Book Highlights: If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxas

This July 1st weekend Eric Metaxas visited our church and I thought I would add If You Can Keep It to my 4th of July reading list. Interestingly, I took this book with me on a trip to work with vendors in communist China. I have read some of his other books including Seven Men and the Secrets of their Greatness, Amazing Grace, and Bonhoeffer. Have you ever been around someone and just know that they are on another intellectual level and you have to work just to keep up with the conversation. Unfortunately, I run into this situation often and feel this way when around Eric. I have visited with Eric on a couple occasions as Eric is a co-founder of The New Canaan Society, which I also associate and years ago Julie brought him in to Houston as the Distinguished Speaker at Second Baptist School. Eric is a gifted in researcher and communicator. He brings to life the thoughts and lives of great men that have dared to stand up for truth and virtue in the face of cultural evil and great adversity. These men have positively influenced our history and culture and are worthy of study and admiration. Eric writing taps into their personality and core beliefs that drove them to change the course of history. Occassionally, I take the time after reading a book to write down some of the highlights so I can retain and share with others. The following is not a book summary, but are some of my highlights and notable thoughts from If You Can Keep It. Even if you don’t read all my notes, just taste a few of the noble thoughts that Eric extracts from our forefathers.

  • The Promise: “Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.” -Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America – Page 1
  • If we Americans cease to know that we are part of that group charged with the terrible and wonderful burden of keeping this glorious promise, the promise is already being broken and will soon be irrevocably so. So Franklin’s question is to you and me: Can we keep it? and How? – Page 11
  • Once it goes out, it goes out forever. If the flame given to us goes out, we will not only lose the light ourselves forever but will also lose the ability to pass it along to all those others who are waiting for it. That is what makes keeping it so important and the thought of letting it go out so terrible and tragic. – Page 14
  • America exists primarily not for itself but for others. This is a strange idea, and easily misunderstood, so we should take a moment to clarify what it means. – Page 21
  • We have to acknowledge that the United States has been remarkably and consistently generous in sharing what it has, whether material things or ideas. We really have demonstrated our belief in the idea that if we bless others, we will be blessed. It’s the “rising tide that lifts all boats” philosophy first popularized by John F. Kennedy. We’ve believed that if we help others it will come back to us, and we haven’t done this in a calculating way. There is something in the American cultural character that is simply like this, that believes this is the right way to conduct ourselves. – Page 23
  • If we have ever been great, it is only because we have been good. If we have ever been great, it is only because we have longed to help make others great too. That earnest humility and generosity must be attended to. – Page 25
  • True freedom must be an “ordered freedom,” at the center of which is what we call “self government”. So to be clear: People would not have freedom from government, but would have freedom from tyrannous government, or from government that might easily become tyrannous. The ordered freedom given to us by the founders was meant to enable the people to govern themselves. – Page 29
  • The first of the two things was simply the structure of the government. A view of mankind as fallen meant that a government must be created that took this into account and whose very structure limited the power of any one part, lest that power grow and take over, devolving into tyranny. It was an observable fact of history that everyone wanted power and more power. If people had not power they wanted to get it, and if someone had power he wanted to keep it – and if possible to get more of it. So the founders must create a government that somehow took this into account, that was structured so that this fallen and selfish human desire for power actually worked against itself. – Page 32
  • They knew that the religion was necessary to self government was not coerced but free. True religion must be free religion. This was something new, and this was what made possible the unprecedented experiment in liberty that came to be known as the United States of America. – Page 35
  • Freedom must have religion and religion must have freedom. One without the other was in fact neither. Freedom without religion would devolve into license or end in tyranny; and religion without freedom would really be only another expression of tyranny. The challenge was to combine them. Somehow. So yes, there was something called the social contract, where we each give up something to the community – surrender certain freedoms and pay taxes to a government so that the laws can be enforced. And yes, there was something called the law that would enforce the social contract. , and there was a document called the Constitution that would be the basis of those laws. But the founders understood that what they had in mind had to be much fore than these things. What was required was a virtuous people who were prepared to handle the great freedom being proposed….The founders understood that the more each person governed himself, the less there would be a need for strong government, and by their estimation the American people were ready. – Page 36
  • The “liberal” misunderstanding of American freedom, in short, is when freedom – or liberty – is confused with license. License to do anything at any time is not what the founders had in mind when they were talking about freedom.
  • The point is that there is so much that needs to be in place to make what we call freedom and self-government work that to simply tell someone he is free and bid him govern himself is like saying because of the Second Amendment we could hand out loaded guns to children. There are tremendous responsibilities that come with self-government…This idea that “democratic” voting is all that’s necessary for freedom and self-government has been demonstrated many times to be false. In Germany in the 1930s the people “freely” elected a government that would eventually do all it could to destroy their freedoms, using the “democratic” process along the way….voting purely for one’s self interest can work against freedom. Someone might want to vote for a person he knows as a friend, but what if he knows that the policies of his friend’s opponent would actually be better for the country? Or what if we know a candidate’s policies will help us personally but in the end will harm the country? Don’t we voters bear a serious responsibility to think about the whole country and and about its future? – Page 43-43
  • If the voter is not voluntarily selfless to some extent, and does not merely think of himself but of others; and if he does not think just about the present, but about the future, it all falls apart over time. Self-government will not work unless the citizens bear the responsibility to vote in such a way that continues their freedoms and their ability to have free elections, that continues their economic prosperity. They have to vote in a way that does not trade the future for the present. This “conservative” misunderstanding of freedom is closely linked to the false idea that the free market will by itself magically lead to all kinds of freedoms. – Page 44
  • And as I have said, the government cannot force us to be “good” or “moral” or “selfless.” The Constitution simply doesn’t have that power. But if being good and moral and selfless is necessary for our form of government to work properly over the long run, and if the founders understood that, how is it supposed to happen? – Page 45
  • If you take God and faith and morality out of the equation everything inevitably falls apart. – Page 48
  • The Golden Triangle of Freedom. “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor without faith” – Alexis de Tocqueville – Page 51
  • The Golden Triangle of Freedom is, when reduced to its most basic form, that freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; and faith requires freedom. – Page 54
  • Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great. – Tocqueville …..This was something about the culture of America, about Americans’ shared values. The difference was not in their genetic makeup, nor in their drinking water, bor even in their beliefs. It was in their behavior. – Page 59
  • “Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country. – Tocqueville – Page 63
  • He understood that the law could not force people to do what was right. …Where there is not human sovereign there must be another sovereign, and for Americans that sovereign was God himself, to whom they would voluntarily submit themselves. – Page 64
  • The Establishment Clause in the Constitution, expressing the idea that the national government cannot take sides with one church over another. This is an astonishing notion in the history of the world, that a state would not be directly or officially affiliated with a religious institution. – Page 71
  • The financial meltdown of 2008…So the Federal Government decided it would step in and use your taxpayer money to bail out certain select companies – but not bail out other companies. In other words, the government began deciding who could fail and who must win. It was a scary moment for America, this idea that the government, with all its power and resources, could begin to take sides in that way. – Page 74
  • Regarding George Whitefield (Scottish Evangelist)…It was this second trip to America that would forever alter the landscape of the New World, which in turn would affect the rest of the world. Because it would unite that scattering of peoples into a single people, one that together saw the world differently than any had before and that was prepared to depart from history in a way none had ever done. What would happen during this time in the thirteen colonies would begin the process of uniting them into something greater than the sum of their disparate parts, would begin the process of preparing them to become the United States of America. – Page 100
  • Whitefield’s message that people must choose to be “born again” and must accept their new identity in Christ. Because Presbyterians and Congregationalists and Quakers and Baptists and others all heard the same message and all were free to respond similarly, Americans were becoming united in the wake of his nonstop preaching. People were being offered a new identity that fit well with the American way of thinking. Some were German by background and some were French and some were English, but none of it mattered: They were all equal under God; they were all Americans. This was something new, and identity that was separate from one’s ethnicity or one’s denomination. To be an American meant to buy into a new set of ideas about one’s equal status in God’s eyes – and by dint of this to be accepted into a new community, to be an American. – Page 103
  • Church rolls swelled and those who had merely been filling the pews on Sunday suddenly understood why they were there. The Gospel came alive to them and they to it; and their common faith in God became the central animating force of the thirteen colonies that would in a few decades become the United States of America. William Cooper, a prominent Boston minister, hailed Whitefield as “the wonder of the age.” – Page 108
  • George Whitefield has been called the spiritual founding father of the United States. – Page 113
  • When we take the full measure of Whitefield’s role in creating what would become the United States, who can help but wonder whether our history is one in which God himself – and if not God, then at least those who are motivated by the idea of God and all it portends – has played a central role? – Page 114
  • Unless we celebrate our common ideals and stories – and our common story – and unless we are unified in celebrating those things, we can never appreciate who we are and what we have. If we don’t feel the power of what has gone before, we will hardly be drawn to do our part in perpetuating American liberty. That’s what songs and poems and stories and paintings and sculptures can do. So already to the extent that we have ceased hearing and memorizing poems like Longfellow’s poem about Paul Revere, we have in some terrible sense ceased to be America. By drifting along for half a century as our common stories and heroes have faded or been pushed away, we have increasingly become America in name only. And we haven’t even realized it….America, that great and fragile experiment in liberty, has become cut off from its roots. We need to see this and we need to do all we can to remedy it, and quickly. – Page 132
  • We need leaders who themselves lover the country and the freedoms of this country more than they love themselves and their own careers or reputations or “legacies.” That is why when a leader is caught doing something ignoble, the most noble thing to do, typically, is to resign, knowing that in the scandal that will be dragged out if they don’t, the country will be adversely affected. – Page 153
  • And in a nation where a culture of virtue is crucial to the entire system of self-government, character in our leaders is no small thing. We may again recall John Adams’s statement that the Constitution cannot contain our untoward passions – that will break through the Constitution as easily “as a whale goes through a net.” So we need a culture of virtue, and our leaders have a vital role to play in that regard. – Page 154
  • “More states have perished because of a violation of their mores than because of a violation of their Laws.” …No matter what the parents might say with their mouths, it is their example more than anything that speaks to the child about how to behave. – Page 155
  • But far more important is the use of specific words and phrases like “reputation”, “patient virtue,” “dignity”, “glory”, and “sacred honor.”…What we see in George Washington here is a man who lives in a world in which virtue and honor are accepted as vital to the life they all wish to lead. – Page 165
  • Speaking of the time of William Wilberforce – There was open disregard and even active disdain for public and private morality in Great Britain. In a word, it was fashionable to be immoral, especially among the upper classes. Public drunkenness, en on the very floor of Parliament, was common. – Page 169
  • Wilberforce understood the idea that the law itself is a “teacher” and will lead people toward what it prescribes and away from what it prohibits. But he knew that a debased culture cannot be stemmed through legislation along. Indeed if one wishes to make certain laws, one must change the culture first, else those laws will never be passed. … Regarding Wilberforce’s fight against the slave trade in Britain…He must work outside the law, and within the culture, to change the law. In other words, unless he could create enough of a culture of virtue for people and their parliamentary representatives to want to vote against their immediate best interests and for the best interests of the people they wold never meet and the long term interests of the nation at large, the glimmerings of democracy in Britain would be worthless. – Page 173
  • If at any point in a republic of self-government the people begin to distrust their leaders as somehow corrupt or a more concerned with themselves than with those they serve, the whole skein of self-government begins to unravel and is fatally threatened. …In order for self-government to work, citizens must believe that the larger order to which they are giving themselves is essentially trustworthy and solid. – Page 176
  • As President Truman put it, “Being an American is more than a matter of where your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal.” – Page 184
  • John Winthrop, Governor of the new Massachusetts Bay Colony…referring to Jesus’s statement from the Gospel of Matthew: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”
  • In Genesis Chapter 12, God speaks to Abraham about how he will use him to bring the nation of Israel into being, but he makes clear to Abraham that the point of it is that Israel will bless others beyond itself. It is less about Israel than about the God who chose Israel to be his vessel to reach the rest of the world. That is the great blessing and the terrible burden of being chosen by God. So far from being a selfish idea, it is the idea of living for others – of showing them a new way of living – that was a the heart of America. – Page 188
  • The glory of our existence is that we exist for others. It is at the heart of who we are and hope forever to be. – Page 189
  • We are not like others, and we may not judge ourselves as though we were like others. We have a special mission and a calling to be an example to the world, and to do what we can with our gifts to help others. Reading Kennedy, we understand that we cannot dismiss this as a conservative idea resurrected by Reagan. – Page 193
  • Lincoln…It is there that he calls us God’s “almost chosen people,” a phrase that is a sparkling distillation of the ideas behind what we have called American exceptionalism. This is because it makes clear that Lincoln did not think America’s excceptionalism a mere accident of history. Indeed, a few lines earlier he makes it clear that he sees our special role in history much as John Winthrop saw it and as many min in th etwo centuries connecting them saw it: as nothing less than a holy calling. But this is the point. We were not called by God for ourselves but for the whole world. – Page 211
  • America was indeed great, but precisely because she did not merely exist for herself. She was exceptional because she pointed outward, beyond herself. Her place in history was always to reach beyond herself-and once she forgot this, she would cease to be America. In reminding the men of the New Jersey legislature of their common history, this is the point Lincoln was making. – Page 212
  • Lincoln felt that America had been called by God to fulfill a role and to perform a duty for the rest of the world. It was not something to be giddy about. Far from it. He understood that to be chosen by God-as the Jews had been chosen by God, and as the prophets had been chosen by God, and as the Messiah had been chosen by God- was something that was a profound and sacred and even terrifying obligation. One would not wish to be chosen, but one might nobly be willing to be chosen, despite the suffering that it would surely entail. – Page 213
  • For them it was God who had the idea in the first place and who had called America as a people to accomplish this task. It was for his purposes in history, to bless the whole world with the freedoms we had enjoyed. So the idea that America was to be a blessing to the rest of the world and to the future was inextricably intertwined with the God of the Bible, whom these people believed had led them to do what they were doing. – Page 214
  • And if we turn away from the moral law, we forfeit the blessings of God. …Lincoln new when he faced the crisis of the Civil War that what America was doing had everything to do with that moral law. Could we keep it and continue to be favored by God? – Page 217
  • Referencing a quote in Lincoln’s inaugural speech, “mystic chords of memory”. We cannot avoid it: Lincoln is talking about love of country. That’s what the appeal in his inaugural speech is about. It is about coming together as a people over those things that truly bind us together. Lincoln is saying that the love of country is necessary, that America cannot and will not survive without it. – Page 223
  • Ronald Reagan once said, “If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are.” – Page 225
  • But the real problems arose when somehow we split into two camps over this and fell into a perpetual ideological battle. One side seemed only to be able to see the bad things America had done, and seemed to have become enamored with the negative narrative that cast us as the great villain on the wold stage; and the other side seemed only to be able so see the faults with that narrative, and seemed to have become enamored of the positive narrative that cast us as the great savior of the world. This perpetual ideological battle has become a dangerous thing for America and for the wold both. To truly love America, one must somehow see both sides simultaneously. – Page 226
  • The only question is whether, having seen both, we can repent of the one and rejoice and be inspired by the other. Or whether we will let one of them tempt us so far away from the other that we have a deeply distorted view. – Page 227
  • We must choose what we look at; and we must choose what we look beyond. But if our focus is on what is ugly and evil and dark, we will strangely strengthen the ugly and evil and dark. – Page 231
  • To love someone is to see the best in them and to act toward them as though they were that best. To call them higher. To treat them with respect and love is to call them to be worthy of that respect and that love. And we can say that to love someone is not to avoid seeing their flaws, but to avoid so focusing on them that the person gets a feeling of hopelessness about changing them. – Page 233
  • So those of us who have adopted a cynical view of this nation and who have a dour, negative view of it are doing our part in making sure that our negative view of America is what America becomes. Somehow, with our views and words and actions, we are guaranteeing that America does not become what she should. You might even say that when we do this we are cursing America, in our won way making sure she fail.s. Of course, this is the opposite of love and is wrong. It not only harms America but harms the world beyond America, which, as we have said, America exists to bless. On the other hand, those who in response to this negative attitude toward America swerve across the road into the ditch on the other side are equally wrong. To pretend that America can do no wrong is just like the parent who refuses to deal with the issues that are clearly problems in their child’s life. To so ignore them that one helps them to continue is also cursing that child, that country. Bot sides are not saying “God bless America” but are really calling on God to curse America, a country that Lincoln called “the best great hope of Earth.” – Page 234
  • God repeatedly instructs the Israelites to do things on certain dates and to create monuments, precisely so that they will never forget what they have experienced. He knows that if they remember these things it will be that much harder for them to stray, and so every year, among other things, Jews celebrate Passover, with many specific rituals about how and what to eat and what prayers to recite. Every culture must have rituals and in America we have a few, but even in celebrating them we often forget why we are celebrating them. ….Making every Fourth of July, or every Thanksgiving , or every Memorial Day, a day on which we specifically remember something historical about that day would be a way to begin. – Page 238
  • It’s the love of God, a love that loves even though it is not reciprocated. It is a love that simply gives and gives, and in so doing it breaks our hearts. We even saw it in the firefighters with their heavy gear, marching into the towers that morning, up and up and up as everyone else was racing down and out and away. It is a picture of goodness and it breaks our hearts every time. – Page 251
  • After all that had happened to America she was still there, saying: Welcome. We want you. You are why we are here. You are America. You who are not yet Americans. You are our future. Come. there she was, still standing and still holding out her torch. – Page 252

Thank you Eric for reminding us of who we are, how we got here, what was done for us, for sharing your story and for your work to pass the torch to the next generation. Join me in praying for our America and that we as citizens of this great nation will keep the promise that has been passed on to us. May God bless America.

The Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for all.

The following video is from Eric’s sermon on his book If You Can Keep It to Second Baptist Church on Saturday July 1, 2019.

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Entrepreneurial or Entrepreneur?

A card given to me by my parents after I closed on my business and displayed in my office

As a kid I never wanted to be on a work schedule and found that I could earn more money if I mowed lawns, painted houses or project work.  After failing second semester Calculus in Baylor’s Engineering School I changed my major to business and graduated from Baylor University with a double major in Entrepreneurial Management and Finance.  In my heart I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but had no idea at the time where to start.  I recognized I needed experience and got a job like most of my friends.  My job was in sales and I viewed it as a treasure hunt.  My boss, Robin Hood,(yes that is his real name) taught me the lesson “where there is chaos, there is opportunity” and I explored the globe creating opportunities for my company by bringing order to chaos through the dependable supply of quality products to others.  During my journey I came across many opportunities that were not a fit for my company and was tempted to step out on my own to capitalize on these opportunities.  However, I was married, had a mortgage, 3 children and bills to pay.  This is the scenario that plays out in so many talented people that have great potential and are suppressed by the fear of failure and the seduction of financial security.  It was not until I left my job to test a new career and found myself without a job a year later that I thought I had the courage to be an entrepreneur.  I spent 6 months looking for a manufacturing company to buy and after exploring several companies and failing to close on two offers, I settled for a job to turn around another company with an option to purchase the business.  I thought of myself as an entrepreneur.  I developed the vision, mission, core values and set off to re-build this 70 year old injection molding company.  After 10 years of building this company and my purchase option expired, my dream ended when I was notified that this now successful company would not be sold as agreed.

Becoming an Entrepreneur

The future scenario was unacceptable and I had to decide how I would provide for my family.  This was the end of the line and the door of ownership had closed for me.  I was able to find a company in the same town that was much smaller and much less mature in regard to systems, procedures and capabilities.  I did not want to start over, but had no choice.  The oldest of my 3 children was a senior in high school with plans to attend Auburn University.  My other two children were in private school and not far behind attending college.  This was not the time of life I would have planned to take every liquid asset that I had including my college savings, put them at risk to purchase a small business and sign a bank note with unlimited personal liability to pay back the debts.  This is when I realized I really had never been an entrepreneur.  I had been entrepreneurial, but until you put everything you own at risk including your kids college funds months before leaving for college and sign up for unlimited personal guarantees (or something like this) you have not taken the leap of a true entrepreneur.

Now I was on my own with an office manager, a small group of employees, an old building and a bunch of machines I did not personally know how to operate.  I had to make a payroll each week and monthly had to make a real estate, business bank loan and all the material and utility bills.  I recall receiving one of our first receivables from our largest customer at the time and calling them to thank them.  They had no idea how much that check meant to me.  Now as we approach our 5 year anniversary we have again put a vision, mission, core values in place, grown to nearly 100 teammates, replaced and added equipment that I still do not know how to personally operate, have solid systems and procedures, and have been able to put away some savings for a rainy day.  We are making plans to go “All In” again and put much of our savings into a new building and sign another round of unlimited personal guarantees.  I told my dad that I wanted to retire at 50.  He has kidded me that I am working more hours now than at any time in my career, but I remind him that I did retire.  I retired from working for someone else and thoroughly enjoy the risks and rewards that come from being an entrepreneur.  I enjoy my time while on vacation, but equally enjoy my time working with the next generation of young men and women to build a business and future for their families.  Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.  For those that are I would offer a few lessons learned.

  1. Prepare for success.  Many say you should jump in and fail fast.  There is value in gaining experience and will significantly increase the odds of success.
  2. The time to make a friend is before you need them.  Invest in building relationships with others.  Suppliers, bankers, insurance agents, customers, and talented people.  When it is up to you to figure out every problem you will be glad to have a friend to call and friends help friends when they are in need.
  3. Don’t wait.  There is never a good time to “risk it all” and the longer you wait the harder it is to make the jump.
  4. We all bet our lives on something.  After leaping away from apparent security into a do-or-die, sink-or-swim scenario I have a much clearer picture of the ultimate decision we all make to determine our eternal destiny.  I accepted Jesus as my savior at a young age almost as an inherited faith from my parents.  As if you inherited a business, eventually you have to understand the business, take control, and be responsibility for it’s success or failure.  As I matured, I questioned my faith as a skeptic and worked through doubts and reasoned why I believed what I believe.  Life’s experience and my own reasoning have galvanized my faith as a Jesus follower and complete trust in Him for my redemption, salvation and truth to live my life.  As an entrepreneur takes that “leap of faith” and risks all your financial security, so must we all confront the question what happens when we die and take a leap of faith.  It may be a simple faith as a child or as a highly intellectual and reasoned faith of C.S. Lewis, eventually we all have to make a decision and go “All In” on what we believe.  There is no middle ground.  To put off or not make the leap is still a decision.  We are all going to die.  We all have to answer the question that Jesus asked his disciples.  Luke 9:20  And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” The apostle Peter goes on to answer that question for himself, but we all have to answer that question.  Consider what Jesus says John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.  For More
  5. Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.  There are many things to worry about as an entrepreneur.  Worry can absolutely “eat you alive” and steal your joy.  Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  There are many uncertainties and circumstance which we do not control as an entrepreneur.  Find your confidence, not in yourself, but in God and the fact that He is in control.  God will never leave you.  Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Even when things do not go your way you may experience peace.  John 16:33  These things I have spoken to you, so that you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.  No doubt our natural tendency is to retreat to worry in uncertainty so start each day with bringing your focus back to God and away from yourself.  Matthew 6:25  For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; for for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Verse 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Make a point every day to re-calibrate and seek Him first as our creator, provider, defender, and supplier of all we need.

I think true entrepreneurs are hard-wired and gifted by God to dream, plan, take action and successfully execute on the business vision that is in their heart.  I believe there is a graduated “entrepreneur scale” that we fall on that spans from entrepreneurial to entrepreneur, but a point along that scale that requires a leap.  A leap that requires faith and is when the entrepreneur is born.

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My People

Catching up with a few of my people

In the past couple months I experienced an awesome feeling that swelled my heart with joy and caught me completely off guard.  These experiences blessed me immensely with a picture of God’s feelings toward those who know Him and have trusted in Him.  My friend hosts a celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles and it is no small celebration.  A few hundred guests come to camp under the Texas stars during the God-ordained time of the full moon each fall to celebrate God’s redemption plan for man with worship and great fellowship.  It happens that many people who I have invested significant time and shared my favorite life experiences and memories come from around the country with their families for this weekend.  Most had arrived on Friday and I drove in from Houston to join them Saturday morning not really knowing who was coming.  As I came to the front porch, there gathered was a 15-20 men and women that I had come to deep friendship at different times and different eras of my life.  All gathered together in this one place at this one time.  My heart immediately filled with great joy and overflowed with love that I have for these friends.  These are “All My People”, I thought, the people that I have shared the best parts and the difficulties that we all experience in our life journey.  Some of these friendships had been knit together over the years and some have yet to know each other, but “All My People” whom I love were there.  As I reflected on that day I know that is how God must feel when we come together to worship Him and will greet us as we join Him in eternity.  God’s heart will be filled with joy and overflowing with love that all “My People” are here with me.

My second experience was this November weekend in 2018 when my college roommate invited me to come to our 30th year reunion at Baylor Homecoming.  I am still struggling to get my mind around a 30 year college reunion.  I can’t be this old?  Julie and I attended a couple events where we walked in to a room, not knowing who would attend and if we would know anyone.  Of the 50 or so that were present were “All My People”.  The people who forged my best memories at Baylor and though more years have passed since our graduation than the years we had lived when we were last together, it was as if not a day had passed when we were reunited.

I am greatly blessed with many life-long friends. What a great picture and experience He has given me to share with you.  Oh how our hearts will be filled with joy and overflowing with the love He has given us when we reunite again with God and “All My People”.

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Carpe Diem

I started this blog many years ago with the goal to share ideas and experiences of leading your family and examples of things we did to create memories.  At the time all our kids were young and pretty much always available for an adventure.  As they have grown, left home, and moved to different states and towns the time we have to make memories and shape their life is limited.  My son Ben is currently a sophomore at Colorado State University.  We were talking the other day and he said he wanted to hike Long’s Peak in Estes Park.  I have been to Estes Park many times and never hiked Long’s Peak.  So, when he said he wanted to hike Long’s I immediately asked if that was an invitation and began to plan a trip.  Long’s Peak is 14,259′.  You start the hike at 3:00 a.m. at 9,500′ and climb 5,000′ in 7.5 miles to the top.

The Boulder Field

The keyhole at sunrise

Long’s Peak Summit

View from Long’s Peak

The way home

The opportunities to share adventures and create memories will continue to diminish as their schedules and responsibilities grow.  When you get an opportunity jump on it and make it happen.  We all have lots of responsibilities, conflicts and excuses that can keep us from sharing these experiences.  Make it a priority, seize the moment and make a positive memory every chance you get.

p.s. Do Long’s Peak while you are young.  The 7.5 mile hike down the boulders is a killer.

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Jesus Breaks Social Barriers to Build Bridges for All Men

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

I recently heard Trey Gowdy speaking about the book he co-authored with Tim Scott, Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country.  Trey gave a great illustration of Jesus that we can all follow as the great bridge builder between all men breaking down every social barrier of the time to bring us salvation.  I read his book and am in agreement that despite our differences, we share so many things in common and have hope because of the things we share in common.  However, I liked the point he made about Jesus in his sermon and it was not emphasized in his book.  So I wanted to study more on how Jesus bridged mankind by breaking with the social barriers that we still struggle with today.

Sin in the hearts of mankind has always divided the world and today is no different.  Mankind disregards the majority of common values and ideas that we share and has identified and leveraged the differences between men to create polarizing division.  Common throughout history, we continue to identify and divide ourselves by gender, race, religion, nationality, wealth and class, political party, and every difference that we can find to separate us.  Seeking to preserve our kind and elevate self, men have segregated, conquered, enslaved and massacred those of different race, ethnicity, religion, culture or ideas.  This has been repeated over many millennia and continues around the world and in our cities, schools and neighborhoods this very day.

However, our success on earth and as individuals, families, peoples, nations and even as a species is dependent on being united.  As individuals we will never be united on every idea, issue or topic, but we find peace and make progress as we find unity and build consensus on major topics of truth and extend grace on the minor issues that divide us.  United we will stand and divided we will fall. 

Jesus came into this world with a radical message of truth to unify all peoples.  This common truth for all mankind is the catalyst giving us common ground and common purpose to overcome any difference that may divide us.  In delivering this radical message, Jesus stepped right in between every gender, race, religious, ethnic, class and political division.  He was an equal offender and did not withhold the truth to any audience.  Identifying and illustrating the truth in His message, he spared no one in calling out the wickedness in their heart, culture, thoughts and ways.  At the same time, he tore down walls of sin that divided mankind and mankind from God and was the greatest builder of bridges of peace and love between mankind and mankind and God.   

What was Jesus’ message to the world?

Mark 1:14-15 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

  1. The time is fulfilled references the time appointed by God for sending the Messiah.  Daniel 9:24-27.  The time is now.
  2. The “kingdom” is not referring to a place where the king reigns, but is referencing the fulfillment of the prophecies when we move from an era of the kingdom of sin and condemnation under the law reigns to an era of time where the kingdom of saving grace is established through Jesus as the Messiah reigns.  His blood sacrifice has conquered sin and provided a new covenant and a world where the Holy Spirit has been given as a helper to those that believe.
  3. Repent means to express sincere regret or remorse from our sins
  4. Believe in the gospel. The gospel is the “good news” that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of the messiah’s grace reigns.  Paul emphasizes Jesus’ good news in Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 

Not only is Jesus’ message world changing and life changing good news for all mankind, but the truth of Jesus’s message is not exclusive to any people, race, religion or class. During a time when the people of the world were greatly divided and classified by families, tribes, villages, nations, religions, race, and gender Jesus entered the scene to love all people in a radical way that radically crushed the barriers of social norms to deliver his message of love, repentance and salvation through Him as Messiah. In His life and ministry, Jesus was the greatest builder of bridges between mankind.  All those social barriers that we struggle with today were bridged by Jesus.

Jesus breaks down social barriers as the greatest bridge builder

All People

Jesus offers His grace and salvation to all people.  Luke 2:10  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people: for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Men and women:

Jesus bridges the gender gap between men and women.  During the time of Jesus women held a low place in society, yet Jesus broke these social norms by speaking with women (Luke 7:11-17), healing women(Luke 8:43-48 and 3:12) and even elevating women by referring to them as “daughters of Abraham”(Luke 13:16).  Breaking from the traditions of His day that rabbis did not teach women, Jesus taught women (Luke 10:38-42) and included women as disciples.(Matthew 12:46-50)  In the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:25) , it was clear that women received Jesus’ self-revelation.  Jesus broke the cultural barriers of gender and recognized women.    

Race and ethnicity

The Jewish people considered Samaritans as foreigners who were a mixed race and despised them as the worst of the human race.  Yet Jesus uses the Samaritan man in his parable about a man who fell among robbers on his journey from Jerusalem to Jericho as an example for us to follow and give mercy.  Luke 10:30 – 37.

Political parties

The Roman government ruled the region, but allowed the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees to operate and maintain order among the jewish people.  The Pharisees and Sadducees were the educated, religious political class of the day and, of all people, possessed the training and knowledge of the law and covenant, but mostly missed the Messiah because of their pride.  Jesus actively debated delivered truth to the religious and political class.  Read of Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 22:23-46 and Matthew 8:5-13, the story of Roman Centurion.

Sinner

Thinking they might test Jesus the Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery.  “The law of Moses commanded us to stone such women”, but Jesus famously drew in the sand and said “He who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”.  After the crowd left Jesus offers His grace.  John 8:1-11

The Rich, the Poor, and the Sick

Luke 19:1-10, “And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.”  Jesus calls him down from the sycamore tree and goes to his house.  The people grumbled because Jesus had gone the house of a sinner.  Zaccheus repents and receives salvation.  Jesus certainly interacted with the poor in health, material possessions and poor in spirit.  There are many illustrations of Jesus healing and offering salvation to the poor because of their faith.  After John the Baptist was imprisoned and was struggling to reconcile his position with the faith he had in Jesus as the Messiah he asked “Are you the expected one or should we look for someone else?”  And Jesus replies, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” John 11:2-6

Heaven and earth

Jesus bridges heaven and earth.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1-10 that we were dead in our sins, but because of God’s mercy and great love made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Jesus leaves no room for other paths to heaven in John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”.

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth?

So Jesus is the great bridge builder between all mankind, but He makes clear in John 14:6 that there is but one bridge to salvation.  All men come to the salvation bridge that Jesus offers and all must answer the question Who is Jesus?  Jesus is the great bridge builder, but also divides all men by those who believe in His gospel and those who reject His gospel.  These are the words of Jesus.  Luke 12: 49-53 49 “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! 51 Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

All are brought to the bridge and are welcome to receive salvation.  Make no mistake, Jesus understands that the pride in the hearts of men will get in the way and God’s gospel message of repentance and faith in Jesus as the messiah will divide men.  This is an individual decision every person must reconcile.  Let me close bring us back to Jesus’ message in Mark 1:14-15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 

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Free Indeed – What and Why I believe

Harvest Moon

1 Peter 3:15:  But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

Recently I attended a professional engineering society breakfast with about 10 people in attendance.  This is a casual monthly meeting at IHOP where we network and discuss industry news.  This particular meeting was around the Christmas holidays and I was talking with my table neighbor when I another conversation across the table erupted and one of the men joked about the insanity of Christians whose leader teaches of “eating his flesh and drinking his blood”.  It was quickly quieted by the leader as he tried to subtly signal to this guy without me or others noticing that I might be offended, the “Christian” in the group.  This is not a group of unintelligent drop outs, but accomplished professional engineers who are very bright and enjoy a strong debate.  It was not the place for a debate, but I find that this type of mocking of Christianity popular in every area of society.  It is pervasive in social media where anyone that stands for a conservative idea is an easy target.  You find the people who follow Christ targeted almost as sport in entertainment, news and politics.  Mocking Christianity has caught on to become a new bully sport.  Usually it is a cheap shot aimed to discredit the person as unintelligent or ignorant for believing in such a ridiculous farce.  As with most bullying, rare do you see the Christian put up a fight or engage in a strong counter argument presented.  Is it because Christians are generally peacemakers and do not stir up conflict?  Or is this because they really are shallow in their faith and have not thoughtfully considered and debated the counter arguments even for themselves?  Have they not studied the Word of God and gained the knowledge to defend the basic principals of their faith? 

The apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy tells us that society will embrace self serving ideas and we will be mocked and persecuted for our faith.  We have a faith that we have believed as Truth since our childhood and have trusted in the scriptures to proclaim this Truth.  But, the Scriptures are given to us by God and are useful in teaching, correcting and training in righteousness.  At the time Paul was writing these very words Christians were burning on posts in the streets as “Roman Candles”.

2 Timothy 3:1-17 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also. 10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

We are instructed to know the Scripture and use it to teach, admonish, correct and train ourselves so that we will be able to defend the Scriptures we believe as Truth in the society we live and to the marketplace of ideas. 

Who is our adversary?

Knowing who is our adversary is such an important point in the debate of ideas.  In many circumstances a spirited debate is not the way you will be engaged.  More likely you will be engaged with mocking and persecution as a direct personal attack.  The attack will be framed that you are unintelligent, stupid, ignorant, weak, shallow or any such terms that are attached to the person.  In this case it seems natural and obvious to engage and counter attack the person.  Don’t fall into this trap that will surely lead to the lowest common denominator of name calling exposing the worst in all involved. 

In the case of a good spirited debate or a personal attack we must recognize that our adversary is evil itself. The first step to engage a debate or mount a defense is to separate the person from the source of the attack.  We are defending what and why we believe as Truth in a debate against our adversary, satan, who defends a position we propose not to be truth.  We don’t forget the person that we are debating, but respect them with love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control.  We position and thoughtfully debate arguments in the light of Truth provided in the Scriptures. 

Ephesians 6:10 – 20 “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

The foundation of our argument is Scripture. 

We regard Scripture as the inerrant Word of God, as Truth and the final authority.  It should be questioned.  How can we build our argument solely on the Scripture that was written by man as truth?  If you have not tested this faith for yourself and believe in your whole heart that the Bible is the inspired Word of God then the foundation of which you stand is weak and will crumble when challenged.  The factual historicity and accounts of the Bible have been challenged for millennia.  The account of creation and positions of “old earth and new earth” have been debated.  The evolution of species can be demonstrated and the thought that man was not created in the image of God but evolved from apes could be argued, but impossible to prove.  The timelines and historicity have been confirmed.  Parallel secular historic records and writings outside of the Bible have been compared and found to be accurate.  The crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ has been the most tested and proven account in all of history.  To the amount that you are willing to bet your eternal salvation you must test the authenticity and truth of the Scriptures.  This testing will be different for every person.  Some like Lee Strobel, attorney and author of The Case for Christ or Hugh Ross, www.reasons.org ,noted Christian apologist and astrophysicist have dedicated their life to exploring history and science to test the scriptures. Many others have simply heard and believed the basics of Scripture that have been shared orally or in simple writings as enough to bet their eternal salvation. www.peacewithgod.net

God loves you and has a plan for you.

John 3:16 “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”

Man is sinful and separated from God

Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God sent His son to die for our sins

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

I Corinthinans 15:3-4 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”

Through Prayer we can invite God into our lives and be saved from an eternal separation from God.

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”

John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me”

For the individual who has considered this simple message, accepted this as Truth, and has bet their eternal salvation as fact may not be understood by those earnestly seeking an analytical dialogue, but should be respected for their simple faith and their basic argument that they just know in their heart that it is True.  They may be mocked for their lack of knowledge to engage in a debate with those who worship knowledge.  In all cases, the simple faith and those that pursue the highest intellectual debates all end in the same place.  A leap of faith.  Faith is the assurance of things not fully known.  It is “at the end of the road of knowledge” and is the one element still required by every man.

Hebrews 11:1 – 2 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.  3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

Debaters can take sections of scripture and build an opposing and, at times, convincing arguments in an effort to discredit Scripture as Truth.  If you can be convinced that portions of the scripture are not true then the foundation of your faith in Scripture as Truth itself is fragile and is where we need to pursue reconciliation of our doubts.  It is healthy to test your doubts, read the Scripture and personally hold it up to what you see and experience.  For me personally, this is why I am writing.  I may have started with a simple faith, but by nature want to question why?  I want to understand and be able to articulate why I believe what I believe. To this end I may have started with a simple faith, but have continually tested this faith to find it secure. 

I believe in God, the creator of heaven and earth. 

Why do I believe in the existence of God? He is self-evident in the universe I live.  When I observe the world, I see a created order.  I see the simple beauty of the stars, moon and sun.  This simple experience of observation inspires the question “Who created this?”  I observe the effects of the cycles and seasons of our planet.  Who designed the cycle of water to evaporate, rain, cleanse, nourish, be filtered, stored and process repeated to sustain life and cleanse our planet?   I experience and have tested the physical laws of nature.  Natural science and math display a perfect order and repeatability.  We have a close friend who, tragically, recently lost their son.  At the funeral we got a glimpse into the mind of this amazingly bright young man who studied mathematics, explored the depths and complexity of math problems, and proclaimed as evidence for his faith in God the infinite beauty of the dependable and perfect order of mathematics.  This is way beyond me, but helps me by association to have a greater appreciation for evidence supporting an architect in the created universe.  Are the laws of nature, the principles that govern our physical world just a “cosmic coincidence”?  They exist because they exist? Or does it make more sense that they were created by design?  I do not see “nature” as the thing to be worshiped, but see the “nature” of a creative God that designed and established natural order to the world and universe that we live in.  I find agreement with Norman Geisler in his statement, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”

Second – I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God

There are many angles that I could choose to debate that the scriptures are the divinely inspired word of God delivered to men to record the origin, history, revelation of the character of God and His plan for the redemption of man.  I am not sure who originally penned the quote “Truth and time go hand in hand” but even those of us that have lived a few decades see that over time the true truth of any matter is eventually revealed.  The Bible makes distinctive claims of truth.  We test the truth by comparing it to reality.  Physical evidence such as archeological findings and extra-biblical manuscripts that support the timeline, events, persons and historical narrative that the Bible proclaims.  Considering the Bible was written over many centuries and by many authors, the theology and worldview proclaimed by the authors is consistent and coherent.  The morals and worldview of civilizations, nations, cultures and peoples have evolved over time, but the principles and worldview of the Bible have remained consistent.  The principles and worldview have stood the test of thousands of years for being logical, reasonable and true even though they often were disregarded because of current excepted cultural beliefs.  Evident in our recent U.S. civil rights history, the claims of the Bible ring true even as our culture prevented equal rights for various classes of citizens.  In 2018 the consistent teachings of the Bible are contrary to many of our accepted cultural norms, but I believe over time again will come full circle and reveal Gods Word and instruction on how we are to live as everlasting and true truth.

Jesus is the central character for all of the Bible, both old testament and new testament. 

Matthew 5:17  Jesus says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

If the life and teaching of Jesus can be authenticated this gives the greatest support for the truth of the whole Bible.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all testify to the life and ministry of Jesus.  There testimony has been proven to be consistent and accurate to the life and account of Jesus’ life.  There has been no life or event more documented, analyzed, challenged and supported by multiple writings, personal accounts, historic records and physical evidence than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The evidence is overwhelming that new testament documentation of Jesus life and ministry are true.  If the life and teachings of Jesus are true there is no greater support for the entire Bible as Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies and promises of the Bible.  For more:  Read Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ

Third – I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and was crucified, buried and raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of God the Father.

The cornerstone of the Bible and all of the Christian faith is Jesus’ defeat of death through the resurrection.  The apostle Paul says its clearly

1 Corinthians 15:13-19 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”

Man has forever sought to be reconciled with his creator and all the religions of the world have been built upon a path of redemption to live with God in heaven.  The old testament establishes that God created the world, provided the law that condemned man for his sin and demonstrates the cost of that sin through the blood sacrifice. From the creation of the universe when God established the stars and the moons he created the seasons and signs that point to a plan for redemption. 

Before God created the universe and and stars He had a plan to create man in His own image and in His great wisdom gave man free will to choose HIm.  He meticulously laid out the stars and the sun and moons and ordained the cycle of new moons that mark the months and seasons.  God instructed Moses to assemble the people on appointed days marked by the calendar He created to celebrate His provision and establish a plan of redemption.   

Leviticus 23:1-2  “The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.”

The Hebrew word for “feasts” (moadim) literally means “appointed times.” God has carefully planned and orchestrated the timing and sequence of each of these seven feasts to reveal to us a special story. The seven annual feasts of Israel were spread over seven months of the Jewish calendar, at set times appointed by God. They are still celebrated by observant Jews today. But for both Jews and non-Jews who have placed their faith in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, these special days demonstrate the work of redemption through God’s Son.

The first four of the seven feasts occur during the springtime (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Weeks), and they all have already been fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament. The final three holidays (Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles) occur during the fall, all within a short fifteen-day period.

Many Bible scholars and commentators believe that these fall feasts have not yet been fulfilled by Jesus. However, the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) for all believers in Jesus Christ is that they most assuredly will be fulfilled. As the four spring feasts were fulfilled literally and right on the actual feast day in connection with Christ’s first coming, these three fall feasts, it is believed by many, will likewise be fulfilled literally in connection to the Lord’s second coming.

In a nutshell, here is the prophetic significance of each of the seven Levitical feasts of Israel:

1) Passover (Leviticus 23:5) – Pointed to the Messiah as our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood would be shed for our sins. Jesus was crucified during the time that the Passover was observed (Mark 14:12). Christ is a “lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19) because His life was completely free from sin (Hebrews 4:15). As the first Passover marked the Hebrews’ release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks our release from the slavery of sin (Romans 8:2).

2) Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6) – Pointed to the Messiah’s sinless life (as leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible), making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ body was in the grave during the first days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and waiting to burst forth as the bread of life.

3) First Fruits (Leviticus 23:10) – Pointed to the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in 1 Corinthians 15:20 as the “first fruits from the dead.”

4) Weeks or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16) – Occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and pointed to the great harvest of souls and the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile, who would be brought into the kingdom of God during the Church Age (see Acts 2). The Church was actually established on this day when God poured out His Holy Spirit and 3,000 Jews responded to Peter’s great sermon and his first proclamation of the gospel.

5) Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24) – The first of the fall feasts. Many believe this day points to the Rapture of the Church when the Messiah Jesus will appear in the heavens as He comes for His bride, the Church. The Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the blowing of a loud trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:52).

6) Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27) – Many believe this prophetically points to the day of the Second Coming of Jesus when He will return to earth. That will be the Day of Atonement for the Jewish remnant when they “look upon Him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36).

7) Tabernacles or Booths (Leviticus 23:34) – Many scholars believe that this feast day points to the Lord’s promise that He will once again “tabernacle” with His people when He returns to reign over all the world (Micah 4:1-7).

As Paul concludes in the last chapter and verse of his epic letter to the Romans he references this “mystery that has been kept secret”, but is now revealed.  We know the secret!  We know the final answer to God’s plan to redeem man to Himself.  It is not just for a select race, but for all nations for the purpose of bringing glory to Jesus. 

Romans 16:25-27  “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.”

I believe that the Holy Spirit resides in those who trust in Jesus as God’s redemption plan for man and trust Him as our Lord and Savior.

The prophet Joel gives us the promise of the Spirit.  Joel 2:28-32 “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind: And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions, even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.  I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke.  The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered:”

I believe that this occurred to the Apostles after the crucifixion as Jesus appeared to his followers in the upper room instructing them Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  On the day of Pentecost according to the prophecy of Joel, the Holy Spirit was delivered to the Apostles.  When the crowds heard what Peter and the Apostles had to say they exclaimed “What shall we do?”  Acts 2:38 “Peter said to them, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  I believe that the power of the Holy Spirit still resides in those to have trusted Jesus as their Savior today.  As described by the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 12: 4-13 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

I believe the Holy Spirit is working today through all the gifts given to the body of Christ (His Church) in all the world to demonstrate His power for the common good.   1 Corinthians 14:1 says “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts”  In my life experience I have witnessed many of these spiritual gifts.  In my life I have also earnestly prayed in faith for faith, wisdom, knowledge, healing miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits tongues in various causes that the Holy Spirit would act through me.  In many cases my prayers were answered and in many instances my prayers were not answered.  I continue to trust that the power of the Holy Spirit lives in me and will continue to act and pray in faith that the power of the Spirit that resides in me can always choose to act according to His will for the common good.  I am challenged daily to put this faith in action and know that the Spirit is not likely to work through me if I do not exercise my faith in taking action. 

I believe Jesus will someday return in fulfillment of the prophetic feasts and I will live with Him as my savior and King for eternity. 

God in His great and creative wisdom created the universe, stars, moon, earth and man in His own image.  In His sovereignty He chose Abraham and his descendants to be His own.  The beauty and order of His creation testifies of a brilliant Creator.  The fact that God exists is self evident and we are with out excuse.  God spoke through many men to communicate His law, His instruction and His plans for forgiveness.  The Scriptures written by many men over thousands of years are divinely inspired and provide a consistent and coherent message.  He used his perfect order and cycles of the moon to appoint times to celebrate His provision.  God instructed Moses to assemble the people at these times and provided a path to save all mankind through them.  All of the Bible and the appointed times unveil a great mystery which is an ultimate plan of redemption for all mankind.  Jesus is the completion of the old testament, He is the first fruit, the passover lamb that rescues us from our sin and eternal separation from our Creator.  As promised in the scriptures, I believe He will return to reign and will “tabernacle” or live with those who have chosen to believe in Him as their perfect sacrifice and Savior. 

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The secret to the great mystery is revealed, we know God’s plan for redemption. God Almighty has revealed Himself and His character to us.  He has given us His Word as Truth and the instruction and authority to live our lives.  Follow the Truth and He will guide you through today and will set you free. 

John 8:31-36 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be FREE INDEED.

So then how shall I live today?

(See http://jeffreyapplegate.com/2018/01/13/2018-and-lifetime-resolution/)

 

 

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Life’s Secret Revealed

John 11:25 Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,”

It is early in the morning on Easter Sunday 2018.  Several scriptures from my studies have been bouncing around in my head over the past weeks.  They have come together in a powerful way in preparation and reflection on the great gift we have been given.  I put these thoughts to writing for you and hope that you will be inspired and challenged to take courage, act boldly, and live life fully in the knowledge of this truth.

First, the author of Hebrews has again reminded me of who Jesus really is and the perfect fulfillment of the scripture and plan of God.

Hebrews 1:1-4 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the work of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”

Note the very first word from whom the message originates, “God”.  This introduction of Jesus begins with the authority of God almighty.  God has appointed Jesus as heir of all things.  It references Jesus as the co-creator of the world. (reference John 1:1 -2).  He is the “radiance” of God’s glory and the “exact representation of His nature”.  He holds all things together through His power.  He has purified our sins and sits at the right hand of God.  Jesus is above the angels.  Hebrews continues to establish that Jesus is fully God, but can also uniquely relate to us.  Because of this he is our perfect high priest.  Hebrews 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”

Second, I see Jesus in the context of God’s plan to permanently redeem man from his sin.  In the last chapter of Romans the apostle Paul is completing his letter to the Roman church and recognizing all those who had helped him and concludes with Romans 16:25 “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” 

It might be easy to cruise through this last chapter of recognitions and miss the powerful “punchline” delivered in the concluding verse of the last chapter to the Romans.  Paul states that their faith has been established on the good news he has taught and according to the preaching of Jesus Christ.  Paul refers to the great mystery that has been kept secret for long ages past.  Since the creation of man God has had a plan for man.  Through the writings of the prophets and according to Gods command He has NOW made this eternal mystery known to all nations.  What is this eternal mystery?  Through the sacrifice of God’s own Son and His defeat of death, God has delivered His redemption plan for man.  Paul has unpacked through his writings to the Romans and recorded for all men in such a powerful way.  Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  If you want to taste the power of Paul’s gospel listen to John Piper recite this one great chapter.  I promise you will not be disappointed.   John Piper Romans 8

We know the answer to life’s mystery.  The revelation of God’s redemption plan for all mankind is such good news that it cannot be overstated!  The thought is so awesome.  I am overwhelmed to really comprehend and consume this truth.  So what do we do?  How does it change the decisions I make, the things I say, the plans I make?  I like one of the statements from Focus on the Family’s Truth Project, “If we really believe that what we believe is really real it should have a profound impact on everything we think, say and do.  My friend, Brett Moody, shared a thought of being in heaven and telling ghost stories with those who lived before Jesus.  “Holy ghost stories” of what it was like to live with the Holy spirit in our life.  We know the secret to this mystery of ages and have the spirit of the living of God residing in us.  This truth provides liberty to many of life’s fears that capture us. So I leave you with the question that has been confronting me all week.

So how do we then live our life?

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Summer’s South Texas Deer Hunt With The Girls

I have always enjoyed the outdoors and was an avid hunter in high school and college, but as the career and then family came along hunting was one of the hobbies that became a casualty.  The experience of waking early in the morning and hearing the earth and it’s inhabitants wake for the day or sitting in a blind as the sun sets and hearing the night come to life are experiences that I have enjoyed sharing with my children.  Mostly we have become avid fishers, but we have had an occasional duck hunt, dove hunt, hog or deer hunt.  The boys never really took to the early morning cold, but Summer was always up for the adventure.  One afternoon my friend Kenny and I were dove hunting along a fence line and Summer was about 6 years old.  She would spot the dove coming in and when we would shoot them Summer would go out and retrieve the dove from the field.  I can still picture her holding up a dove in each hand above her head in the field with a big smile, “I got two!”.

Summer (7yrs.) spotting a hog

I also recall sitting in a blind at dusk with Summer when I had lost the ability to see and suggested we go in.  Summer wanted to wait a little longer and her young eyes could see the back of a hog in the distance above the top of the grass.  There was no way I could have seen that hog, but it did move a few deer our way and about 15 minutes later a doe walked under the blind. I drew my arrow on her and followed her all to and from the blind, but did not shoot.  Summer was bumping my side whispering “shoot, shoot”.  I did not shoot that time.  We only had a few occasions to hunt together, but I always enjoy our time together.

I did not get to join Summer on this fine hunt.  She was invited to go with a friend to celebrate her birthday and a couple other girl friends.

Summer’s Hunting Buddies

They went to their south Texas ranch and after proving Summer’s marksmanship from the truck and on the range she got to hunt Saturday morning and evening.  In the morning she was so excited to send us a photo of her first doe.  That evening she got a hog and her first buck.  What a life experience.

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2018 and Lifetime Resolution

Friday Morning Mens Bible Study

The 2018 new year celebrations have come and gone without giving much thought to a new years resolution.  However this week while preparing to lead my Friday morning mens Bible study on Romans 8, I could not escape the challenge to set a personal new years resolution based on the inspiration of the text.  The more I have reflected on this challenge the more I see this as a resolution for my life, a challenge to the men who joined me in this study, and all who read this to consider for their new year resolution.  Romans 8 is arguably the greatest chapter in all the Bible.

Following the dismal reality in chapter 7, Paul tells us that the law has jurisdiction over us (v1), our sinful passions are aroused by the law(v5), sin becomes alive and we are dead(v10), we wrestle with the conflict of two natures (v15), wretched men are we(v24) and ending with the question “who will set me free from this body of death?(v24).  Romans 8:1 answers this dismal reality for those who believe in Jesus with the ASTOUNDING proclamation and greatest news that all of humanity could ever receive in Romans 8:1!

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

There is a law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus that trumps and sets us free from the law of sin resulting in death.  Galatians 3:13 explains “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.”  Jesus became a mediator, a substitute, a redeemer, the Son of God came into the world to bear our sin and become our condemnation – something the law and the sheep and goats and bulls and washings could never do.  There is now no condemnation for those who are in this great condemnation-bearer, Jesus Christ.  For those who believe in Jesus what a great perspective to begin the new year and great perspective to frame the remainder of LIFE that is in front of us.

Paul tells us in verse 6 “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”  Paul goes on to illustrate the permanence of this transformation proclaiming in verses 9 – 17 that if the Spirit lives in you, the power of Him who raised Jesus from the dead to conquer sin dwells in you and that you have been adopted as a child of the almighty God.  Verse 16 “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  We live in a world that is governed by the flesh and as such we will be persecuted and will suffer as we live out our life according to the Spirit and Truth that conflict with the evolving cultural definition of relative truths that follow the desires of the flesh.

So what does the mind set on the Spirit look like?  “Life and Peace.”  Paul explains later in Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”  We are to recognize the incredible love that God has for us and to realize and become saturated with that love in our life so that we can reflect God’s love back to Him and our neighbor. (family, friends, co-workers, communities and people where we work and live)  How do we set our mind on the Spirit?  Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Even though we live in the midst of a world infected by sin we are to be different  and shine as a light of hope to the world because we have set our minds on things of the Spirit.

My new resolution for this year and for my life:  Set my mind on the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16  Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 

Colossians 3:2  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

I will work to train my mind to remember that I am not of the flesh.  I will work to exchange selfish desires and a mind set on uncertainties and troubles for the promise of life and peace.  I admit this will be difficult and that I will fail often. I will have to remind myself that the Spirit Himself testifies that I am a child of the Almighty God and be confident of God’s great love for me that when I follow the truth of Jesus I will experience Life and Peace.  I will seek daily to choose joy, be bold in my convictions and live fully so that people will see a difference in me and know that it is the Spirit that lives in me.   I live in a fallen world and will experience persecution and sufferings, but know that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus and nothing will separate me from the love of Christ.  (Romans 8:35-39)

This is my challenge to myself, to the men in my Friday morning study and to all those who read this post.

p.s.  I also resolve to lose a few pounds.

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Summer in El Salvador

Summer catches a Big Daddy wave

The American Christian culture has failed to give fathers a structure, ceremony or rite of passage to recognize when their boys become men and when their girls become a woman.  The Latin culture marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood with the Quinceanera at age 15. The Jewish culture marks the age when boys become accountable for their actions at age 13 with a Bar Mitzvah celebration. In my family I have taken the opportunity to recognize my children’s established practice of making good choices and firm ability to be independent and responsible for themselves at age 15 to 16 by taking them on a trip to a destination of their choosing with me.  For Drew, we went skiing in Aspen Colorado and I introduced him to some of my closest friends.  For Ben, we joined a close college friend and his son in the Bob Marshall Wilderness near Glacier National Park Montana to backpack and fish for a week. This week, I just returned from my trip with Summer to San Salvador.

Summer wanted to find a place that she could concentrate on learning to become more proficient at surfing.  I wanted to celebrate her good choices and enjoy an adventure together.  What I did not expect was the blessing I would receive.  We spent 5 days together in a foreign country with no technology, no other family or friends, just the two of us.  We set our alarm to get up at 5:30 a.m. and surfed from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. We then waited for high tide in the afternoon and surfed from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.  The rest of the day we shared our meals together, watched the surf together, read, stretched, walked the beach, visited and rested for the next morning of surfing.  We were warmly welcomed by the other few guests, received much needed encouragement and shared our brief adventure with an eclectic group of people from all over the world.

The old guy even caught a few

We looked forward to learning to surf, but found the entire experience so much more.  The friends we made and the conversations we shared were encouraging.  Summer and I shared extended time at meals and between meals with very little distraction.  How different this is from our frantic schedules, hectic and busy lives in Houston.  I dare to say that it is not uncommon that a father could live their entire life without spending an extended time alone with their children.  If your children have yet to reach 16 or if they are already grown and have families, I would encourage you to plan an extended time one on one to give them your blessing.  I set out to give my blessing to Summer, but I was the one who was so richly blessed.  That she would spend time with me and that we could share this adventure together.  Thank you Summer for blessing me.

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