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How to Give the ‘Perfect Christmas Gift’

In Developing Countries;

  • it is easier to come up with gift ideas,
    • (if you have the funds for it),
  • there are many things that people need
    • but do not have; indeed
    • cooked food was the gift that
      • my mother dispatched
        • (through us children)
        • to neighbors, extended family, and friends
        • as a sign of good will at Christmas time;
    • watches, shoes, garments, jewelry, dishes, sheets,
    • pens, books, personal music player, TV, computers, toys, etc.
      • are all also great gift ideas.

In affluent societies like in the Western World

  • coming up with the perfect gift at Christmas
    • can be a challenge;
      • because most people use
        • their regular incomes or
        • credit cards to buy what they
          • need or use regularly.
  • One option is to buy
    • high-end gifts or
    • exotic and rare versions
      • (which can be very pricey)
      • of things people use on a regular basis.
  • Regular folks therefore have to work harder to give the perfect gift;
    • here are a few suggestions of how to give the perfect gift.

The perfect gift takes time

  • Start early, as early as September;
    • listen to everyday conversations,
    • listen to expressed desires and aspirations
    • and make a note for gift ideas from those conversations.

The perfect gift may be an ‘experience’

  • Gift ideas do not have to be ‘things
    • they can be
      • a vacation, cruises, concert, a trip to a destination
      • museum/zoo visits or theme park rides, air fare, special trips;
      • time off work, housekeeping, or baby sitting;
      • an offer of cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping;
      • scholarship, tuition contribution, tutoring,
      • a special radio station/you-tube, blog post announcement, etc.

The perfect gift should be personalized, customized or handmade;

  • an autographed book/ticket/music/fan wear,
    • (from the author or composer, or admired person)
  • monogrammed items:
    • a person’s name, initials or special message,
      • can be inscribed on
        • silverware,  bathroom set, plaque, musical instrument;

The perfect gift must fit the personality of the receiver 

  • Some people want big
    • (the amount spent is impressive)
    • others look for small details
      • (how rare, how much effort, how much thoughtfulness!)
  • Some people are visual
    • others are action oriented, still
    • others are moved by sound, etc.
  • Some people like things, others like ‘experiences.’
  • Some people want to keep up with their peers
    • (they get gifts that are popular)
    • others want to know that ‘they’ are unique
      • (they get gifts just for them);
  • How do you know what is the perfect gift?
    • People usually give the type of gift
      • that THEY like to receive;
      • use that to guide your gift giving
        • TO THEM!
        • not the other way around
        • do not give what you cherish
          • (I once gifted a hat to my wife
            • that she has never used;
            • it was something I fancied for myself!)

The perfect gift may be what someone tells you they want

  • They tell you directly or respond if/when you ask.
  • Some apps make it easy to create a registry for gift requests.

 

 

Thanksgiving (An Attitude of the heart!!)

This should have been posted before Thanksgiving Day.  All the same,

“Better Late than never,” and on thanksgiving week,

I heard one radio announcer say:

“Thanksgiving is not a day, it is an attitude of the heart.”

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  • T – THANK and PRAISE God

    • for all things BIG and SMALL!
      • And do not forget
        • the precious people in your life!
  • H – HEALTH AND LIFE

    • are things we can all be thankful for
      • even if we are ill at a hospital
        • or in bed!
  • A – APPRECIATE and ADMIRE

    • the beauty of God’s creation around you.
  • N – NAME and NUMBER

    • your blessings,
      • its a rewarding experience,
      • including the precious people in your life.
  • K – KINDNESS and THANKSGIVING

    • in the heart
      • are twin siblings in the same home.
  • S – A SMILE and a CHEER;

    • want to see it on the face of the deserving?
      • Just say, “Thank You!”
        • from the heart
        • and with a warm smile!
  • G – GIVING and RECEIVING:

    • The one exists not without the other
      • every time you say,
        • “Thank You!”
  • I – ICTUS;

    • Five Greek letters for ‘fish‘:
    • Jesus, Christ, God, Son, Savior:
      • at least one reason to “give thanks!”
  • V – VISION and VALUE:

    • Nothing says:
      • I see and I value what you have done” like when you say
        • “Thank you very much,”
          • from the heart.
  • I – INSIDE and OUTSIDE:

    • A thankful heart, expressed outwardly in sincere words
      • belong together.
  • N – NICE and NEW: 

    • Thanksgiving is always that
      • and much more.
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  • G – GOOD to GREAT: 

    • ‘Good Gifts’ become ‘GREAT GIFTS,’
      • when it is received with a heartfelt:
        • “Thank you.”

 

 

 

 

Near Death Experiences and the Bible!

What Should the Christian Make of Near Death Experiences (NDEs)?

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  • When Colton Burpo was four
    • he died and went to heaven, where
      • he met his grandparents and a sister
        • who had been still born.
    • His story was made popular by
      • both a book (“Heaven is for Real”), and
      • a movie by the same name.
    • Colton (now 20) had knowledge about his grandparents, and stillborn sister
      • that could only have come to him supernaturally,
      • that is through an NDE.
  • Recently also, my wife and I saw a documentary called ‘Afterlife‘ by Paul Perry,
    • which details the stories of people who experienced NDEs.
    • Perry clearly sees NDEs as proof of the ‘life after life’ and
    • the experience led us to examine Biblical teaching about the after life and
      • how that aligns with what is known about NDEs.
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  • If you are interested, the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS) website
    • contains a large collection of stories and information about NDEs;
      • the stories sometimes differ in the particulars; but
      • they also share strong similarities:
        • Out of body experience
        • Moving towards an unconditional loving light
        • Heightened senses, consciousness, peace and harmony
          • with the universe
        • Self-awareness – People experiencing NDEs
          • were aware of who they were as individuals
      • But there are others who believe that the experience is

 

  • Some descriptions of NDEs sound like
    • the product of vivid imagination and dreams, or  of
    • delirium, such as when a person is experiences very high fever
      • caused by malaria and other illnesses,
      • (an experience common to many people in the tropics
        • including me, my wife, and I am sure, many others); or
    • hallucination caused by certain types of restricted drugs.
  • Some texts in the Bible appear to relate to NDEs:
    • Paul (2 Corinthians 12) was caught up into the third heavens
      • he said he could not say whether he was
        • in the body or out of the body” (verse 3 ESV);
      • he also saw and heard wonderful things he could not describe.
        • Could this have been and NDE
          • after he was beaten up and left for dead
            • at Lystra (Acts 14.19-20)?
          • Or could this have been after one of the many beatings he had suffered
            • as seen in 2 Corinthians 6.2-10?
    • John the Beloved experienced visions
      • detailed in the book of revelation while fasting.
        • Could this also qualify as an NDE?
        • Please see Revelation 1.9 -20.
    • Many other prophets in the Bible received visions
      • Daniel (10.2 ff); Peter (Acts 10.10 ff; ), Stephen (Acts 7.55 ff) etc.
      • Were these NDEs?  Are NDEs the same, similar to
        • what is called a ‘vision’ and a ‘trance’ in the Bible?
    • Jesus spoke about Lazarus and the Rich Man in the afterlife
      • (the story does not appear to be a mere parable
        • but a description of historical events );
      • how similar are the details of this story
        • to the common elements of NDEs?

SO WHAT THEN?

  • At the minimum, I believe NDEs confirm
    • what the Bible clearly teaches:
      • that Human existence goes beyond the physical realm.
        • In fact humanity generally and instinctively believes this
        • hence the universal prevalence of religion
          • one way or another, all societies ‘pray;
        • although some (atheists, and skeptics, and naturalists etc.)
          • reject this possibility.
  • But NDEs are not the source of our hope; rather
    • the Bible’s teaching of the Resurrection is the source of our hope.
  • We must be careful not to develop doctrines
    • about the afterlife
      • based on NDEs, about,
      • who gets saved, how they are saved etc., or about
    • who God, Jesus Christ,  and the Holy Spirit is;
      • The Bible is our source of doctrine for all things Christian
        • (Jude 4; Galatians 1.7-9; 2 Timothy 3.16,17)
  • God wants us to live by faith and by the already provided word of God
    • Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
      • John 20.29!
    • Luke 16.27-31
      • The Rich man’s brothers must accept the teachings of scripture
        • by faith!
    • Hebrews 11.6
      • Faith not NDEs (or other types of miraculous signs)
        • must be he basis of our walk with God.
    • Paul – 2 Corinthians 5.7
      • “for we walk by faith and not by sight”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope(!!), Suffering and Evil in the World!

There are three sources of Evil and Suffering in the World:

  • A BROKEN NATURAL ORDER

    • According to the second law of thermodynamics:
      • matter always tends to the lowest state of order
        • meaning, in nature all things tend towards decay.
      • The start and sustenance of ‘life’ itself
        • proceeds in the opposite direction;
          • living things autonomously draw energy
            • (in the form of ‘food’)
            • from the surrounding environment,
        • but then eventually succumb to this law,
          • when it ends in illness, accidents, and death!!
    • For example, storms, earthquakes, and volcanoes
      • occur on the other planets and in other parts of the universe!!
      • When  these happen on earth,
        • where human beings live,
        • they cause suffering!!
  • A PERSONAL EVIL BEING CALLED SATAN

    • Personal experience with a presence
      • outside of human beings,
      • possessing the ability to reason with and influence individuals,
        • and whose sole purpose appears to be
          • to instigate, encourage all things
            •  evil, painful, and
            • opposed to goodness and to God’s purposes;
      • demonstrated in real ‘supernatural’ and demonic encounters, and
    • described in the events and exhortations in the scriptures,
    • is a source of much of the evil, and suffering upon the earth;
  • OUR FALLEN HUMAN NATURE, THAT IS,

    • the evil tendencies in everyone of us and/or combined with
    • our human limitations
      • (limited in knowledge, memory, ability etc.)
      • to use our God given freedom,
        •  for selfishness, opposition to goodness and God,
        • as individuals or together as members of communities;
      • causes evil and suffering
        • upon ourselves,
        • upon one another,
        • and upon the earth.

The ULTIMATE RESOLUTION (HOPE) FOR ME! AKA:

I HAVE PEACE BECAUSE OF THE FOLLOWING *:

  1. I KNOW GOD LOVES ME in the face of all the evil and suffering in the world:

    “but God demonstrates his own love for us [ME] in this: While we were still sinners [I WAS STILL A SINNER], Christ died for us [ME].”

    • Paul  in his letter to fellow Christians at Rome
      • Romans 5.8
  2. GOD HAS A PLAN FOR A FALLEN CREATION:

    • Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” …

    • “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

    • Jesus’s BFF, John in his letter to some very young churches in first century AD
      • Revelation 21. 1-5

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  3. SATAN, (THE DEVIL) WILL BE DEFEATED FOREVER 

    • 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
    • John the BFF of Jesus
      • Revelation 20.10
  4. MY FALLEN HUMAN NATURE:

    • In Christ we are a New Creation
      • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
      • Paul in his letter to believers at Corinth
        • 2 Corinthians 5.17
    • In Christ we have a New Heart and are under a New Covenant
      • 33 “This is the [NEW] covenant I will make with the people …
        “I will put my law in their minds
            and write it on their [NEW] hearts.
        I will be their God,
            and they will be my people.
        34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
            or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
        because they will all know me,
            from the least of them to the greatest,”
        declares the Lord.
      • From the writings of the famous Jewish ‘weeping’ Prophet
        • Jeremiah 31.33 – 34
    • We now and will have only one NEW COMMANDMENT: LOVE!
      • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
      • Jesus according to his BFF John
  5. THEREFORE I LIVE BY FAITH TRUSTING IN GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!

    • 7 For we live by faith, not by sight.
    • Paul to his believer friends at Corinth
      • 2 Corinthians 5.7

*All quotes are from the New International Version (NIV).

Of the ‘Devil’ and the Evil in All of US!

Where does Satan and our Sinful Nature fit

  • in explaining the evil that is in the World Today?

As a Christian

  • I learn about the existence of ‘Satan‘ and of the ‘Sinful Nature,’ but
  • I have not fully resolved
    • how those two (sinful nature and Satan) interact to bring evil in the world.
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Regarding Satan (the devil, serpent, tempter, accuser, destroyer, etc.)

  • Is he present everywhere at the same time?
    • everyone appears to be constantly being affected or
      • tempted by him;
  • How is he able to tempt each person individually?
    • How come he knows what we are thinking?
    • How come he knows so much
      • about our individual histories, personalities and weaknesses?
  • If Satan, ‘the devil’
    • can tempt, deceive, dissuade, discourage, destroy individuals
      • even as the human population on the earth
        • continues to grow and
        • has reached over 4 billion; and if he
    • can work his evil from generation to generation for thousands of years;
      • the way some people say he does,
      • does not that make him a very powerful person
        • with some attributes like God(!)?
        • But he is NOT GOD!

This brings us to another source of evil in the world:

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  • The Sinful/Evil Nature in all of us.

A ‘celebrity’ (in the early church)  once said this about himself:

  • (in the first century)
  • “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me,
    • that is, in my sinful nature. 
    • For I have the desire to do what is good,
      • but I cannot carry it out.   
    • For I do not do the good I want to do,
      • but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
        • (Paul: Romans 7.18-19)
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This is what that sinful nature looks like:

  • He(She) is lazy, slow, and a procrastinator.
  • He(She) lies, exaggerates, and deceives
  • He(She) is incredibly selfish;
  • He(She) is greedy, proud, boastful, and self-promoting
  • He(She) can be lewd, nasty, and insensitive
  • He(She) is utterly against God
    • He(she) does not want to submit to God’s rule or to worship him;
    • He(She) does not like to humble himself before God;
    • He(She) does not like to pray;
    • He(She) does not want to read sacred scriptures;
  • He(She) does not like limits
    • if the speed limit is 40 mph, he(she) wants to go at 45 mph or
    • if the speed limit is 55 mph, 65 mph seems attractive to him/her
  • He(She) lacks self control, prefers excesses,
    • he(she) does not want to wait or to accept limit on him/herself
      • whether it’s with regard to food and drink, or
      • in relation to social interactions,
        • including sex, and marital fidelity;
    • he(she) does not want to go to bed or to wake up early;
    • with regards to words and conversations,
      • he(she) can be mean, insensitive, inconsiderate, gossipy, and crass.
    • He(She) is never satisfied, always wants more.
  • He(She) works against the interest of the person in whom he dwells;
    • the excesses of the sinful nature may cause
      • disease, physical harm, crime and punishment;
      • auto accidents, fire, financial ruin,
      • ruined relationships and broken families,
      • loss of face and status, loss of power, etc.;
    • but this does not stop him or cause him to change direction .
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I believe that

  • this sinful/evil nature is in every human being;
    • it can be conditioned/tempered by
      • parental discipline and personal experiences;
      • Christian (religious) conversion and education, and by
      • custom, and the laws of society;
  • this sinful nature is a “he/she” because
    • it is a part of but
      • not the totality of who we are as individuals
    • because he(she) appears to operate by ‘reason’ and ‘persuasion’
      • to our minds and/or to our will
      • (See Paul above in Romans 7.15-25);
    • as individuals we have still have the ability
      • TO MAKE A CHOICE between what
        • the persuasion of what the sinful nature wants and what
        • commons sense, conscience, laws of society, and the dictates of our faith, tell us.
  • (Personally, I refer to this sinful nature as “THE BEAST”).
  • Bring a community of people together
    • with this sinful nature and its tendencies,
    • we then have endless possibilities for evil,
      • in our world!

NEXT POST:  BRINGING THE TWO TOGETHER:

  • SATAN, OUR SINFUL NATURE, AND THE PREVALENCE OF EVIL IN OUR WORLD!!

Pain, Suffering, Evil, and God, Questions? Answers!

Questions:  Pain, Suffering, Evil, and God?

  • What is my ‘SATISFYING ANSWER’?
  • If God is  ALTOGETHER GOOD AND ALMIGHTY’
    • why the pain, the suffering, and all the evil
      • that we see in the world?
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I now believe that this

  • God-designed creation runs on a ‘natural order’ (!)
    • based on the laws of science in
      • biology, physics and engineering, chemistry, geology, astronomy
      • mathematics and statistics, electronics, nuclear physics, etc.;
    • based on the laws of society and human interactions in
      • sociology and anthropology,
      • political science and economics, etc.
    • It is the challenge and opportunity of all men
      • since the days of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, etc.,
      • including Christians, and all genuine God worshipers,
      • to discover and utilize these laws for their benefit;
      • as stated in the book of Genesis when God’s says to man,
        • “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1.28)
        • work it[the garden-creation] and keep it. (Genesis 2.15)
  • Creation running on the ‘natural order’ is also ‘broken’ and
    • all men are subjected to this broken natural order INCLUDING
      • Christians, people of earnest faith, genuine God Worshipers;
    • evil, vile and wicked men;
    • evil schemes, wars, crimes, corruption,
      • are to be expected and do happen;
    • typhoons, storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, accidents,
    • diseases like cancer, deformity,  fatal accidents,
      • will and do happen.
  • God is making a NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH,
    • a restored creation with a restored ‘natural order’!!

I also believe that God rendered himself ‘Almost Powerless’

  • in the affairs of men
  • when he gave man total freedom to make choices!
    • Most of the evil in this world
      • comes from men and societies making evil choices,
        • spouses cheat, abuse, and abandon families;
        • wayward children choose wrong paths;
        • criminals, political leaders, sociopaths,
          • make wrong choices that harm others,
          • ensure continuing cycle of evil
            • as their ‘broken’ victims
            • turn around and victimize others.
    • God let’s men have their own way so that they can see
      • in themselves and in the results of their choices
        • a need for God,
        • if they would believe
        • (Romans 1.24a, 26a, 28b).
    • God’s purpose and plan is seen
      • in those who willingly let his kingdom
        • reign in their hearts and lives
          • becoming his “witnesses” to the world,
          • “salt of the earth”, and
          • “light of the world.”
    • As before though
      • God will judge.
      • God will restore all things.
      • God will be proven right, just, loving, faithful and true.
      • God will remake a new order
        • without the problems of this old order.

I also believe that God is incredibly Great, Powerful, and Sovereign

  • If (since) there is an ALMIGHTY God
    • from our knowledge of astronomy
      • he must be incredibly great
      • (Please take a look at this astonishing video on YouTube
  • This limits the extent to which my puny mind
    • can understand him or his purposes
      • for the world he has created.
  • If (since) he made the universe as we know it, 
    • he is sovereign over it;
      • (free to act as he pleases)
    • he owns everything!

So how then shall we live?

  • God takes pleasure WHEN we trust him
    • so I will trust him, what is the alternative(?)
      • Can you change him?
      • Can you change his purposes against his will?
      • Can you fight God?
      • If you reject God and abandon your faith
        • what difference will it make?
        • what will you replace God with?
  • God has revealed himself to man in the only way he can
    • by becoming man through his Son – Jesus Christ!
  • God has demonstrated that he cares
    • when Jesus died on a cruel cross
    • as we struggle in this fallen creation
    • so I will trust him
      • that he will make all things right again!

We can still pray for and expect ‘miracles’

  • God breaks through the natural laws of creation
    • from time to time,
    • to let us know
      • that he is there and he is not silent;
    • to demonstrate his power and
    • to encourage our trust in him;
  • (all answered prayers are miracles!)
    • God sometimes answers prayers
      • which appear to be the result of the ‘natural order’ but
      • which are ‘too coincidental’
        • since we prayed specifically about it!
  • The genius of God is that
    • while it appears that things happen
      • according to the natural order of things,
      • according the fallen-ness of creation and human nature
      • according to the arbitrariness and capriciousness of human choices;
    • his purposes are clearly still being fulfilled in the world:
      • righteousness matter,
      • evil is wrong,
      • truth is desirable,
      • and faith in him is
        • enduring and cannot be destroyed;
        • meaningful and practically rewarding!!!
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Notice, I did not say anything about Satan?

  • HE IS NO MATCH FOR GOD!  BUT more about this next time!

Let me know what you think.  Send me an Email, or a tweet.  Please share!

 

Questions: Pain, Suffering, Evil, and God!

I ADMIT IT!!!

  • I have had a lot of questions that have plagued me for a long time

    • about pain, suffering, evil, and God!

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  • I have seen (first person) or heard and read about

    • Christian men and women (young and old)
      • faithful to Jesus Christ,
        • active witnesses for Christ,
        • righteous in their lifestyle choices,
        • selfless in service to others,
        • regular and authentic worshipers,
      • loved by all, and then
        • fall ill and die,
        • drown at a Church outing or swimming in a home pool, or 
        • killed in gruesome road accidents, sometimes
          • while out or soon after evangelizing, or
          • while going about their normal business;
          • leaving behind grieving
            • (sometimes young) families,
            • congregations and the church at large,
          • while their ‘less worthy’ and sometimes criminal compatriots
            • live on!
  • I have read about 

    • how about five million Jews (‘God’s people’)
      • were killed in the second World War;
    • how over two hundred thousand people
      • were killed during the Tsunami in Asia in 2004,
    • how hundreds of thousands (including many innocents) were killed during
      • World War I, World War II,
      • Genghis Khan Wars, Alexandra the Great wars, Roman Empire Wars,
      • wars of Independence in US, India, Nigeria, Pakistan,
        • in South America, Africa, Asia, East Asia, Europe,
        • in civil wars and terrorist plots all over the world, etc. etc.
  • I/We have seen TV/Video clips of infants and babies 

  • struggling with cancer and other horrible diseases
  • that adults find it difficult to cope with, much less little children
  • born with birth defects
    • (blind, deaf, without limbs, joined with other children etc.)
  • I/We have seen the crooked and the unrighteous

    • get rich and powerful
      • by engaging in ruthless, unethical, and evil schemes,
      • swindling their customers, investors, and society as a whole,
    • beat the system instead of paying for their crimes,
    • appear to continue on with their lives
      • after destroying the lives of others
        • including family, trusting friends, and associates.
  • I/we have also seen

    • the poor remaining poor
    • the sick remaining sick
    • the rebellious child remaining rebellious
    • the marriage not becoming healed
      • even after a lot of prayers!

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 PAIN, SUFFERING, AND EVIL, GOD! QUESTIONS?!!

I CAN NOW SAY THAT I HAVE ANSWERS THAT SATISFY ME AND I WANT TO SHARE THEM WITH YOU.

NEXT POST!!!