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…. 

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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

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 & Chaos: tempus fugit

2013nov28_macro-11-13_0016-as-smart-object-1   Since the American Holiday, Labor Day, is fast approaching it might be in all of our interests to take a look at our TIME and how we handle it. Therefore I thought this image of the inner workings of a timepiece would be an apropos starting point.
     Granted, recent scientific research by José Senovilla and his team has postulated that time is slowing down and will eventually stop (1), it will probably not happen in our lifetime. So you will eventually be on time for just about everything. Mostly..
     Still, the unofficial start of the new year, FALL, is just around the corner. And we all know how September kicks everything into high gear. So, here are some wise (?) suggestions on how to stay sane as your body runs away from you.

1.       Remember that God created Time so you do not have to do everything. Just some things.
2.       There is enough time in each day for you to do all of God’s will. So…?
3.       Remember Gordon McDonald’s People classification-

a.       Very Resourceful People- they ignite your passion.
b.       Very Important People- they share your passion.
c.       Very Trainable People- they catch your spiritual passion.
d.       Very Nice People- they enjoy your passion.
e.       Very Draining People- they sap your spiritual passion.
Choose wisely who you spend your time with.

4.       Plan ½ day off, a whole day off if you can get it, throughout the Fall. You know you need it.
5.       Allow someone minister to you; remember Elijah & the prophets of Baal? [I Kings 18-19]
6.       DELEGATE! Delegate! Delegate! Let it go, let it go!
7.       Pray often with your spouse, a friend, or alone in your car.
8.       Eat right. Sleep right. Pray wisely. ‘nough said,
9.       Get off your butt and MOVE!
10.   STOP.

     Fall will fall upon you no matter how well you think you are prepared. Get ready. Pace yourself. Breathe.

Honor God, honor people…, and, again, breathe…, in, out, in, out,

Gary
NEXT– Paradigm Positioning 4: stepping up our game. 

Of Cubes and Chaos: Paradigm Positioning 3- Dashed Dreams

   When I was in sixth grade I had a crush on a girl. She looked a lot like this. Carla Jean Stewart- the love of my life…, in fifth grade. Alas, it was not meant to be. She moved, I moved. Never saw her again. My dreams of a bright future with my precious blue-eyed blonde crush were never to be.
     Dashed dreams of childhood.
     Since then I have known many dashed dreams- some of them more devastating than others. But I recovered, mostly. Today they’re just an ancient memory. And I’ve learned something.
     Dreams are fun, fanciful, wonderful diversions from our realities. And it is good to dream them. (Most of them.) Some might even come true. Most, though, will hide in the back right corner of our minds and pop up later on in life. Like now.
     I don’t dream of young beautiful blondes anymore; actually, I married one! But she was a brunette by the wedding. I didn’t care. She was perfect for me! She was God’s gift to me. Still is. Who cares about hair color!?!
     Had I pined for my childhood crush I would have never met my wife. And if any of us hang on to a past love, dream, fantasy, etc., we will miss the better things our Father has in store for us. When I was first in ministry, I could see no other future for my life outside of the ministry’s opportunities for service. Little did I understand how I had adjusted my dreams to fit their realities, limiting both God and myself. What I am doing today is so far beyond who I was back then. What a surprise.
     The monkey on the vine image still holds true. Sometimes you have to let go of the last vine before you can reach out and grab the next one. Or, as we’re more apt to say around here- God is full of surprises…, don’t trust Him. And if you believe that I’ll send you Zac Efron’s cell number.
     Dashed dreams simply clear the way for you to move beyond your limited perspective to a more expansive, wilder, Christ-infused vision.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and watch your doors to be blown off.  [Proverbs 3:5-6. Sorta.]
     Dashed dreams are mere hints that you should be dreaming bigger, wilder, adventurous ways of God.
     Get with the program.

Honor God, honor people…, and watch out for flying doors,

Gary

NEXT— Paradigm Positioning 4: stepping up our game. 

Of Cubes & Chaos: Paradigm Positioning

authograph-world-map-projection-4

    Ever see a map of the world that looks like this one? Probably not. This is one of the 2D maps that keeps the positions of the continents in correct proportion.

    Unlike the Mercator map (see below) which keeps the longitude and latitude parallels in line & makes Greenland look pretty much like the biggest continent on the face of the planet, whereas the AuthaGraph map is concerned with representing the continents in proper proportion to one another.

    This is a major shift in how we image, or imagine our planet to appear in a 2D format. It requires us to think differently.map 2

    For many of us this amounts to a new way of perceiving. It forces us to consider a new paradigm of the placing of the continents.

    The same kind of paradigm positioning is now thrust upon the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church has known for quite some time that she is no longer a dominant force in the world in a political sense. But she still holds the power of God to change cultures and individual lives. We need to learn a new way of intermingling that is in keeping with the new paradigms of our changing cultural attitudes to our faith.

    We need to position ourselves within a new way of perceiving, and of being perceived, in our rapidly changing world. ALL Christian witness is predicated on the following factors: Scripture, culture, personality, relationships, and the power of God at work in us, individually, and globally. Over the centuries, the Church has grown more organizationally than spiritually: as such, it has become more concerned with quantifiable control than empowered presence. This is an imbalance and must be adjusted.

    But how?!?  Might I suggest that we start by losing our fear and judgmentalism and learn to love our healthy pagan neighbors as themselves— the way Jesus loved people. His love was full of compassion, passion, patience, truth and grace. Should our love be any less than that?

    That’s right, even the way we love people has to change. Paradigm positioning is real.

NEXT— Paradigm Positioning 2…

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