What Others Say

Thank you for writing the article in Saturday's edition of New Castle News. It was very good and very interesting. You bring it all to light, making everything very simple and easy to understand. - Kathy L. - New Castle, Pennsylvania

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Doomsday


Last week the Doomsday Clock was moved to 100 seconds to midnight.  Created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1947 following WW II and the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. the hypothetical clock measures how close the scientists estimate the human race is to global catastrophe and potential annihilation.  Across the years the “clock” has varied from 17 minutes to midnight to 2.  Its original setting was 7 minutes to midnight and has been adjusted backward and forward 23 times.  This is the first time it has been moved closer than 2 minutes to midnight.

The scientists cited three primary reasons for moving the clock to 1 minute and 40 seconds to midnight: (1)the rising threat of a nuclear blunder (collapse of the Iran nuclear agreement, reemergence of North Korean threats and buildup of nuclear weapons in Russia, China and the U.S.), (2) climate change; and (3) disinformation.  No one knows what to believe anymore. According to Robert Latiff, retired Air Force major general and fellow at the University of Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, “We have a witch’s brew of ingredients for global conflict.” 

Like generations of old, we are prone to turn a deaf ear to doomsday prophecies.  It was so in the days of Jeremiah and Amos, who warned of impending disaster.  We don’t like bad news. We prefer to live our lives undisturbed and dismiss dire warnings.

As in the days of Jeremiah and Amos, the solutions are ethical.  Amos proclaimed, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).  Jeremiah wrote, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

The more we embrace prejudice, tolerate injustice, practice deception and turn a blind eye to corruption, the closer the clock ticks toward “midnight” and humanity’s final hour.  When we promote understanding, conduct ourselves with compassion, practice honesty, generosity and truthfulness, the world becomes a safer place.

So, what should we do?  We must hold our leaders accountable and we must pray for them to establish peace in a world of unimaginable weapons of destruction.  We are all stewards of the earth and our environment. Space exploration has made us more aware of how remarkable and fragile our planet really is.  We must all be committed to the truth, to tell the truth and to discern the truth. 

While the Bible is clear that the earth will eventually pass away to be succeeded by a new heaven and a new earth, we are admonished by Jesus  to pray that “His Kingdom would come and His will be done on earth (today) as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Secrets


You would think that we would have learned our lesson about secrets.  President Nixon and “all the President’s men” thought that they could get away with it.  But every word uttered in the oval office found its way into print and into the public.  The Watergate tapes ripped the mask off the public image of politics and left an entire generation disillusioned.

Twenty years later, Bill Clinton assumed that what he did in private would remain secret. But what happened with Monica Lewinsky behind closed doors became public record resulting in the second Presidential impeachment in history.  In his autobiography Clinton confessed, “The question of secrets is one I have thought a lot about over the years.  … Secrets can be an awful burden to bear, especially if some sense of shame is attached to them … Of course, I didn’t begin to understand all this back when I became a secret-keeper.  …I was always reluctant to discuss with anyone the most difficult parts of my personal life.”

The Wikileaks secrets were first released in 2010. Most of the documents appeared to be trivial and petty.  Some of them serious.  All of it stemmed from words written and spoken in secret places that the participants never dreamed would be read or heard by anyone else.  But what was said in private is now public.

Edward Snowden released classified National Security Documents to the mainstream media in 2013. Facing possible prosecution in the United States, he continues to live in Russia.

Jesus warned us that our secrets would become public.  He said, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.” And again, He said, “For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”

Our conduct in secret is the most important part of our life.  Jesus constantly encouraged his followers to focus on what they did in secret.  “When you pray,” He said, “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” And, “when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Jesus taught that those who say and do things privately that they do not want others to know about are like cups that are only washed on the outside.  A slimy green scum continues to grow on the inside.  He compared people who keep up a public image that is not consistent with their secret conduct to marble tombs in graveyards. They appear whitewashed and clean on the outside, but inside they are filled with rotting flesh and decayed bones. . (Matthew 23:26-28).

When you do what is right in private, what is seen in public will take care of itself. The most important part of your life is the secret part.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Who Is Jesus?


He is the most controversial person who ever lived.  His own family thought him mad.  The people loved him. One of his closest friends betrayed him.  The Jewish court convicted him of heresy.  The Romans killed him. He never earned a degree and had no formal schooling.  He was never elected to office.  He never wrote a book. When he died he owned nothing beyond the clothes on his back. But, within three centuries of his death, the entire Roman Empire worshipped him.

More books have been written about him than any other individual who has ever lived.  Entire libraries have been devoted to understanding his life and his teaching.  He changed the course of western civilization and, today, two thousand years since he was born, millions are turning to him in Africa and Asia and South America. Who is Jesus?
 Leo Tolstoy, arguably the greatest Russian novelist spent much of his life wrestling with the teachings of Jesus.  In his later years he wrote The Kingdom of God is Within You, an attempt to implement the teachings of Jesus.

  When Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home was bombed in 1956, he stepped out on the front porch to quiet an angry crowd that threatened to do battle with the police.  He said, “
"We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: 'Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.' This is what we must live by.

Jesus remains popular in the United States.  A Barna Group survey concluded that two out of three Americans claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus "that is currently active and influences their life."  But who is the Jesus whom two thirds of Americans claim to know?

In his book, Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos creates a fictional story in which Jesus is seen according to the image of the beholder.  In so doing, he introduces “King James Jesus,” “Magic 8-ball Jesus,” “Testosterone Jesus,” “Free Will Jesus,”  “New Age Jesus,” and “Meticulous Jesus.”  Which leaves us asking again, “Who is Jesus?”

Jesus was the first person to pose this question.  When His popularity was growing so that thousands thronged to see and hear him, He took his twelve disciples aside and asked them the question, “Whom do men say that I am?”  The disciples looked at one another and began repeating what they had heard others say. “Some say you are John the Baptist,” they said.  “Others say you are Elijah. And still others say you are one of the prophets.”  After hearing their response Jesus put the question to them more personally.  “Who do you say I am?”  In both accounts, Peter was the one who spoke first.  “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.”  Peter’s confession was confirmed when Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to His followers for more than forty days with many convincing proofs. (Acts 1:3).

When Jesus asked the question, He was looking for more than a confession, a creed or mental assent from his followers.  If they believed in Him, Jesus expected them to put their faith into action.  Elsewhere he said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not the things that I say.”  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  Perhaps the most important questions any of us will face in this life are, “Who is Jesus?” and, “Am I doing what He said?”

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Healthy Heart


We have adopted our New Year’s resolutions, and many of us are focused on a “healthy heart.”  It apparently is making a difference.  According to the American Heart Association, “The epidemic increase in heart disease mortality ended in the 1960s or 1970s.” Deaths from heart disease have fallen dramatically over the last 50 years. Heart-healthy alternatives are produced in almost every food category. Restaurants include heart-healthy menus. Smoking has been banned in most public places. Physicians and non-profits promote diet-and-exercise.

I first read Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book, Aerobics, in 1982. It was a groundbreaking book that opened the eyes of millions to the benefits of aerobic exercise and healthy diet for a healthy heart. When I visited Brazil I was fascinated to find hundreds of Brazilians walking and jogging every morning to get in their “Cooper.” The doctor’s name had found its way into Portuguese as a synonym for heart-healthy aerobic exercise.

As important as it is to maintain a healthy heart physically, it is even more important for us to develop a healthy heart spiritually. The Bible clearly sets forth the disciplines and characteristics of a healthy spiritual heart. They include gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love. If we discipline ourselves to be grateful every day for what God has done, if we hope when things look hopeless, if we forgive those who injure us, if we love our enemies instead of just loving those who love us, we will have a healthy heart.

But, like our physical heart, having a spiritually healthy heart requires more than knowledge. We may know that we need to be grateful, hopeful, forgiving and loving. But how do you create heartfelt gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love?

In the spiritual realm, this requires a spiritual heart transplant. God has to create a new heart within us, something that He is more than willing to do. We are all born with spiritual heart disease. Jeremiah says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). But later he writes, “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God.” (Jer. 24:7). And in Ezekiel He says, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh.” (Ez. 36:26).

God sent His son Jesus so that He might create in us a healthy heart that is full of gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love. He changes the heart that has grown callous, bitter and resentful into one that overflows in gratitude. Someday our physical heart will beat its last beat and our bodies will die. But the spiritually healthy heart that God creates will live forever.