“ad astra per alas porce”

lucky-pig-1843071_960_720     When John Steinbeck was in college he was told by one of his professors that he would become a published author when pigs fly. He liked the insult so much that he opened each pf his subsequent books with the phrase— ad astra per alas porce. “To the stars on the wings of a pig.”

     Steinbeck would not be deterred from what he was designed to do by the critical comments of one person. It was as if the comment had steeled his resolve to prove his professor wrong.

     It amazes me how so many of us give up so easily. One negative comment, one rejection, one disappointment, and we throw in the towel. How did so many of us get this way? Is it our educational system? Our family’s disapproval? When I was a young teen I could do nothing right in my father’s eyes; I couldn’t even cut the grass right!

     Since those days I’ve learned to rise above the negative comments of my friends. [Albeit, some negative commentary should be heeded.] We all need to answer to a higher calling; one where we live up to our abilities and to the levels of accomplishment that God has designed us to achieve. This is not an easy practice to incorporate into our daily mindset. We are quite content to base our self-worth on the belittling of others. I knew I wasn’t good enough. Really?!?

     For the nominal Christian, words like “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” [Philippians 4:13], or “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31] seem to have lost their thrust. Our fear of failure has crushed them to the ground. Have we ceased to believe what is true?

     If there is one thing genuine followers of Christ need to do in this present generation it is to regain their sense of adventure in their Christian lives. We need to truly trust God and take the risks our faith requires. There is no time left to continue in a Let’s wait to see what happens attitude. And the only way I know to learn faith is to step outside of our comfort zone into the uncomfortable. This will be a different step for all of us. For extroverts, they probably won’t even know they’ve done it. For introverts, it could be terrifying.

     Nonetheless, our Lord calls us to it. What is our Christian faith without the faith part? Mere social alignment with a religious institution. Yeah…, that’s meaningful!

     Our Christian faith could be so much more exciting if it were not mere religious attendance.

Flying with the pigs,
Gary

The Fear of the Lord

the-fear-of-the-lord2The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.  Proverbs 9:10

     We have very little understanding of the fear of the Lord in our era. If anyone does think about it, an image of an awe-powerful God sitting on a throne on Mt. Olympus comes to mind. He is the awful, powerful God lording his power over us. For most of us, that is ancient myth, Greek fable, and not a real reality. Nor do we rarely give a thought to a real Satan, a roaring lion, prowling about seeking to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8)  Our world has moved beyond such myths.

     Nonetheless, should we, in some way, fear the Lord? For those who live outside our faith, the answer is yes. But what about us who have placed our lives in Jesus’ hands, should we fear our Lord?

     It might be noted that we do have a way of constantly stepping outside of the perimeters of God’s protection for us. I would dare say that if we continually stray from the Truth and the practice of the Christian life we have something to be concerned about.

     The question is not Am I saved? Rather, it is— Am I abiding within God’s grace and living by the principles of the Christian faith laid down in Scripture? Not that our outward actions necessarily reflect an inward reality, but they do go a long way toward clarifying what is important to us.

     So, the real question then becomes, Where is your heart? What is the general direction of your passion, your direction in life, how you use your time and how you spend and give away your resources? “Where your heart is…” (Matthew 6:21) These things are measurable, not measured by deeds-done alone, but by inspiration and devotion. These are the internal qualities the drive us toward God. To not have them makes us mere actors in a play. Play-acting the Christian life is always an alarm for fearing God.

     You can run… .

     Besides, a HEALTHY fear of the Lord is a good thing, especially if it draws us into the presence of the Holy One. C.S. Lewis gives us a wonderful image of God. “he’s not a tame Lion, you know.” Who doesn’t approach a Lion with some healthy fear?

     Or, maybe gaining a deeper knowledge of God through Scripture and silence does produce a proper fear of him. Hummm?

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

NEXT— “ad astra per alas porce…”.  

unSelfing ourSELVES

12764758_10207871278393338_48460173020244048_o    Over the past few months I have let some of the saints of the Church lead in my devotional life. One such person is Frederick William Faber (1814-1863). He is best known for his Lives of the Saints. But from his work The Creator and the Creature, there is one line which will not let my heart wander far.

Holiness is an unselfing (of) ourselves… .”

    When you think about it, that makes sense. How can Christ fill us with himself if we are supersaturated with ourselves?!? Any form of meditation, which is a quest for inner peace, calls upon us to empty ourselves…, and stay that way. I find that course quite dangerous. If I empty myself of myself, and do not refill that void with Jesus Christ, then I open myself to all sorts of devious invasions.

    For much of my life I believed that holiness was a thing to pursue, something that was a goal in the Christian life. Then again, it is also a platform granted to us by the Father through Jesus Christ. This is how God sees us the moment we put our trust in his son.

    Frederick Faber’s idea of holiness being an unselfing of ourselves is new to me. I am going to have to give it some thought. Yet as I probe within I find that unselfing is exactly what must take place. In Scripture we come across thoughts like “I must decrease; he must increase,” (John 3:27-36). We need to reexamine our priorities and reflect on what our supreme goal in life actually is; that which fills our time, that places our desires and dreams under Christ’s command.

    The ancient Greek maxim— You DO what you want, really is your definer of what is most important to you. Every six months to a year take an inventory of how you spend your time. Actually, start NOW. This should tell you where your heart is: money, sports, possessions, mission. Any revelations?

    One of the things I’ve noticed about myself through the years is that what I thought I needed, moved to the what I wanted category. Then I found that I wanted less and less in life. It was a good move. Still is.

    We all live at different levels in life— wealthy, poor, average, extravagant, sacrificing, giving. None of these definers is any more significant that the other. It is all a matter of what our God has designed you for.

    Whatever that is will call on you to continue in the process of unselfing yourself.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

NEXT— The fear of the Lord…. 

Yes!

61xpma7qt1l.sr160240_bg243243243  Late last month a friend of mine, David Rupert, released a book— YES. In it he recounts his journey to Living a Life of YES. It is a great book and you should read it…, and BUY it! Starving authors all agree heartedly.

    Last time I wrote about being TEPID, bland, unimpressive, dull, insipid. Too many of us are like that, Christians especially. We’ve come to equate humility with shy, quiet, insecure, introversion. I do not find that Jesus’ humility was even near that. He was unafraid, opinionated, forthright, daring, bold, assertive, forgiving and gracious. People wanted to be around him. Do people want to be around you?

    David Rupert found that saying Yes to life put him in over his head where he had to trust in God. No choice. From his work in the Middle East, to his neighborhood, even extending into his work, saying Yes removed him from being ordinary to a humble greatness he could have never anticipated.

    What do you think might happen to you if you prayed Well, God, here it goes. I’m going to step out of my safety zone and trust you. I’m going to say Yes. Go the extra mile. Care for someone who needs love. Give more money away than is safe. Open up my soul to others more than usual. Travel to some place that I sense God is directing me with little verification. I’m going to take a risk not because I want to, but because I need to. I must.

    I’m going to say Yes!

    The first thing that will happen to you, after you make this commitment, is a complete sense of peace, and confidence. The next thing is a total sense of terror. The good news— you’re on the right track. Next, some of your friends, and our roaring lion adversary, will try to dissuade you from your intended course. You’re still on the right track. Although, do not disregard wise counsel and insights of friends who know you.

    What would happen in your life if you started saying Yes? Most of us fill our lives with so much activity that we are more likely to say No to new challenges or commitments.

    How did we ever get this busy?

    If anything will quell the spread of the Christian faith it is the tepid isolationism of a life of saying NO. Cloistering within our Christian fellowships is not what our Lord Jesus intended when he commissioned us to GO. [Mathew 28:18-20]   Nor did he intend for us to be obnoxious manipulative peddlers of the gospel. But he does intend for us to be in the world, yet not of it.

    So what’s it going to be? Yes… or No? If Yes, then you will look forward to the exciting, scary, risky experiences Christ is creating for you even now. If NO, then you will live in fear and trembling that, one day, God may call you out of your safety zone and plop you in over your head. What are you going to do then?

    Growing a habit of Yes is a safety zone. Mostly.  Naugh, all the time!

Honor God, honor people…, say YES,

Gary

Tepid

http3a2f2fmashable.com2fwp-content2fgallery2foffice-mysteries2fcoffeering.jpg     You know that reaction when you’re working and forgot your coffee and you just want one more sip?!? You put your lips to the rim and start a sip, and…, ugh— tepid. Lukewarm at best. Not even worth trying another sip. It’s not going to get better. And the thought of nuking it, again, is sooo unappealing. Tea-bags start to dance in your head. Stop it!

     Sadly, some of the people we know can be described as tepid. Lack-luster, insipid, dull, bland, colorless, wishy-washy. Too many Christians come across like this; they call it humility; for some, it truly is; but for too many, it is not. It’s wariness about life that robs it of its joy. We are so afraid of sinning (word needs further explanation) that we don’t do anything that might be judge-able by others. [Yet, as I remember, our sins have been forgiven.] Yesterday’s coffee… .

     There are many issues between those of us within the Christian Faith and “the world.” Our beliefs about reality are of substantial divergence. We believe reality was created by God. We believe science & religion are not in opposition. We believe all creation has intrinsic value. We believe human beings reflect our Creator in more ways than we could imagine.

     It should be obvious that we believe that people have turned away from God’s principles for living and are in need of restoration. We see that restoration made possible through the life changing sacrifice of Christ to pay for the penalty of our rebellion against God.

     This should be reason enough for great rejoicing and celebration. But we don’t live that way. Too many of us live as if we are constantly guilty for falling short of what God has for us. In our desire to be humble before our God we have lived defeated, broken lives. TEPID.

     Normal people don’t see the use of Christianity. We’re no different than they are; just more judgmental. Why bother?!?

     Something must be done to restore the joy of our salvation. But what?

     Because we are so different, with different personalities, cultures, and gifts, I think I’ll leave that for you to figure out. You’re probably tired of me and my lists of suggestions anyway. [Not that I won’t go back to them next week.]

     You know that feeling when you pick up a wet dish-rag in the sink after it’s been sitting there all day? Not warm, not cold? Just blech! That’s too many of us. Suggestions welcome. With HOT coffee, please.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

91119

4428688046_baabbdcaa4_b     Eighteen years ago America’s soil was violated in a three pronged terrorist attack that left many of us stunned. Most of us have recovered. Some of us weren’t even born. But this attack changed the way we viewed our safety, our stability, and our place in the world.

But what have we learned? We learned that our homeland is not impervious to attack. That 2,977+ Americans dies that morning. That wars are not always waged between nations but between ideologies. That ancient and extreme forms of Islam are alive and practiced today. Some barbarous. That America has some sins to be atoned. [We’re not a perfect pious country.] That many peoples around the world truly hate us and our way of life. They may have a point.

From our point of view, we created a lot of enemies that day. The reality is that we already had them.

Now let’s run ahead 18 years and look back. We are still fighting a war with certain branches of Islam. No resolution. Yet! But our God is full of surprises.

Most of us have been enemies of God for much of our lives. But God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]  Even genuine Christians remain enemies in some areas of our lives. Hey, we’re only human! No. For too much of our lives we are worse than that. Nonetheless, Christ calls us to walk honorably before him, to care for widows and orphans, to feed the poor…, and to forgive our enemies.

It is the evil that invades our hearts and ensnares us that is the enemy of Christ; and ours too. We dare not lose sight of that.  Ever.

Many in the West don’t give much credence to good & evil. They’re just constructs of the mind and definitions we use to label us vs. them. SERIOUSLY! So men are neither good nor evil. We are neutral. Really?!? History records otherwise.

So as we commemorate this 9-11 remembrance let’s remember who the real enemy is; not Islam, not the radical right or left, not home grown terror. It is the evil that under-rides the world and the entire universe seeking to destroy us and divide us and take away any remembrance of God and his redemption.

Bastard!

If you are a genuine follower of Christ you have been set free from your rebellion and rejection of his holiness. You do not have to hate or hold grudges or ancient animosities. You can chose to live a life that makes a difference among men, that forgives wrongs done, that prevents future conflicts. Now get on with it.

Honor God, honor people…, and be a pain in Satan’s ass,

Gary

NEXTTEPID

Of Cubes and Chaos: Stepping up our Game

134294One of the oddities of our day, or maybe every era, is that genuine Christians never seem to rise to the occasion. We wait to see what happens before we respond or step in. To my way of thinking we need to step up our game. We need to be leaders within our culture and community, not waiting to see how things go and then reacting.

     One of the causes of this is that we are too wrapped up in church work. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but if it keeps us from our primary mission of drawing people to Christ then something is seriously wrong. We create a comfortable confined faith imprisoning ourselves from the world out there. I never saw Jesus draw that us/them dichotomy.

     In the world, but not of it. Remember?

     So…, how do we step up our game?  Some thoughts—

     Start by cutting back. You are probably excessively frantic & over-committed. [Aren’t we all?]  You will never be able to have an effect on your surrounding community unless you make time for them— and that means cutting.

     Listen to people around you; friends, neighbors, work associates, waitresses. Learn from them. It may take a while before they open their lives to you, but there will come a time when you become a safe person for them. Wait for it. Wait for it.

     Up your silence before the Lord. Listen more before him than you ask for things. ‘Nough said.

     Find someone with a common mind and heart to yours; someone who shares your passion for this world and the people in it. Meet often. Talk about your discouragements too.

     Never forget that our Adversary prowls about like a roaring lion who wants to eat you up. [1 Peter 5:8]

     Finally, stick to it; stay committed. It is too easy to become distracted and exhausted when our Lord calls you to make a difference.

     There will always be challenges-to-complacency in life. Don’t give in to the illusion of safety.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary