Monday, April 06, 2020

"God"

John 3.33 AMP

“Whoever receives His [Jesus Christ’s] testimony has set his seal of approval to this: God is true.

My style of reading is to assault a book with pen or highlighter in hand. My personal library contains mostly battered volumes of earmarked pages, scribblings of diagrams with arrows, underlinings, margin comments, and other evidence of book abuse.

My wife’s book collection was quite different. She was a minimalist and chose to own less, not more, possessions of any kind, including books. I will own any popular book. She was quite selective about the company of literature she kept. A few classics and her Bible. That’s about it. A voracious reader, my wife opted for the public library rather than “clutter our home with one more book,” as she put it.

Adonica made an exception with A. W. Tozer. She had to own The Knowledge of the Holy. It’s a skinny 120 page volume and, in my initial opinion, no bargain at $12.95. But my dear woman read and reread this book many times. She could review any page at any time to instantly reconnect with God. This reading practice is not systematic enough for me. I read a book once, cover to cover, while identifying the key points with a yellow highlighter. My wife claims that highlights and underlines demand your attention at subsequent readings, while excluding (what the author meant to be) other just as meaningful sections of a book. She does not underline her Bible for the same reason. “It’s all God’s Word,” she would claim, “not just the part you decide to underline!” Powell’s Bookstore apparently agrees, offering you less at the ‘book buyers’ counter for marked up copies.

Before she died, my precious Adonica read to me this portion of “Knowledge” from Tozer:

“Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God, the reason being that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something which they can never know, which indeed they have no technique for discovering. To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries: this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking God down to our level, or at least down to where we can manage Him. Yet how He eludes us! For He is everywhere while He is nowhere, for ‘where’ has to do with matter and space, and God is independent of both. He is unaffected by time or motion, is wholly self-dependent and owes nothing to the worlds His hands have made.”[1] 

I was mesmerized. These words fed my soul. I was still contemplating Tozer’s message the next morning when I read my Bible. Tozer (and my wife) inspired me to meditate that day on three small words from John, chapter 3: “God is true.” I did not begin to make even the slightest scratch in the surface of their meaning, but I may have moved incrementally and imperceptibly in the direction of “The Knowledge of the Holy” by the practice of this simple discipline of meditation. According John 3.33, I “set my seal of approval to [the fact that] God is true” by simply believing the words of His Son, which I do.

_________________

[1] The Knowledge of the Holy ~ The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life, A. W. Tozer, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1961, pp. 26f. Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) was a popular Christian author and mystic. He authored thirty books and is one of the most influential American evangelists of the twentieth century. He also wrote: “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (p. 1) and, “…because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that all our problems and their solutions are theological. Some knowledge of what kind of God it is that operates the universe is indispensable to a sound philosophy of life and a sane outlook on the world…” (p. 27).

Friday, April 03, 2020

"Do Whatever He Tells You to Do"

John 2.5 CEV

“Mary then said to the servants, ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.’

Will you “do whatever Jesus tells you to do”? 

Jesus and His mother and disciples were invited to a wedding. The host ran out of wine at the reception. Mary informed her Son, “They have no wine” to which Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” I find this interaction between Jesus and his mother curious and have yet to hear a good explanation. Mary alerted the servants, “Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.” Jesus told them to fill six large water pots with water. Miraculously the water changed to wine, but not just any wine. It was good wine.

Miracles happen when the decision to “do whatever Jesus tells you to do” is made. The water of common experience becomes the wine of new opportunity. Options open, fears subside, money appears, issues resolve, hope springs forth, ideas flourish, people cooperate, minds change, insights emerge, and new paths become visible in the dark landscape of misunderstanding, conflict, and despair. Miracles happen. They happen before you “do whatever Jesus tells you to do.” They happen as soon as you decide to obey Jesus, which is a miracle in itself. Miracles beget miracles when someone decides to…

“Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.”

__________________

The beautiful image of the water pot above is entitled “Pot Luck” and used by permission of photographer Shayne Krige. You can view this artist’s work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/underthebridge/.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

"The Ministry of Stepping Aside"

John 1.19-21 NAS

“…the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 

And he confessed… ‘I am not the Christ.’

The Jews could have accused the Baptist of avoiding the question. They asked John, “Who are you?,” not “Who aren’t you?” John told them who he wasn’t.
  • He wasn’t Christ, the Anointed One, the coming Messiah predicted by Daniel (Daniel 9.25-26).
  • He wasn’t Elijah who would be the Messiah’s forerunner according to the minor prophet Malachi (Malachi 4.5).
  • He wasn’t the “Prophet” promised by Moses (Deuteronomy 18.15-19).
Who did John say he was then?

I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
John 1.23 NAS from Isaiah 40.3

John was nothing more (or less) than “a voice.” “I am a voice,” claimed the Baptist… 

έγω φωνη' 

...(pronounced ay-go' pho-nay') from which we derive the word ‘phone.’ Pick up the phone and listen to a voice. That’s all John claimed to be... “a voice” telling others of Christ. 

John consistently directed attention away from himself and toward Jesus. He was fond of saying, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I” (John 1.15, 30). John described Jesus as “He… the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1.27). When Jesus Christ asked to be baptized by him, “John tried to prevent Him” feeling unworthy of the honor (Matthew 3.13-14). John’s was a ‘ministry of stepping aside’ to make room for Jesus Christ who “must increase” while, as John claimed, “I must decrease” (John 3.30).

You and I are “not the Christ.” We cannot save ourselves or others. If we think ultimate control of our destiny is our God-given option, we are deluded. At our best, we are nothing more (or less) than “a voice” of hope in a world of hurt. Like John, we may give voice to the truth about Jesus, then step aside and watch Jesus do His work.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

"Why Pray?"

Luke 24.17-19 BBE

Jesus: “What are you talking about…?”

Cleopas: “Are you the only man living in Jerusalem who has not had news of the things which have taken place there at this time?”

Jesus: “What things?”

Jesus posed a rhetorical question. “What are you talking about?” He was God. He already knew what they were “talking about.” Jesus knew all about “the things” Cleopas and his traveling companion were discussing. He was the subject of the rumors. Jesus was up to speed and fully aware. 

So why the inquiry? He asked not because He needed to know. He asked to engage the people He loved. Jesus persisted in His initiative, “What things?”

Jesus wants to engage you. “What are you talking about?” is a question designed to get you into a conversation with Jesus. Don’t dismiss prayer because you know He already knows anything you’d have to say. 

Prayer does not provide new intelligence to God. He’s got all the information He will ever need. Prayer is for you. When you need someone to talk to, Christ offers a willing ear. 

“What things” matter to you? Those “things” also matter to Jesus as you will discover in conversation with Him. He will give you divine perspective and “open your mind to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24.65). Talking with Jesus will heal your soul and strengthen your spirit. 

Tell someone who really does care. Tell Jesus.
________________

Note: The beautiful picture of the boy praying above is entitled “Lord, Hear His Prayers” and is used here by permission of the photographer, Julie with “~The Olis In 'Consin~'s photos”. You can view more of her wonderful work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/theolivers_inwisconsin/297521908/.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Fill in the Blanks"

Luke 23.33, 42-43 NIV 

“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”


Imagine Jesus speaking with you, as He did the criminal on the cross. What would He say to you? Fill in the blanks:


____(Your Name)____, I tell you the truth, today you will _______________.”

“…pay dearly for the trouble you caused.”
“…get a spanking when Dad comes home.”
“…be very, VERY sorry.”
“…wish you’d never been born.”
“…need to call your attorney.”
“…suffer the consequences of your sin.”
“…be taught a lesson you’ll never forget.”
“…lose everything.”
“…fall flat on your face.”
“…never know what hit you.”
“…cringe from embarrassment.”
“…cry in sorrow.”
“…perform poorly.”
“…become the scapegoat.”
“…be the butt of the joke.”
“…let everyone down.”
“…have the worst day of your life.”
“…go unnoticed by those you love.”
“…learn what an undeserving pig you are.”
“…think the worst.” 
“…hurt like hell.”
“…feel like dying.”
“…die.”
“…go to hell.”

The thief did not get what he deserved and thankfully, neither do we. God’s “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2.13). Imagine again Jesus speaking to you. Fill in the blanks:


____(Your Name)____, I tell you the truth, today you will _______________.”


“…be forgiven.”
“…forget the past.”
“…become highly functional.”
“…know the power of God.”
“…convey the love of Christ.”
“…walk with Jesus.”
“…overcome temptation.”
“…love the people in your path.”
“…be an example.”
“…be a leader.”
“…have some fun.”
“…live victoriously.”
“…take care of business.”
“…perform brilliantly.”
“…get a windfall.”
“…learn a valuable lesson.”
“…provide for your family.”
“…become the woman [or man] you were destined to be.”
“…show courage.”
“…take the high road.”
“…make a friend.”
“…reconcile a broken friendship.”
“…turn a brother or sister from the error of their ways.”
“…treat others the way you want to be treated.”
“…inspire those around you.”
“…act with dignity.”
“…show compassion.”
“…be with Me in paradise.”

What do you think Jesus would say? How would He fill in the blanks for you?

Monday, March 30, 2020

"An Un-Keepable Promise"

Luke 22.31-32 NKJV
 
“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’”


Simon Peter made a promise he could not keep…

“Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
Luke 22.33

Simon had more confidence than he deserved. As Jesus predicted, the disciple denied his master three times before the rooster crowed that day. The real test for Peter was not in the moment of his denial of Christ. That was expected. Jesus did not pray that Peter’s “faith should not fail” the temptation to bolt at the crucifixion. Jesus already knew what His disciple would soon realize. Peter was destined to betray his conscience, and deny Jesus in that crucial moment of truth. 

The real test came later when Simon faced the crushing weight of his own remorse. It began the moment “a rooster crowed” and “Peter remembered the word of the Lord.” Knowing deeply, perhaps for the first time, the depravity of his tortured and empty soul, Simon “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22.60-62).

Once confronted by his own weak and sinful nature, it is difficult for a man not to quit. Hence, Christ prays that our “faith should not fail” in our darkest hour of personal regret. Peter found the grace to forgive himself and he returned to Jesus after his colossal fail. This same man advanced to lead the early church and fulfill Christ’s charge to “strengthen your brethren.” 

Out of a man’s own brokenness and profound sense of failure, there is still hope and redemption. He must dig deep deep within himself for courage and humility to ‘return to Jesus and strengthen the brethren.’

Friday, March 27, 2020

"A Heap of Rubble"

Luke 21.5-6 The Message

“One day people were standing around talking about the Temple, remarking how beautiful it was, the splendor of its stonework and memorial gifts. Jesus said, ‘All this you’re admiring so much — the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble.’”

My wife and kids and I loved to visit grandma’s house. During Spring Break 2010, I took Mom to Virginia Mason Hospital for a biopsy. We learned that the small spots of cancer on her lung spread to her liver. Two years earlier, Mom slipped on a throw rug, fell and broke her neck. She was convalescing nicely. Now this. 

I brought a cup of coffee to her in bed. Mom was once a beautiful woman. At the time of our hospital visit, she was toothless and covered her mouth with the top sheet when she spoke so I might not notice. She had ‘morning hair,’ wore no make-up, and was eighty-two years old. To me, mom was still beautiful but her body was wearing out. Most remaining parts sagged and hunched a bit more than they did forty years earlier. Eventually, she would stop functioning altogether and go be with Jesus and Dad. I had hoped she would have another strong decade, but that was not God’s plan. I look at Mom and Dad’s framed picture in my family room every day, and every day I miss them.  

Four and a half years ago my dear wife Adonica died of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She too was a beautiful woman. I was smitten the day I met her on January 13th, 1994, and was still smitten twenty-one and one half years later when she went to be with Jesus, Mom, and Dad. During the ten months Adonica battled cancer, she withered to only a hundred and seven pounds. We watched in horror as the disease ravaged her body, but Adonica was extraordinarily beautiful to me, right up to the end.  

Like the Temple of Jerusalem in the time of Christ, the beauty of all human flesh will slowly decay and abruptly end. In 70 A.D. Christ’s prediction came true and the Temple was reduced to “a heap of rubble.” My precious wife joined all humanity’s “heap of rubble” on August 30th, 2015. Adonica is with Jesus, but her body is becoming dust awaiting its future resurrection. Until then, she has ‘returned to the earth from whence she came’…

“Till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken;
For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
Genesis 3.19 NKJV

My parents enjoyed fifty-four and one half years of marriage together and my dad left mom in good financial shape. For this I shall always be grateful. Dad faithfully served needy people in his church and neighborhood before he died in July, 2005. His social network did not forget Dad’s good deeds. Members of their community remembered “Gil” and his acts of charity and so served “Betty Lou” in her hour of need. I think that was my dad’s unspoken plan: “If I invest in others, after I’m gone they’ll take care of my wife.” I have a great love and respect for my parents. It was hard to watch them age, get sick, and die.

Adonica left the children and me in better shape than she found us. But we badly miss her. We were a family of four. We are now four minus one. Today the children and I try to fully embrace our status as a family of three. She was a beautiful woman. Now she is gone. 

The people who stood around “talking about the Temple, remarking how beautiful it was” were surprised when when Jesus said…

“The time is coming when every stone in that
building will end up in a heap of rubble.”

They were jolted into reality when it happened. 

Set things in order. Place priorities where they belong. Pay special attention to your spiritual condition because... “All this you’re admiring so much” in self, or things, or others, will not last. Someday all of it “will end up in a heap of rubble.”
___________________
 
The amazing photographs above were taken by Stephanie Daly in the Golan Heights and posted on her blog in a photo essay entitled "A picture is worth a thousand words" on May 28, 2009 (http://stephaniedaly.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/a-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words/). In Stephanie's words:
"Witnessing the destruction in the Golan Heights was an extremely moving and emotional experience. More than anything, just to see evidence of the Arab-Israli conflict made this monstrosity of an issue a reality. It is mind boggling and devastating. Hopefully these images can give a glimpse of the experience."

Thursday, March 26, 2020

"Two-Faced"

Luke 20:20 ESV

“So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.”


I’ve known some very sincere people and I known a few who “pretended to be sincere.” I like the sincere ones better. The Bible teaches us to be on guard against insincerity...

“Don't eat at the table of a stingy person or be greedy for the fine food he serves. ‘Come
on and have some more,’ he says, but he doesn’t mean it. What he thinks is what
he really is. You will vomit up what you have eaten, your flattery will be wasted.”
Proverbs 23.6-8 GNT

Learn to trust your instincts. That’s what Jesus did. Christ was not a superhero endowed with x-ray vision and extrasensory perception. Mental telepathy was not His way of discerning truth. Jesus prayed often and carefully observed the world around Him. He studied the people He met. He did not read minds, but He read people and He knew when they were pretending. He discerned the false smile and the dishonest compliment, the disingenuous offer and the two-faced personality.

We want to believe the best about people and give them the ‘benefit of the doubt. It makes us feel magnanimous and liberal of spirit. While such belief in humanity seems bighearted and open minded, it may prove disastrous. Not everyone you meet is authentic nor is all you hear true. You may have met people who “pretended to be sincere.” You trusted them and relied on what they said. You chose to ignore the warning signs along the way. That was a mistake, wasn’t it?

Look, listen, and learn. A man will eventually betray his thoughts or reveal his inner person, and when he does, you will know who he is. A person is what he thinks, not necessarily what he says at your first encounter.

“What he thinks is what he really is.”
Proverbs 23.7 GNT

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

"A Pound of Silver"

Luke 19.13 NLT

“Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’

As a marriage prospect, I did not bring much to the table. The object of my desire was a successful, professional woman with a nice home and financial security. Adonica was 29, single, never married, and without kids. She was sincere, kind, talented, and very beautiful. I was smitten. I prayed, “Lord, if you give me this woman, I will love and cherish her every single one of our remaining days on earth.” My odds weren’t good. I was older, divorced with five children, battling for custody of the kids, swimming in debt, and attempting a career change. Like Lloyd Christmas played by Jim Carrey in the 1994 comedy “Dumb and Dumber,” I mentally fumbled through a similar marriage proposal:
Lloyd: What are the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me... ending up together?
Mary: Well, that’s pretty difficult to say.
Lloyd: Hit me with it! I’ve come a long way to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?
Mary: Not good.
Lloyd: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?
Mary: I’d say more like one out of a million. 
Lloyd: [pause, then with a foolish smile] So you’re telling me there’s a chance!
I hoped to appear a little less stupid and naïve than Lloyd, and I remember the conversation precisely. When the time seemed right, in December 1995, I mustered and spilled my guts:
Me: Do I have a chance?
Adonica: Yes. (I was ecstatic, but tried to control my enthusiasm.)
Me: OK then! But what would a nice girl like you see in a guy like me?
Adonica: Dave, I see our relationship as an investment. I think you’re going to pay off.
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance,” I thought. She believed in me! That’s all I needed. I spent 19 years, 5 months, and 7 days in a glorious marriage determined to keep this woman happy with her choice and, up until the moment she died, she continually reminded me that she was. What more could any man want? I was so incredibly blessed to have Adonica by my side for over two decades. 

Jesus also believes in me and offers me an eternity with Him. He apparently considers His relationship with me (and the rest of humanity) to be an excellent investment. The Lord trusts me to multiply my pounds of silver. I can literally make Jesus Christ happy with His choice and someday “enter into the joy of [my] master” (Matthew 25.21). Within me is every God-given resource I need to please Him. It takes faith because “without faith it is impossible to please God(Hebrews 11.6). I must fully trust Him and apply a little diligence but, by His grace, I have what it takes to win His happiness.

Jesus will return, maybe sooner than I think. In the meantime His expectation is clear:

“...ten pounds of silver... Invest this for me while I am gone.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"A Sermon for Me"

Luke 18.27 CEV 

“There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.”

If you depend on people to make you happy, you will not be happy. It is possible to achieve happiness regardless of how others act toward you. If you are chronically unhappy due to the behavior of others, you have elevated people to the place of God. Only God can provide you with the inner joy necessary for the happiness you seek. 

Ultimately, your happiness comes from God and no one else... not your wife, not your best friend, former friend, neighbor, or dog. True and lasting happiness does not originate from your kids, your parents, your boss, your co-workers, business partner, or social network. There are simply “some things that people cannot do” for you. Your happiness is one of those things. 

Jesus said, “God can do anything.” People can’t make you happy. You can’t even make you happy. But God can!

“There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.”

Monday, March 23, 2020

"It’s Always Right to Turn Back to Jesus"

Luke 17.12-16 NASU

“As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’

And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.”

There’s more to the account of the ten lepers than the typical “moral of the story” which commends one in ten who actually stops to say “thank you.” The fact that the one who turned back was a Samaritan despised by first century Jews offers drama and contrast, but there’s even more to the story than that. Christ’s healing of the ten lepers offers a glimpse into the meaning of faith and faith’s inter-relationship with obedience...
  • Ten “leprous men” asked Jesus for mercy.
  • Jesus told them to “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” [1]
  • “As they were going” on their way to see a priest, “they were cleansed.”
  • “One of them, when he saw that he had been healed,” presumably before he found a priest, “turned back” to offer thanks to Jesus.
We may reasonably assume that nine of the ten cleansed lepers did just exactly what Jesus told them to do; that is, “Go and show yourselves to the priests. One man, the hero of the story, did not, strictly speaking, obey Christ. Instead, he “turned back” from doing precisely what Jesus (and the Law of Moses) commanded. Once healed, the former leper returned to the One who healed him. There the thankful man fell “on his face at His feet.”

This man’s actions do not preclude the possibility that he later fulfilled Christ’s requirement to see a priest, yet the text suggests otherwise. In fact, it appears the Lord expected all ten to come back. Jesus was surprised when only one did…

“Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine – where are they?”

The one who “turned back” was given a new command, superseding the first:

“Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

It appears the healed Samaritan was not required to go to the priest at all. His decision to “turn back” to Jesus was enough.

I well remember occasions when I doggedly followed the course I once heard Jesus chart for me, even after I already found what I sought from Him along the way. Perhaps Jesus never intended the lepers to make it “to the priests.” His intention may have been only that they take the first step of obedience to “go,” and in their “going” receive what they sought from Jesus, then come to the realization that what they really needed was more of Him! 

The original destination (e.g., “the priests”) was not the point of Christ’s command. It was the journey (e.g., the healing) and the ultimate destination (e.g., Jesus) that mattered. Herein lies the mystery of faith and faith’s inter-relationship with obedience. 

It’s always the right course of action to return to Jesus. 

__________________

[1] According to Law of Moses, a cleansed leper was to confirm his healing with a priest followed by an elaborate eight day sacrificial ritual involving sprinkling of blood, washing, and shaving (Leviticus 14.1-32).

The painting "Ten Lepers Healed" is an oil on panel (1997) by artist Brian Kershisnik (1962- ). You can check out Brian's amazing work at http://www.kershisnik.com/.

Friday, March 20, 2020

"Can Broken Relationships be Fixed?"

Luke 16.10, 26 NASU

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

“And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”


How does “a very little thing” become “a great chasm?” It happens all the time in relationships. It can be subtle… the way someone turns their head or moves their eyes, a particular choice of words or a tone of voice in conversation, the nuances of meaning we attach to the behavior of others, what we hear in passing about the friends we keep, the way we feel but cannot describe after a personal interaction, expectations left unstated and unmet, etc. This is the small stuff that undermines and destroys relationships. It seems like such “a very little thing,” and it is... but it’s not.

Sometimes the message hidden behind a thin veneer of a smile is not so subtle. “I don’t like you” or “I want your money” or “I am better than you” can be quickly felt and easily discerned. Those relationships end before they start. In other cases, it takes a while to become clear about what’s going on. In almost every case, we look back and admit, “I should have known” or “I saw the warning signs and did not want to believe them” or “I wish I had listened to my gut (or my heart, or my friends, or my wife).” It’s the little things we missed (or chose to miss) because we were blinded by the apparent good parts of the relationship.

Unexpected betrayal at the hands of a brother, friend, or lover is an old biblical theme...

“This isn't the neighborhood bully mocking me —
I could take that. This isn't a foreign devil spitting invective —
I could tune that out. It's you! We grew up together! You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked arm in arm,
God a third party to our conversation.”
Psalm 55.12-14 The Message

“Even my best friend, the one I always told everything — he ate
meals at my house all the time! — has bitten my hand.”
Psalm 41.9 The Message

Cain and Abel, Samson and Delilah, Job and his comforters, David and Absalom, Jesus and Judas. Once a relationship is broken, there’s usually no going back. The split is most often permanent. It hardens like a hand print set in soft concrete. “A great chasm [of separation is] fixed” for all time. It’s not impossible to mend a friendship gone bad, but it’s very, very hard. It’s nearly impossible and almost never worth attempting.

“An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city.
Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.”
Proverbs 18.19 NLT

Sometimes death separates. Death is permanent. I will never see my precious wife again on this earth. I long deeply for Adonica, but she will never return. My past life with her is gone forever. Death of friendships can also be permanent. What starts out as “a very little thing” becomes “a great chasm” of hurt that can never be healed. You just have to say good-bye. 

Learn what you can, work hard to forgive, try to forget, trust Jesus, walk away, and let it go.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

"3,249 Pieces of Silk"

Luke 15.24 ESV

“‘For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Every time he took a shot he left a piece of himself on the court. When he made a shot, the crowd erupted in celebration and there he left even more of himself. At fifty-one, Freeman Williams, known as “Silk” for the smoothness of his form, was allegedly “homeless, addicted to crack, and living in an alley four blocks from his old high school.” At least that’s what a former neighbor told Oregonian sports reporter and radio talk host, John Canzano[1] twelve years ago. You can find his heart-wrenching story at this link: “Williams, a player lost and found”
“He shot baskets in his old gymnasium at Manual Arts. His back bothers him. His legs are stiff, and his knees don’t bend easily. But Williams shot, and the children stopped talking to watch, and every once in a while, he looked so beautiful with the ball you came to understand why the fans here used to call him ‘Silk.’
“A young teen at the school asked, ‘How many points did you score in college?’ ‘3,249,’ Williams said.
“He knows it like a phone number. The number feels like an old friend to him. So much so that Williams said he made 3-2-4-9 the voicemail code on the cell phone he’s using. Another teen calls out, ‘You say you played in the NBA, so bang out one,’ and laughs at Williams, daring him to dunk. “‘I’m old now,’ he said. ‘You ain’t going to be laughing when you're my age.’”
I had just completed another reading of the prodigal son recorded in the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel. I had examined the passage dozens of times through the years but that day was different. I heard my wife say, “Oh, that was such a sad story about a former NBA player who lost all his money and got hooked on drugs.” It was John Conzano’s piece on Freeman Williams. Suddenly, the words of Christ had even more meaning:

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost,
and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

In the case of “Silk” there may be no reason to celebrate yet. As John Canzano wrote, “Finding the truth about Freeman Williams is a complex task.”
  • 1977 and 1978 NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I individual scoring champion
  • All-time scoring leader at Portland State University
  • Number 2 (behind Pete Maravich) in Division I history for career scoring
  • 1978 first round draft pick (8th overall) by the Boston Celtics
  • Played 6 years in the NBA for the San Diego Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz, and Washington Bullets
  • Only player in NBA league history to lead his team in scoring coming off the bench
  • Top 10 players for three point field goals in three consecutive professional seasons (1980-82)
  • Earned $20,000 for a small part portrayal of fictional character Duck Johnson in the 1992 film “White Men Can’t Jump”
  • Has not held a regular job since stocking shelves at Safeway in McMinnville after retiring from the NBA in 1986
During the interview, Canzano and Williams drove past the Los Angeles Forum. Freeman remarked how he used to love to play against the Lakers in his old neighborhood filling sections of the Forum with admiring friends, family, and fans. “They hold church services there now on Sundays,” he told John.[2]

I hope “Silk” finds his way back to the Forum again some Sunday morning and gets another shot at life, relinquishing every remaining piece of himself to Him who waits with open arms. May Freeman Williams, one of basketball’s greatest, be “lost and found” again giving both his fans and the angels in heaven cause to “celebrate” now and forever.
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[1] “Williams, a player lost and found,” John Canzano, The Oregonian, March 19, 2008.

[2] Faithful Central Bible Church led by Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer gathers for worship at the Forum each Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Find out more at http://www.faithfulcentral.com/.