Humanity and post-covid culture

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I hear and read many posts / articles / emails that suggest much of the corona-culture will become a new normal. I don’t agree and I want to say so as publicly as I can.

It’s true that many have been exposed to technology – the creative use of technology – that will become part of their on going traditions. It may become a permanent option for some programs and groups. It should!

It’s also true that people have rediscovered the value of sabbath, quiet, even solitude.
People have found out what they can live without. All this is true and will be fascinating to observe unfold.

It will be trendy and profitable to sell business or products or services that are more sanitary, more protective (look for supplements and wearable paraphernalia that aid immunity). For a while, everyone will want everyone to know just how vigilant they are regarding cleanliness and safety.

There have always been germaphobes. There will be more. We may need show greater respect toward subconscious concerns about safe handling of food and other products.

However, I believe it is a massive mistake to assume that humanity will cease being fundamentally human.

We won’t avoid large crowds – not for long. I will wager that, soon, events will be held specifically for the purpose of just having large crowds together – for the energy of it – even for the “edgy-ness” of it. Fear is not a long term deterrent of social behavior. We’ve seen more deadly viruses, shocking and devastating plagues… but none of them have prevented humanity from being human – in the long run. We are risk takers. We are rule-breakers. We crave one another, often in copious portions.

A more immediate and urgent trend will be people seeking meaningful connection in person. Sharing meals together. Singing together. Sharing experiences together. We’ve always identified ourselves (to one degree or another) by our clan, our group, our people. People will crave and cling to groups.

And church: I don’t believe people will drift more toward or settle for screen-time. We SHOULD continue online presence and proclamation!! But there will never be a substitute for the gathered community. There will be an increased desire for authenticity, for real presence, for God’s presence, for participation over presentation.

Some will remain impacted by the fear and trauma. Folks that lived in the Great Depression kept certain spending and saving habits. But those habits soon evaporated (within a generation) in the heat of human nature’s desire for ‘more.’

Hope. Hunger. Passion. Joy. Community. These cannot be restrained, not at length.
History, anthropology, sociology, and THEOLOGY are better guides for navigating the future than are trends, fads or fears.

We will be more human, not less, after all of this. I plan on it anyway.

Your location is not your destination

I feel like a broken record that is responding to a broken record, or that I am beating a dead horse but the horse won’t die. By the way that is a horrible metaphor.

Blogs, articles, commercials – so many telling us that this is the new normal (covid culture). We have to get used to this. Drink the cool aid.

I’ve written elsewhere some argument against all of that. But this morning, reading through the life of David in 1 Samuel I see a great example.

For 16 months David and his army lived in Philistine territory in the town of Ziklag. Before that he’d been living in Gath for a season. Let’s be conservative and say it was at least two years of living in and with and in some cases “as” Philistines.

That would be pretty persuasive. Meaning – it would be easy to conclude that “this” was the new normal. But the life of King David shows that this was not normal – it was an anomaly. They made the best of it. Killed bad guys. Kept Ziklag for future Kings of Judah. But this was not indicative of their identity or destiny. It was a season. And that season passed. Their location was not their destination.

Yet we have two months of covid culture and the gurus claim this is now the way it is. We need to adjust to this. This is the plumb line. We can only grieve well for anything that once was.

Horseradish. This is a season. It’ll pass. We’ll learn stuff. Gain stuff. Get some victories. Make some changes. But this is not our identity nor our destiny. We have greater battles. We have sweeter joys. We have whole new paths to forge and dreams to pursue.

Your location is not your destination. Greater things are yet to come.

~ Dav

Four Cornerstones of Conduct

To whatever degree I have a responsibility to serve others by way of example and encouragement, to whatever degree I must make decisions that affect others, I must base my conduct on four cornerstones.

Conviction: It all begins here. What is true? What is right? What is non-negotiable? What is “worth it”? Conviction is the fundamental “what is” and “why it must be.” Without conviction I will waver. Without conviction I may pander. Conviction cannot come via consensus (although it should be informed and measured by advice). Conviction is what I believe, so help me God. Conviction must prompt action – or prohibit it – or it is just an idea.

Courage: This is my will, my resolve to act upon my convictions. Whether applauded or attacked, whether alone or among others, I will act according to conviction.  Has He not commanded? “Be strong and very courageous.”

Compassion: My conviction and courage must never lead to crassness or callous. Doing what I believe is right will not justify treating someone else wrong. Boldness does not require harshness. Speaking up never requires talking down. Being strong isn’t being a bully. I must care enough about others to respect their courage to disagree with my convictions.

Cool-head: Temperature is “average kinetic energy.” The higher the temperature, the faster the molecules are moving. Hot heads have hyper molecules. Cool heads have self-control. Proverbs says that a fool gives full vent to his anger. James says that everyone one must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Without a cool-head I am just a fool with an overheated opinion.

These principles, in concert, must guide and govern my conduct.

Thru the Bible

This year I am nudging our congregation and any others willing/interested to read through and respond to the Bible together.
One way that I’ve committed to helping is to offer some videos via social media.
I will also post them here.
Below is a link to the thru the Bible playlist on my you tube channel where I save these vids (they are uploaded to FB and Insta ‘Thru the Bible’).
Just the first vid explains what / why / how… and then we get to the daily…


https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3vSwmi4JzatwWXVGyPhLzELuW14G4-kG

The difference between burning and burning out

I learned something today. I imagine that a host of you might scoff that I did not know this before, but I am honestly happy to at least have learned it now.

Last year, after teaching through the book of Revelation, I became quite intrigued with the lampstand. Jesus walks among them; they “are” the church; the lampstand may be removed… And the idea of the church burning with light that is not its own but fueled by the oil of the Holy Spirit… all these mystical, analogous, yet very real and powerful things left an impression on me.

Today I decided I wanted to try and “light” the lampstand and display it during our all-day prayer meeting. You can’t fit candles in there – and I knew it was supposed to be oil… so I bought a wick, cut it in pieces and placed them in the lamp. I filled the cups with oil and lit the wicks.

Here was my personal “ah ha” today: fire destroys the wick. The wick will burn up, quickly, when set aflame. But… BUT if that wick can soak up the oil, it ceases to burn up, and just burns. The oil burns, but the wick just hosts the flame. The wick becomes the conduit for the oil. The wick can burn bright and pure as long as there is oil running through it. Without a supply of oil, the wick burns out. With fresh oil, it just burns continually.

Wow. There is no substitute for oil. There Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary and totally sufficient. Oil-less effort, personality, will-power, busy-ness, self-reliance, ego, the flesh… all of it will burn into ash. It cannot host the flame. But as we receive and rely (totally) upon the oil of the Spirit, we become conduits of the oil; we host His fire. We burn, but we will not burn out.

Thanks for reading,

Dav’

Life Is Not A Marathon

They – whoever they are – say that life is a marathon. I get the point – that it is long and not a short-term thing and requires endurance etc. But I don’t think life is a marathon. For one thing, marathons are exhausting and people collapse at the finish line. Life is not Designed to be that way.

Life is not a marathon; it is not made up of decades or years or months strung together all the while just looking for the finish line.
Life is made of moments. Small, priceless moments. Moments that, if recognized and embraced, if savored, become rare tiny gems. And if you are careful, you can collect a treasure-chest full of them. If you’re careless, you may have nothing but sore legs at the end of the race.

Tonight, as I was going through unceasing motions of study, writing, and study, my nine-year old came into my office. He asked if his big brother had gone to bed (his brother is 10 years older than he). I said, “yes, Bubba’s been in bed for a while.” “Can I go say goodnight to him?” “No, bud, he’s probably asleep by now.”
He broke. He crawled on my lap and wept. No agenda. Nothing to gain. He just was deeply sad to have missed “good night” to his 19 year-old brother.
He sat on my lap (he’s a biggy) and cried for few minutes. I could have patted him off and sent him to bed. But I had the state of mind – of heart – to just wait. This was a priceless moment. This is life’s savor. I am holding my youngest son to comfort him over not being able to show enough love to my oldest son.
I just got richer.
And I wasn’t running anywhere.

Fresh Hope From the Miracles of Jesus: Water into Wine

It was a wedding celebration five short miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, nestled in a small village named Cana. Mary, the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus was invited as were the small but growing group of His disciples. Family members, friends, and several if not many of the village residents gathered to celebrate. The sun was hot and the warm winds blowing from the sea coast made for the perfect outdoor party. A wedding feast. Everything was ideal for the big event. And then – life happened. They ran out of wine. Not tragedy; not death; not war or famine or violence. Life happened. And on this regular Wednesday afternoon, in a small town, at a no-name wedding, for no particularly epic reason, Jesus performed His first miracle. And hope burst onto the scene like the first rays of a sunrise.

Look at John 2:1-11 with me, and let’s find fresh hope in the miracles of Jesus

John tells us where the wedding was held, and that Jesus’ mother was there. Some early, non-canonical documents suggest that Mary was there as an auntie – that it was her sister’s son getting married. If that is the case, it certainly helps us understand why she was hands-on solving problems and giving orders to servants. It also explains why Jesus was invited – who hasn’t got roped into a family wedding?

Some sources say that by tradition, if not requirement, Jewish weddings were held on a Wednesday. The actual ceremony was held in the evening, after a great feast. Following the feast, the couple were married. Then they would be escorted to their new home – under a glowing canopy of flaming torches and lanterns. They would take the longest route possible to their home, so that all in the village may bless them and wish them well. And the next week or more they would have “open house” – dressed in their finest clothes and richest adornments, being treated like royalty by on in their village. This was a high-point in their lives and the lives of their families. And though a celebration, it was serious… the family’s honor was at stake in the festival going well.

But there was problem. They ran out of wine. We aren’t told why. But we do know that wine was very important. “Without wine,” the Rabbis said, “there is no joy.” This would have cut short the feat and cast a shadow of gloom on the entire celebration. In short, running out of wine would have shamed the family and ruined the occasion for everyone. Life happened.

Has it ever felt like you, too, have “run out of wine?”

Mary comes to Jesus and matter-of-factly informs him, “they have no wine.” I just have to wonder what Mary knew, what she assumed – why did she come to Jesus about this?  People sick, people dying, corrupt tax collectors, oppressive government… and not to mention she’d been informed of the humanity-saving destiny of Jesus by angels when he was born… and she brings him this? Why?

I don’t know. To me it doesn’t make sense why she would bring this kind of problem to Jesus – but I’m glad she did. I bet in hindsight the guests were glad. I am glad for the testimony Mary has provided. Have you ever hesitated to involve Christ? Have you ever wondered if he’d care about what matters to you? May we be as bold and ready to anticipate Christ’s involvement in our lives.

Jesus’ answer may prove troubling to some as we read in the English translation.  It sounds a little rude in the ESV. It sorta sounds like Jesus is saying, “Woman, why you buggin? Ain’t nobody got time for dat.”

Well first, the phrase, “woman,” when compared with other times Jesus uses it and how it used in other Greek literature, is far more affectionate than it sounds. A better reading would sound something more like, “My lady…” Further, the “what does this have to do with me” is a transliteration of a phrase that originally could have expressed two different sentiments: one harsh, one warm, depending on the tone that was used. For example if I said, “I’ll handle it,” that could sound harsh or it could come across comforting – depending on the tone. So, a better way of understanding what Jesus said to His mother was, “I will handle this in my own way; have no more concern over it. My hour – the big reason and purpose for mission – has not yet arrived.” Jesus essentially tells her, “I’ve got this.” Some of us may need to hear those words – “I’ve got this…”

Mary then turns – as if merely mentioning the need to Jesus is sufficient- and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them.

And nearby stood six stone water pots – used for ceremonial washing. They used the water from these pots to wash off dusty or muddy feet. They used this water to ceremonially wash their hands before a meal, and also to ceremonially wash their hands between courses. If, in fact, they did not wash between courses in the prescribed manner, they were considered unclean. I imagine this got wearisome. Doesn’t religion wear you out? And this was all religion – it was more about ceremony and ritual and fear of being unclean than any real change.

Jesus tells the servants to fill these pots with water, and they did – to the brim. Then Jesus told them to draw the water out and take it to what would have been the “head waiter” – the friend or family member responsible for coordinating the guests and food. His response was this: “you’ve saved the best for last.”  Most people dish out the generic brand after no one notices anymore. But Jesus made available 120-180 gallons of fine wine – more than enough, more than could likely have been consumed by the wedding party. He made more than enough of the best.

So remarkable: many things that man does fades. But Christ’s work never fades or grows dull. He never simply settles for left-overs. We do not have to live off of the stories of the past or the memories of yester-year. Jesus saves the best for last.

In this story of an everyday event in a small town in the middle of nowhere, where “life” happened to everyday people, Jesus works His first miracle. And in this act, unknown at the time by almost all of at the party, his disciples caught a dazzling glimpse of who Jesus was.  And they placed their faith in Him.

What Hope do we find here?

What is revealed to us about God?

Jesus reveals the goodness and kindness of God to help us in our time of need. Christ is vulnerable to our concerns. He is not distant. He is as close as the mention of His Name. Mary didn’t even need to yell. Life happens.  God cares.

Jesus reveals the power and will of God to bring real transformation. The ceremonial washing was powerless. It was ritualistic, and had temporary benefit at best. But in the cup that now holds water made wine by Messiah’s hand, we see that the change that Jesus brings is not ceremonial, but actual. Jesus didn’t turn the stone water pots into wine bottles. He changed the ceremonial washing water into rich and pure wine. Jesus doesn’t give us the Cinderella treatment. He doesn’t change our exterior to make us acceptable to others. He changes us on the inside. And then then he says, “draw out what I’ve given you and give it away” – so that others may taste and see that the Lord is good. So that others may partake of the hope we have.

Jesus reveals how overwhelming and complete His grace is. By turning so very many gallons of water into the best wine. He demonstrates that there is a super abundance of His grace. There is more than enough. Regardless of your need. Regardless of your mess. Regardless of your past or present – His grace is here and it’s more than enough to meet you, to help you, to heal you to refresh you, and give you new life.

Jesus reveals a gospel of joy. The rabbis said that without wine there is no joy, so then what does it mean if there is a super abundant supply of the best wine? It means there is glad tidings of great joy: The Kingdom of heaven is here. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus is Lord. Repent and believe the good news.
How is Our Faith Informed?

We can have confidence to involve Christ in all of stuff of life –  when “life happens.” Mary came to Jesus with a concern that to some, to many even, may make no sense as to how it might concern Jesus. Again, I am glad she did!

What if she hadn’t? Consider what we would have missed? Consider what happens when we don’t…“Oh what peace we often forfeit; oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to the Lord in prayer.”

We can have confidence that obedience leads to our joy. Doing “whatever he” told them – the servants obeyed Jesus. And the result of obedience was everyone’s increased joy. Apparently, we really should obey God for our own good. Nothing good happened here until someone obeyed. Agreeing isn’t sufficient. Obeying is what brings change. I am inspired by the fact the servant filled the pots “to the brim.” Whole hearted obedience, total devotion, nothing held back. No half-way obedience. Come one friends, let’s be bold in our obedience and see just how much of Christ’s transforming power can be produced and released in our lives.

We can have confidence that God’s best is God’s will. Of the wine that Jesus made abundant, it was said it was the best. God does as God is – Profoundly good.
What is the immediate Hope from this Passage?

For those for whom “life” has happened… there is hope. God cares. He can make a way. He’s got this. Involve Him today. Draw near with confidence to the throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16). Believe that, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Cast all your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

For those who are out of joy, the next step of obedience can be your gateway to new joy. There really is no better way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey. Bold, whole hearted obedience is the only way to abundant joy.

For those trying to be clean – going through the motions – Jesus Christ will make you new. Put your trust in Him.

Thanks for reading,

‘Dav

How Does the Holy Spirit Feel About Human Sexuality?

In the fifteenth chapter of Acts, leaders in the church gathered to address the conflict that arose between Jewish Christians and Gentile believers.  Some teachers had gone out among the new gentile converts / churches and told them, essentially, that if they really wanted to be “saved” – if they wanted to be righteous, they’d need to follow all of the Torah. This caused no small frustration.

There was called a conference in Jerusalem for the elders and apostles to resolve this issue. They deliberated the matter until affirming that since the gentiles had received the Holy Spirit in the same way the Jews had, and that to place a burden on the gentiles that the Jews were unable to bear for generations, that they would require gentiles to observe only a handful of the elements of the Torah. Specifically, gentile believers should abstain from idolatry (from things offered to idols), from strangled meat and blood, and that they should abstain from sexual immorality.

What is important, absolutely, to grasp is that these were the things that were to be carried over that were unique to the Torah. Murder and theft were not on the “list,” but that doesn’t mean that it seemed good to the Holy Spirit that now those things were fine, and that any reference to them in the Torah were antiquated, obsolete. Rather, what is presented is an affirmation of things unique to the Torah that the Holy Spirit pressed as necessary for righteous living.

Prohibitions against murder were not unique to the Torah, nor laws against theft. By the time of the Jerusalem council, these types of regulations were not uncommon in any organized society. But what was NOT unlawful was various forms of sexual congress. Nor was idolatry illegal (just the opposite, in fact it was prescribed in many places). So, what the leaders in Jerusalem affirmed, under the affirmation of the Holy Spirit, were the unique elements of OT law that were germane to righteous living.

Among the requirements set forth by the leaders in Jerusalem was that believers should abstain from sexual immorality. Remember, these are regulations being imported from the Torah. Therefore, one must keep in mind that these Jewish leaders, prohibiting sexual immorality in all Christ-followers, had in mind the context of sexual immorality as delineated by Moses. For the Jew, sexual immorality meant any sexual relationship with any person in any way outside the sacred covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Anything else was fornication. This is what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit” to prohibit.

It is hip to redefine sexual immorality in the context of contemporary culture. Today sexuality is “moral” if it is consenting. Violent sexuality is still considered wrong.  So, what is sexually moral is no longer a matter of the actual behavior, but the intent. If the intent is mutual stimulation, or even one-sided stimulation met with acquiescence, then it’s all fine. More than fine, in fact, it is celebrated. It is insisted upon. Practitioners of experimental sexual congress build for themselves small mole-hills and plant in them a flag of moral high-ground. And they demand agreement that their behavior is normal, normative, and in some cases, they require it to be recognized as holy – ordained by God Himself.

But no matter how loud their cry, no matter how many times they repeat their claim, it is still absurd. It is fornication.

Many claim that their aberrant sexual expression must be right – because it feels so right. It feels good; it’s fulfilling; it’s pleasant and even helps them feel close to their sexual partner. None of this is evidence for righteousness. There is nothing meritorious about an orgasm.

The ability to climax is not sacred. It’s nothing to be proud of, march in a parade over, or celebrate. In fact, the chemicals in the brain generate feelings of desire and commitment to someone after – because of – sexual release with that person. Literally the brain can be trained via sexual expression to bond to almost anything or anyone. So powerful is this bond, that victims of abuse who unwillingly experience sexual arousal might retain feelings of desire toward the experience.  It is precisely because of the fragile nature of human sexuality that it is so important to regard it as sacred, to protect it and use it as designed.

Human sexuality, as designed by God, to be shared in love, in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, is sacred. Anything else is fornication. And it is pleasing (seems good to) to the Holy Spirit for believers to abstain from it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Loses Its Taste

There are seasons, it seems, when life loses its taste. By that I mean that the things that once tasted savory or sweet no longer taste like anything, like sand.

I don’t believe, I don’t want or choose to believe, that these seasons are healthy, normal, nor helpful. I don’t believe they are indicative of reality – meaning a loss of taste does not mean a loss of an ability to taste. When life loses its taste, it is more likely a symptom of a deeper problem.

It could very well be that the issue is that one has had an appetite for the worthless. Like cheap chewing gum, worthless things lose their taste quickly and just become a chore to chew. The often-attempted solution is to get more gum, only to repeat the above cycle of disappointment.

Or, perhaps the things that should be joyful and rewarding don’t feel that way. I say, “don’t feel that way” because it is a feeling, not a reality. Relationships, family, hard work, achievement and improvement – those are all time-tested, God-ordained tasty morsels. They are gifts that meet the nutritional needs of our soul. So, what makes them taste bland?

If life loses its taste, it is because a lie has numbed our tongue. We tasted a lie. Some deceitful, discouraging accusation about God, ourselves, or the circumstances around us has been offered to us like the proverbial apple-in-the-garden and “chomp!” we’ve lost our taste. Things feel sad. The music of hope isn’t heard. The anticipation of good (joy) is flat. “What’s the use?” “I don’t care.” Passion disappears. Then comes cynicism, accompanied by criticism. If I can’t taste it, I don’t believe others can either; “who are they kidding?” Of course, this is quietly accompanied by deep jealousy over the apparent taste others are enjoying, but to acknowledge that someone else is experiencing a genuinely joyful moment is to acknowledge it is possible, and that the problem may not be “out there” as much as it is “in here.” Life hasn’t lost its taste, I have.

So, how do we recover? If a lie has displaced our taste, then the lie must be replaced. It isn’t easy to go lie-hunting; that too often leads to tail-chasing, introspective, too-much-like-Freud behavior. Instead of trying to look for the lie (which has already hidden itself into the landscape of your life), turn to truth. Just turn your eyes, your heart, your will, toward what is true. This seems to be what the Psalmist so often did, “I will…”

Consider Psalm 9:

  • I will give thanks to you Lord, with all my heart
    • Deliberate gratitude, fervently and deeply expressed gratitude is one of the most powerful and proven means of increasing our joy. It re-calibrates our thinking and speaking away from “woe is me” and forces a focus on the good we have received, and the good-will behind it.
  • I will tell of your wonderful deeds,
    • Rehearsing testimony and repeating good news strengthens our faith and repaints the canvass of our imagination with the truth of what the Lord has done.
  • I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your Name, O most high.
    • It is possible, it is prescribed, and it is powerful – to rejoice on purpose. Yes, literally just get-your-joy-on. It is like deciding to get out of bed. You just get up. And it isn’t a joy that is superficial or based on a mood or whim; it is a joy that is rooted in the person, nature – the Name of the Lord. Rejoicing in Him and because of Him is like slipping a long straw into the refreshing waters of eternal joy. We taste and see that the Lord is good. We rejoice in Him: His word, His ways, His will, His works, and then hope rises. Our perspective changes. Our countenance and conversation changes. Our taste-buds return.

When truth regains its rightful place, the power of the lie atrophies and dies. In fact, only when we first and most satisfy ourselves with gratitude, trust, and praise toward the Lord will we be able to enjoy the taste of all the things He graciously provides for our pleasure.

May you enjoy the feast available to you today – with thanksgiving.

‘Dav