Archive for October, 2007

30
Oct
07

To Err May be Human…But

The 18th century English poet Alexander Pope is credited with having said “to err is human, to forgive divine.”  As humans, we cannot help but err.  There are no perfect humans who never make a mistake.  To the contrary, we all make errors in judgment on a daily basis.  Most accidents, whether small or large, are caused by mistakes in judgment.    Most failures of any kind are rooted in mistakes caused by poor judgment. 

Whenever we make a mistake we are quick to recite the first part of Alexander Pope’s quote.  The defense for our mistake is to say “to err is human”, and that is understandable.  But, what happens when we are on the other end of the equation and someone has made a mistake that hurt us or a loved one.  Are we just as willing to recite the second part of the quotation as the first?  It is far more difficult to forgive than to confess “to err is human”.  That is why the poet ascribed forgiveness to the divine.

In the space of 43 days back in the autumn of 1970, two events took place that forever changed countless people’s lives.  On October 2, 1970 a plane carrying half of the Wichita State football team along with the head coach, administrators and boosters crashed outside Denver, Colorado on its way to a game in Utah.  31 people were killed including 14 football players and the head coach.  After an investigation, it was determined that pilot error caused the crash.  The pilot had deliberately diverted from the flight plan in order to show the people on the plane the Rocky Mountains at close range.  He succeeded in doing that.

Just 43 days later, in an incredible coincidence, a plane carrying the Marshal University football team back from a game in North Carolina crashed into a hillside outside Huntington, West Virginia killing all 75 people on board, including 37 football players.  Again, it was determined that pilot error caused the crash.  This time it was the pilot attempting to land at an unfamiliar airport in poor weather conditions.  The odds of two airplane crashes involving two college football teams happening within 43 days of each other are astronomical.

 Before 1970 there had only been one crash involving a college sports team.   In 1960, the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo football team was decimated when 16 of its team members were killed (along with six others) when their Arctic Pacific airplane crashed shortly after taking off from a Toledo, Ohio airport.  The cause of the crash was excess weight causing engine failure.  In other words, the cause was human error. 

Since 1970 there has only been one airplane crash involving a college sports team.  In 1977, the entire University of Evansville basketball team was killed when their DC-3 crashed on takeoff from an Indiana airport.  The National Transportation Safety Board determined the cause was improper weight balance and the failure of the crew to remove external safety locks.  In other words, the cause was human error.

In the course of 17 years, four aircraft carrying four college sports teams crashed.  In every case, the cause of the accident was human or pilot error.  Should such tragedies be brushed aside by using the excuse; “to err is human”?  But, should forgiveness be denied because the people involved were athletic celebrities?

 I was a 17 year old senior in High School when the Wichita State plane crashed.  I didn’t know anyone on that plane, but I felt unbelievable sorrow for days after the tragedy; simply because it was our city’s sports heroes who had died.  I believe this is called empathetic identification in the counseling arena.  Just when the impact of the Wichita State accident started to wear off, the Marshall accident took place.  That accident flushed all the emotions to the surface again.  As difficult as this was for me, I cannot imagine the pain and suffering those directly involved must have felt.

There is no public information available to document whether lawsuits were ever filed relating to any of the four crashes mentioned in this post.   There ARE many reports of great outpouring of support from grieving friends, alumni and total strangers united in a common feeling of loss.  The common threads in all four tragedies are:  The cause of the crash was human error, they all involved college sports teams, and there was great sorrow, compassion and forgiveness manifested afterwards by huge numbers of people who had never known each other previously.

Fast forward 30 to 35 years to our current society.  Every time there is an accident of any kind, vultures descend almost immediately to start lawsuits worth thousands if not millions of dollars.  Pain and suffering along with wrongful death lawsuits are filed within days of accidents.  There seems, at times, to be no time for grieving, reflecting or forgiving.  It’s all about the money in our materialistic society.

When disasters such as airplane crashes occur today, there seems to be an immediate outcry to pin the blame someone.  Somehow we think if we can find the villain who “erred” that will make things better.  Even if the “villain” is found, tried and punished; does that bring his victims back?  Is it right to deny a “villain” forgiveness, if his villainous act was “human error”?

I cannot defend the foolish decision of a pilot to fly into a canyon so steep there was no way out.  But, I can most certainly relate.   Perhaps others have never made a poor decision in their lives, but I have made plenty.   The pilot never intended to kill anybody.  He probably never gave the possibility of crashing a moment’s thought.  He did what he felt was acceptable in the circumstances based on his skill as pilot.  Unfortunately he was dead wrong. 

There are, no doubt, many circumstances where people should be sued, especially for malpractice, incompetence or deceit.  But, should a person who causes pain, suffering and even death be sued for millions of dollars because they made a mistake?  This is a question that needs to be addressed in our lawsuit crazy society.  Is human error justifiable ground for destroying a person’s life, livelihood and reputation?  Have we become so hungry for “closure” and “payment” when wronged that the concept of forgiveness is totally foreign? 

If a chartered plane crashed today carrying a major college football team; before the memorial services were finished, the courts would be clogged with lawsuits “on behalf” of the victims.  First in line would be the Universities themselves, for we all know they would go bankrupt if not for the huge sums of money brought in by their football teams.  “Back in the day”, college sports were simply part of attending college.  They were fun and helped build campus unity and camaraderie.   Now they are huge money makers for Universities throughout the country.

God forbid we ever have another plane crash involving a college (or Professional) sports team.  Not only would the pain and sorrow be unbearable, but the financial cost would be staggering.  In our current day and time, no one but a fool would cite Alexander Pope’s poem.  Not only has the forgiveness been eliminated as an option for the most part, but the excuse of “human error” has been discarded as rationalization or belittling the disaster.   Because of this, it is ridiculous to think that what the great poet said centuries ago could ever be pertinent again; and that, to me, is a tragedy far bigger than any other.

27
Oct
07

Disaster Discrimination

January 16, 1965 was a typical Saturday morning in Wichita, Kansas.  It was very cold outside.  My dad had left early to give a Civil Service Exam at Wichita State University in northeast Wichita.  My grandmother went about her business as a housemother at the Institute of Logopedics in northeast Wichita.  I was at home with my mom eagerly awaiting my 12th birthday celebration later in the day.   Suddenly, an event took place that literally shook the city of Wichita.  Here is the official account from the Wichita, Kansas government archives:

“On January 16, the most tragic fire incident in the history of the City occurred, when a loaded jet fuel tanker crashed in northeast Wichita. The aircraft had just taken off from McConnell Air Force Base in the southeast part of the City. Due to engine failure, the huge plane plummeted to earth in a gigantic fire and explosion that rocked the City and sprayed the adjacent homes with burning fuel. The first company to arrive at the scene immediately radioed for a second alarm. Additional calls for assistance brought off-duty personnel, units from the Sedgwick County, McConnell Air Force Base, and reserve firefighters. The toll in this disaster numbered thirty lives, including seven crew members of the aircraft. Ten homes were lost and others were damaged. Although this type of accident had been feared for years, this crash was the only one involving a large aircraft to occur despite thousands of flights over the City.” 

Personally, it was the worst birthday I ever had.   My mother was asleep after working all night as a nurse at the VA hospital.  I had to wake my mom up and tell her a plane had crashed in Wichita.  She proceeded to panic when she heard where the plane went down.  She was sure her husband and mother both had been killed.  She did contact her mother and found out she was fine, but my dad never did call, he just showed up at home later with “stories” about the crash.  As it turned out, the plane crashed less than a mile from where my grandmother and dad were at the time.  A horrible day in Wichita for sure, but my family escaped the pain of losing loved ones by the slimmest of margins. 

This event, needless to say, was a huge story in Wichita at the time.  But, due to the crash taking place on a Saturday, it did not receive the national media attention such a catastrophe would normally have gained.  The plane crashed in the heart of the Wichita “ghetto”.  Because of this, it took many years of crying and pleading for a memorial to be put up where the crash occurred.  If the crash had occurred in an affluent part of town, the memorial would probably have been erected within a year.  Here is a link to a slideshow with pictures of the crash: http://www.kansas.com/static/slides/071507tankercrash/

There is a billboard on the Interstate near our home in Missouri that reads: “Tornados are equal opportunity destroyers”.  How true that statement is, not only concerning tornados but any natural disaster.  What I would like to add to that billboard is: “Disaster relief is not always an equal opportunity restorer”.   The inconvenient truth concerning disasters is that media coverage and the influx of relief services are very much dependent on the location of the disaster and the type of people impacted.  Too many times, the potential for publicity and ratings are the determining factors for coverage instead of need.   I am sorry to be so cynical, but I know by experience this is true.

Last March I saw firsthand the devastation caused by the tornado that ripped through Enterprise, Alabama.   Most people remember the story of the wall collapsing at the High School killing many students.  This was truly tragic and was a legitimate national news story.  NO ONE remembers that before the tornado hit the school, it had plowed directly through the “black” depressed part of town.  No one remembers for it NEVER made the news.  I was there; I toured the part of town the local authorities did not want the nation to see.  They did not want people to see for they did not want that part of town rebuilt, for it was “the bad part of town”.  After being threatened with some jail time, I left that city repulsed by the 2007 version of the same old racial discrimination and bias that has plagued the South for years. 

Last April I saw firsthand what happens when a tornado strikes a “politically incorrect” location.  Sitting on the Rio Grande River in southern Texas is Eagle Pass.  It was hit by a tornado in April of this year.  That same evening, Piedras Negras, Mexico (which is across the river from Eagle Pass) was hit even harder.  The Eagle Pass part of the story made national news for  one day and then was forgotten.  The immense damage in Piedras Negras was never reported.  Eagle Pass received a fair amount of assistance from charities and the government.  Piedras Negras received NO HELP, for it was on the wrong side of the river.

People in Eagle Pass, Texas live in houses.  Many are not that nice, but they are buildings none the less.  Houses can be repaired and moved back into after a disaster.  Most, if not all the victims in Eagle Pass received assistance from charities and FEMA.  There is no FEMA in Mexico and the major charities did not go there.  The people in Piedras Negras who were impacted by the tornado lived in “houses” made of cardboard boxes and tarps.  The local government’s response was to bulldoze the area and leave the people to find new “boxes” to live in.

Also in April, a tornado ripped through the small town of Cactus, Texas.  This little town, located in the Texas Panhandle, is dirt poor and has a population that includes many migrant workers.  The damage in Cactus was extensive and on par with that of Piedras Negras.  The extent of assistance was about the same also.  The town was denied FEMA benefits due to not getting paperwork done on time.  No major charity ever went there to my knowledge.  The little town was forsaken due to its location, economic condition and ethnic makeup.  Should disaster response be dictated by these factors or by the need in the area destroyed?

In early May, I visited Greensburg, Kansas where a few days earlier, an F-5 tornado had wiped the town off the map.  Greensburg was a nice western Kansas farming community with very few minorities, a stable tax base and an “all American” image.  It even had a malt shop still in operation.  Why did Greensburg receive unbelievable national attention and Cactus NONE?  Why was Greensburg flooded with every major national disaster relief charity almost immediately, but only a handful ever ventured to Enterprise, Alabama?  I will let you determine the answers to those questions.

A few miles east of Greensburg is a little town called Haviland, Kansas.  This tiny place housed all the relief workers and agencies helping the people.  Parked prominently for all to see was a huge multi-million dollar motor coach from Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief in North Carolina.  It was there because the Director was in town to preach at a service.  The Director is Franklin Graham, Billy’s son.  His yearly salary is $345,293.  I contacted Samaritan’s Purse about helping in Piedras Negras, Mexico and the request was rejected outright.  I am thankful for any assistance any agency gives in times of disaster, but I tire of seeing decisions made based on reasons other than need first and foremost.  

I went to Enterprise.  I went to Eagle Pass, and yes, I went to Greensburg.  In fact I went to Pratt, Kansas also.  Why, because there was a warehouse set up there to handle all the food, water and clothing being sent from all over the country to a place THAT DID NOT NEED IT!!  That’s right; the people of Greensburg were being housed by relatives and friends and had no need for supplies, for they had nowhere to put them.  Yet, due to national media attention, people were sending tons of supplies for a need that did not exist.  Could those supplies have been used in Enterprise, Eagle Pass, Piedras Negras and Cactus?  OF COURSE they could have been used and greatly appreciated.  They never made to those locations because no one knew of the need.

It truly pains me to see where so much of the money goes that people give to charities.  Why the director of a disaster relief charity needs to make more than the President of the United States is beyond me.  I just wish I could do a better job of relaying the need to help the small independent groups instead of dumping more and more money into the huge charities with huge overhead.

I feel badly for the fire victims in California, the disaster there is huge.  But, for the most part the people there will be fine.  All the major news anchors have been out there soliciting help for the people.  Insurance will pay for new homes for most of those who lost theirs in the infernos.  Meanwhile, people are still trying to get back into their homes in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana more than two years after Katrina.  We still deal daily with situations where long ago people “fell through the cracks” and their needs have multiplied ever since the original disaster.  It takes time to rebuild and restore after a disaster.  It takes people and groups willing to stay put and work with people from ground zero until all is resolved. 

Please, never forget the people who suffer through disasters who had the unfortunate distinction of living in the wrong part of town, not having much wealth or God-forbid are Hispanic or African-American.  Disaster relief is not just for the middle class, celebrities or whites.  Disaster relief should be for anyone impacted by a disaster.  Think about this the next time you see an obscure little story buried at the bottom of the news about a place no one ever heard of with people most would reject due to economic or ethnic prejudices.

My little charity, Heart2Heart SHARE is still there, albeit on a more limited scale than before.  My commitment is still the same; that if there is a need and I can figure out how to get there, I will do whatever I can to help.   Please keep the “little guys” in your prayers and help when and where you can.  The large charities will always have plenty of support and resources to do what they do.  It is the small independent groups with UNPAID volunteers who need support to keep doing what they are doing.  Heart2Heart SHARE will continue to search out and help find assistance for unaffiliated independent groups whose very survival depends on individual donors willing to help.  God bless you.

21
Oct
07

The “Cost of Living”; 1957 vs. 2007

It is time for me to post some more sobering statistics.  This time around I want to compare what it costs to live in America today verses fifty years ago in 1957.  To put this in perspective, 1957 is considered to be the height of the baby boomer generation.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was the United States President and Richard Nixon was the Vice President.  There were around 170 million people living in this country (compared to 300 million today).  The 1957 Best Picture of the Year (The Bridge on the River Kwai) grossed $27,200.  So far in 2007 the movie “The Departed” grossed $125 million.  No one owned a computer fifty years ago.  The only games were “board games” and make believe games.  Girls still wore dresses and guys still dressed up to take a girl on a date.  Mothers stayed at home to raise the kids and fathers were happy to be the breadwinner of the family.

A lot has changed in fifty short years.  The United States of America bears little resemblance to the country bearing its name not even two generations ago.  States that were mainly deserted deserts fifty years ago are now the fastest growing states in the country (Arizona, Nevada and Utah).  Areas that were farms fifty years ago are now cities with hundreds of thousands of people.  There was only one Interstate Highway fifty years ago and that was I-70.  Now people can travel all over the country on multi-lane super highways going pretty much as fast as they want. 

In 1957, the average income of America’s 44 million families (according to the United States Commerce Department) was $5,000.  There were actually 4 million families whose income was over $10,000.  There were also 6.5 million families whose annual income was under $2,000.  The vast majority of American families, 33 ½ million of them, had annual income between $2,000 and $10,000.  In 2006, the average income for an American family was $48,000.  In fifty years the average income had increased tenfold.  The main difference between 1957 and 2006 is that most families need two incomes to reach the $48,000 figure whereas fifty years ago only the father usually worked.  Logic dictates that if annual income has risen tenfold in fifty years, then the cost of most items has probably risen about the same.  This logic is correct in many categories, but horribly flawed in one huge area.

In 1957 the average price for a gallon of milk was $1.00.  Today, that gallon of milk averages around $3.00.  It really is quite amazing that something as vital as milk has only tripled in price in 50 years.   The price of most other things has definitely gone up much more rapidly and dramatically.

In 1957 gasoline averaged around .30 per gallon.  This should not be surprising since only a few years ago it was still under a dollar.  But, even if you took the high average today of $3.00, that is only a tenfold increase in 50 years in one of the most volatile commodities on the market.  Of course at the rate of increase gasoline has gone up, that would put a gallon of milk at $10.  Thank God the rate of inflation for milk has not kept up with oil.

Fifty years ago, the postage stamp was 3 cents.  Now it is 41 cents (at least this week).  Calculating the difference in the cost of a loaf of bread is a little more difficult.  There are so many kinds of bread out there today that it is very hard to compare apples and apples, but in 1957 a loaf of bread cost 19 cents and today the range is from $1.90 to 3.90.  A dozen eggs cost .28 fifty years ago and many times they cost barely over a dollar today.   

Most things that are still bought and sold today are about 10 times more expensive than they were fifty years ago.  Even “big ticket” items follow this same rule of thumb.   The average cost of a new car in 1957 was $2,100.  Today, the average price for a new vehicle is $27,958.  Although vehicle prices have gone up more than 10 times, the average for today’s vehicles includes SUVs and luxury cars.  It also takes into account the incredible advances in technology found in today’s vehicles. 

It is very interesting to note that in all the years my dad bought and sold vehicles (1932 through 1989), he always paid cash for the new vehicle.   “Back in the day”, no one ever financed a car except possibly through a credit union or a family loan. Today, the average new vehicle loan works out to $378 per month for 63 months!  Considering that a new vehicle loses 70% of its value in just 48 months, what exactly do people have to show for the $4,536 per year, or the $18, 144 they pay in four years of vehicle payments?  A used vehicle worth 30% of what they paid for it.

Here comes the statistic I have been leading up to all this time.  In 1957, the average price for a house in the United States was $2,330.  Can you believe that!  A house and a car cost roughly the same thing!  I know “normal” people who pay $2,330 per month to rent an apartment.  Just 50 years ago, this figure represented the average price for a house in this country.

Now consider what the average price is today (not taking into account the current depressed prices due to the sub-mortgage crises); which is $212,800.  The average price of a house fifty years ago represented 50% of the annual income for the average family.  The median price today is four times MORE than the average family makes in a year.  This statistic explains why Americans today are saddled with a debt load that destroys marriages and causes the current unheard of foreclosure rates. Families simply cannot afford the home they live in.  This is NOT  a good thing.   

In 1958 my parents purchased a modest home in a nice residential neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas.  The house cost about $8,000 and their monthly mortgage payment was a little over $100 per month.  Today, the average family in this country has a house payment of around $1,250 per month.   All things being equal, if nothing else had changed between 1957 and today; then the amount paid each month for the house payment would not be much different than fifty years ago (the rule of things increasing tenfold), but all things are not equal.

Most people fifty years ago bought a house and lived in it for most, if not all of the 30 years of the mortgage.  Today, people want to move into bigger and fancier houses after a few years.  They never get to an equity position.  If they do, they get home equity loans for toys, vacations, and other “things” and suddenly have not only a house note, but also a home equity loan note.  Add in a couple of car loans, college loans and medical expenses.  Once again, people cannot afford the home they live in.

Our country has always taken pride in home ownership.  It is “The American Dream” after all.  But, if the current trends continue, no one will be able to afford the home they live in.  Instead of moving up, they will be forced to move down to housing they can afford.  This is not the American way of thinking.  People are not used to having less and less.  That flies in the face of the “bigger, better, more and more” mentality that has fueled so many of the problems now being encountered.

There was a time in this country, not too many years ago, when people simply “made do” with what they had and could afford.  With the advent of credit cards and cheap credit lines, people have been conditioned to get whatever they want, when they want it.  There is no financial discipline or maturity to speak of.  This ugly mentality is now being passed on the next generation who has been conditioned to have everything they want without working for it, saving for it or waiting for it. 

The old values learned by those who suffered through the Great Depression have died off with that generation.  The baby boom generation ushered in the greatest spending spree in American history.  With it has come utter incompetence in financial matters at home, within businesses and inside the government.  Perhaps a good recession or even a depression would not be all bad for this country.  At the very least it would provide a wakeup call to millions of people.  People might begin to understand that you can’t keep spending what you do not have without someday suffering the consequences for it.

For even more information on this topic, I just posted a new blog dealing specifically with the housing costs and how dramatic the upswing has been since 1960.  The title of the post is: The Cost of Housing: 1050% Higher than 1970 and Climbing.

14
Oct
07

The Power of God is NOT For Sale

For many years in my life, I was led to believe that God and the Bible were like a magic wand. I remember using this analogy numerous times as I “witnessed” to them. “If I had a magic wand and could wave it and get you anything you wanted, would you pay me $$$ for the wand”. Very good sales techniques used there. Appeal to the greed or need of the person you are talking to. Ask them a question they have to answer in such a way as to open the door for you to “close the sale”. Perhaps sales techniques are fine when you are a professional salesperson selling a car, but are the things of God to be “sold”?

In Acts chapter 8 there is a record of a man who wanted to purchase the power of God. Philip had gone to Samaria and preached Christ unto them. The people with one accord gave heed to what he preached and the result was an explosion of the power of God as recorded in verses 6-8. Before Philip came and turned the area upside down, a man named Simon had the city under his control through sorcery. He had tricked the people into believing that he was “the great one”. All the people, it says in verse 10 “gave heed from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘this man is the great power of God’.”

When Peter and John heard about all the great things going on in Samaria, they left Jerusalem and went to Samaria to help. The first thing they did was pray that the people might receive the Holy Spirit, for they had only been water baptized and not baptized in the Holy Spirit. They laid their hands on the new believers and they received the Holy Spirit.

Watching all this happen was Simon the sorcerer. He had actually believed also and had been water baptized. In fact, it says back in verse 13 that he continued with Philip and stood in awe as he beheld the miracles and signs which were being done. Now, these two men come down from Jerusalem, lay hands on the people and they receive the Holy Spirit into manifestation. Not trying to sound Pentecostal, but there is no other explanation for what Simon saw other than the people spoke in tongues just as the apostles had on the Day of Pentecost.

Remember that Simon had for quite some time tricked the people into believing HE was the great power of God. Now he sees the true power of God in operation and he figures if he can just purchase it, he can get back to being Top Dog in Samaria. In Acts 8:18, 19 it says:

“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive (into manifestation) the Holy Ghost.”

What Simon requested of Peter and John was quite logical. It may have been logical but it was dead wrong. You cannot purchase the power of God, and Peter makes that point loud and clear in verses 20 through 23, where it reads:

“But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish (rot) with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart in not right in the sight of God.

Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray god, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”

I do not believe there is any doubt as to what Peter was telling Simon. Simon asked Peter “How much to buy this power of God?”. Peter proceeds to basically tell Simon, “Go to the grave with your rotten money”. To be “in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity” means he was full of bitterness because he lost his authority over the people and he was held captive, as if chained in a prison, by sin.

If you cannot purchase the power of God; it is not for sale. God’s power is only available through grace. It is far too expensive for anyone to afford, which is why it has to be a gift. Since the power of God is not for sale; anyone trying to buy or sell it is as guilty as Simon. Oh the thin ice many ministers and ministries are treading on.

Peter’s direct confrontation of Simon’s sin brought immediate results. We read in verse 24 that Simon said to Peter: “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me”. Simon was smarter than he may have looked. He could tell that Peter meant business and he better do what Peter said or he was in for an awful lot of trouble. The Bible never tells us if Simon truly repented. It never tells us how Peter responded to Simon’s request. I would assume Peter prayed, but whether Simon escaped the things mentioned is something only God and Simon know for sure.

Let me be brutally honest here; I do not think it is right to peddle the Word of God, Christian music and books as just more merchandise at the market. I quit buying most “Christian” music years ago because the artists and record companies were obviously in it for the money and fame. I refuse to pick up every book someone writes on some religious subject to make a few bucks at the Christian book store. I’ve been to countless meetings and conventions where the hallways are choked with tables full of books, classes and CDs being sold at prices a king would balk at.

There is a fine line between “selling the gospel” and paying the costs to produce a product. I do not believe people should be paid to preach and teach the Bible. I do not believe a person should have to pay through the nose to receive instruction on spiritual matters, listen to Christian music or read a good Christian book. I believe we are to simply announce the glad tidings of Jesus Christ and those who want to hear will stop and listen. Those who don’t want to hear will leave.

This whole subject reminds me of what has happened to the “volunteer” groups where most of the people doing the work are paid a salary. How can you be a volunteer and still get paid to do the work? I certainly pray that those who are becoming very wealthy by “preaching the gospel” (too many names to list) would stop and look at the record in Acts chapter 8 to make sure they have not turned into a Simon in Peter’s clothes

13
Oct
07

Why Are We Here?

Why Are We Here?

The oldest question asked by man is “why am I here”. During the thousands of years of man’s existence on this planet, enough answers to that question have been proposed to fill a library. The entire field of philosophy is basically devoted to providing possible answers to man’s ultimate question of purpose in life. People have spent their entire lives searching all over the world in vain attempts to find their individual reason for being. It doesn’t have to be so difficult, for the answer to this question is simply laid out by God in His Word.

Like many other things that baffle and confuse mortal man; the question of purpose in life is neither hard to find in God’s Word nor is it difficult to understand. In fact, the entire answer is provided in one verse in the Bible. Isn’t it just like man to so complicate a subject that libraries are needed to provide space for all his theories? God sums the whole issue up in one short verse in His Word.

One night soon after Solomon became king; he went to the brazen altar before YAHWEH and offered a thousand burnt offerings. Later that night Elohim appeared to Solomon and said to him; “Ask what I should give you!” Books have been written and movies made about the fictitious genie that comes out of the bottle and grants the person three wishes. Almighty God is not a genie and He certainly doesn’t live in a bottle. What happened that night with Solomon was extraordinary and it was real.

Many years ago I took up a “dare” (or perhaps a double dog dare) from a friend and stood out on a street corner for many hours stopping people and asking them one question. The question was: “If you could have ONE thing given to you TODAY, what would it be”? Years have clouded the specifics, but I do remember that almost everyone who seriously answered the question wanted either MONEY for themselves or physical healing for themselves or a loved one. These are the answers one would expect to receive from mortals living in this world.

Solomon’s answer to this question and Elohim’s response to Solomon is a little different from my experience on the street corner. I will quote this section in 2 Chronicles 1:8-12 from the New Living Translation:

Solomon replied to God, ‘You showed faithful love to David my father, and now you have made me king in his place.

O Lord God (YAHWEH Elohim), please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?’

God (Elohim) said to Solomon, ‘Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people—

I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future’!

Solomon’s greatest desire was to help his people, not personal fame and fortune. If wish the leaders of many “mega-ministries” would have Solomon’s desire. Then, perhaps, there would not be the constant parade of scandal such as the one currently being handled at Oral Roberts University.

Solomon asked for knowledge and wisdom to be able to help people. Elohim not only gave him his request, He blessed him with more fame and fortune than any king who ever lived. In his prime, Elohim allowed Solomon to write what we know as the book of Proverbs. No book ever written has more wisdom than Proverbs. As long as Solomon stayed faithful, Elohim continued to bless him with wisdom as well as fame and fortune.

Solomon had a bad habit of adding more and more wives and concubines to his harem. With each wife he brought in, he added another strange god to the hodgepodge of gods in the royal palace. In time, his wives and their gods turned his heart away from YAHWEH Elohim. When Sampson compromised “his faith”, he lost the source of his strength and he failed. When Solomon compromised “his faith”, and began worshipping and serving other gods, his kingdom fell apart as well as his ability to rule with Godly wisdom. He no longer was blessed by Elohim, and suffered the consequences of his vain sin.

At the end of Solomon’s life, after (we assume) he came to grips with his failure and repented of his horrible sins; he was allowed to write what we know as the book of Ecclesiastes or The Preacher. The book begins and ends on the same basic note. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. At the end of the book, Solomon lays out the conclusion of the whole matter of life and its meaning. Quoting from the New Century Version, Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 states:

“The Teacher was very wise and taught the people what he knew. He very carefully thought about, studied, and set in order many wise teachings. The Teacher looked for just the right words to write what is dependable and true.

Words from wise people are like sharp sticks used to guide animals. They are like nails that have been driven in firmly. Altogether they are wise teachings that come from one Shepherd. So be careful, my son, about other teachings. People are always writing books, and too much study will make you tired.

Now, everything has been heard, so I give my final advice; Honor God and obey his commands, because this is all people must do.

    God will judge everything, even what is done in secret, the good and the evil.”

There you have it. In one verse the entire purpose of man is laid out. Honor (fear) Elohim and obey His commands (or guard His commands); because this is all people MUST do. The New Living Translation says; “for this is everyone’s duty”. I leave you with how the Amplified Bible handled Ecclesiastes 12:13:

“All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of His creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.”

The purpose in our being here is to love, honor and worship God and to keep, guard and obey His commands. Love God and obey His Word; this is the reason we were born into this life. As we live to love God and do what He says, we please Him and He blesses our lives with meaning and fulfillment.

12
Oct
07

The Name and Nature of God: Part Two

When looking at the character of “God”, we must focus our attention on those qualities which, when placed together, describe His very nature. The simplest way I know to accomplish this is to look at what the Bible says “God is”. If I were to describe my earthly father in such a way as to paint a picture of his nature; I would describe who he is (or in his case, was). I can tell you that Leslie was extremely meek, humble and hungry to learn. He was very kind and gentle in his later years. Being of Swedish heritage, he was blond haired and for most of his life very lean. When he was younger he had a lightning quick temper and a strong competitive drive. If you put all these qualities together, you could envision what kind of person my dad was.

In doing a simple phrase search of “God is”, it is very interesting that the first thing mentioned in the Bible that “God is”, is found in Deuteronomy 4:24 where it states:

“For the Lord (YAHWEH) thy God (Elohim) is a consuming fire, even a jealous God (El).”

Right off the bat, YAHWEH our Elohim says that He is jealous God who will devour and consume something. What is He going to consume? Verse 24 does not tell us, so we must go back and find the context. In the preceding verse 23 it says:

“Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of anything, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee.”

Moses was exhorting the people to be careful, watch out and guard themselves so as to not forget the covenant of YAHWEH their Elohim which He had made with them. To understand what this covenant was and why it was so very important we must go back in the context to verses 9 and 10. For the remainder of this article I will be quoting from “The Scriptures” Translation published by Institute For Scriptural Research in South Africa.

“Only, guard yourself, and guard your life diligently, lest you forget the Words your eyes have seen, and lest they turn aside from your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.

The day when you stood before YAHWEH your Elohim in Horeb, YAHWEH said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me and I make them hear My Words, so that they learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth and teach them to their children.”

This day spoken of by Moses is when God gave the “10 Commandments” along with numerous other laws as recorded in Exodus chapters 19-24. I do want to call your attention to Exodus 19:16-20 which helps us understand the record in Deuteronomy better:

And it came to be, on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain. And the sound of the ram’s horn was very loud, and all the people who were in the camp trembled.

And Mosheh (Moses) brought the people out of the camp to meet with Elohim, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

And Mount Sinai was in smoke, all of it, because YAHWEH descended upon it in fire. And its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and all the mountain trembled exceedingly.

And when the blast of the ram’s horn sounded long and became louder and louder, Mosheh spoke, and Elohim answered him by voice.

And YAHWEH came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And YAHWEH called Mosheh to the top of the mountain, and Mosheh went up.”

What an incredible experience for those who were there! Without veering too far off the path, can you imagine what it will be like when Jesus Christ returns and sets foot on the Mount of Olivet! Revelation 19:11-16 gives you a good idea if you wanted to read it some time.

In Deuteronomy 4, Moses is exhorting the people to never forget the whole experience of when God Himself came down on the mountain and called Moses up to receive His covenant. Verse 13 explains what this covenant was:

“And He made known to you His covenant which He commanded you to do, the Ten Words, and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. “

The covenant which Moses exhorted the people to NEVER FORGET was what people call the 10 Commandments. When you look at those commandments, the first two deal with the same subject which is; NO IDOLATRY ALLOWED! In Exodus 20: 2-5 we see:

“I am YAHWEH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim (Egypt), out of the house of slavery.

    You have no other mighty ones (elohim) against My face.

You do not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of that which is in the heavens above, or which is in the earth beneath, or which is in the waters under the earth.

You do not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, YAHWEH your Elohim am a jealous El…”

Obviously, when you combine the record in Exodus with the one in Deuteronomy you see that what God will consume are any idols His people put up against His face, bow down to and serve.

Never forget what YAHWEH our Elohim has done for you through His son Jesus Christ. Guard your heart so as to never forget the glorious new covenant which He has made with us through the finished redemptive work of Jesus Christ His Son. Cast your idols down and let the consuming fire of YAHWEH our Elohim devour them once and for all.

God Bless you and keep you safe until next time.

11
Oct
07

World Population Explosion and America’s Response

The year 2007 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the height of the “baby boom”.  In 1957 there were around 170 million people in this country.  In 2007 there are an estimated 300 million people living in America.  An increase of 130 million people in fifty years seems pretty impressive until it is compared to what has happened worldwide since 1957.

It is estimated (of course no one knows for sure), that there were approximately 300 million people living in the world at the time of Christ.  By the year 1500, the world’s population had grown to just under 500 million.  In just 400 years the number of people living on earth had increased by over 1 billion to 1.6 billion in 1900.  In a mere 50 years (with two world wars involved), the population jumped by almost another billion to 2.5 billion in 1950.

Fast forward 57 years to our current year.  There are now 2.5 billion people living in China and India alone!  That means everyone who was alive on the entire earth in 1950 would now have to fit in just two countries.  Over 37% of the world’s population live in two countries which together account for less than 9 % of the world’s land area.  Over 6.6 billion people live on this planet in 2007.  In the year 2000 the population on earth was 6.1 billion.  That means 500 million MORE people are alive now than just 7 years ago.  In light of these staggering statistics, the 130 million population increase in the United States over 50 years is pretty paltry to say the least. 

Over 30% of the land area of this world is found in 4 countries: Russia, Canada, United States and Australia.   Currently about 500 million people live in these 4 countries (over 300 million in the United States alone).  That means less than 8 % of the world’s population lives on 30% of the land and 37% of the population lives on 9% of the land. 

What importance do all these figures hold?  What could possibly be the profit in knowing all these statistics?The reason for understanding these things lies in the gross ignorance the vast majority of people have toward anything outside of their family or town.  How many people know that 6.6 billion people live on earth?  How many people know that well over one third of them live in two countries?  How many people have a clue the world’s population has doubled in just 50 years?  How many people have any idea the impact that so many humans has on the climate, food production and water consumption?  How many people even care to know any of these things?

When a tsunami strikes Asia and kills 500,000 people that should be the biggest news story of the century.  But, because that figure means nothing to most people, the scope of the catastrophe becomes very limited.  The entire continent of Australia could drop into the ocean and most people wouldn’t notice.  Just so long as their backyard doesn’t slide down the hill, they are happy.

I imagine very few people know that there are almost as many people living in the city of Tokyo as live in the state of California.  Even fewer people know that far more people live in the state of California than in the country of Canada.  All most people know about Canada is that it is cold up there and they play hockey. 

We live in a huge world blessed by Almighty God with plenty of natural resources.  But, as the population continues to grow in certain parts of the world, the ability of those countries to provide for their own invariably gets outstripped.  Think of a country such as Bangladesh where over 150 million people are crammed like sardines into a tiny country the size of Illinois.  There is no way to produce enough food and find enough water for everyone.  The inevitable result is political and cultural upheaval.

The country of Sudan in Africa and the state of California in the United States both have a population of about 38 million.  The similarities stop there.  In every conceivable category, there is absolutely no comparison between the two places.  One is so wealthy people can afford to live in small houses costing half a million dollars while the other is so poor, people have no houses to live in at all.  Do too many people in California care about those in the Sudan?  Very few would have a clue where on earth the country is even located.

For those who think this world can keep on going as it has for thousands of years, I think you need a good dose of reality medicine.  At the current growth rate, the world could easily hit 10 billion population within the next few years.  Sooner or later there will not be room, food or water for everyone.  Then the tough choices start, like who is allowed to live and who is deemed a burden to society and not allowed to survive.  Even today these choices have to be made in many impoverished and overpopulated countries.

I can say with full certainty that the poorest soul in the United States would be considered quite wealthy by millions if not billions of people elsewhere in the world.  There are hundreds of thousands of people living on the other side of the border in Mexico who would gladly take the big box your latest plasma television came in off your hands.  They would turn it into a bedroom in their home made of other cardboard boxes.  There are millions of people who would (and do) sell their very body and souls for the opportunity to live in America as a street person begging for daily food.  Why?  Because it would be a better lot than what they now have where they live.

Yes, this long post is nothing more than a biting criticism of the stupidity and selfishness of the immigration debate.  Oh selfish and complacent Americans, your arrogance will be your downfall.  Your greed and lust will sooner or later destroy your beauty and benevolence that made you great.  Who gave you the right to tell those who only want to eat the crumbs that fell off your table of plenty to “Go Home”.  Please, America, wake up and see what you are doing before it is too late.  God HAS blessed America for the purpose of America blessing the world.  When America stops blessing those in need, and when America stops helping the tired and huddled masses; then America will cease to be blessed by God Almighty.

Amen.