The Two Philosophies of Life

There are two simple, but opposite, philosophies of life.

The first explains that every person is conceived as morally perverted and sinful. No amount of nurturing, training, or money improves the thoughts, motives, or intentions of the person. That moral corruption alienates everyone from God and makes all pursuits selfish. A person’s only hope is to be reborn by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The second philosophy teaches that everyone is born as a blank slate. Environment, nurture, and social and economic structures influence and improve the thoughts, motives, and intentions of the person. Morality is dictated by the social structure and support of family, friends, and government. Basically, humanity is good, and personal destiny is ultimately up to the individual.

The first is Christianity; the second is humanistic atheism.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. There is none righteous, no, not one … there is none who does good, no, not one. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10, 12; Jeremiah 17:9).

Where does your philosophy of life come from? The Bible or humanism?

Ma and Pa’s Love

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Billy Bob and Martha Ray got hitched one spring afternoon in their little Ozark hamlet. The tiny church was packed with their friends and family, which were the same group.

The couple got right to business and over the next fifty years, Billy Bob and Martha Ray raised 8 boys and girls, all named “Billy.” Neither had more than a third grade education, but made sure their children each continued in school until the sixth grade. Holidays were especially wonderful as the family dined on raccoon instead of the usual squirrel or possum.

Husband and wife never traveled more than five miles from the village they’d always lived in.

Work always came early; they were up and busy before dawn. Enjoying the last few minutes of the evening before bed, the two sat on the porch of their humble shack, Ma puffing on her corncob pipe and Pa chewin’ a wad a tobaccy. Martha Ray broke the silence. “Pa, how come in fifty years ya ain’t never told me ya love me?”

Billy Bob sat quietly, the only sound was the squeak of his rocking chair on the splintered floorboards. After a minute or two, he spit against the white oak tree he’d planted as a child. “Woman, I said I loved ya the day I married ya. If I ever change ma mind, I’ll tell ya.”

The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8), and if God never changes (Malachi 3:6), then His love for you will never change. Nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35).

The Sum of a Life

an-obituaryEach week I read the obituaries in my local newspaper. They are fascinating statements of what families and friends think are important about their loved ones.

A recent obituary noted a man’s age and that he could be found on any given Sunday at a local racetrack. The eulogy went on to list the man’s dead and living relatives and their spouses for 5 generations.

Had the man been alive, I wonder whether he’d find his weekly trip to the racetrack and the names of his relatives and their spouses the true sum of his life.

King David’s eulogy was simple. These are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1).

The great king of Israel summed up his life as the youngest son of an insignificant shepherd-farmer whom God elevated. God promoted him from being a shepherd, to servant in the house of the previous king, to giving David an eternal promise. All David had and was came from the God who had chosen him. He was also an artist whose every song bore an undeniable testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

David’s obituary gave no mention of those he was leaving behind or his great achievements. Instead, he gave all the honor to his God.

What will be said of you?

Is Your Faith A Fishy Tale?

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Two deacons sat in a row boat fishing early one Sunday morning. The church bell rang and the one deacon said, “Better row to shore. It’s about time for church to begin.”

The second deacon sighed. “I can’t go to church today. My wife isn’t feeling well.”

We come up with a lot of reasons not to go to church, for instance, when we have friends or family visiting from out of town. Our visitors may not be churchgoers, and we don’t want to offend them, but when we go to church we show them our priorities. They may not accept our faith in Jesus, but at least they know what is important to us.

Invite your visitors to go to church with you. It may be exactly what they need. They may not attend with you, but that’s alright. As Christians, we are responsible for living out our faith; unbelievers are not.

Sometimes we feel that our time to visit is so limited that we want to make the most of that time together. An hour or two worshipping with other believers is a sign to your friends about the necessity of Jesus in your own life. Isn’t the importance of Jesus to you something you want your friends to know?

It’s easy to talk about how important Jesus is and how He is the love and center of your life, but when you don’t actually live that way because your friends or family are more important … it belies all the witnessing to them you’ve tried. Your faith becomes something of a fishy tale.

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus (Matthew 4:19-20).

Auf Wiedersehen

auf-weidersehenMy great-grandfather Rudolph Losli died when I was 14 years old. One of the things I remember about him was that he never said “good-bye” at the end of a conversation. When he was finished talking on the phone, for example, he’d abruptly hang up.

His son (my grandfather) asked once why he didn’t end a conversation like everyone else by saying “good-bye.” He replied, “Why should I say good-bye when I know I’m going to see you later?

As Christians, the Bible says that we don’t sorrow at death as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Ephesians 2:12 describes those who are not born again as having no hope and without God in the world. For the unsaved, there is a terrible hopelessness when a loved one dies. It’s why they cling unmercifully to the memory of those who have died. They sorrow without thought or assurance of eternity.

For the unsaved, death is a permanent separation of relationship, but as Christians we do not despair at death. We will grieve, but we never truly say “farewell” to our family in Christ, but merely like the German phrase auf wiedersehen, “until we meet again.”

The resurrected Jesus has made our partings as believers temporary (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). For those with faith in Christ Jesus as Saviour, death is but the blink of an eye in this world and immediate entrance into a hope-filled eternal bliss in the next as we see Jesus face-to-face in His glory and are made like Him (1 John 3:2-3).

Give Thanks to the Lord

thanksgivingSome like the white Christmas with family. Others enjoy the cemeteries, haunted houses, and monsters of Halloween. For me, my favorite holiday is Independence Day.

My hometown, Hillsboro, Oregon, puts on the largest Fourth of July parade west of the mighty Mississippi River.

I’ve attended the parade nearly every year of my 50 years. I’ve seen high school marching bands, politicians shaking hands, senior citizens strumming old washboards, horses in hats, clowns with squirting umbrellas, dogs pulling carts, policemen doing tricks on motorcycles, boy scouts riding bicycles, rodeo and dairy queens, old cars, and war veterans proudly marching alongside the American flag.

I enjoy sitting on the side of the street with my family, scanning the crowds for someone I might know, and watching the children. There’s something close to magical about children and parades.

In recent years, many entrants in the parade have taken to tossing candy to the crowd. Even adults have been known to dash into the street, elbowing five-year olds to get their hands on that mini-roll of Smarties.

The funny thing is that as the parade nears the two hour conclusion, so much candy has been thrown that the crowd begins throwing it back to the parade participants! There is so much candy that we stop appreciating the generous gift.

The solution to ingratitude is to give thanks. In America, we live in a place and a time when we have much, much more than we need or really want. We quickly become ungrateful for our bounty. When we realize how much we really have, and how easily it can be taken away by robbers or tornadoes or our own carelessness, we learn to be grateful.

Society says, “Easy come, easy go.”  I prefer to say, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! (Psalm 106:1).

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!

As Citizens of Heaven

kenya-us-flagAccording to the Bible, people have gathered themselves together based on language since the time of the defunct Tower of Babel just before the worldwide Flood (Genesis 11:1-9). From that time we have segregated ourselves on the outward appearances of skin color, ethnicity and language. Nationalism is an infection of the human heart.

Whether British, Babylonian or Bolivian, we get angry and even go to war when someone doesn’t respect our national anthem or flag as we feel it ought to be.

If you’re a Christian, you are a citizen of Heaven and have a closer connection to other Christians in Liberia and Lithuania than you do to any unbelievers among your family, friends, or fellow-patriots. Even Jesus claimed more in common with believers than with His own mother (Matthew 12:46-50)!

Never, in any place, have I been made to feel more welcome than among Kenyan believers. As a mzungu (white man) in Kenya, I am the extreme minority. For some Kenyans, I’m the first white man ever seen in person. My white skin has scared babies and I’ve seen Kenyans drive their bicycles into bushes at seeing me. Yet, I have never once felt out of place or looked upon as different in Kenya. Among believers, I’m judged in the exact same way that I judge them: as a child of God.

 

Yes, as citizens of Heaven we are also citizens of earthly nations, but these have never determined how God looks at us. Outward appearances should never decide how we receive or treat others (2 Corinthians 5:12). We should assess by whether the heart is transformed by personal faith in Christ Jesus. This doesn’t mean that we don’t see differences, but that differences don’t determine how we feel, think, or act toward others.

Every time our nationalism, political views, skin color, culture, language, or any other outward difference becomes the basis of how we size-up others, we fail to live up to the heart of God.

He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27-28).

The Dew of Unity

the-dew-of-unityBehold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing – life evermore (Psalm 133:1, 3).

Since the very first man and woman, there has been disunity. God created Adam and Eve as one, but through sin that unity became a game of accusation and blame. Disharmony has been the common song of mankind ever since with notes of rebellion, hatred, murder, violence and chords of corruption, conflict and chaos.

When King David wrote Psalm 133, he sang of unity being like the morning dew. Dew is the tiny droplets of water that form on cool surfaces at night from the water in the air. It brings life to dryness. It is fragile and can’t be forced without easily disturbed it. Dew falls from above; no one can cause it to form.

Mount Hermon rises in the north of Israel and Mount Zion stands 200 miles south. Both peaks experienced the same dew from heaven each day, bringing needed refreshing to otherwise dry and lifeless conditions.

Unity – whether in a nation, a family, a marriage, or a church – is an act of God. We can create a false appearance of unity through fear or force, but true unity of heart is an act of God. He brings it into our relationships. Our responsibility is to cherish it and strive to maintain it with humility, gentleness, patience and love (Ephesians 4:1-6, 13). And where He produces unity, there is life forevermore. 

There’s No Place Like Home

no-place-like-homeAs Dorothy Gale clicked the heels of her ruby-red heels together, she repeated the phrase, “There’s no place like home.” Before she knew it, Dorothy was transported from the beautiful and living Technicolor Oz back to the home of Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in black-and-white Kansas.

In L Frank Baum’s classic books, the Land of Oz increasingly became increasingly more home to Dorothy than Kansas and she returned to live the rest of her life in the Emerald City.

Home isn’t necessarily where you grew up, where your house is located, or where your family stays. You can live in a place or with people and it still isn’t home. Sometimes it’s their home and not your own. The ancient Greek philosopher Pliny the Elder had it right when he wrote, Home is where the heart is.

Not a portion of a day passes when I’m not aware that this place is not my home. My body is here, but my heart is not. All that I am and all that is within me yearns to be where my heart is.

Where is your heart? And where is your home?

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:8, 16).

Father’s Day

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Psalm 14 begins with these words:  The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.

Dr Paul Vitz, Professor of Psychology at New York University and former atheist, studied the lives of famous atheists like Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Madeline Murray O’Hare, and Hugh Hefner. He found that each of them had something in common: a poor relationship with their fathers.

The disconnect between fathers and faith shouldn’t surprise Christian people.  The Bible has volumes to say on the important role of the father in the household as teacher, leader, provider, lover, and godly example. God’s design is for fathers to be at the front of all aspects of home life. Fathers who are absent physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually, create a lifetime of pain for their children and wife.

Men have an amazing opportunity to change the lives of a generation of young people. You may not have any children of your own or children living at home, but you have child relatives or neighbors to whom you can be an example. Your example may be just what’s needed to bring that child into a life of productivity and stability, and maybe even a lifelong relationship with Jesus.

Though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15).