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…”.  

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

Of Cubes & Chaos: Forgiveness

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737 Another side of my Cube simply reads FORGIVE. It is important for us to remember how difficult it is to do that. We may say we forgive; but then we harbor a grudge, or a slander, or cast a shadow, for decades. We “share” a concern about the one who wronged us with others considering him/her for promotion or something; not fully trustworthy, possibly. Remember Truthiness?

     Our reality is that we haven’t actually forgiven that group or individual. So we disparage them to others. Subtle, isn’t it. Maybe not so much.

     Which is more challenging— to offer forgiveness, or to seek it? Two sides of the same coin? Over my life-span I’ve noticed that the people who are more willing to admit wrong, and seek forgiveness, are also those who forgive others more readily.

     But there will always be those who find it virtually impossible to admit wrong, or seek forgiveness whatsoever. Why? I think it has to do with their self-worth. If they admit to being wrong that somehow diminishes their personhood; it becomes a matter of personal pride.

     Some people simply cannot see themselves as wrong…, ever. That would make them less of a person; it would throw spurious doubt on their perfection. (Which they know, deep down, they are not anyway.) FYI— I was perfect once! For about 5 minutes in April of 1987. (You’d better be laughing.)

     To err is human (Duh!) To screw up is even more human. To forgive is not. It takes a special strength to confess you are wrong about something. You are going to need God on this one. Prayer matters.

     My wife and I have a principle we’ve tried to abide by our entire marriage. Always be the first to say you’re sorry; especially when you know you’re right.” 

     We admit we’re wrong much more readily now.

     “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

NEXT—   paradigm positioning— where are we?

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

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,

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…. an introduction

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An excuse is a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. ~Billy Sunday

But… . ~an introduction

     We’ve become a myriad of excuses. We need to be a world of actions! But, no, it’s easier to make excuses than to follow through on what we’ve committed to. I am as guilty of it as you. For my mornings, the graphic for this article says it all. Seriously, I don’t want coffee in the morning: I NEED coffee!

     “But…!” ummmmmm. Right.

     But we never did it that way before.

     But I was too tired.

     But my support staff did not arrive in time.

     But I ran out of time.

     But I wanted it.

     But honey… .

     But God… . [Lot’s more on this.]

     But, But, BUT!  Sometimes I feel like we’ve left off a “t.”

     We’ve become so good at making excuses that we should all have a Masters Degree in the Arts for our accomplishments.

     This series will shift radically from the problems we face with communicating with our own culture, let alone to another one, and turn our attention to a unilateral human problem— making excuses. First, we’ll look at a series of people who DID NOT make excuses. Then, we’ll study the psychology of WHY we make excuses. Finally, we’ll examine some of the excuses we make and WHY we make them.

     So if you’re one who never makes excuses, you can skip this series and wait for the next one on lies we tell ourselves…, & God.

     BUT, preliminarily, let’s define our terms.

An excusedef. transitive verb

1ato make apology for

  bto try to remove blame from

 [Mirriam-Webster Dictionary]

     So, how’s your excuse-quotient these days? Up to snuff? Most of us are so good at making excuses we are not even aware we are doing it. Tune in next time for some discouraging examples of people who pushed through!

NEXT— “But... people who offered no excuse.”

No buts…,

Gary

It’s not easy being green

kermit     If you’ve been challenged by this call to develop a postChristian Gospel, please know that it has been something I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. Remaining true to the Biblical/historical constructs of our faith, and to the Church, while trying to acclimate our message into yet another cultural context is no easy matter. Wycliffe Bible Translators face this challenge with every new language group they encounter; as did early Western Christian missionaries trying to introduce Western Christian constructs to Eastern and African cultures). Our difficulty is in recognizing that our postChristian era has developed its own culture and language group, based on its basic premise that there are no absolute truths; there is no meta-narrative to explain all of reality; there is no one singular system of belief that can encompass the grand diversity of human experience. At this point, of course, genuine Christians must disagree and still engage with the prevailing points of view.
     It is thus, at this point of division, that we must still follow our Lord into this world’s various cultures, adapting His time-tested message to be understood within the grand diversity of human experiences. This is not a task to be taken on lightly, let alone naively. Our message can neither be too complex to be grasped by the simple, nor can it be so simple that its matrix, woven throughout human history and into both ends of eternity, be lost in “the simple gospel,” with no context outside of the Creation/Fall/Redemption/Fulfillment rubric. That is why we must end our consideration of a postChristian Gospel with a reference to BEING GREEN.
     Being green, surprisingly, refers to more than environmental/ecological responsibility. The framework to which I refer comes from a 1969 musical piece sung by Kermit the Frog, Ring-master of Jim Henderson’s MUPPETS. I encourage you to watch it; go to-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpiIWMWWVco&feature=related to view our hero sing it in his own croaks.] “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.” (lyrics by Joe Rapposo)
     In the song, Kermit’s point is this- that he may not like the way he is, blending in, often passed over, ordinary; but this is the way he is and that’s that. He is the color of Spring; he is cool & friendly-like. And though as a frog he is small, he can be big, like an ocean, or important, like a mountain. He is green, and that’s just fine. Engaging the postChristian heart is a lot like being green. We may not be too good at it, we certainly don’t fit into our culture’s predominant mindset, but we have to remain true to who we are, to what we believe, and to be what Christ has designed us to be in the grand scheme of things. We are each called upon and designed to play our part in the daily activities of the Lilly Pond. Some days we just sit around and zap flies with our tongues; other days we may run into those postmodern Bull Frogs that beat up on us and take away our pad, trying to push us out of the operations of the Pond entirely. Nonetheless, God has plopped many of us in the middle of the postChristian Pond and expects us to live up to our responsibilities as a vital part of this society’s nurturing and development. We are here to bring Christ’s peace, forgiveness, and new life to the rest of the Pond. We may not like the taste of fresh fly on our tongue…, but we’d better get used to it if we’re going to make a difference.
     There remains yet one more thing to consider- merely practical suggestions on how to be who you are, within your own personality, family, church, and society, as you endeavor to translate the Christian message into postChristian-speak.
_____________________________________________
Play Time
1.      How do you befriend a person who is in pain and/or angry?

2.      To the best of your recollection, what is the Christian Gospel?
a.       Now find someone who is NOT a Christian and ask them what it is.
b.      Tell them your understanding of the Gospel. Ask for their feedback.
3.      Interview people, Christian and otherwise, about the statement- The only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths. What did you learn?
4.      Ask people if they have overriding principles that govern their actions. Learn.
5.      How are your overriding principles apparent in your actions?
6.      Given that throughout history the Christian faith has adapted to fit into every people group, culture and era around the world, what do you think of the idea of a postChristian Gospel? Is it opening Pandora’s Box?
7.      To what extent is our message a mind-to-mind transfer of information leading to a decision to follow Christ? To what extent is it a heart-to-heart thing leading to an encounter with Christ that can be explained later?
8.      In what circumstances is a problem-solving model of the gospel more appropriate? In what circumstances is a fulfillment model more appropriate?
9.      How do you discover the presuppositions and assumptions a person holds about life and the Christian interpretation of life?
10.  How simple is the Gospel? How expansive could it be?
11.  How are you doing at being in the world, but not of it?
12.  Where do you have a tough time bein’ green?

NEXT TIME~ AFTERTHOUGHTS: my best ideas come to me in the shower
…mostly green,
Gary