Category Archives: Personal

Why?

In my later years have been accused of being a little over inquisitive. I ask questions which cause seeming discomfort to myself and those who I ask. Asking why is the measure of my quest.  I can look up the how; there is always a video on YouTube to show me that.  I can weigh all the factors like my bank account and my calendar to determine the when.  I can even analyze the best person to do the how.  But when it comes to why, that question is different. 

Why? Why? Why? Any statement of fact can well be answered by the dreaded “WHY”. I was never satisfied with the, “because I said so,” in response to why I needed to clean my room. There is always a question in my mind. I can be annoying if you are the victim of most of them.  I am a curious sort and want to know everything: its origin, meaning, cause, and consequence. It can be profound or mundane. I have asked the great questions of life (or so I think) and also the base queries about ordinary stuff.

My why today is about the motive of those who express themselves in response to those around us.  It has been called peer pressure, or crowd think, or herd mentality. Why do we seem to want the acceptance of everyone around us even it may cut at the edge of public morality and personal ethic?  Why loot a store just because someone else broke the glass in the first place.  Why go along with the crowd and carry signs of solidarity with those who know little about? Why complain about the amount of cows that are in danger of being slaughtered when your own ox in the ditch (to use a biblical expression)? Or like Jesus said why worry about the speck in the eye of someone else when you have a log in your own.

I will keep asking why.  And if you don’t want to answer, Why not?

How do I find intimacy with God?

Sermons just don’t do it for me anymore. For that matter the music or should I say spiritual songs, don’t do it for me either.  I have served as a preacher in five churches of various lengths and sizes.  It was overwhelming experience to which I have always accounted as both a privilege and call. To translate the difficult and make it plain and relevant is a task not to be taken lightly.  I am fully aware of the time which must be expended to reach that perfect balance between deep theology and practical understanding. It is a gift from God to both the preacher and those who submit themselves each Sunday. They come to fill their spiritual bread baskets full for the week. They depend on the preacher to fill infuse them to carry on for a little while longer.

Years have come and gone.  Hundreds of messages, prayer meeting studies, Sunday School lessons and Bible studies have been completed. I continually study, build and prepare messages.  Weekly Bible study for the men in our church requires just as much time and preparation as preaching; or maybe even more.  And if the truth be known, these studies are more preaching than a shared study. A few faithful shows up each week and seem to be challenged.  Some are even studying ahead.  One even told me that the studies has caused him to dig deeper.  

As I recollect on the nearer present, I am not quite as enthused.  I don’t get much out of the messages as presented in church.  Sure, there is evidence of study and all the video clips are well placed, but they are not doing it for me. There is nothing new.  There is nothing challenging.  I am easily distracted and the slow pace of the sermon allows my mind to wander.  I guess I would rather read a well thought out argument, than to listen to one more three point, fill in the blank sermon.

I connect to God by working. My connection to God is more focused and more intimate when I am doing for Him. I find true joy in study and passing on that knowledge, that wisdom on to others.  It is not enough to just accumulate a vast amount of facts and illustrations.  There is a true joy in helping someone else to light the fire of their own intellectual pursuits.

So, I am at a quandary.  Do I just keep on going to church to be seen by my brothers and sisters?  Does the effort equal any reward?  I can well fill my own basket.  I share from my basket and it never seems to run out.  I feel an inner satisfaction with the supply by God.  I read voraciously the great preachers; I am challenged by the great hymns of the church.  I long for a church which challenges me more and coddles me less.

Where do I find intimacy with God? It is in my books, in my study, in the crafting of words to would challenge others.  I guess that is good enough.

a goose and guilt

Quite a few years ago I toyed with the idea that I could enjoy golf. I was wrong, but that is another story. I was in Reno, Nv and after I had picked up a set of fourth-hand clubs and headed off to the local public golf course. It sits adjacent to Reno International Airport in the apex between the North and West runways. Reno for its relatively mild winter weather was filled in every green spot with non-migratory geese. The fairways was just the place for them to eat grass and leave their little gifts of grey and white clumps along the fairway.

I think it was on the fourth or maybe the fifth hole I was ready to tee off and my attention was diverted by the sound of thirty or more geese landing in the fairway before me. They were close enough that my shot would easily clear the flock. I put the ball, a brand new one just purchased from the office, on the tee, sized up the shot and let it rip. In golf parlance it was a hedge hopper. It took one hop and hit a goose in the head. There was an immediate feeling of guilt.

Guilt does terrible things to a believer in God. But it was not my fault. But I still felt bad very bad. Even after running up to the now struggling goose to retrieve my ball the shame of it all was almost overpowering. I started to second guess myself, my unworthiness to strike on of God’s creatures had destroyed my will to continue my game.

In the Old Testament the Hebrews had a sacrificial system that was to cover over their sin. To make them no longer responsible. But it was not helping for the individual to deal with their guilt. I was like those Hebrews of old that was struggling with a conscience that would not give peace.

In the book of Hebrews I have since found the solution to the sense of guilt or shame. Hebrews 9:13,14 The blood of goats and bulls and ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from act of that lead to death, so the we may serve the living God.

What is the solution to shame and guilt from within with no cause? What do we do with our memories that bring up the bad stuff that has been confessed and forgiven? REMEMBER, Jesus not only died for our sins but to cleanse our guilt.

Every time I remember that goose and feel a little remorse, I remember full well that I have a clean conscience by the blood of Christ. With that remembrance, I by faith, know it is not real guilt or even shame. AND I SMILE.

New Year’s Plan

This is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it.
We have to be alive.
Think freely, practice patience.
Smile often. Savor special moments.
Live God’s message.
Make new friends. Rediscover old ones.
Tell those you love that you do.
Feel deeply, forget trouble.
Forgive an enemy. Hope. Grow.
Be crazy.
Count your blessings. Worship.
Observe miracles; make them happen.
Celebrate small victories.
Discard worry. Give, Give in
Trust enough not to take.
Pick some flowers, Share them.
Keep a promise. Look for rainbows.
Gaze at stars. See beauty everywhere.
Work hard, be wise. Try to understand.
Take time for people. Take time for yourself. Take time for God.
Laugh heartily, Spread joy.
Take a chance.
Reach out. Let someone in.
Try something new. Slow down.
STOP
Be soft sometimes, Celebrate life.
Believe in yourself, Trust others.
See a sunrise. Listen to rain. Reminisce.
Cry when you need to.
Trust life. Have faith.
Enjoy, wonder, comfort a friend.
Have good ideas. Learn.
Make some mistakes.
Explore the unknown, Hug a kid.
Be alive.
Anticipate a good day,
Believe a good day,
Plan a good day,
Think a good day,
Work a good day,
Pray a good day.
Be Still and know God.

Christmas

As we come to the celebration of the birth in a manger of a Messiah King, each of us must look toward our own spiritual needs.  Pie, and drink may well satisfy the physical. It is not the satisfaction the dusty soul seeks.  It is a sweet well of cool water that flows and urges us to drink of the Well of Life. It is not great intellectual knowledge of the great things of man or even God, but the very person and presence of God.  Some would well say restore the Christ in Christmas.  Instead I think there is a greater need to restore Christ in Christians.  This yearning after God has never completely died in any generation.  There have always been some that have looked beyond the Santa Clause hats and grossly decorated trees and insisted on reading the story in the Bible of the reason for beginning and end of Christmas. Please my friends and loved ones, take time this week to read Luke Chapter 2 verses 1-20 for your own and perchance around that aforementioned tree, read it to the those you love and care for the most.

Merry Christmas

Restoration of AWE

Christmas has changed since I was a child.  The four of us kids slept in the same room and Christmas was always a special time.  If you looked carefully through the vent you would see into the living room to view the Christmas tree.  All decked out with both homemade ornaments a whole lot of tinsel.  Mom and Dad would never put our presents under the tree until the night before.  The anticipation for the big day was palpable. The change in this experience of Christmas is a change in expectation.  Kids submit there “have to have” list and expect the parents to come through.  The guess work is all gone. There is no awe.

It could well be that Christmas now starts almost a month earlier during the Thanksgiving celebration.  With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it seems so contrived and commercialized.  It feels like the day after Halloween the Christmas commercials begin. I try to hold Christmas at bay in my mind until after Thanksgiving.

In a world drowning in trinkets and knickknacks, reruns and plastic, people are hungry for the real thing.

The celebration has become an event.  Big difference. One is filled with awe and expectation, and the other is just one more milestone to mark off the calendar.

At the heart of the celebration is not a tree and presents.  It is not Santa and red-nosed reindeer.  What it is and what will instill in my life the rightful place of awe, is to understand it is about a single gift.  A gift given freely by a man almost 2000 years ago.  It is a gift that met a need of my life for redemption. It was a gift that was both revelation and reconciliation.  And He did it for me.

I don’t believe there’s a formula that helps overwhelmed, sometimes jaded, struggling-for-a-new-Noel-angle members to reclaim our lost wonder. I just know that when I don’t have it, I can’t fake it. And in a world drowning in trinkets and knickknacks, reruns and plastic, people are hungry for the real thing. So I’ll keep fighting for wonder, and if you battle with me, we’ll have something great to bring to Christmas.

The truth is not enough.

Sometimes I just don’t get some of the assumptions I hear from my brothers and sisters in the church.  It could well stem from personal experiences or even pre-conceived understandings of my own.  Whatever my problem may well be, I hear some of the strangest voiced conclusions and they set my own sensibilities on edge.

A few years back I was teaching a class on the book of John.  We were trying as a group to understand Jesus. What brought up the edgy feeling was the response to the question, “Why do you study the Bible?”  That question had many answers.  Some of the answers were conditioned “Sunday School” answers, while others were a little more honest, and others from those who were truly seeking more in their spiritual lives.  It was the last answer that didn’t seem quite right.  “I study the bible to be a better Christian.”  What it sounded like to me was this apt student was equating the accumulation of facts and theological understanding with growth. 

I pressed him to clarify and he quoted from John 8:32, “The truth will make you free.” He was saying when there is enough truth in your life you will, by that accumulation, become a better Christian.

I didn’t argue or tell him he was wrong, I simply smiled and jotted down a note to get a better understanding of his perceived pathway to growth.

At issue is endemic to many in the church. The idea of filling your heart with so much knowledge, so much scripture, that you become a super Christian, is often proclaimed.  What a terrible thought.  What an indictment against the very God in which we serve.  Before you get your own hackles up, let me explain.

First, the Gospel of John does say, “the truth will set you free.” But like most misconceptions of the will of God, it was taken out of a larger portion of scripture.  Jesus was speaking to Jews who had been influenced by the Pharisees and had come to an understanding of Jesus.  They had the head knowledge.  They had accumulated so much Jewish theology and insight of the prophets, they saw these as pointers to Jesus being the Messiah. Consequently, they had accepted the words of Jesus as truth.

Second, the Gospel of John in the same eighth chapter and which this “make you free” statement was stated also includes a preface. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free.” The key is not accumulation but a holding.

Holding is not just gathering the wheat in the fields and taking it as an accomplishment.  Holding is knowing the purpose of the wheat and making bread. To be a disciple is to conform to the teachings of God, to stay on a prescribed path set by God, and it is to be more than a sponge.

Why do I study the Bible?  Two things.  I study to understand God and His path for me. And subsequently, to finding that path, I utilize my new understanding to follow that path.  My life is one of revelation and reconciliation. Without the second part, the first part is without much help to my growth.  My growth is dependent upon my understanding of God’s place for me AND my willingness to do something about it.   

My path, my hope!

Tell me Lord, in your merciful grace,
What would you desire for me in this place,
In my life lived out both near and far?
Or Should I look up and yearn for a star?
Or should we be content with things that are?

What is your will? What is your plan?
Living a life and doing what I can?
Or perhaps to find a greater call,
Giving myself up, and relinquishing all
And adverting my eyes and hazarding a fall.

Tell me Lord, shall I grunt and grown beneath a load,
Or give it all up that I may skip along the golden road?
Do I simply keep on keeping on with a load to hard to bear?
With my head held low in total defeat and woefull despair?
Is this my destined plight, is it a dull prospect or fair?

Would you have me, just as I am , my Lord?
Sinking beneath the load I bear and can ill afford,
What is your will, shall I drag on or or make footsteps fleet?
My choice is before me, living the path set by your feet,
Or living a life full of pain and defeat.

I hear and echo your voice, I smile with a pure inner warm,
A voice that healed the lepers and calmed my inner storm.
“Your yoke is easy, your burden is light.”
Your path for me is simple and a gracious delight.
Steady on to the higher prize to a place of perfect light.

God in the trunk.

Sometimes God seems distant.  You know what I mean, sometimes the Preachers sermon doesn’t quite hit the right spots for you.  It is when you go about your day and you know full well that God is everywhere, but you feel as thought instead of being in the passenger seat but more like back in the trunk. I don’t think that the God I serve and love and adore and most highly esteem is hiding but He seems a little far off.  It is as if He may well be taking a rest from all the junk He has to put up with from me.  I stick my nose into something when I shouldn’t, or I make a supposedly humorous remark that puts someone on edge.  It is probably a self-imposed distance, but it is hard to not notice the gap sometimes.

The good thing is that in a 50 years or less, God will not know me better than He does right now. He knows my weaknesses and my foibles yet He still loves me.  The second thing is that in 50 years or less I will know God much more than I do now.

Fertile soil of life

Chesterfield wrote that “without a good moral soil, art and reason will never flourish.” As I look around me, whether in politics, art, music, reason, discourse, conversation and culture, it is all about self. The culture today is one of no central moral soil.  We have no real moral compass that allows art and reason to find a home.  Without an environment of living for more than self, there will be no great art, no great discourse, no great progress, no great furtherance of life.

I just don’t see this infertile soil of morality today nurturing the best things, the progressive things, the living things that makes life worth the living.  Trying to live in a culture where what ever is good enough, is nothing more than a life of just getting on.  It is a life of pure pragmatism.  It is a life without hope. It is a life of what ever works.  There is little trying to make things better.  It is a pragmatism which settles for the moment and never for the possibility of future.  It is a place where majority ideas and thought patterns become the new norm. Further, this new norm changes from day to day.

Our culture just follows along, just staying a step ahead of the slowest.  Never excelling, never having a thought of our own. The mantra says, “What ever works for you must be good enough for me.”

I read some parts of social media.  The idea for a place to share your thoughts and ideas is a great concept.  But it has become a place of redundant re-post after re-post.  No new ideas, no sharing of who we really are.  All shares are of things or ideas of others that agree with you; fully expecting by taking the effort to post something at all is making the assumption that someone might be persuaded to think like you.  There is no critical thinking, no trying to learn of the person behind the pretty head shot picture.  There is no effort to learn more or to understand.  It is all being more impressive and thought provoking by posting someone the common drivel of some one else. There is no discourse for understanding. “If you don’t agree with them, that must be your problem. 

Meaning, purpose, commonality, adventuring spirit, an ever pushing ahead is simply not tolerated. And heaven forbid if I disagree with your post.  “Don’t do that, it offends me.” If you are going to post an idea of someone else you need to be able to defend that position, not to sit in the corner yelling, “I don’t love you anymore mommy.”

All that remains for our unthinking pragmatism is a comfortable existence of being OK.  No excellence, no reason, no meaning, no purpose, no excitement, no zest, no reaching out, no life but the status quo.  In the end, in doing only what works for you in the moment, will result in the discovery that it simply does not work for you.  Your life becomes a habitual malaise. Contrary thought is condemned.  Finding the reason for action becomes just too much work.  Purpose becomes, “just getting along.”  Life is nothing more than “safe spaces” and political correctness. It is a place where everyone gets a trophy.  It is an environment where equal rights become a demand for equal results.  There is no place for excellence.

It is only in finding more than self, more than the status quo, more than just getting along, more than pragmatism, more than being politically correct, more than being the perfect mediocre.  It is only within the eternal does the temporal find its relevance.  There is nothing without that eternal compass, that fertile soil seeded with the eternal which gives life more meaning.  IT is not things, or posts or the number of likes.

It is an eternal environment, not a temporal temporary that brings life.  It is only in the eternal that you ever really live.  Why?  Because it pushes us onward, one step at a time, toward the better way.