The Station

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

When people on Earth get old, and sometimes while they’re still young, they find themselves in The Station or on their way to it.  Most of them don’t seem to know where they are, apparently because they haven’t bothered to find out.

The Station is a combined train station and a space station.  The trains and spaceships are constantly taking passengers away out of the station, and seldom bringing any back.

The sooty black departing trains all have the same destination–they go underground into the coal mines.

Likewise, the glistening white departing spaceships all have the same destination–they head up among the stars to a beautiful world.

Those people in the station who wish to take the trains already have their tickets with them when they arrive.  These people are usually quite proud of their tickets, for they have earned them with hard work, sweat, and tears.  It hasn’t been easy for them a good deal of the time, for they have had to do selfish and even cruel things to earn those tickets.

They have been told, before they got to the station, as well as after they got there, that free spaceship tickets are available.  Should they decide to board one of the spaceships instead of a train, they simply need to go to the big garbage can with the sign, REPENTANCE, over it and throw their train tickets into it and ask for a free spaceship ticket to replace it.

But the people who still hold train tickets have worked so bloody hard for their right to get on the trains leading down to the coal mines that they hate to give them up.  After all, they have murdered, killed babies, figured out ingenious ways to be cruel to their spouses with imaginative insults, cleverly cheated on their income tax, and encouraged their fellow human beings to muddle up their minds through the imbibing of various kinds of chemicals, etc., etc.  Some of them have also been energetically involved in churchgoing and making up great lists of moral rules and complicated guidance systems apparently calculated help them get through the problems of the world as they’re on their way to the coal mines.  It’s hard to turn against all this stuff that they’ve done to earn their train ticket–particularly since all of their accomplishments are listed right on the ticket.

Still, many of them do just that, throwing their train tickets in the garbage and accepting their free spaceship ticket.  Some do this even while they’re still on their way to the station (a provision has been made to allow for this), but others wait for the last moment before their spaceship leaves.  Some wait too long, ignoring the “All aboard” calls and warnings, so they miss their flight and have to take the train instead; for no one is allowed to stay in the station very long.

When someone in the station, or on their way there, decides to take the spaceship rather than the train, and the free ticket is granted to such a person, something of great importance is revealed and explained to that person:

He or she is informed that although the ticket is free of charge to the one who receives it, it has been very costly to the one who provides it–namely the pilot of the spaceship.

You see, he once took the train trip into the coal mines, even though he had no ticket for that–he had not done any of the things that qualify one for the trip.  But he went through the terrible drudgery of carrying great loads of coal on his back, and then went down still deeper to where the coal is being formed under immense pressure and intense heat.  Then, because of his particularly great and heroic power, and because–after all–he had done nothing to earn his stay underground, he came back to the surface.

Before this happened, travelers on Earth had only one option: the trains.  It was only after the hero’s underground trip that the spaceship line opened up as an alternative way of traveling on from the station–to the place among the stars already mentioned.

And the GREAT STATION MASTER, who had set up the train lines, and now the spaceship lines, and who was the Father of the hero who had made the undeserved underground trip, made a great announcement that rang through the station and through all the Earth:

Anyone who so desires can now throw away his or her train ticket because the pilot of the spaceship has already made that unhappy trip for them.  He now offers to all the totally free ticket entitling them to go with him on a glorious one-way trip to the stars.

But this applies only to those who are willing to loosen their clutch on their well-deserved, hard earned train ticket.

 

 

The History of Christmas

 by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

CHRISTMAS is celebrated in much of the world today and has been for a long time.  What is it all about and how did it get started?  And why is Christmas Day on December 25?  Is Christmas all about celebrating the birthday of Jesus, or isn’t it?

The word Christmas started out as two words, Christes Masse, which is early English and means, Christ’s Mass, which means a celebrating of Christ.  It came to be used specifically to designate the celebration of Christ’s birth.  All right, so Christmas is the celebrating of the birthday of Jesus.  Sounds simple, but wait–it gets more complicated.

Although the birth of Jesus is well documented in most ways, it seems unfortunate that the actual date of that event was somehow lost to historians.  For over three-hundred years Christians observed this birthday on a variety of dates, apparently chosen rather arbitrarily.

In the year AD 354, Pope Liberius of Rome decided that December 25 should be the official date of Christ’s birthday, for it seemed right that Christians everywhere should celebrate the birth of Jesus on the same day.  But why did the pope choose that particular date?

It appears that his decision involved strategy.  You see, the non-Christian people of Rome already had a celebration going on that date: December 25 was the day on which they celebrated the birthday of the sun.  The pope and his advisers very likely decided that rather than leave this heathen sun-worshipping celebration stand as it was, and choose some other date as the one for remembering the birth of Christ, they would try to convert the non-Christian holiday to a Christian one, and hopefully the non-Christians along with it.  If things went well, the participants would soon forget the sun-worshipping angle.

It seems that the Christians had fairly good success in this, so that after a time, and throughout a number of centuries, it was widely accepted that Christmas was entirely about celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world.

That is still what followers of Christ, myself included, do about December 25: we remember the birth of our Savior in a special way.

But something interesting has happened within the last hundred years or so.  It could loosely be called, The Sun Worshippers’ Revenge.  (Loosely because the people behind it are not really sun worshippers, but they are non-Christians.)

Back in AD 354, Christians wrested the December 25 heathen holiday from the sun worshippers; now, during approximately the last century or so, the non-Christians of various types (but mainly agnostics, I think) have been working hard at getting back at least some of the December 25 celebrations.

Many people now celebrate “Christmas” not as Christmas, the time for a special remembrance of the Savior’s birth, but as a special time for wishing your neighbor well and having parties.  Those two things are also a part of Christian celebrations, for it’s entirely Christian to be good to one another and others and have good times together.  The non-Christian celebrators, however, have removed their December fun-time entirely from any connection with Jesus.

To the best of their ability they have replaced the spiritual, Christian aspects of the season with things that are not specifically Christian–e.g., songs about snowflakes, jingle bells, going home for the holidays, and so on.  These are good in themselves; after all, God made the snowflakes and likes to see us happy together with our families.

The most serious replacement, and one that has worked wonderfully for the non-Christian celebrators, has been to replace Jesus with Santa Claus.

Now, I know that many Christians like to include the  red-suited man in their celebration of the birth of Christ; for after all, they say, he is based on a real person, Saint Nicholas, who is said to have been a good Christian who liked to give presents to the less fortunate.

If Nicholas was really the saintly man we’re told he was (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), and if God lets him look down at the world during the Christmas season, I wonder what Nicholas thinks of Christian parents pumping up their little tykes with a load of lies about elves and beasts who fly without benefit of wings or a propulsion system, and a bearded clown with Godlike powers who single-handedly wrestles toys from the arctic through millions of heating systems in just a few hours, and doesn’t even get soot on his protruding abdomen.

Although it’s blatant lying, and Christians aren’t supposed to lie, it wouldn’t be nearly so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that these same parents also tell their children that Jesus was born of a virgin and that angels came down from heaven to announce his birth.

What’s the poor kid supposed to believe once he learns that there is some fiction involved?  “If my parents lied to me about Big Red,” he thinks, “maybe they lied to me about Jesus too.”

God will help the child to get it sorted out.  And hopefully the child will respond to this and overcome the ugly trap that his parents have set for him by confusing the greatest true story ever told with one of the most confusing and widespread lies that has ever been foisted on trusting little children.

There’s a judgement day coming.  If you’re a Christian with children, pray and ask God about what you should do in regard to the Santa Claus matter.

If you begin to see that lying to your children is wrong–particularly in connection with the important spiritual issues of Christmas–but you don’t want to give Santa the total boot, let me suggest a compromise.  This was the way my parents handled the matter:

Santa Claus was a part of our Christmas, but my mom and dad presented him as a fascinating fictitious character.  Children appreciate make believe and can have just as much fun with that as with an alleged true story.  And let your children know that their Christmas presents come from you because you love them.  From you and from God.

Let those who don’t believe in Jesus have their holiday fun.  If you’re a follower of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, then have a merry, blessed, and fun-filled Christmas celebrating his birth.

Let a wonderful spiritual shout go up from all over the planet:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS!

 

 

 

Halloween Fun

by Johnny Carlton

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

Halloween, that strange entity celebrated on October 31, is more weird than most people realize.  In the first place, it’s highly ironic that the word Halloween means hallowed or holy evening because it comes on the evening before All Saints’ Day; and, of course, All Saints’ Day was intended to celebrate the holy lives of some particularly good people–rather than the lifestyles of pimply-nosed witches and the walking dead.

How did this contradictory thing come about?  Apparently it had a lot to do with the Druid religion.  The Druids were an ancient cult in Gaul and Britain who believed that on the night of October 31 all sorts of ghosts and supernatural beings came out boldly to mess around.  The Druids also had an autumn festival for celebrating the end of summer and the harvest.

Somewhere in the 700’s, the Roman Catholic Church named November 1 All Saints’ Day, and there was a combining of that Christian festival with some Halloween- style pagan customs–which, I suppose, the general populace wanted–and these two slants together became the Halloween festival.

That’s worse than trying to mix oil and water.  It’s more like trying to mix healthful vegetables with poisonous loco weed to make an interesting soup.

I once read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) that the above mentioned general populace who were expected to be extra good on November 1, All Saints’ Day, thought that it would be nice to prepare for it by raising hell on the preceding evening of October 31, Halloween night, and did so, getting dressed up as demons, etc., and participating in drunken orgies.

In any case, the idea of Christians being involved in a night dedicated to the glory of followers of Satan (witches and warlocks), flesh-eating zombies, and blood-sucking vampires, etc., even if it’s done in a spirit of fun and games, is repulsive.

For years now, Yvonne and I have refused to have anything to do with Halloween.  If you’re a follower of Christ, we strongly encourage you to take a stand against this fun-and-games glorifying of evil.  On Halloween night put up a polite, non-preachy notice on your door saying that as a follower of Jesus you do not participate in Halloween traditions which go contrary to your beliefs.

By the way, a little research on the matter of real witches will reveal that there are hundreds of covens across North America and in Europe.  Although you won’t become a witch or a warlock by having a little fun with Halloween, you will be sort of playing games in the witches’ backyard, figuratively speaking.

Do you really want to get your hands into that muck?

 

How Positive Are We?

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

We’ve heard a lot about the importance of being positive in our lives, rather than negative–in our thinking, in our feeling.  Books have been written about it.  I think they’ve been mostly secular, although a fair amount of Christian material has also been produced on this important subject.

What does it mean to be positive?  What does it mean to be negative?  What are the results of lifestyles based on either one?  How do we get to be one or the other?  A lot could be said about what constitutes being positive or negative, but let’s try to boil it down to the most important elements.  In doing so we’ll see how utterly important the issue becomes.

To be positive means to be victorious, powerful, happy, and good.  To be negative means to be a failure, to be weak, to be miserable, to be evil.  Quite a contrast, isn’t there?  Important?  Yes, extremely important.

This being the case, one would think that a great deal of prayer, thought, and mental-spiritual effort, on the part of Christians, would go into acquiring a positive nature.  Is this the case?  It doesn’t seem to be.  It seems, rather, that most of us are content to occasionally remind ourselves that it’s important to be positive, and then go on much as we have been up to that point: being positive part of the time and being negative part of the time, being victorious and loving part of the time, and being selfish failures part of the time, being happy part of the time and being depressed part of the time, and so on.

Jesus once asked the question:  “… when the Son of Man (himself) comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  (Luke 18:8b NIV.  My word in parenthesis.)  It seems that Jesus was talking about his second coming, and I think there was a positive warning for us in those words.  I know that when I read them, I tend to look at the present situation regarding my own faith and the faith of my spiritual brothers and sisters, and start thinking about what we could do to improve things.

Born-again people, who have the power of Christ living in them, are supposed to be the distinct leaders in the field of being positive.  I think we are; nevertheless, since the competition is pretty lightweight, we don’t have a lot to write home about.  I would say that in general the positiveness of us Christians is pretty wishy-washy.

But let’s not forget that God doesn’t make us perfect in one day.  He causes us to be born into his family the moment we fully put our trust in Jesus as our Savior, and after that begins the long process of growth of the new nature that God has given us, along with the simultaneous destruction of our old nature.  This is wonderful and just the way God planned it.  What should bother us is a situation in which the growth process slows to a halt, or a near halt.

Each of us can look at ourselves and ask:  Am I the same person today that I was five years ago?–or can I see a substantial change for the better?  If there hasn’t been much change, we can ask ourselves, “How positive do I really want to be?”

That doesn’t sound like such a dumb question, does it?  Well, in a way it is and in a way it isn’t.  It sounds kind of silly because naturally everyone should answer it by saying that they want to be completely positive; but it sounds kind of sensible in the light of present reality in which we see a great many Christians apparently quite satisfied with being in possession of a limited amount of positiveness.

Let’s get to the roots of this.  At some point all Christians should ask themselves, “Do I want to be completely positive in this present life here on Earth or don’t I?”  Rephrased:  “Do I want to live a victorious Christian life all the time or just most of the time?”  I hear someone saying, “Well, of course I want to be victorious all time, but I don’t think that’s possible.”

What an interesting statement that person has just made.  The first part of his sentence is positive, the second part negative.  There is a contradiction here.

Does it make sense, or is it even possible, to want something that you believe you can’t have?  In a sense it is possible.  There can be a certain kind of desire, or yearning, for things we assume we will never have; but in a different sense of the word want–the real basic meaning of the word–it is not possible to want something without thinking that there’s at least a chance that you’re going to get it.  Look at it carefully:  If you want something only in the sense that you know you’ll never have it, but you like to daydream about it, then what you really want is just that–you want to daydream about it; and that want is actually being fulfilled.  You are daydreaming about it, so you’re really getting exactly what you want.  I’m saying that there’s something logical about how the mind works after all, and it just isn’t reasonable to really want something that you fully believe you can’t have.  Let’s look at it through the perspective of the word hope, in order to better understand the principle I’ve just put forward.

Is it possible to hope for something and at the same time believe that you won’t get it?  No, because to hope for something is the exact opposite to believing that you won’t get it.  When you cross a street, you have hope that you’ll get to the other side without being hit by traffic.  If you didn’t think that there was any chance at all that you’d make it, you wouldn’t have any motivation to make the effort.  When you decide to lift a cup of coffee to your lips, you expect to accomplish it; without that motivation it would be impossible for you to make any effort to raise the cup.  I’m saying that wanting something in a realistic sense–not in a daydreaming sense only–is the same as hoping for something.  When you say, “I want it but I can’t have it,” you’re really saying, “I want to daydream about having it, but I don’t actually want it to become a reality for I know that won’t happen.”  I think it’s logical to say that true desire and hope always go together.

I have read the Old Testament of the Bible twice, and the New Testament at least five times, without counting all the in-between studying of that great book that it’s impossible to keep track of.  I know this isn’t a very impressive record; some Christians have read through the Bible up to eighty times or more.  Nevertheless, I think I’m safe to say that nowhere in the Bible can be found any suggestion that Christians are to become partly good in this life here on Earth, but remain partly evil.  Nor does it say that we are supposed to become as high as ninety-nine percent good, but to make sure that we remain one percent evil–that one percent to be taken away on the day our bodies die and our souls go to Heaven.  On the contrary, the Bible teaches emphatically that by the power of Christ living in us, we are to go all the way to perfection.  The instruction of Jesus is:  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NIV)  In 1 Corinthians 15:57, the same translation, we read:  “But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Wouldn’t it be strange and unhappy if this scripture instead told us that God gives us a partial victory through our Lord Jesus Christ?  Praise God that this is not the case, and that nowhere in the Bible will we ever find such an un-Godlike philosophy presented.

Yet there are many Christians who are convinced that for the rest of their earthly lives they must be controlled part of the time by their old, evil nature.  They look forward, they say, to the time when this evil nature will be taken away, when they will be released from this “body of death” that regularly causes them to fall back into sin.

So far as I can make out, the Bible teaches that now, in this life here on Earth, is the time to totally defeat the old sinful nature–to do that by the power of Jesus working in us.

A completely positive person would, of course, not sin at all after he has accepted Jesus into his life.  Sinning is negative behavior.  But do we want to be that positive?  Can we be that positive?

Well, the truth is that the power of Christ is infinite–it has no limits.  Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26 NIV)  And the good news of the Gospel is that it is God’s power that saves us, not our own; and it is God’s power that renews us, not our own.  Therefore it follows that we can be completely victorious over sin by this Godly power.

The question, then, is not if we are able to be completely positive–but do we want to be?

 

 

 

The Materialist and the Rubber Ball

 by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

Materialists believe that “. . . physical matter is the only reality . . .” according to one definition of materialism in my Webster.  Therefore materialists do not believe in God, for God is a Spirit, as opposed to being part of the physical universe.  For the same reason they don’t believe in life after death.  They see the physical body die and refuse to believe that there can be any non-physical life left after that.  So their stand is:  if something can’t be experienced on a physical level, it doesn’t exist.

This is a shortsighted-narrow attitude, and anyone of this school of thought should be asked if he does not believe that a child’s rubber ball has a center—a point within the ball that is an equal distance from every point of the outer surface, as well as being a point from which all directions lead outward and none lead inward.  If a point is chosen and it is found that one can move inward from that point, or within that point, then it is obviously not the center.

We all know—materialists as well as the rest of us—what is meant by the center of something.  Then let the materialist proclaim that the center of a ball is physical—if to him all reality is physical.  But for a thing to be physical it must be made of some material, and if it is made of some material it must have a size and a shape; for material by its very definition has mass, and it is quite impossible to conceive of mass without allowing that mass to have size and shape.

What, then, is the shape of the abstract center of the ball?  Our first thought might be that it is spherical, like the ball, but a closer look reveals that if we are imagining the center to be spherical, we are not really imagining the center at all, but, rather, we are imagining a little ball inside of a big one.  Even though all outside points of the little interior ball are of equal distance from the surface of the surrounding big ball, the little ball does not constitute the true center of the big ball.  Certainly not, for it is only the center of the little ball that is also the center of the big ball.  Therefore you can go on imagining balls within balls forever, always smaller and smaller, and you will have come no closer to putting a size and a shape on the ball’s center than you were at the start.  This is simply because a true center has no size and no shape.  And if it has no size and no shape it is not physical.  And if it is not physical then either it doesn’t exist, or materialists are wrong who say that all reality is physical.

Does it exist?  If we say that a ball doesn’t have a center, then we must ask what it does have in its place.  For if we imagine straight lines leading directly inward from all over the surface of the ball, we would suppose that if we imagined them to meet somewhere, that somewhere would be the center and as such would constitute a legitimate part of reality.

It is interesting that although we cannot define the true center of a ball in physical terms no matter how hard we try, we can all—if we possess normal human faculties—easily comprehend the obvious reality of a ball’s abstract center.  We are told that animals cannot do this, and, although no animal has likely ever been seriously asked about the matter, I’m somehow inclined to agree.  But let that remain a mystery for now.

A bigger mystery is how any human mind, knowing and agreeing to the fact that the abstract, non-physical center of a ball is a reality to be reckoned with, can at the same time proclaim that his philosophy of life allows existence only of the physical.

And what of thought?  What of memory?  What of love?  What size and shape are they?

No one has ever seen love nor measured it with a yardstick, or weighed it, or tried to split it in an atom splitter to release its energy.  But it is the most powerful force in the universe.

The Holy Bible teaches that one day in the future the physical things will be destroyed.  Those of us who have fully accepted that there is a reality behind the physical, much greater than the physical, and have allowed ourselves to be put in tune with that reality through the love and power of Jesus, can read 2nd Peter, Chapter 3, verses 10 to 13, in the New Testament of the Bible, believe it, and, in spite of believing it, be at peace.

What is Love?

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

My dad was not a great philosopher or renowned spiritual leader, but he would sometimes come out with profound insights stated in simple words.  When I was a boy he once told me, “Love is the greatest thing there is.”  Not being much of a reader or church goer, I doubt that he even knew about 1 Corinthians 13:13 where it says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  I certainly was not aware, at that time, of this scripture, but I’ve never forgotten that simple statement from my dad.

If love was that important I decided it must also be important to understand what the word meant.  I realized that it had peripheral meanings, but I was interested in understanding its basic meaning as used in the context of the statement made by my father.  I quickly came up with what seemed to me an obvious definition, and for many years after that I assumed that everyone else had just naturally arrived at the same conclusion; it didn’t seem like a matter that people would disagree about.

But one enlightening day in 1969 at the Decision Christian School of Writing in Minneapolis, I happened to bring up the matter to a small group of fellow writers sitting around a table over coffee.  I casually gave them my definition of the meaning of the word love–and was flabbergasted when not one of those present agreed with me.  It wasn’t so much that they felt my definition was totally invalid, but rather that it was insufficient.  However, they did not offer to fill in what they said was lacking.  Basically, they were saying that love is something too great for us to be able to understand well enough to be able to give it a satisfactory definition.

Although I agree that we can never fully understand anything–only God can do that–I do not agree that we can do without well thought-out definitions of the words we use; and the more important the word is, the more important it is that we have a clear definition for it.  The brothers and sisters surrounding the writers’ conference table gave me the impression that they were not at all concerned about their inability to come up with a definition for the word love.  This seems particularly ironic since they were all writers, supposedly interested in the clear communication of important spiritual matters of which love is central.

I have never found any reason to change my definition of the word love.  Keeping in mind that I am thinking here only of the word’s most basic and important meaning, please carefully consider my simple attempt at defining it:  Love is concern for the welfare of a conscious being, wanting that being to be happy.

Before you begin making a list of inadequacies in my definition, let me add some qualifications and clarifications of my own.  The above offers the core meaning; one of the main outer layers is: admiration of the qualities of the one being loved.  For when we say we love someone very much, don’t we usually mean that we think a lot of that person’s character?  But this outer layer can be removed entirely without taking away anything from the core, as is shown clearly by Romans 5:8:  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)  We didn’t have the qualities of character that draw love, but he loved us anyhow.  This proves that the basic nature of love is not the admiration of qualities of character, such as goodness, intelligence, and beauty.  No, God loved us then, and he loves us now, simply because we are conscious beings capable of being happy or unhappy and he wants us to be happy.  And he expects us to learn to have this kind of basic love toward those around us–whether or not they have any lovable qualities.

I’ve been told that in the original Greek of the New Testament a variety of words, all meaning love, were used.  One word, agapé, expresses the love between God and man; another, eros, is sexual love between a man and a woman; storge is parent and child love; philia is love among people in general, or brotherly love.  In my opinion, the Greek language is inferior to English and most other languages in this matter.  Why?  Because a concept as important as the core meaning of love deserves to have a distinct word; and apparently Greek has no such one word but rather a variety of words indicating sometimes the outer layers of meaning and sometimes various versions of the basic.  But God decided that the Greek language was good enough to use for the New Testament’s original manuscripts, so I’m not going to complain too much.  Greek is not my language, however, and it is rightly important to me that I have a simple and effective way of communicating the meaning of this greatest of spiritual concepts.

The world and Webster have not been too helpful in this, and Webster is probably innocent in the matter since dictionaries are obligated to define words according to the common usage of the world.  I’m going to quote the whole entry from Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, and we’ll see what, according to this famous lexicographic institution, the English speaking world has made of the word love up to this point.  You’ll find that although some of the definitions are good in themselves, not one of them clearly expresses the basic concept of one conscious being desiring another conscious being to be happy.  3a comes close but confuses the issue by throwing in the matter of loyalty.  There is a similar situation with 3a (1) and 3a (2).  And with these near-hits lost among all the rest of the entry, I think that a foreigner learning English from Webster would not be likely to discover the Biblical concept of the word love.

love \1 v\ n [ME, fr. OE lufu; akin to OHG lupa love, OE leof dear, L lubere, libere to please] la: affection based on admiration or benevolence b: an assurance of love  2a: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion (–of the sea>  b: the object of such attachment or devotion  3a: unselfish concern that freely accepts another in loyalty and seeks his good:  (1): the fatherly concern of God for man  (2): brotherly concern for others  b: man’s adoration of God  4a: the attraction based on sexual desire : the affection  and tenderness felt by lovers  b: a god or personification of love  c: an amorous episode : LOVE AFFAIR  d: the sexual embrace : COPULATION  5: a beloved person : DARLING  6: a score of zero in tennis  7: cap, Christian Science : GOD

As I was studying the above definitions I became hopeful that the word charity, which is sometimes used in place of the word love in the King James Version of the Bible, might be what I needed to fit my definition; but when I looked up charity, Webster informed me that this derived from a word meaning Christian love, which is certainly interesting but not at all helpful for my problem, and I was further instructed to look under the entry love, definition 3a.  I decided not to look in any other dictionaries, for I’ve always considered Webster to be the top authority in lexicography, and still do.

I decided, instead, to turn to the Bible to see if I could find passages that not only taught about the need for love, but also threw light on what love is.  The love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, was a good place to start.  Verses 4 through 7 tell us:

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (NIV)

The above tells us how a person will behave when he is motivated by love.  This is good for us to know, and these verses certainly suggest strongly that the person thus motivated is that way because he is concerned about the welfare of others.  But we are still left without a clear-cut definition.  Yet maybe the above scripture suggests the way to find the answer; maybe the only way we can come to a sensible conclusion about what the word love means is to notice how people in the Bible behave when they are described as having love.

When Jesus wanted to emphasize the importance of loving one’s neighbor, he told the story of the good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)  The good Samaritan found a stranger wounded and bleeding.  There is nothing to indicate that the Samaritan could have been attracted to the wounded man’s qualities, for apparently he had never seen him before and was probably repulsed by the sight of a dirty, bleeding man lying there on the road.  But he bandaged up the man’s wounds, took him to the nearest town, found a bed for him, and left money to pay for his care.  There is not the slightest suggestion here of the presence of any the peripheral things associated with love–admiration, sexual attraction, loyalty, duty, or anything else.  We have a right to assume that the good Samaritan helped the wounded man simply because he felt sorry for him.  In other words, he found another fellow-conscious-being suffering and had a desire to change that suffering into happiness.

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 KJV)  Not all love is sacrificing love, but much of it is, and sacrificing love is of the highest, most Godlike quality.  Usually the sacrifice is small, as when we decide to let someone else have the last piece of cake; sometimes the sacrifice is the greatest ever called for, as when, from time to time, someone will give up his life for someone else.  Although it is conceivable that a person can give up his life for insane non-loving reasons (Paul suggests this possibility in 1 Corinthians 13:3) this is obviously not what Jesus was talking about when he helped us to understand the meaning of love by telling us what is the greatest test of love ever required by humans.  Again, we find that the basic feeling involved in such great love is the simple matter of caring about the welfare of someone else.

This is what God felt for us when he made the ultimate sacrifice:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV)  This is what God the Son felt for us when he prayed, “. . . nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done,” (Luke 22:42b KJV) and went forward to meet the soldiers who would take him to the execution site on Calvary.  He wanted to rescue us from unhappiness and bless us with the joy of eternal life together with him.

People of the world deal out and withhold love as they choose.  They think they have a right to do this, but as Christians we cannot take this stand and expect to be pleasing to God.  He did not withhold his love from us while we were still obnoxious sinners, and we are not to withhold our love either, not even from our worst enemies.

I’ll stick to my guns, no matter how many of my fellow writers tell me my definition of love is audacious, and no matter how many of my brothers and sisters in the Lord keep mutilating this glorious word by “loving” their coconut cream pie, earrings, and favorite TV series.  We need to know what the word love means if we’re going to live by it and encourage others to live by it.

Think of it!  Love is the central quality of God’s own heart, for the Bible tells us that “. . . God is Love.” (1 John 4:8b—many translations)  Love is wanting someone to be happy, and wanting it so much that we’ll do something about that desire if we’re able to.  “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18 NIV)  Love needs no reason; it is its own reason.  You don’t love someone because of this or that; in fact, if your only reason for “loving” someone is because he’s a good person, or because she’s so pretty, or because he did something for you, or because she makes you feel happy when you’re near her, or for any reason at all, then you’re not really loving—you have only the entirely optional outer layers and not the core.  When you really love, you love—because you love.  What basic non-selfish reason could there possibly be for wanting someone other than yourself to be happy?  There is none, except the axiomatic one which is the wonder and mystery of love:  I want you to be happy simply because I know how good it feels to be happy and I want you to feel the same.  And that, dear fellow-conscious-being, is the motivating power that accounts for the existence of the universe.

 

 

What is Faith?

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

When asked to give a definition of faith, many believers quote Hebrews 11:1.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV)  The King James Version is one of the greatest of all English Bibles, maybe the very greatest, but for we who live in the twenty-first century, this approximately 380 year old translation is in many places hard to grasp.  The above passage may be a good example of that.  After having read the same verse in seven other translations, I find that they agree rather nicely with one another and that the Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard perhaps best express this meaning, both using exactly the same wording:  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  And yet one wonders if the King James translators perhaps considered the word, assurance, and were not quite satisfied that it carried the full intended meaning.  The word, substance, sounds more solid than the word, assurance.

In any case, this certainly is an important Bible verse in regard to finding out what the word faith means, but it was not intended to be a completely encompassing definition.  The writer was simply telling us something about faith.  A little further on, in verse 6 of the same chapter, he says:  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV)  Verse 1 tells us that faith is an experience of assurance and conviction about things to come and things not yet seen; verse 6 adds that faith is believing God exists, and trusting that God rewards those who seek him.  The two verses are somewhat the same, but verse 6 brings the blurry picture of verse 1 into focus, God himself being the focal point.  Faith, then, is believing in God.  Verse 7a clarifies this even more, letting us know that faith is not only believing that God exists, and trusting that he is a rewarder of those who seek him, but that faith is also believing anything that God tells us:  “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen (warned by God), in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (NIV–my insert in parentheses.)

Verses 17-19 tell us that faith is believing in God’s trustworthiness concerning his promises, and also believing in God’s power to do miracles:  “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’  Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” (NIV)  In this last sentence the writer of Hebrews is, of course, referring to the fact that at the last moment, just as Abraham was about to slay his son, God sent an angel to prevent him from doing so.

The rest of Hebrews 11 continues these same thoughts, telling us from examples of Biblical history that faith is believing in God, believing what God tells us, trusting in his goodness, trusting in his power.  Verses 32 to 35 tell us about some of the amazing results that have been brought about through faith, and in the last part of verse 35 to verse 38 we are told how people of faith are persecuted by people of the world who do not have faith.

Another important point, strongly implied throughout Hebrews 11, must be brought to attention in regard to faith.  In James 2:19 we read:  “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (KJV)  It is not enough to believe that God exists.  Even believing what he says can fall far short of the mark.  The demons, after thousands of years of experience in their rebellion against God, must know that God tells the truth.  It is also not enough to believe that God has great power and can do mighty miracles.  Again, the demons know about this, but simply knowing it to be a fact does not make any big difference.  What is missing?  The devils–in modern English versions translated as demons–are not surrendered to God in their minds and hearts.  They are enemies of God.  True faith, the kind that is alive and well and has meaning, must go hand in hand with the greatest commandment:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 NIV)

Therefore I must conclude that faith is: believing that God exists, being surrendered to him in love, believing that he will keep his promises to us, believing everything else he tells us, and believing in his infinite power and everything else about himself that he reveals to us.

Many have the mistaken notion that faith is blindly believing something without having any good reason for doing so.  Others say that all true faith should be based on solid evidence and that we cannot rightly believe anything unless it has been proven in such a way that our intellects can understand it.  Both attitudes are false.  It is foolish to believe something without having a good reason for doing so, but it is just as foolish to think that our finite minds, which can’t even understand themselves, can ever gather enough evidence out of God’s immense universe to conclusively prove anything.  Even more preposterous is the idea that our limited little minds can surround the infinite, eternal God, take a good look at him, and decide that he exists.

Human reasoning has its place and is highly useful when used as intended, but fortunately there is a different way to find conclusive answers.  If reasoning and scientific evidence fall far short–because of our limited minds–in giving us assurance in regard to the existence of God or any message from God to us, wouldn’t it be contrary to God’s great heart of love to leave us floundering about without a hope of ever knowing anything with absolute certainty?–particularly since such great principles and issues of love, worship, obedience, and eternal welfare are involved.

The Bible teaches that God has a way of communicating with us that transcends puny human reasoning and allows us complete assurance.  Jesus spoke of this when he said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) Elijah recognized the “… still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12b KJV)  Philip had no problem with it when he obeyed instructions to “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (Acts 8:29b NIV)  Because Philip obeyed, he was able to tell the good news about Jesus to the Chief Treasurer of the Queen of Ethiopia.  What is this guidance?  It is the “voice” of the Spirit of God.  It is not a voice heard with the ears, but one heard with the heart.

You say the Bible is the only guide you trust?  How would you know the Bible is God’s word if the Holy Spirit of the living God had not told you that this is so?  We have to start at the starting point: God’s Spirit touching our own spirits with a touch that is unmistakably God.  But it will be unmistakable only when we are completely truthful in our hearts.  It is mankind’s fallen nature to be dishonest, and this is where the confusion comes in; but the more honest and truth-seeking we become, with the help of God, the more distinctly we hear his voice and know who he is:

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10b NIV)   And that is what faith is all about.

 

 

What is Truth?

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

The Sophists, teachers of ancient Greece, asked the question.  It also seems to be accepted as a legitimate query among modern-day thinkers, and those who would like to give the impression that they are thinkers.  “What is truth?”  It sounds so profound.

Anyone ever having heard of Socrates going about the marketplace in ancient Athens asking apparently innocent questions of strangers, receiving obvious answers, and then contradicting them with deep philosophical insight, would probably not dare give a straightforward answer to this question.  Seemingly being wiser now than the people of ancient Athens were, we just naturally assume that if someone asks us something as easy as, What is truth? he must have a deeper understanding of philosophical matters than we do; so we tend to nod our heads wisely and say something like, “Yes, indeed, what is truth?”

My Webster doesn’t mess around with it though.  It says that truth is, “… the state of being the case–fact.”  And, “… the body of real things, events, and facts.”  That’s simple enough, isn’t it?

I think the question usually comes up because confused people, who have a bent for thinking but are determined to leave God out of the picture, decide that it would be nice if each individual could make up his own reality.

Without the great unifying factor of the all-encompassing mind of Almighty God, perhaps one mind would have as much right as another in proclaiming what was reality and what wasn’t.  If we didn’t all agree–well, what was truth to you might be falsehood to me, so you could live in your real world and I could live in mine.

This multiple-reality scenario could seem to make philosophical sense up to a point, but only if it could also include the belief that all reality is subjective.  In other words, the idea would seem to work (up to a point) if these many differing realities existed only in the minds of the individuals who had created them, and there was no outer, objective reality in existence at all–no proverbial objective tree, uprooted by an objective storm, falling unseen and unheard in an objective forest.  There can be no objective reality in the multiple-reality philosophy, for if there were it would imply an overall unifying reality to which the individual minds would have to be subject.  Just as they have already given up believing in God, these “What is truth?” philosophers should realize that they must also give up the idea of a materialistic objective reality.

I have never heard of an atheist who does not believe in an objective reality.  They have to accept one or the other–God or an objective reality–in order to try to account for the existence of the universe.  If they refuse to believe that God created it, they need to replace designed creation with gases floating around randomly in space, eventually coming together to form solid matter, maybe a big bang with resulting galaxies, and so on–but all without God, and all entirely objective, since there could have been no one around to see or in any way experience any of this, since life had not yet evolved.

Anyone who believes that truth is a relative matter, and that there can be as many realities as there are individuals, is, according to logic, automatically cut off from being allowed to believe in an Almighty, all-enclosing, all-knowing, Creator-God; and he is likewise logically cut off from believing in an objective universe.  Both concepts–God, and a Godless, objective universe–entail the idea of an absolute reality to which the individual minds need to relate, thus providing them with a single reality against which truth can be checked.

At first glance the only alternative for an atheist trying desperately to cling to the concept of truth being relative, would seem to be some sort of subjective evolution, rather than an objective one, in order to explain the existence of the universe.  He would have to believe that conscious minds, apart from any objective universe, had evolved and multiplied.  And unless he takes the illogical stand that something came out of nothing, he would have to admit to the existence of an eternal consciousness–an eternal mind with no beginning, out of which all other minds had sprung.  But he would not want to do that because that concept sounds too much like God.  In fact, it would not turn out to be an alternative after all, even if he did accept the concept and decided to call it something other than God; because if there was an eternal mind out of which all other minds evolved in this totally subjective version of the universe, that eternal mind of the infinite past would become the hub to which all the other mind-spokes would be connected, automatically establishing an historical, chronological, unified reality.  Once again, this renders impossible the concept of relative truth.

Such is the sad case, whether he knows it or not, of the person who claims he does not know the meaning of the word, truth.  Well, then, if the whole thing is so ridiculous, why even talk about it, or write about it?  Because before long a conversation in your living room or at the office, is going to swing around to religion or politics.  Then, just after someone has bared his heart in stating that he believes something or other to be the truth, someone else in the room may take on a look of sagacity and, after a moment of apparently deep contemplation, ask, “What is truth?”  I want you to be able to look that person straight in the eye and surprise him by telling him that truth is the opposite to falsehood, and that what’s true for one person is true for everyone else as well.  If it turns out that he wants to play Socrates with you, let him.  This will give you an opportunity, as a follower of Christ, to help him out of his confusion, if he wants to be helped.

It is possible to ask the question about what truth is with a sincere desire to find a deep, meaningful and truthful answer, and when it is asked in this way the true answer will certainly be granted to that sincere inquirer.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7 (NIV).  But usually when people ask, “What is truth?” they are trying to escape some issue at hand by suggesting that truth is relative, that there is no basic truth that can be known.  Those who ask the question will also say things like, “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me,” and “Everyone has a right to believe whatever he wants to,” and “It doesn’t matter what a person believes, so long as he respects the rights of others to have their own beliefs.”  These statements express a desire to escape confrontation with actual truth.

As a follower of Christ I have learned that the unifying concept that makes absolute truth the reality it is, is the infinite, all-knowing mind of Almighty God.  He is the designer, creator, and controller of all existence.  For God there is no objective universe; he surrounds and upholds all things, and when he says that something is, it is; and when he says that something is not, it is not.  And it is foolishness for anyone to try to make up his own reality to compete with God’s.

It is in their desire to escape from submitting to God and his truth that some have foolishly taken to asking the question that suggests truth is relative–the question Pontius Pilate asked when he stood trembling before Truth embodied in human form.

How ironic it was when he asked, “What is truth?” John 18:38 (NIV).

 

 

Without Excuse

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

Atheistic philosophers claim that their belief about the origin of the universe is just as logical as that of those who believe in God.  They tell us, “We can’t explain how the universe got started, but neither can you explain where God comes from.”  Thus they attempt to destroy our argument that the existence of the universe proves the existence of the Creator, God.

But the atheist (as well as the Christian who has succumbed to confusion on this point) is overlooking an important factor:  To our Prime Cause, namely God, we attribute a conscious mind and a will; the atheist’s prime cause, whatever it may be, can have no such attributes, for if he allows consciousness and will in his prime cause he is no longer an atheist.

Maybe the atheist will say he doesn’t believe in any prime cause, conscious or otherwise; but that doesn’t work, for it still comes out the same way:  The material, Godless universe he believes in, that he believes existed in some gaseous form before there was any life and that eventually evolved life, of necessity becomes his prime cause; and it has no consciousness and no will.

Although we cannot explain God from a normal cause and effect standpoint, it is infinitely more logical to believe in a basic Power who consciously supports his existence by his own will, than it is to believe in a non-conscious something that supports itself without any power of will, and makes things without any power of will, and changes things without any power of will.  A something without will would have no driving force to set anything in motion.

Without consciousness there can be no will, so the Prime Cause must be a conscious being.  Therefore we have a logical right to conclude that without a conscious mind willing things to happen there can be no universe–no anything.

In other words, the atheist’s self-creating material universe has no consciousness and therefore no will with which to motivate its support of itself or to effect changes; whereas, conversely, the God we believe in has a conscious mind and has a will with which to support his own infinite existence, and with which to create, and with which to effect changes within the universe he has created.

This is why the Bible says, in Romans 1:18-20 (NIV):  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Whatever You Ask

by Johnny Giesbrecht

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

There are at least three Scripture verses about a particular matter that can cause some confusion when not rightly understood.  The verses (taken from the NIV) are:

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:16).

“In that day you will no longer ask me anything.  Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 16:23).

It could be suggested that because none of these Scripture segments give any qualifications regarding anything else that is required for us to get what we ask God for, we should be able to ask him for anything at all and get it, so long as we say the words: “I ask this in the name of Jesus.”

This would mean that if you didn’t like your next-door neighbor very much and you asked God to burn his house down and kill him in the fire, if you asked it in the name of Jesus he would grant it to you.  According to this oversimplified and wrong interpretation of those three verses (quoted above) we could ask for any kind of evil thing and God would grant it.  But of course God, being good and wise, does not operate that way.

And yet the words of Jesus are true.  The secret to understanding these verses is to know what is meant by asking in the name of Jesus.  It does not mean to just say the words:  “I ask this in the name of Jesus.”

It means, rather, to ask something in his name and in the spirit of his name.

In other words, asking something in the name of Jesus means coming to God in the spirit of Jesus, the way Jesus himself came to his Father.

And how was that?  When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking God to rescue him from death on the cross, he added the words, “… yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42b).

To pray in the name of Jesus means to put God’s will first.  A Christian wants God’s will to be done in all things.  Therefore it follows logically that when we pray in this mature way, in the name and spirit of Jesus, we always get what we want.  Always.  Think about it.

Say that you pray for a physical healing of some kind, sincerely wanting God’s will to be done in the matter–even if it means not being healed, should that be God’s will.  Say that in this instance he does not choose to heal you.  Your prayer has been granted, for part of your prayer was, “Your will be done.”

When you pray in the name, and therefore in the spirit, of Jesus, you can’t lose.  You always get what you ask for.

But you can see that this requires complete surrender to God.  And isn’t that what we’re supposed to do–be completely surrendered to God?  When you ask for something and you don’t get it, and then start complaining about not getting it, that only proves that you didn’t really ask it in the name (in the spirit) of Jesus.

In Acts 19:13-16 we read about some apparent non-Christians who tried to drive evil spirits out of people by using the name of Jesus.  On one occasion the demon-possessed man beat up on those who were attempting the exorcism in the name of Jesus.  This was a case of the exorcists just using words but not speaking them in the spirit of Jesus.

Christians can become haughty so that they actually think it’s wrong to add the words, “Your will be done,” to a prayer.  They may not realize they’re being haughty but they are–by thinking they can tell God what to do.  Where is humbleness and humility today?

After all, are we so good at figuring things out that we always know whether or not what we’re asking for is in God’s will?  Some things we know, because God has made them clear to us through faith, but for most things we ask for, we don’t really know whether or not they’re in God’s will.  Praying for someone’s healing, for instance, is a good example.  God may be allowing that person to be sick for the time being for his or her own good.  Remember that the Apostle Paul prayed for his own healing and was denied because he needed that “thorn in the flesh” to help him overcome a problem of pride (2 Corinthians 12:7b-9a).

We should always pray in the spirit of “… yet not my will, but yours be done.”  That, along with other acceptances of the spirit of Jesus, is praying in the name of Jesus.  Asking for something in Jesus’ name isn’t a sign of “weakness” on the part of the petitioner, but rather a sign of maturity and trust in God our Father.