Psalm 15-Slander and Evil

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15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
     [He] who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
      How often does my heart turn to the dark side? To inwardly seek revenge, retribution, retaliation?!? Years after claiming Christ’s grace as my own I still seek to lord something over another, to seek my own pleasure, to gain notice for success. I, who claim to be in service of the God most high, still seek a place in the sun. How often have we spoken in a derogatory way about our fellow Christians? How often have we questioned the integrity of others just to look good ourselves?
      God forgive me. And us.
      O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?  Who indeed! Our world calls this slander, and there is no place for it among us. Confession is good for more than just the soul. It is good all the way ‘round.
      Our neighbors, likewise, deserve our respect and protection. When Starr and I lived in Amherst, MA, we knew all our neighbors, so did our kids. Everyone had a key to everyone else’s house; we shared a community 22’ ladder, show blowers, power washers, tillers, ropes, and garden vegetables. And there were no fences. Where we live now is all fences. Building our community takes a little more work, but we’re getting there.
      This pandemic has provided us with great opportunities to serve those around us. How could we ever do evil to those we love who live next door? Still, I understand not all neighborhoods are like ours; but we could try to make them that way.
      A reproach against a friend enforces the previous two phrases to mark the seriousness of accusing someone of a serious deed. If this happens to you, there better be an uncontestable proof that the criticism is true. If it is true, own up to your failures. If it is not, you must stand your ground and rebuke your accuser. Gently, quietly.
      Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? Indeed! Certainly few. By the qualifiers set forth so far, none of us would make the cut. But thanks be to God! All has been provided for us through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ!
      Unlike every other religion in the world, our God has provided a way for us to approach Him without proving ourselves. He paid the price for our rebellion and rejection of His rule over our lives. HE is our provision at the entrance way of heaven, to be received by our Father!
      Welcome home, son. Welcome home, daughter.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
 
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT– Making the Cut

Define Blameless, Psalm 15

large-inmate-get-out-of-jail-free-card15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart.

      Throughout history we have refined the blame-game into a glorious art-form. She did it! The devil made me do it! It’s not my fault. That’s right. Blame the other guy. He did it.

      There is, however, a way out of this insidious cycle.

  1. Walk blamelessly.
  2. Do what is right.
  3. Be honest with yourself.

Let’s look at these three solutions more in depth.

      Walk Blamelessly. Easily said; not so simply accomplished. On the surface it means we cannot enter the blame-game; on a deeper level it is a challenge to live life as morally pure. Not morally pure as possible, morally pure.  None of us can do that, even with Christ’s forgiveness. Since the first humans, our nature is to cut across God’s perimeters of protection for us and to do what we want.

      Fortunately, God has provided us a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card through Christ’s sacrifice for our rebellion on the cross. We are forgiven.

      Do what is Right. There is a line in the Jack Ryan movie series, in Clear and Present Danger, when Harrison Ford confronts a fellow senior government official and yells, “No! It’s right or it’s wrong!” If God’s Truth has been inscribed on our hearts since Creation then every human being is accountable before Him to do what is right. We know that. Social Anthropologists aside, we know. Now let’s DO IT.

      Be honest with yourself. This is the most difficult thing to do before a Holy God. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we deserve nothing from our Creator; no blessing, no honor, no forgiveness, certainly no heaven.

      The question has never been “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?” Quite to the contrary, “Why should a loving & just God let anyone into His heaven?” If you don’t get this then you’ve created God in your own image, instead of the other way around.

      Thankfully, there’s Jesus. In a synagogue in Nazareth, where He was raised, He read from Isaiah (ch.42)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…”

      This is what He has done for us. Shouldn’t we at least try to do what He asks in Psalm 15?

Walk blamelessly, do what is right, be honest with yourself,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Making the Cut: … slander & evil

Prayer from The Lutheran Prayer Book

empulse lutherIN TIME OF PESTILENCE.

    O Lord God, the giver of our health, it is only of thy mercy that we have so much health continued after the manner in which we have lived. And oh how just were it with thee utterly to take away that health from us which we have so greatly abused, to a forgetfulness of thee and wantonness against thee!

    How justly mightest thou smite us with sharp and noisome diseases, which our nature most abhorreth; to hurry us out of the land of the living, and put a sorrowful end to our wretched days! But, O thou Hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble, regard not our ill-deserts; but remember thy own tender mercies and gracious promises; and take pity on us, and turn away this plague from us.

        Put a stop to the raging pestilence, and say to the destroying angel, “It is enough;” that we may not be afraid of the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flies by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday: but, with calmness in our minds and gladness in our hearts, may serve thee faithfully and cheerfully all our days, and devote our spared lives, which we have begged at thy hands, and our health and every mercy, to thy honor and glory, through the strength and the righteousness of thy dear Son, our most compassionate and prevailing Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

~Benjamin Kurtz, The Lutheran Prayer Book of 1860

      This prayer in times of pestilence should need no further clarification. “Nough said.” Nonetheless, forgive me if I engage your minds a bit further.

      The times were not that different in the 1860s than they are today. Japan was experiencing enormous changes as their Meiji Restoration reshaped society. In Latin America, the Paraguayan War was the bloodiest in the region’s history. The American Civil War raged from 1861-1865 brought death on both sides (North/South) with the introduction of mechanized weaponry. Malaria plagued the construction of the Suez Canal, killing thousands. These were perilous times in the world, as they are today.

      This Coronavirus is devasting our ways of life. With over 1,000,000 cases worldwide, and almost 60,000 deaths worldwide, this is a major pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in a century. We are ALL affected by it. It is time we give ourselves to wisdom in our actions and prayer in our spirits.

      The attitude of this prayer pointed true Christians to look to Jesus’ tender mercies and gracious promises. It pleaded to Put a stop to the raging pestilence and say It is enough! And then called us to neither be afraid of the terror by night nor the arrow that flies by daybut with calmness in our minds and gladness in our hearts, may we serve thee faithfully and cheerfully all our days.

      Would to God that this could be our manner and mindset today.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Making the Cut: Psalm 15

what’s happened to us? fear of engaging

gambar-1-27      Fear of engaging. Maybe it goes back to some fear in our childhood? Or to the Silent Generation, who could barely say anything after witnessing the horrors of the Second World War.

      One of the reasons our evangelical world first developed four-point gospel outlines (1949) was literally to put words into the mouths of those who could barely speak, or just simply didn’t want to talk anymore. It was truly a silent time in our land. [Coincidentally, the phrase daily quiet time also emerged at this time.] Or our silence could have been a result of the McCarthy investigations into possible Communist sympathizers. This laid the groundwork for the Cold War of the 50s–60s.

      Today, in 2020, Christians in the West still have difficulty, if not blatant fear, of engaging the world around us. We might not know what to say. We might not know the answers to their questions. We don’t know how to lead them to Christ. Worse yet, we may not know even one normal person (read non-Christian) to engage. We just have no point of contact with normal people in a religious way.

      So we unconsciously huddle within our Christian cultures fearing any significant contact with the World. We are afraid of being tainted, tempted, or taunted. But we do not find any of this in the New Testament.

      Instead, we find Jesus’ disciples transformed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, bold to declare His deity and saving grace in the face of severe opposition, even unto death.

      What’s happened to us? Too many of the Christians I know are clueless when is comes to engaging anyone with the gospel of Christ. We steer clear of those conversations at all costs. Allow me to offer five ideas on how you can follow our Lord into people’s lives.

  1. Relax. Let the Spirit open doors for His witness. No need to tense up.
  2. Remember God is in control. You do not have to be. Nor do you have to get thru some pre-scribed gospel outline. Respond naturally using your heart and your mind.
  3. Place yourself in the midst where normal people gather. This may take some creativity while we’re in this COVID19 self-isolation period.
  4. Fall in love with people. The command to love hasn’t seemed to sink in. I find more meaning if we connect with people as if we’re in love with them, looking forward to our next meeting.
  5. Give God some room to work. Our job is to show up, be there, and love creatively.

      Our God is so full of surprises. Enjoy yourself and watch Him work.

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President

What’s Happening to Us? Time Alone

861750526_640x360  In this technological age, very few of us get the time alone we need. We neglect relationships and people in favor of time online with media, games, shopping, researching, reading, learning, and plain ol’ WEB-trolling. If things at home are difficult, we tend to immerse ourselves in work: if things at work are unpleasant, we run late, or are sick a lot. We fill our lives with entertainment and escape to avoid the harsh realities in which we move.

     With our present Coronavirus, Covid19 Pandemic our local, state, and federal governments are intentionally enforcing time alone. While a cure is being sought, we have switched to a defensive posture of confinement to curb the spread of this widespread disease.

     The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 – 1919 killed between 20-40 million lives worldwide. In America more than 675,000 died. This present coronavirus is ten times as lethal as the influenza of 100 years ago. Our present options are middling at best— isolate…, and wait for a breakthrough.

     So, what are we to do with all this alone-time forced upon us? Here are some options—

  1. Stay healthy! Eat healthy foods. Maintain some balance of exercise and rest. 10 minutes a day.
  2. Get to know yourself again. What are the really important issues you need to think about? Journal?
  3. Get to know your family again. Board games. Seriously.
  4. Serve others. Care for people who can’t or won’t go out.
  5. Be an Encourager. Pray over the phone with people. Send e-cards, bad jokes, emojis.
  6. Do not hoard. This is crazy people. Instead, share your resources. Especially toilet paper.
  7. We are all going to have to trust in God more…, even atheists. Ultimately, He is the one in control.
  8. Use wisdom and caution in all you do.
  9. Gather in small groups. Food. Movies in. Worship.
  10. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Our God is full of surprises… .

     For some of us, time alone is the norm. For others, not so much. We are all experiencing this COVID19 pandemic differently. Many lives will be lost. Maybe even yours. Get your affairs in order and your relationship with God in a safe, forgiven, restored place.

     These are the times when genuine followers of Christ can make a great difference in peoples’ lives.

     One final thought— think of giving the gift of toilet paper to your friends & neighbors.

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What’s happened to us?  Fear of engaging

What’s happening to us?

paradigm-shift2

     If you haven’t noticed, the Western world is in the midst of another paradigm shift. This time from a modern, scientifically verifiable facts, to a  postmodernpostChristian view of reality that is not related to facts or history or consents to “Ultimate Truth.” They say there is no such thing. How can they know that?

     Of course, I truly hope the people who designed this 737, and those that built it, were not so inclined but adhered to the laws of physics and flight…, especially the landing part.

     Most of us live in a world that relies on the dependability of continuous change; that is, new things are usually predicated on earlier ideas or inventions. But in a paradigm shift we experience an occurrence of discontinuous change. The NEW things are not connected to the past in any way. The automobile had as much to do with horse transportation as our smart phones have to do with landlines.

     The expressions of the Christian faith are going through a time of discontinuous change in our society. Although we hear many Christians cry for the old-ways of the liturgical calendar and liturgical worship, the fact remains that the format of faith constructed in the 400s or 1700s is not designed to face the assaults of this postChristian sensibility in which we life.

     Still, other Christians today, decry the loss of our “old-time religion.” They tell us that today’s contemporary worship service, with its culturally affinitive music and come-as-you-are mentality is nearing its end. Really?!? Oddly, Paul in his missionary journeys never considered NOT adapting his style or methodology to each new situation. Read Acts! Read Paul’s Letters! Nor did the earliest missionaries to the Far East, or to the Vikings.

     The Christian message should always couched in the idioms and formats of the host culture. When we try to import 17th century European Christianity to other cultures if always backfires. And that includes the postmodern/postChristian landscape in which we find ourselves today.

     There was nothing particularly sacred about the 100s–400s. Although a lot of Christian beliefs and practices were established in that period. Nor was there anything sacred about the 17th century. Why do we constantly try to return to their expressions of faith as if they had something we do not!?!

     We have the privilege of formulating new, multifaceted expressions of our faith for this time, our peoples, and for a world more closely woven together. Let’s get at it!

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.

Tenacity and Disruptions – Consider What I Say

jesus2bpraying “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”  2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Thinking, thinking, thinking. We do a lot of that in our evangelical enclave. We want to get things right. We want to think Biblically; from studying the Bible, to theology to worship to communication. Even Paul the apostle encourages us to consider what I say….  He must have had some sense that what he was writing carried some weight with Timothy.

     I wonder if the people I’ve taught over the years still consider the things I have said. Then again, do I still listen to the voices that come into my life? I feel like I still have a lot to learn.

     Heeding what others say to us, taking it to heart, may be just the way our Lord is driving home His point of what He has designed us for. His guidance comes in many forms— first, of course, is through the revelation we know as the Bible. That is inspired by God and binding on all humanity for all time. But the second, specific to us individually, may come from a consensus in a meeting, a whisper from your wife or husband as you nod off to sleep, or even through a little child in your neighborhood.

     Our Lord helps us understand His divine revelation and His personal guidance through many means. Do not try to tie Him down to our boxes of form and focus. He is full of surprises! I once heard the voice of God coming through an 11-year-old boy I was chatting with in a hallway at First Baptist Church, in Amherst, MA. Wasn’t looking for it, no buildup to it in our talk: just Boom! I don’t think he ever knew.

     When our Lord gives us understanding He also expects us to do something with what we now know. Has God been speaking to you about anything new through Scripture, or a non-descript 11-year-old boy, or someone else? Take heed. For as understanding comes, so does our responsibility to act.

     I end with a warning. Never put yourself in a position where you cannot hear your Father speaking to you. Stay immersed in Scripture. Have your “God’s-voice antennae” always fine tuned and ready to listen. [See I Samuel 3; Samuel, the Lord, & Eli.]

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being a Christian in a postChristian world.

Tenacity and Disruptions – Getting Dirty

download    “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”  2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Farming takes up millions of acres across our planet. It also grabs the heart of many men and women who could not imagine living in a city. They love the early mornings, the hard work that leaves dirt under their nails and sweat on their brow. At the end of the day they rest with a sense of accomplishment. At the end of harvest they are rewarded with fruits of their labor being sold at markets around the world.

     The Christian life is much like this. There are seasons of intensity when we cultivate our world to make it ready for the return of the King. We study our Bibles with concentration, we learn the power in prayer, we give ourselves to those who have no idea of what the Christian message of live and forgiveness is all about.

     But we must also take breaks from our interactions to refurbish our souls. We need time alone with God, time alone with ourselves, those we love, and a mountain retreat or a sea-breeze blown beach. It is not wrong to rest from our labors. Our souls need it. It is wrong to rest when we have done nothing to extend the message of Christ in our world.

     Christians in other areas of our world have observed how lazy Western Christians have become; how much we are prone to entertainment worship and feel-good faith. It is time we examine ourselves to see if any of these accusations apply to us…, and then to correct it.

     Ask yourself— How much do I enjoy talking with God? Listening to Him? Am I a joyful giver? Do you give at all? Do I love normal people? (Read non-Christians.) How do they know I love them? What are their names? How many friends do I have who truly know me?

     Our salvation is NOT based on what we do. But if there is little evidence in your life that you are living up to the precepts of our Lord’s principles for living…, well?

     It’s time we get our hands dirty in the real struggles of life. Ours, and others. Farming is dirty work, but what it produces provides nutrients for us all.

Honor God, honor people…, get it done.
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— thinking, thinking, thinking.

Tenacity & Disruptions-Winning the Prize

Tom_Brady_and_his_offensive_line

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”  2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Winning. For some of us, Christian & otherwise, that’s all there is. In sports, business, the church, or everyday relationships. God knows this. There is nothing wrong with winning; but contrary to Vince Lombardi, it is NOT the only thing. All athletes know that winning must be achieved only when they abide by a set of common rules.

     The same is true of the Christian life. No matter your culture, the rules of the Christian faith apply to all. Simply stated— Honor God, honor people, make a difference. More specifically—

      There is a God in the universe who wants to give us everything He has. He simply asks us to give Him everything we have; all our self-centeredness, our rebellion, and our arrogance. He wants us to admit we’ve been wrong in our rebellion against His right over our lives. He’s even provided a resolution for the chasm we’ve created between us. The Person of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our rebellion.

      Do you want to claim the death of Christ as the paid-penalty for your rebellion? That’s His question for all of us. If your answer is YES, then you get to live your life according to His rules, not your own. Then you get to win, guaranteed.

      Now that’s good news!

      If you are not so much into sports, let alone winning, then you are probably unconsciously living your life by your own rules. Learning to live by someone else’s rules may be a tough shift for you. But can you imagine that the God of the universe, who sets the rules, might know a little more about what they should be than you do? Humm.

      If each of us compete by our own rules winning becomes a matter of personal interpretation; but that’s not really winning is it? The God of the universe, our Father, wants us to live according to His rules, not our own. Remember, His rules are actually perimeters for our protection to live in this world the way He intended..

Honor God, honor people…, go for it!
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— get dirty

tenacity & disruptions: entangled

2957791455_5ef26bed52_bYou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Entanglements. We all have them. At work. At home. With kids. In church. In our neighborhoods. Life gets messy. Then it gets messier. After that, it unravels. Inner, and possible outward, chaos ensues. If you’ve lived long enough, your life can become a disheveled web of over-commitments.

     So what’s to be done?!?

     The image in our passage is that of a soldier becoming disengaged from all the entanglements of civilian life. He is in the army. The only one he must please is his commanding officer. Therefore all the commitments in his civilian life must go. That’s what the service is.

So, some questions—

  • What entangles you in your everyday life? How will you detangle yourself?
  • What must change so you will please our heavenly Father?

     We all have this tendency to over commit to too many things. All we seem to do is run, run, run. Some of us don’t have one night off a week. That’s too much. You need time to rest, to breathe, to sit down with your spouse, have a good glass of wine, and simply talk with each other.  R e l a x.

     As a side note, some of us are even to busy to pray. That’s too busy. If we are so over committed that we do not have time to spend with the One we love something is seriously out of kilter. God loves you and wants to spend time with you. And you’re going to say no time for you. Really!

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— winning the prize