There are a few instances where persons may lie to try and save themselves from perceived negative consequences of their actions, but this is far from the norm.  And it is usually easy to ferret out when the lie does not square with the rest of the evidence.

When I train persons in performing Root Cause Analysis a fundamental principle is to lay aside emotion, bias, and preconceived ideas and let the evidence guide the analysis.  Excellence in evidence collection is essential.  Excellence is not achievable if we perform our data collection with a strong belief in what the end result should be guiding our data collection and analysis.  In an equipment failure investigation, a true failure path exists with real reasons that connect together form the root causes to ultimate failure.  By gathering the evidence without regard to final remedial action steps, we enable ourselves to concentrate solely upon the accuracy of the data.  Once the data is gathered it becomes much simpler to analyze the information and read the story the evidence tells.

I was speaking with a friend last night and he made the statement that he wished there were investigative journalists who were able to dig to uncover the facts without bias.  It is discouragingly rare these days.  We both feel that for the most part bias. or worse, a hidden agenda, either in the investigative process, the analysis, or the communication, dictates the majority of what is reported.  Watching competing news networks gives the impression they are reporting upon two radically different events when at the end of the story we realize they are talking about the same thing.  When a person watches this style of reporting which is often more inflammatory rhetoric than good journalism, it is easy to get emotionally stirred, even when the evidence is thin and the analysis is poorly done.

To their defense, news outlets are in the business of reporting news as soon as it is breaking.  This necessitates early communication even before any real evidence is gathered.  This is one of the reasons law enforcement doesn’t speak freely about on-going investigations – all the data has not been gathered and the analysis hasn’t been performed.  Having been involved in well over 400 failure investigations there have been a number of times (I estimate 10 – 15%) that the initial beliefs about why a failure occurred have been flat wrong.  Additionally, the number of times the initial belief ended up being only a factor is probably about the same 10 – 15%.  Putting this in terms of a criminal court case, if we moved on the initial evidence we would send the wrong person to jail 20 – 30% of the time.

So in news reporting, if we take the first blush of information and the hypothesis we make, we can expect to be wrong at least 20 – 30% of the time.  And this is if they are giving us solid facts from the beginning.  Sadly, this is where news reporting today now gets worse rather than better.  If bias and agenda plays into the data collection, analysis, and reporting, then you can reasonably expect that the majority of the news reporting is inaccurate.  Since I make it a practice to routinely check news from three sources – NBC, CNN, and FOX, I can see this at work.  I have back-checked the record at times and the results are disturbing to say the least.  The number of major stories reported as certainties that have later been debunked is alarmingly high.  (And, yes, certain networks are definitely worse than the other, but they all have moments of getting it wrong in their rush to be first.)  Plus, the lack of correction and admission of error is astounding.  While I wish the term Fake News had died a quick death, it hasn’t.  The reason it hasn’t is because it is true enough times that the moniker finds ample opportunities to stick.

Looping back to the premise of this post, if we are not careful our emotions can be stirred to the point that we believe a lie.  Confirmation bias is a subject I have read about recently and it is one of the reasons I routinely take a look at three different networks to see not just what, but how they are reporting.  I compare what I see from these three and what I read from other sources to try and uncover what’s true.

I realize I have certain beliefs and biases myself.  I am inclined to put more weight on certain points of evidence because of those beliefs.  But even in this, I understand that more evidence is likely to come out so I try not to become emotionally stirred.  I make it my goal to gather ALL the available evidence before coming to a judgement.  Also, it is appropriate to weigh the biases of the person(s) and group providing the information.  Just like in my root cause investigations where I have to determine whether an eye witness might be misrepresenting their testimony to protect themselves from discipline, I weigh the source of the information to determine how credible it might be.  Above all I strive to remember that I can be wrong.  For a fairly confident person who prides themselves on being true, accurate, and honest this is something I strongly want to avoid.  So I try to be cautious in weighing the information and making a decisions.  And guarding my emotions is a crucial element in that process.

Now living in this place that is not always comfortable.  It would be easy to decide on what I have read and heard thus far and simply take a stand.  From that point I could then look to around to see who agrees with me and accept them as my new friends and I could even stoop to pick up rocks to hurl at the folks who believe the opposite… and I would become one more person perpetuating the problems that threaten to tear this nation apart.

But this morning I renew my intention of remaining an observer and searcher for the truth.  I may have an opinion based upon the evidence thus far, but I cannot let it dictate my emotions or even what evidence I hold onto and what evidence I discard.  At some point we will have the body of evidence and then we will see what the verdict is.  Will it be “evidentially sufficient” (J. Warner Wallace author of “Cold Case Christianity”) to make a decision?  I expect so.  Will some still clamor for the opposite opinion?  Definitely.  Will I then be able to let my emotions dictate what I believe and do?  Nope.  You see, I want to remain logical and clear-minded so I can weigh new evidence that comes forth.  I may get emotional and that’s okay.  Perhaps I’ll even experience righteous anger, which is not a bad thing so long as the anger part is properly vented.

As I’ve written this, I have wondered and prayed because this is much different than the majority of my posts.  Yet I have felt compelled to write.  The thought has rumbled around in my head for awhile, but only last night did the compulsion to blog it come about.  As I paused in writing a few moments ago to pray, Jesus words came through loud and clear.

‘To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ‘ John 8:31-32
https://www.bible.com/bible/111/JHN.8.31-32

What Jesus said to the Jews who were following Him then, He says to us today.  If we hold on tightly to Jesus and His teaching we will know Him Who is Truth incarnate.  If we are His, then He has placed the Holy Spirit within us.  If we listen to the Holy Spirit we will be able to discern truth from error.  We will love and be lifted when we hear truth.  And we will be able to clearly see lies for what they are.  It greatly simplifies life.  With a part of my mind I will listen, observe, and consider the inputs coming in.  With my spirit I am listening, observing, and considering where the Holy Spirit is leading.  While I still fail to fully tune in at times, when I do, He is always, always there to lead and help me.  I try not to let my emotions get riled because of the news (or many other igniters of passion), but I try to hear and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of Truth.  And in Truth we can trust.

More ramble than usual, but something I had to get off my chest.  I hope this gives you points to ponder and pray about.

Have a blessed day my friend and be a blessing!

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A recurring prayer for me goes something like this.  “Thank you Lord for all the blessings you’ve poured out on my family and on me.  I don’t deserve it, but I thank you for it.”  And then I wonder why I am so favored.  Now I need to put this in context before I go too far.  We have had our share of difficulties.  Perhaps not the tragedies some have experienced, but difficulties just the same – my wife’s shattered leg in 2012, my near heart attack in 2014, my job loss at the beginning of 2015, my broken shoulder in 2017 to name a few.  Yet, whatever direction I look, I see God’s goodness poured out… not just on me, but on so many people that I know.  He is indeed good… all the time.  And I wonder anew, “Lord why are you so good to me?”  Today as I have thought of this I think I have at least a little different perspective to share.

Being a father for 33 years, I know a daddy’s love for his children.  We just finished souvenir shopping for our four children and four grandchildren.  This is my wife’s time to lead and I dutifully follow.  As I watch and respond to her questions I realize she is seeking the perfect balance.  She wants to get them something they will enjoy, but that is also beneficial.  No to excess sugar and candy, yes to clothing that says laid-back Hawaii.  No to things with sharp edges or that can choke a little one, yes to cuddly and cute.  Since God is the perfect Father, He wants to give us gifts that achieve that perfect balance in our lives.  He knows our talents, our personality, our likes and dislikes.  He knows what is best for us.  His gifts are meant to draw us to himself since a deep and growing relationship with Him is what we are created for.  And just like giving gifts to our children warms my wife’s heart, I sense that God is also pleased when He is able to give us good gifts that bring us joy.  Oh, and when we recognize and give Him thanks, the mutual joy is amplified.

I believe the Father loves to hear us laugh and this is frequently one of the purposes of God’s blessings.  In some cases it may be the only reason.  But at other times God has multiple motives behind the gift given.

Being open to and responsive to the Lord’s leading in gift-receiving and gift-giving is an acquired wisdom.  God will bless us so that we can in turn bless others.  Giving of tithes and offerings is a tangible demonstration of finding our place in God’s economy of blessing.  Less formal but just as important is being open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to provide help for someone when the Lord prompts us to.  Our home group purchased a moped for a young woman in difficult circumstances recently and we know it was a God assignment.  Today we are excited to see what God is going to do through this simple act of passing His blessing on.

There is one other aspect that I believe the Lord wants us to understand about His blessing, but I hesitate for fear I will not be able to adequately explain.  It is that obedience brings blessing.  As we live life the way God desires us to live, we will experience His protection, His provision, and His favor.  The Holy Scriptures contain God’s blueprint for life.  Everything necessary to know how to enter a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe is there.  However, it is spiritually discerned.  That means God Himself must be living within us by His Holy Spirit for us to read, understand, and apply the truth contained in the scriptures.  Sadly just knowing the scriptures isn’t enough.  The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were thoroughly knowledgeable of the scriptures, yet they crucified the one the scriptures foretold.

There is a progression in this flow.  The first is to recognize that there is a Creator of all that is.  He has been called many things… El Sahddai, Elohim, The LORD God, Almighty God, but it is safe to call Him God.

Second is to search for Truth.  When we honestly and openly search for Truth, asking God to guide us to Truth we will run into Jesus.  There are numerous reasons this is true, but suffice today I’ll point out the one I know to be true and unassailable.  Jesus’ resurrection proves He was Who He said He was – God’s one and only Son, sent to redeem mankind through His sacrificial death on the cross.

Third, once we recognize Jesus for Who He says He is, it is only right to surrender our life to Him and take up the life He is calling us to.  It is a life of dying to poor life choices, bad decisions, and irresponsibility.  It is letting go of living according to your own agenda and morality and learning how to live a life that aligns with God’s game plan for life.  It is saying yes to Jesus in how we live.

Fourth is to ask Jesus to help us to know Him better and to live the life God desires us to live.  Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to help us live life the way God intends.  He never takes away our ability to choose whether to follow or not.  In fact He partners with us in the work of transformation, but He will do the heavy lifting if we simply turn to Him and ask for His help.

As we live a life of consistent obedience, God’s blessings will flow.  It is not that we are immune to difficulties, but knowing God and trusting Him provides a solid place to stand even when all around is shaking and unsettled.  And when we thank Him in the midst of the hard and difficult, when our suffering is wrapped in thanking God for being with us in the storm, we will know His peace and comfort, which is one of the greatest of His blessings to His children.

As I shared in an earlier post, my wife and I are celebrating our 33rd anniversary in Hawaii.  I am going to post a few more pics of our trip for those who are interested.  The week has contained a snapshot of life.  We’ve experienced a good bit of clouds, rain, and wind.  The conditions were not always ideal.  But through it all God has been with us, showing us His love and care.  We have thrilled with new adventures and quiet times together.  Today the sun broke through and it is gloriously beautiful.  It happened just in time for a morning helicopter ride… with the doors off and a sunset on Waikiki Beach.

Wherever you are in life, know that God loves you and He is for you.  If you are at one of those points of progression that I mention above and you would like to know more, please drop me a comment.  I would be happy to chat and pray.  It’s what I’m supposed to do.  In the meantime, enjoy the pics. and be blessed today.  And don’t forget to pass the blessing on!

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I have a problem that I must confess. I have wanderlust. Wikipedia defines wanderlust as the strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world. It has become a passion of ours to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, and learn new things. This week my wife and I are on a getaway celebrating our 33rd anniversary. We are in Oahu, Hawaii at a hotel on Waikiki Beach. While most of our trips are planned out a year or more in advance, this one dropped into our schedule 2 months ago when a “deal” fell in our lap. Now wanderlust itself is neutral, not necessarily good or bad. Like any strong impulse though it has the potential of becoming an idol. And this morning a disquiet has settled upon me as I realize I must deal with this reality in my life.

The standard definition of idol is an image representing a deity or god. A little broader definition of idol that better captures the message conveyed in scripture is anything that takes the ultimate place of priority in our life other than the Lord God. When I look around I see many people giving the place of priority in their life to people, things, and experiences other than God. It is incredibly sad to see a child so doted upon by their parents that they begin to actually believe the world revolves around them. In this case the parents often make the child an idol reinforcing the natural self-centered tendency that most of us struggle with. Or the person who is obviously wealthy to the point they lack no material comfort, yet they continue the quest to acquire, have, and hold onto because stuff, or position, or power has become their god. Not only can I see this in others, but when I turn and look inside, I realize this tendency to elevate people, things, or experiences to an unhealthy level still resides in me.

I recognized the uneasiness stirring in me later in the day yesterday as we filled a second day with adventure. Meeting our photography tour guide at 5:20 am to begin a Sunrise Photography tour, we had the briefest of times for our devotional. From then on the day was busy. I laid my head down at 10:00 pm Hawaii time with thoughts of things done, things still to do, plans still to be made. Body exhausted, my mind was still busy, but sadly, God was not in my first thoughts. Honestly, I didn’t pause to really spend time talking and listening to Him much at all.

For me, clarity often comes in the morning and so it was today. It is a real issue and I am ready to deal with it. I slipped out on the balcony about 4:30 am, confessing my waywardness and ready to make changes. The Lord put in mind capturing my thoughts (hence you are reading them now) and to open the Word. As He often does a snippet of scripture was persistent in my mind… “Why are you so downcast, oh my soul?”

I looked it up and had to laugh. Psalm 42 is what I was looking for. I made bold the verses that made me laugh because we are in Hawaii, visiting waterfalls and swimming in the pounding surf. God can be very specific (or in this case Pacific) when He needs to be. At the end I will close with the Psalm since God fully deserves the final word.

You see, God wants us to enjoy good things. He loves people and wants us to love them fully… with His love. He has no problem with our use and enjoyment of things. He lovingly provides them for our benefit and use. And life is made rich by new and varied experiences. God works in these experiences to stretch and grow us. The issue is simply do we have God in the proper place in our lives or is He an after-thought?.. Or is He even considered at all? Are we living a life that makes knowing God and growing in that relationship with Him the pivot point of our life? Are we living in such a manner that others recognize that He is real by the way we live?

I see my disquiet for what it is, a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit to check my priorities and be sure God was not lost in our enjoyment of this beautiful place. And so, Lord I do. You are my priority. I put my hope in You.

‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ Psalm 42:1-11

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Giving credit where it is due, PSD was in our “Tighten the Knot” Marriage series message by Brad Cooper.  Yet the importance of this resonates in me harkening back to a 5-year long lesson the Lord gave me on my most important role on this earth.  During those 5 years the Father continually brought me back to these verses in Ephesians.  ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. ‘  Ephesians 5:25-27  If you are married, your first human relationship is with your spouse.  Men, God has given you the responsibility to partner with Him in His sanctifying work in the woman you pledged to “cherish for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”  You made a commitment to your wife (and to God, if you missed that part) that you were in it for the long haul.  You have signed on the dotted line and the contract is not just valid in all 50 states, but in heaven as well as on earth.  But never fear, God has co-signed this contract with you so success is 100% assured, IF we do it His way.  (Another borrowed thought from Dr. Jimmy Evans in our Marriage series.)

First, we must take a moment to define commit and love.  Both are verbs and despite the dilution both words have experienced in the modern day, they indicate two eternally powerful concepts that God uses to accomplish His divine purposes.  To Commit is to agree to with the full weight of your will to fulfill that which you have agreed to.  Love is to desire the very best for another and to do whatever is required to achieve it for them.  The term love is used in so many lesser ways today, but the picture of love is a soldier sacrificing his life for a another.  The Greek word for this type of love is Agape.  It is the love Jesus refers to when He tells the disciples to “Love one another”.  It is the love He demonstrated in dying on the cross for our sins.  Husbands, it is the love we are called to have for our wives and it is demonstrated in thought, word, and deed.

So, PSD… Pursue, Serve, Die.  There is a phase in boy – girl relationships that is intoxicating.  Dr. Gary Chapman refers to this as the “Falling in Love” stage of a relationship.  It is what causes two people, often very different people, to desire companionship, togetherness, and in the normal course of time, intimacy, while modifying or at least softening, a number of personal likes and dislikes.  In the Falling in love phase, faults become hidden, often with no effort, disagreeable traits meld into likeable quirks, and the object of our affection becomes the epitome of perfection.  This phase can last up to 2 years, but…. and this is important, it is not permanent.

It is critically important that we understand that the Falling in Love phase is not only not permanant, it was never meant to be.  The Falling in Love phase serves an important purpose to get us past ourselves and into the realm of risk, trust, sacrifice and eventually into true love.  I have watched some very good sports teams accomplish surprising results riding the wave of an emotional high, but unless there is something more than just emotion the success is not sustainable.  The same is true in marriage.  Falling in love is emotionally fueled.  It is important to get us to the point that we realize there is such value in the relationship that we begin to move into true Love.

True love is of divine origin. ‘And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. ‘  1 John 4:16  This love is not caught, but received and grown.  It involves the will more than the emotion (although the emotions are definitely engaged) and it takes time to mature.  Let me make no bones about it, I loved before I fully committed my life to the Lord 35 years ago, but only after that did I begin to realize the capacity to love that was now resident within me.  Now I admit I am far from loving to the full, but there are times when His loves breaks through to me, and even more wonderfully, when His love breaks through to others through me.  This is a fundamental calling for Christ-followers, to allow Jesus’ love to fill and overflow us.  But the exclamation point on that is for husbands… to love our wives as Christ loves the Church.

Going back to Falling in love, PSD tends to happen spontaneously during this phase.  Pursue, Serve, and Die happens naturally, but again it is largely emotion fueled.  Just because the emotion fades though, does not mean we should not abandon these.  In fact the maturing and deepening of love is the transition from emotional, almost-without- thought, pursuit, serving, and dying for our beloved, to the intentional, purposeful pursuit, serving, and dying for them.  Once the blinders are removed and we realize that our beloved isn’t perfect… and sometimes isn’t totally pleasant… and they sometimes do, or say something that hurts you… (Note, Honey, if you are reading this I’m speaking hypothetically in our case!)… then is the opportunity for PSD to begin morphing into true love.

As I sit on this balcony in a beautiful tropical location at 4:00 am celebrating our 33 years of marriage, I am able to reflect on marriage to a wonderful woman.  She has demonstrated a deep and abiding love to me and I have been truly blessed.  I realize that over these 33 years, I’ve sometimes gotten it right and made steps in growing that capacity to love.  I also admit, the old man… the self-centered man that I once was, has not completely died.  I see why Jesus said we have to die to ourselves daily, because the old man is a stubborn old coot that keeps trying to assert himself.  But, in our marriages we are afforded the marvelous opportunity to practice love that transforms.  I love my beloved more today that when we first fell in love.  We have weathered storms together, we’ve experienced many joys side by side, and with the Lord’s help we’ve grown much.  The old man has suffered greatly due to the purposeful following of the Lord’s leading to “Love my wife like He loved the Church”.  And the results are the best kind.  We both grow.  We both love better.  We become examples of a love that lasts.  Our lives and our marriage shows to any who wonder, what God can do through two people committed to Him and committed to love with His love.

Be blessed today my friend and be a blessing.

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Introspection in context of an on-going conversation with our Creator God is an awesome thing. We were created on purpose by God for a purpose. We are not cosmic accidents. There are plenty of voices that strive to either convince us that we are purposeless accidents or, at the very least, distract us from what our true purpose is. But you and I are divinely created, eternal beings with a God-given purpose. Now many philosophers, poets, and apologists throughout history have contemplated this question. Depending upon their assumptions they differ greatly in their answers. Fortunately, Truth is not as relative as some would have us believe. If you determine to let Truth be your guide and actively engage a discussion with the Almighty, you will be given an answer to the question, “Why Am I Here?” That’s what I’d like to talk about today.

There are a couple life purpose statements that I have heard that I embrace. One is “To Know God and to Make Him Known.” That’s pretty high level, but it is true. Another that has been running around in my mind this morning is “To Do the Greatest Amount of Good To the Greatest Amount of People While I Have the Ability To Do So.” If we give definitions to the terms such as good being helping people to know Jesus and grow in their relationship with Him, then this is a pretty good one. As a Christ-follower, how I fulfill my purpose flows out of seeing what Jesus did and is currently doing, gaining His direction and empowerment, and then doing it.

In the midst of Holy Week, my thoughts have repeatedly turned to Jesus and what His final week was like. Jesus had crystal clarity of His ultimate purpose. He was sent to redeem mankind. That purpose finds its fulfillment in His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Everything we know about Jesus is aligned with His ultimate purpose. Jesus redemption of mankind is for all generations; therefore He selected a small group of ordinary folks to carry on His message after He returned to heaven. The lives He touched with His simple, yet extraordinary message attested to by the multitude of miracles He performed were further evidence of a reality beyond the mundane existence so many were experiencing. Where it is healthy and maturing, the Church today is faithfully continuing Jesus’ work of redemption.

So why am I here? Why are you here? Have you taken time to figure out your specific purpose? God has a purpose for you that is good. The ramifications of your purpose will resonate into eternity. That is true whether you find and walk in your divine purpose or not. You see, God is sovereign. He knows the length, breadth, and depth of our lives. If we chose to miss out on God’s call upon our lives, He is still weaves this into His plan of redemption. There are eternal consequences for us and many of those in our proximity, but God’s ultimate plan will march on to completion.

Yet, when we partner with God… when we become Jesus-followers committed to living life under the guidance of His Holy Spirit, we will be given God-ordained tasks every single day that further God’s revelation and fulfillment of our purpose. And our true purpose is always aligned with Jesus’ purpose – the redemption of mankind.

Take time to ask the Lord to give you a clear sense of your purpose today. Read the Word with eyes open to what the Spirit says to you about your next steps with Jesus. Understand that your life is to be lived in partnership with God. He knows what He is doing. He knows the role He has created you to fulfill. He will reveal it to you. At times He will lift you high and allow you to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. Hint, this takes place when we are close to Jesus. At other times we may only see the small circle immediately around us and the view of our purpose narrows in to the faith we can muster to hold tightly to Jesus’ hand while the storm rages. Most days though, my purpose is simplified to living as close to Jesus as I possibly can and loving Him and the people He brings into my life that day the best I can.

Why am I here? It’s really simple. To point to Jesus in every way I can.

Blessings my friends. And let the Lord bless others through you.

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The world noted the passing of Stephen Hawking yesterday.  Hawking was a renowned physicist.  He was also a very outspoken atheist whose godless beliefs were routinely touted as the height of intellectual honesty concerning origins of the universe and the fairy tales some people believe.  I did not personally know the man.  And I do not know if there is anything that I could have done to help him.  But I do feel a degree of sadness at his passing.  You see as intelligent as he was and despite all his accolades, he was dead wrong about the most important things concerning life and death.  Even more sad is the fact that his position upon the pedestal of worldly acclaim meant that his theories about God, or the non-existence of God, were viewed by many with the weight of truth.  But they were dead wrong.

Like Mr. Hawking, my belief system is the result of my life experiences, the things I’ve read, my observations of life and assumptions I have made related to those things.  A huge factor in our belief system is our frame of reference or the paradigm we establish.  Our paradigm influences how we receive and process all the information that comes our way.  The scientific mind seeks to have a truly open mind, to be impartial in observation and interpretation of the results.  Unfortunately it’s not possible to completely divorce ourselves from our paradigms.  Our paradigms therefore create in us blind-spots where we cannot see correctly.  We all have blind-spots.  The solution to blind-spots is to be aware we have them and then constantly strive to see things from multiple perspectives.

For a reminder, everyone has a worldview.  It is simply the combination of thoughts and beliefs that make up how we understand and view the world.  This in turn sets up our paradigm about how we interpret everything.  I recognize this to be true in me and therefore I have chosen to compartmentalize the information that makes up my worldview into three buckets.

The largest bucket is my “Things I Think” bucket which contains a lot of things I am reasonably sure are true and accurate.  This is also the information that, while I am fairly confident is true, I give my confidence about a 75%.  These are things I might joke about and debate on, but I won’t argue over.

The second bucket is my “Things I Believe” bucket.  This is a good bit more serious because I live my life in accordance to my understanding of the Things I Believe and the third bucket.  I would be hard-pressed to give up these beliefs, however, I do not hold these so rigid that I would fight for them.  I would argue my point and not concede without strong evidence contrary to my belief.  I do leave a little wiggle room for new information to adjust my belief though.  The opening is narrow and the bar for new information to become a paradigm-changing truth is pretty high, but I know my beliefs are not complete.  God has routinely revealed subtle errors in me, or more accurately, fuller understanding of things to me, that cause me to realize there is so much more I don’t know than I do.

Then there is the third and smallest bucket which is the “Things I Know” bucket.  While this bucket is not large, it contains the things that define the core of who I am.  If the things I believe are the lens I view everything in the world, then the things I know are the indestructible frame that holds it all together.  These are the things which I will die believing, the things I will die for.  These are absolute truths and they are not open to correction because they are the established as true on multiple levels and been verified as absolute.  One of them is that there is a God Whom we will all stand before in judgement.  Mr. Hawking knows that now.  No matter how firmly he believed there was no God while he walked this earth, he has learned he was wrong.

Here are the three primary reasons I know Mr. Hawking was wrong.  The first is the evidence of intelligent design in the universe.  It surprises me greatly that anyone who closely studies the universe in all it’s complexity AND order doesn’t see the absolutely essential need for a intelligent designer behind the design.  The odds of the things that have had to occur in the creation of all that is happening by random chance are truly insurmountable.  They are literally impossible.  And yet from a paradigm that says there cannot be a God, an otherwise intelligent human being, argues for something that is mathematically impossible.

Second is a two-fold answer – the deep and historically accurate information from the bible and the person of Jesus.  We have a book compiled over the course of some 2000 years by over 3 dozen different authors that uniformly holds together as a testament to a God that is real, active, and seeking to be known by humankind.  There are many things identified in this book as future-looking prophecies that have been fulfilled that the uniqueness and veracity of the book are beyond reproach.  The prophecies about God’s messiah such as the virgin birth, the birth in Bethlehem, Herod’s murder of the innocent children around Bethlehem, Jesus crucifixion… the list goes on with dozens of old testament prophecies that were exactly fulfilled by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that are, again, mathematically impossible to have happened by chance.  Yet there is an absolutely clear historical record that shows that these impossibilities occurred.

There is so much to say about Jesus, but for the sake of hopefully debunking the late Mr. Hawking’s biggest error, I would point to the resurrection as the hinge point.  For persons who hold an atheistic, agnostic, or even a religious world view other than Christianity, there is one event that Christianity either rises or falls on and that is the resurrection.  If it didn’t happen then we are fools, our religion is a lie, and our hope is in vain.  It truly is that simple.

However, if the resurrection is a true historical event, then God is validated as the God revealed in the bible and the Christian faith is upheld as true.  Furthermore atheists, agnostics, and any religion that does not have Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world are wrong.  History, even recent history, is full of persons who have set out as committed atheists to disprove the resurrection and, after careful research, found the claims of Christianity and the veracity of the resurrection to be paradigm-shifting and life changing.  Two very good authors to research on this are Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel.

There is one, more personal reason I know Mr. Hawking is wrong.  It is because he denies the existence of a person he has never personally met.  He argues that a place doesn’t exist that he has never been (until now) nor ever researched.  The funny thing, he has to argue against people who have met God and people who have thoroughly researched (and a few who have been to and returned from) heaven.  I am one who has met God.  I have personally experienced a number of miracles in my life and the lives of people I know well.  Miracles that have no other explanation… a dream that sent me to the doctor to find and repair three blockages in my heart, nudges to pray for people out of the blue that turned out to be at exactly when an urgent need arose, healings of illnesses including cancer, divine peace in times of great difficulty.  I have literally a dozen or more verifiable instances of miracles that God brought about because His people prayed.  That is simply counting the ones I have been directly involved in.  Multiplying that by the millions of believers around the world who have stories of God’s direct intervention, and the body of evidence is overwhelming.

Yes, I am sad as I consider Mr. Hawking’s passing.  But it is not so much for him.  He had a lifetime to seek God, but he chose not to.  And God allowed him to chose an eternity of separation from all that is good.  God, Who is love, grants us the right to choose.  So my sadness is not really for Mr. Hawking, but for all the persons Mr. Hawking represents.  People who refuse to consider, “Is God real?”  People who fail to seek Him.  People who are gullible enough to be duped by the many half-truths, lies, and falsehoods that distract and lead away from knowledge of the One True God.

If you don’t know God, I suggest a couple simple steps.  Right where you are say this simple prayer.  “God, I don’t know if you are real or not.  But if you are, please reveal yourself to me.  Please show me who you are and what I am to do to get to know you.”  Pretty simple, right?  And thinking logically, there is nothing at risk if you do this and I am wrong and everything to gain if I am right.

That is the first thing.  The second thing is to get a bible, preferably a more recent translation like a New International Version or the New Living Translation and start reading in the gospels.  Actually you can get the free bible app, YouVersion, and read multiple translations.   I suggest beginning with John.  These are simple steps that, if God isn’t real you won’t be losing anything.  But if He is real (and I can assure you that He is, but you must realize that for yourself) He will open your mind to truth and lead you to people that will help you to know Him.

There are many things in life that being wrong about doesn’t really matter much.  This is not one of those things.  Not believing in God, not recognizing Jesus for Who the bible shows us He is, is not something you want to be wrong on.  It is appointed unto mankind to live one life and then die.  And after that to face judgement.  For those who have accepted Jesus sacrificial death on their behalf and submitted to His leadership, death is no longer the end, but rather the beginning of a larger life spent in the presence of God.

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After hitting the huge pothole the car drove terribly.  The steering wheel vibrated in my hands and the entire car had a constant shake.  Driving to the repair shop I was ready for the bad news.  The tires and car were fine.  The pothole had simply knocked my tires out of alignment.  Once they were aligned the vehicle ran as smooth as ever.

The project was a mess, behind schedule and over-budget.  The project manager called the entire team together.  Grievances were aired, apologies given and received, and goals were re-established.  Everyone exited the meeting with a clear sense of direction and purpose.  The project team was aligned and the project proceeded on time and on budget.

The plant was experiencing another motor failure.  But this time the maintenance team took a deeper look to determine the problem.  In the end root causes were addressed and the pump and motor were carefully aligned which resulted in the motor to running smoother and longer than ever before.

The young man in the prison cell was truly repentant of the things he had done.  He hadn’t meant to hurt anyone, but in the end his family and the person he had taken from had all suffered.  As he sat there he considered all he had lost, not the least of which was his freedom.  He had even said a prayer earlier in his life and said he wanted to be a Christian.  But his life was not reflective of the Christian life and he knew it.  He got down on his knees and prayed for forgiveness and asked God to help him live the life he wanted him to.  He began reading the Bible.  He began living the life described there.  When he was pressured, the tendency to return to old patterns of thought and action rose up.  But a whispered prayer, “Help me Jesus” and then thoughts of how would Jesus want him to respond came to mind.  The transformation took time.  But the more he aligned his life with what he read in the Bible, the more peace he felt and the easier it was to do the right thing.

In every case the improvement occurred when alignment was achieved.  One definition of alignment is for different parts to be in the correct relative position, i.e. the four tires of your car, the pump and motor in a coupled machine.  A second definition is the organization of systems or activities so that they match or fit well together.  The project team in the example above is a good example of this.  In the last example of the repentant man, both of these definitions are applicable.

Before we dive into what it means to be aligned with God and His plan for our life we need a little context.  There are essentially three phases in life and they are sequential.  They are the transgression phase, the transaction phase, and the transformation phase.  Sadly, some persons never leave the first one.  A significant number experience the first two phases, but either fail to realize the tremendous benefits of the third phase or they stall in the pursuit of it.  Blessed are the persons who experience all three, especially the ones who experience the first two early and live long in phase three.

The first phase is simply our life before recognizing our deep need of God’s grace.  Paul explains this succinctly in the book of Romans summing it up in Romans 3:22, ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’  The second phase is the glorious doorway into a restored relationship with God by accepting Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf.  This is the primary theme of the New Testament.  In one of the very last of Jesus’ exhortations captured in the bible we read these words, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’  Revelation 3:20.  Salvation through repentance of sin and accepting of Jesus as Lord and Savior is God’s desire for all people.

But this is where the fun begins.  God has a life full of joy, peace, exhilaration, adventure, literally fulfillment in the richest possible way, in mind for those who seek Him.  When we choose to follow Jesus and allow His Holy Spirit to guide us we are walking in that third phase – the transformation phase.

Lest I unintentionally mislead, the transformation phase is not all pleasure.  Old habits and thought patterns die hard.  Ways of living that are contrary to the life God has called His children to are culturally engrained into us.  We will find that transformation in us means we will swim against the current at times.  It means we will have to deny our natural inclination to satisfy our own desires before others.  And because we live in a broken world we will suffer simply because of that brokenness.

The key in the transformation phase is becoming aligned with God in His work.  I see three arenas where God is at work and we are to join Him.  He is doing a work in us.  He is doing a work in the lives of those directly touched by our life.  He is at work in the World.  Alignment with God in this work is a critical success factor in the results as well as the pace.

There are three primary ways we need to align with God in this transformation.  The first is to read the Word of God and allow God to use it to transform our thought patterns.  ‘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.’  Romans 12:1-2.  These two verses must be read together.  The transforming of our mind is not simply a mental exercise.  We are to act upon this new way of thinking.  We are to cease conforming to the old way of thinking and the ways and patterns of the world.  The bible is the Word of God.  It is the stable place we can always turn to for the clear picture of God and His desire for His children.

The second alignment is with the Holy Spirit.  At the transaction, we not only had our sins forgiven, we were given a very great help to live the life of faith.  God placed His Holy Spirit in us to be our guide and counselor.  Jesus talked about this in his final meeting with the disciples before His crucifixion.  ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.’  John 14:16-17,26.

The Holy Spirit is God living in the believer.  Yet He does not overwhelm us.  He is gentle and seeks to lead us into truth and into obedience to the Father.  As we align ourselves with the Holy Spirit’s leading, we will learn to discern His voice.  Obedience brings greater clarity the next time the Holy Spirit speaks.  Learning to tune our hearts to the Holy Spirit also means the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil are muted.  They don’t necessarily go completely away, but the more we lean in and listen to the Holy Spirit, the less frequent and less vocal these temptations are.  The converse is also true.  The less we listen and follow the Holy Spirit, the louder and more frequent the voices of the world, the flesh, and the devil become.

The final alignment with God’s transformation is submission to Godly leadership.  The Church is a big deal to God.  It is so important that it is referred to as the bride of Christ.  Through the Church, God’s transformation of the world is taking place.  The Lord has raised up leaders who have specific responsibilities to fulfill.  As I ponder this, it occurs to me that everyone has a leadership role in God’s economy.  The difference may be in scale, but not necessarily in importance.  The mother of a young child is leading that child and that is vitally important.  As is the pastor of a mega church.  Yet every leader is also a follower of someone else.  Asking the Lord to guide you to a bible-believing church and then aligning with the leaders has placed there is a vital step.

These three alignments work together to create a firm foundation for transformation in me, in the persons around me, and in the world.  Not unlike a stool with three legs, these support us whether we are sitting at rest or standing to reach higher than we can normally reach.  Take away any one of the three and the stool no longer works.

We are created to live in intimacy with God, the lover of our souls.  This life carries with it great blessings, not the least of which is the process of being changed into the whole, beautiful person God had in mind when He created us.  While this process continues our entire life, we facilitate this transformation by aligning ourselves with the Word of God, His Holy Spirit, and Godly leaders.

Feel free to join me in this prayer.

Lord Jesus, we want to live the transformed life you created us for.  We say yes to the work you are doing in us… in our family and friends… and in the world around us.  I offer myself to you anew today.  Take the broken pieces of my life and put them together in the way you know they need to go.  Take the supple pieces of my life and shape them to the form you have in mind.  Reveal the pieces of my life that need to go and then help me to leave them for good.  And whatever is good in me please use for your glory, the world’s good, and my joy.  In Jesus name.

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