Unforgiving and Unforgiven Nation.

Just about everyone knows the Lord’s Prayer. But do they really? Here’s the Lord’s Prayer in the context in which it is presented in Matthew 6:5-15. Do verses 14 and 15 surprise you? Are you stunned that the Father expects you to forgive everyone who offends you just as you were forgiven: Romans 5:8. It’s hard to make an argument that we are not required to forgive everyone who hurts us. There are legions of Americans who are unable to forgive Donald Trump because someone told them or ran a recording of his remarks which were not even directed at themselves. The truth is we have no right to be offended when we are just bystanders—but even if we wrongly take offense, we are subject to the above verses.

Forgiveness is a big deal for Christians. But, through some twisted thinking, American Christians think it is o.k. to slander fellow citizens without restraint in politics. The truth is, slander is the coin of the realm in America. Freedom of Speech is a civil right, but if you think a civil right is bigger than God’s 9th commandment: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor,” then you have a big problem with God. Today, we don’t even put perjured court witnesses in jail—people can die because of their false testimony, but their lies are not prosecuted or punished in any way. Do you think that’s o.k.?

I’m not saying forgiveness is easy. It is hard. In truth, it’s impossible in most cases—without God’s help. But, God will always provide help to anyone who wants to obey Him but hasn’t the strength to do so.

Decades Ago, I was maliciously harmed by a group of ambitious people. The consequences of that harm extend to this day. A bitter root was planted in my family towards the conspirators. I tried to forgive the leader of the slander for years—to no avail. The embers seemed cold but would flame up when I least expected. I prayed and waited. Then God gave me the answer, and I took it to Him:

“Father, I have forgiven X for years, but my anger flames up anew every time I look at the effects of his actions upon my family. You know that I want to forgive him, and the others involved, but I cannot make it lasting. Here is what You have led me to pray. When I come to heaven and You greet me, I want X to be at Your side, forgiven, and all the others, as well. As You forgave me, so I forgive them. Amen.”

Incredible as that prayer may sound to you, the issue was resolved at that moment. For two decades, now, I have never thought of those men except in peace, contentment, and good wishes.

God will always provide you with the resources to obey His will. And that includes healing our country from our present turmoil:

“If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Do you really believe political parties can heal our nation? Healing from God will only come when we follow the instructions in the verse above.

God bless you,

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Can God be my Friend?

How is it that many of us Christians view God like a divine parole officer, watching over our shoulder to catch us sinning, ready to send us to the prison of our greatest fears—or afflict us with severe punishment here on earth? How can anyone, who believes the penalty of all their past, present, and future sins was paid for at the Cross by Jesus, then act as if this Message of the Cross is not true, that the Resurrection did not place Jesus at the right hand of the Father as our eternal Redeemer, that we do not have God’s Holy Spirit living within us as Counselor, Seal of Our Salvation, and Companion through all our life? Think about that.

The basic problem is that most Christians, despite endless Bible studies, do not in fact understand what the Bible says about God and his relationship with us. Most Christians stay away from the Old Testament, thinking it has nothing to contribute to what St. Paul called the Message of the Cross. The ignorance in some cases is willful, “I don’t want to know what it says, because then I’ll be accountable to it.” But, others have been misled into believing that the New Testament is independent of the Old, that the only link is the genetics of the Jews from Abraham to Jesus. Either way, there are consequences.

Let’s examine some core doctrines found first in the Old Testament that are central to Christian belief.

  1. God does not take any pleasure in the death of any person. Read the passage Ezekiel 18:23-32, paying close attention to the opening and closing verses 23 and 32.
  2. God loves every person on this earth. Many Christians can’t bring themselves to accept God’s universal love—a problem the Jews had and still have regarding God’s loving non-Jews. But, God announced to Abraham that he would be the father of—and through his offspring a blessing to—many nations. (Genesis 12:3, 17:16, 22:18). And Jesus reaffirmed this in John 3:16.
  3. God wants all men to be saved. God made this clear in Ezekiel 18:23, as we saw above. And He makes this abundantly clear in John 3:16-18 and 1 Timothy 2:1-6 (with emphasis on v. 3 and 4).

Given these three clear truths attested in the Old and New Testaments, no person on earth can claim the God of Christianity does not offer personal care, love, and eternal life to them individually. There are no exceptions.

Enjoy God’s love, and live life at its best.

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If I’m a Christian, how should I live?

When I was the pilot of our family plane, we often wanted to travel when the weather required flying on instruments. Moreover, enroute weather can rapidly turn bad and the only options are to land at an inconvenient airport, fly around the worst of it, or through it if it’s mild enough. Since I was also flying on business trips, I trained for instrument flying and added that rating. I logged nearly two hundred hours in the soup—with zero visibility. The reason I didn’t feel alone was that I was in constant radio communication with various enroute Air Traffic Controllers.

Before I went to the airport for a trip, I checked the weather over my intended route by calling a Flight Service Station, explaining what I wanted to do, and receiving a synopsis of weather and other factors which should be included in my plan. If there were no show-stoppers, I’d then file my flight plan in detail over the phone, with the understanding I should radio the tower before starting to taxi, and write down the final flight plan that was approved. I wouldn’t think of going to the airport until it had been filed.

Before we left home, everybody got weighed, each piece of baggage was weighed, and I calculated the weight of passengers, baggage, and how much fuel we would carry—even where people were seated and where baggage would be stowed. Then we left for the airport.

At the airport, while the kids and Nancy waited, I preflight checked the plane using another checklist, then told the gas truck how much fuel I wanted, and loaded the baggage. Then we boarded the plane.

Only after all that, did I radio the tower (or Clearance Delivery) to get my approved routing clearance, and wrote it down as it was read to me. Then I started the engine, got clearance to taxi to a specific runway, and when there tested my engine, before calling the tower to say I was ready to take-off.

The success of such a flight pretty much depended on how well I executed those preceding steps. Flying the airplane on an Instrument Flight Plan is one of the easiest exercises in an airplane. Once I’d flown us into position to lock on, I flew using radio aids which my autopilot could track. The rest of the flight was managed by communicating with enroute Controllers until reaching the destination, getting clearances at each transition point, including on the ground at the destination airport. Then I closed the flight plan.

Only once in 840 hours of flying did I experience an emergency, and immediately telling the enroute traffic controller gave me priority to land at a nearby city’s airport, with airliners told to hold. The incident introduced a ten-minute interruption in the flow of traffic at that airport, but it saved my life.

Flying is easier than life. Why do we leap out of bed, shower, eat, dress, and run out the door to our workplace, school, or other destination without a plan presented to our Life Controller, the Lord? Why don’t we ask Him for guidance on what we should include (or not) in our day’s plan?

I was called and responded to the Father’s call to Jesus when I was 34—not because I got smarter. No. In fact, it seemed the longer I followed the path at that moment, the worse things got. My career was o.k., and our marriage had held up for ten years (barely) until that time. I had two very young sons. And I was full of pride. People called me “lucky.” Then my firstborn son drowned behind our house.

Over the next two weeks, I came face-to-face with God and found He was the one I had been seeking. With my entire being, I signed up. And I have never started a day since, without first checking with him on how I’m doing, the fitness of my plans, and the specific things he wants as first priority that day. Our communications were less precise (on my side) in the beginning, but after 42 years, his instructions are as clear as Air Traffic Control’s revised flight plan.

O.K. I understand nobody likes to copy somebody else’s methods, but over the past 42 years—which included 6 years surviving amidst South American terrorist wars and the morning before I flew into that inflight emergency—I quickly fell into a routine like my preflight procedures. I rise from bed before I normally would, thank God, sit down with a Bible, and follow my current plan for this “quiet time,” which today includes two “primers” –akin to the weather and route briefing before I file my flight plan. One is a little booklet called Our Daily Bread which gives a small lesson on a specific passage of scripture, and then I do the same with another called InTouch. In the appointed scriptures and lessons, I find guidance and encouragement for the day—like that fuel truck filling up my tank. Afterwards, I make sure to wait for my approved clearance, which is usually the sense of peace Jesus promised (you’ll know it), and sometimes specific guidance to do or be alert for something specific. Then I start my day knowing I’ve prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Both tiny books come free to your mobile phone or computer. Just follow these links to the two web sites: Our Daily Bread and In Touch. Listen to them—you may like them. If you have no morning routine with the Lord, you can start with one or both of these on your mobile phone.

Thanks for visiting this first time.

Your brother in Christ,

Rick

Introducing Rick Burke’s Personal Blog

picture-10-croppedHi! This is my personal blog. I also have a weekly blog called Raising Up Pharaoh.com that is dedicated to my archaeological research and related work as an author of novels; it was launched in early 2014. After establishing that blog with 115 posts and now able to publish each week with a couple days work, I’m preparing to dedicate another couple days a week to writing a new novel. But, I find I need this new arena to speak to friends and soon-to-be friends who are interested in discussing how we can live as Christians and deal with this tumultuous world around us. All having good will are welcome, from all religions, disbelief, or habits.

Each post will be something fresh that I recently found useful in dealing with a personal issue which I feel is widely encountered by most of us. I’ll share how I deal with it and the reasons why I respond that way. And I hope you’ll offer your point of view in the comments, which I’ll moderate. Any comment that deals with the issue without rancor will be OK’d by me.