The Word of the Lord came to…

One of the most repeated phrases in our Scriptures is “The Word of the Lord came to … .” [e.g. – Jeremiah 1:1-19, Ezekiel 1:3, 21:18, ].  It seems that God spoke to many of His prophets and leaders far more directly than He does today. Maybe our generation is just too dense to hear God. Or could it be that we have the Scriptures revealed to us?

     Although, there have been times when even our ancient prophets could not (or would not) hear what the Lord was saying. Numbers 22:21-34 gives us such an example. Look it up. A little embarrassing.

     Does God speak directly to us today? Some say all we need is found in Holy Writ. Nonetheless, there have been times when people have heard God speaking to them directly. What are we to do with that?!? On a personal note, some people, Christians & otherwise, have told me they were directed by God to do a certain thing; and that I was to clarify what it was they were to do. No really, put me on the spot!

     The Word of the Lord, as the Christian Bible, is a revelation to us all. God gave it to us because He knew we could not understand Him by just looking around. Scripture is clarifying God to us. He knew us, as creatures who turned our backs on His grace, and could not see His Truth in the natural world. Thus, His Word is clarified and explained in the stories, poems, actions, and letters of Scripture. Frankly, though, many of us are still clueless as to how He wants us to honor Him and love one another. The word Dense comes to mind. Worse, we read the Bible and toss it aside, writing our own rules for living.

     This is not smart. To the contrary, it is dangerous.

     Nonetheless, there are some Christians to whom God has spoken specifically— Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Paul the Apostle, Constantine, Patrick, Graham, Wimber. Personally, I heard God command me to become a Christian. [It was not a comforting voice.] Then again, to marry my wife…, 48 years ago.

     So the question bounces back to you. Have you heard God speak, individually, to you? It certainly would not be binding upon all Christians; but it would most certainly be binding upon you; as long as it does not contradict anything in Scripture.

     My suggestion? Listen carefully, seek confirmation from Church Elders, clean up your life, and obey.

NEXT— Forgiveness

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

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Defective

new-would-you-recognize-verbal-abuse-heres-what-you-need-to-know-1  Our world is full of broken people. Too many of us live our lives with shattered hopes, unmet expectations, and life disappointments. Joyous moments seem serendipitous at best. So we find solace in alcohol and drugs. I’m not talking about the seedier elements of our society; rather, the mainstream of boomers, to genX, on down to our emerging generations. We are addicted more to virtual reality than to real reality. We are defective.

    This can be traced, basically, back to our first rejection of God’s protection in the Garden. But this is too simple, too overarching an explanation. A more contemporary clarification would be our own propensity to put God out of our lives and replace Him with our own desires in life. We chose to be defective rather than safe within His security.

    There is hope, but it requires an admission that we are not whole. And we need to admit it. Defective, broken, incomplete, whatever; we are not what we could be. Redefining reality does not make it so. Get used to it.

    What we need is a hunger to be transformed beyond who we are today, into something we cannot imagine. But how do we get there? Suggestions are on the table—

  1. Reexamine your strengths. Are they still your strengths? How have they developed, changed, weakened?
  2. Reexamine your weaknesses. Come on, you have them. Can’t think of any? Ask someone who loves you.
  3. Confess your failings with God and with others. You know you have let other people down. You know you have stepped outside of the perimeters of Christ’s protection for you. Confess it. Seek restoration.
  4. Actively seek to make a difference in our world. Maybe inside the church, more likely outside it. Our society, our world, needs people like you who care and are willing to get dirty in the filth of life.
  5. Sacrifice. Doesn’t matter what. Sacrifice is different for all of us. Surrender what you do not need in the context of your own situation.
  6. Lighten up. Christ has forgiven us for our rebellion and cleansed us. Don’t heap guilt on another.
  7. Count on your holiness to come through. Christ has declared us holy (I Peter 1:16). Trust in His gift to undergird your commitments. It is amazing!
  8. Accept Christ’s forgiveness for your rebellions & failures. ‘Nough said.

    Sure, we are defective. But that is not how it is supposed to be. I truly believe that it is only the God of the Universe who can get hold of us to flip our defective characteristics into powerful ones, so that we can make a difference among those who don’t know the difference.

    Yes, we are defective. But there is always hope in Christ Jesus our Lord.

NEXT— “The word of the Lord came to me… .”

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Out of Time

But…7. ~out of time!

     THE precious commodity of our era is TIME. No one has any.

“Can you help me trim my lawn?” “Yes, but….”

“Can I talk to you about my marriage?” “Well, yes, but.”

“Could you help me put on my winter tires?” “Sure, But I just don’t have the time.”

     Sounds familiar? Doesn’t it?!?

     We live in a society where people have to schedule everything. Some of my friends want to meet me for lunch. My treat, no less. And we’re looking at 3-4-5 months out. These are friends? Are they? I’m beginning to feel more like a slot on a calendar that a friend.

     There are consequences to this kind of filled-to-capacity scheduling. On the plus side, you know what you are doing months (or years) in advance. When I was in my 20s-30s, I used to plan my days for a year in advance, color-coded by arena of operation, divided by ⅓’s of days. So it you asked me who I would be having lunch with on, say, November 14th, I could tell you. Over time, I realized I was more in control of my schedule than God. This was not a joyous discovery.

     If you will indulge me, here are some ideas on gaining more time by not cramming your schedule years deep.

  1. Learn to breathe. Like Faith Hill’s “Just Breathe…,” or Elijah after doing battle with the prophets of Baal, learn to rest, to breathe, to sleep in the safety of our Lord. [1 Kings 18-19]
  2. Schedule 1-2 hours each day where nothing is scheduled. If our Lord wants something in that time, fine. If not, take the time to rest, to relax, or to refresh yourself, your family, or a friend. You are not indispensable.
  3. Don’t do everything: share the load. DELEGATE. More likely than not, there are more people around you who are just as capable as you. Pass some of your responsibilities on to them. They will do just fine. God is with them: you don’t have to be.
  4. Be more concerned with doing the right thing, rather than doing things right. Doing the right thing is a reflection of your time with God: doing things right is an indication of your fascination with perfectionism.
  5. Remember Elsa’s song “Let it Go.” Well…, ‘nough said.

     There is a story Helen Rosevere (1925-2016) told of her early days as a medical missionary pressing into the interior of the Congo in Africa. The first day she and her porters covered such incredible distance that she thought she could make it to the Mission Station in 2 days rather than in 3. But her porters refused to move on the 2nd day, saying, “Dr. Rosevere, we must rest and wait for our spirits to catch up to our bodies.” She got the point.

     During my college days we had mandatory chapel. Dr. Robert Bartell, a speaker, quoted something I have never forgotten. “There is enough time in each day for you to do all of God’s will.”  Are you?

     You do not have to run out of time.

NEXT

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

excuses, excuses, excuses!

no saw“The cross solved our problem by first revealing our real problem, our universal pattern of scapegoating and sacrificing others. The cross exposes forever the scene of our crime.”

Richard Rohr,  Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

A more intricate way of saying BUT we’ve come to know as making excuses. We all do it; we’ve done it from the Garden of Eden onward. [Am I my brother’s keeper?] The dog ate my homework. Really?!? And we actually believe people will believe us.

To be sure, some excuses are legitimate. The dog and nuclear holocaust are not one of them. The funny thing is that we make excuses to God for the things we’ve left undone, or for the things we’ve committed ourselves to do and haven’t. It’s one thing to say you’ll take out the trash or cut the grass; it’s quite another to swear an oath, or make a promise to God and not follow up on it.

This can become a very dangerous game with rather austere consequences.  DO NOT PLAY.

Psalm 15, a psalm of David, puts it quite eloquently for us—

1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

 He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;

 He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he 
take up a reproach against his friend;

 In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

 He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

 He who does these things shall never be moved.

I’ve highlighted the phrase that we all need to take to heart…, and put into practice.  No excuses.

NEXTHonor God, honor people…, make a difference,

But…. I’m Afraid

Fear grips us. It transcends every emotion and dominates our lives. Severe fear immobilizes us. Momentary fear startles us and leaves us with a temporary (or not) sense of exhaustion. Long term fear dissipates our energies and leaves us in a state of anxiety about anything new. This is the worst kind of fear. Seek help from a professional counselor for this one. It is more than spiritual— it is truly evil. 

~ Gary Davis, When There’s Nothing Left.

    Ever since I wrote this paragraph my empathy for those who live in fear every day of their lives has grown. How do they do it? Maybe you’re one of them. Scripture tells us that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. [Proverbs 9:10] But this is not that kind of fear. This fear wells up from deep within. It overwhelms everything we do— our thoughts, our confidence, our relationships, the way we drive (unless you’re in Boston or LA], our self-esteem, our ability to get anything done. This fear grips our soul and perpetuates itself.

    The difficulty comes when you try to break free of this spider web of venom saturated virulence. It is no simple matter. Allow me to offer some discoveries I’ve learned through counseling.

  1. For a Christian, you can trust in God for His resolution from the terror. Sadly, many of us don’t. We do not truly believe He can take away our fear, or even walk with us through it. I would point you to Psalm 42. The writer admits his fears and depression and goes on to fight his dire condition with Hope. Seriously, give it a try.
  2. Whether you keep these things more to yourself or talk them to death, you should seek help from a true listener who has perspective and older wisdom. Yes, older. Your college buddies or business drinking buddies just won’t do the trick. You must act on this. And that presumes a prior decision to trust. Not so easy.
  3. Get outside of yourself. I’ve known runners who run to hide. They tell me it actually helps…, for a little while. It separates them from their fears in physical exertion; but it’s still there.
  4. Go see AVENGERS: endgame. Trust me…, you think you’ve have problems!?!
  5. Switch your prayers from petition to practical meditation. Not the kind where you empty yourself of everything, but the kind where you open yourself to the God of the universe…, and listen. Intently. I process externally and get a load of stuff off my heart (mind) on long walks in the mountains; then I can hear Him more clearly. Oh, wait! You live in Boston?!? Bummer. Try the beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea. You live in Kansas? My prayers are with you.
  6. At least get a good massage. It will be the best $100 you’ll spend this week. A darkened room, soft music, and tranquil separation from the world outside.
  7. Sorry, you really do need to do more than breathing exercises. You need our Lord and someone who cares enough about you to listen.

NEXT— Excuses, excuses, excuses! 

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

But…BUTT OUT!!

black-man-yelling-into-phone-500x295

Ok, OK…, this “butt” piece may not be what I intended when I first started writing this whole series, but it seemed to fit. Why— because sometime you don’t want to deal with all the crazies nosing around or interfering in your business. You simply want people to BUTT OUT!!!

    In this over-connected techno era it seems like everybody has access to your information, your identity, your very personal and financial documents. You can run, but you cannot hide. More and more, the concept of personal privacy is being challenged. How much information about you do governments, clothing lines, credit card companies, medical practitioners and medical insurers, even grocery stores have a right to know about you, let alone, the right to share with their “partners”?!?

    Hamlet, in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, once pondered “To be, or not to be. That is the question.” Today that question would be more like “To be known, or not to be known.” A young bride once said to me that the greatest fear she had of getting married was being known.

    It’s not so much that knowledge is power, as it is the withholding of information, knowledge, is power. Too many prying eyes, too many internet connections, have made us a culture of isolationists. LEAVE ME ALONE! BUTT OUT! If you think privacy on the internet is an issue, try personal privacy in life. We crave personal privacy, personal space, and, not unexpectedly, a deepening desire to be alone, to be silent, tranquil, in a serene, safe place. Not easily accessed in our open-faced society.

    Some of us even want God to Butt-Out. He becomes too intrusive in our lives, always interfering with what we want, with our rights and pleasures. Does he really know what’s best for us? Who says? Well, he does. Contrary to popular opinion, God is not sitting up in heaven trying to think of ways to take the fun out of life, or steal our joy, or rob us of our pleasure. More likely than not, he is trying to protect us from ourselves. One of the consequences of wanting our own way, with no acknowledgement of the perimeters-of-protection he has set in place for us is that we are left to our own undoing. Ignoring Christ’s principles for living is simply not a smart move. Telling the Lord God Creator, in essence, to butt-out, is quite dangerous.

    Sitting humbly before him to learn is a much wiser choice. And safer.

    Your move.

NEXT— But I’m afraid.

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

Lese Majesty Notre Dame Cathedral

notre dame
(Photo credit LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

     This is the image that blazed across our local newspaper in Colorado Springs this morning. Like many of us, it pierced my heart. I’m not that much a religious person, but I am a genuine Christian, one who doesn’t strap his faith onto the rest of his life; rather one who integrates his faith into everything he does.

     What struck me about this picture, being part art historian, is the juxtaposition of the alter, the cross, the statue of Mary holding her son Jesus, with the total devastation that lay at their feet. What a depiction of our present world’s quandary.

     Within less than 3 days of this tragedy, almost one billion dollars has been raised to rebuild this Parisian landmark. Pledges have poured in from across the world, from small churches in Arkansas, to major European conglomerates, to individuals, to tycoons, to common folk.  This incredible generosity bespeaks of the love and honor that people held for this global landmark— this personification of Paris. As one Parisian said,

 “Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations.” [https://wnep.com/2019/04/15/first-photos-show-damage-inside-notre-dame-cathedral/]

May God bless all those who are contributing to the restoration of this majestic icon of Western Civilization!

     But what of the ruble that lay at the foot of the cross, at the feet of Jesus? These are the 850 year old oak beams that held the roof of the cathedral, now devastated and burned. What can replace them? Surely not more oak beams. But what?

     In so many ways this is an image of our postChristian world. A billion dollars will easily repair the cathedral, but what of the lives of people who have lost faith in their church, in their personal relationship and trust in God? What of them? What will become of them? A billion dollars doesn’t come near to rebuilding or restoring, their faith.

     I put it to you that genuine Christians around the world have a responsibility to reexamine their faith in the God of the universe who has created and who will restore all things to an greater glory, even greater than this glorious Notre Dame. We have the responsibility to repair and rebuild the faith of so many who have lost faith in Christ in these pluralistic and often convoluted times.

     So as we contribute to repairing this magnificent cathedral, may we also spend some time, and money, rebuilding others’ lives, to honor God, in Christ Jesus. May this tragedy remind us again of our mission to bring this broken, charred world to the offer of a new life in the Lord who sustains it all— Jesus Christ!

A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully.
[John 10:10 CEV]

HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED!

Gary