Are You Listening To God?

Are You Listening To God?

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Talk is cheap.”

Today, there’s no shortage of talking, texting, or tweeting.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with talking. It’s a good thing. People are built to talk, and with technology making it easier, we are.

Talking is important to friendship.

A good friendship is marked by good conversation. Good conversation usually means an exchange of sorts. One person talks, then the other, and repeat. However, sometimes a one-sided conversation is necessary, when one person talks the whole time and the other just listens in support.

I took a long walk the other day. My whole purpose was to walk and talk with God. The weather was as perfect as I could want. The topics were plentiful. I unloaded many prayers that morning.

But as I neared my home, it dawned on me. I spent about an hour walking and talking to God, but I didn’t give Him time to speak to me. I wasn’t taking the time to listen.

Back to Basics: Coveting

In this series, Back to Basics, it’s my hope to shed some insight about the freedom I found in Christ through some personal stories from my early years of wrestling with fear of Old Testament law.

Back to Basics: Coveting

In the early 80’s, as part of a diversity program, the Denver Independent School District bused kids from the suburbs of South Denver to urban North Denver for K-3rd grade, and reversed the route during 4th-6th grades.

After a couple years of watching buses load and unload South Denver kids in front our aged, red-bricked schoolhouse, it was time for me to get on the bus and head south to a modern school building for 4th grade.

For a kid traveling south on I-25 back in those days, it was a treat to see the mountains to the west each morning. That part of Denver belonged to everybody. But as we crossed over the Platte River, the contrast was clear.

We were in the land of the new, two-story houses with the neat lawns and the nicer cars. As the bus squealed into the school parking lot, you could see moms and dads walking kids to the entrance. There weren’t any liquor stores within walking distance. No gang graffiti was in sight. All looked good.

This was my first real look at life on the other side, and as I rode the bus each week, I began to covet that life.

From what I knew, coveting was a bad thing mentioned in the 10 Commandments and responsible for bringing banishment to Cain, trouble to Jacob, and heartbreak to King David. I didn’t want to covet, but as a kid, I didn’t know what to do with it.

I’d find that even though I’d move to a decent Texas suburb, attend college and get a good job upon graduating, coveting never took a vacation.

Unfortunately, it never will.

Back to Basics: Murder and Anger

In this series, Back to Basics, it’s my hope to shed some insight about the freedom I found in Christ through some personal stories from my early years of wrestling with fear of Old Testament law.

Back to Basics: Murder and Anger

When I was eight years old, I moved in with my grandparents in North Denver for a few years. They belonged to a cult that only believed in reading the Old Testament and it was my only view to the bible at the time. I knew the 10 Commandments said not to murder, but I didn’t find too much in the Old Testament about avoiding anger.

There were a lot of fights in our neighborhood. It seemed “an eye for an eye” was an agreed upon policy. I remember a few times where adults decided to duke it out in front of kids. Soon, I started getting in some fights. One incident at school resulted in me having to write 100 times “I will learn to control my anger” on loose-leaf paper in the principal’s office.

But, I didn’t learn.

I fought on the school bus. I fought while playing sports. I even fought in the very center of the street one time wearing my new Kangaroo sneakers and being encouraged to “kangaroo-kick” my opponent by crowd of neighborhood kids. Anger just seemed to have a place and our neighborhood offered a ready outlet.

That’s until I saw a fit of anger that would change the trajectory of my life. My grandfather asked me to bring in groceries from the car and for some reason I thought I could handle a large watermelon all by myself. It slipped out of my hands and hit the sidewalk.

From the look my grandfather gave me, I knew I was in trouble. He really loved watermelon and he also had a problem with alcohol. Though he had never hit me, I knew his temper had landed some blows on other family members. He started toward me and I took off running for several blocks until I reached a friend’s house. I called home to ask my grandmother if it was safe to come back. She assured me my grandfather had sobered up and wouldn’t murder me for not being able to carry large fruit.

After that incident, I reunited with my mother sooner than expected and landed in a Texas suburb where fighting and arguing in public didn’t seem so commonplace.

But that image of anger in that incident stayed with me. It was the first time I felt I was really in danger because of someone’s anger toward me and it gave me a glimpse of avoiding wrath by running to escape it.

Years later, when I met Jesus, I learned how he made it possible for us to avoid God’s wrath by not running from Him but to Him instead.

Back to Basics

Back to Basics

It’s back to basics for me.

When my daughter turned 4 years old, the same age where a lot of my early memories start picking up steam, it prompted a nostalgia-laden look at what life taught me during those early years when a younger me wore Toughskins jeans and carried a Big Red Chief tablet and metal Star Wars lunch pail to school.

There is a book titled, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”

I know the sentiment. From age 9 to 11, I thought I learned everything I needed to know about God the Father from the Old Testament, deeming Him a scary, hard-to-please overseer that doled out the 10 Commandments and a book full of Levite rules that made life hard for the Jewish people to live by.

I am not Jewish by blood, however, even as a gentile boy, I had a little taste of Judaic law.

My grandparents’ church, the only church I was familiar with, didn’t believe in the New Testament and didn’t teach it. For me, the Bible stopped at the conclusion of Malachi. Jesus wasn’t talked about. Christmas and Easter weren’t celebrated.

Instead, I remember “celebrating” the Feast of Unleavened bread around Easter, where every single possible crumb of bread was eradicated from the house for a week as a purification ritual. This meant I had to take matzo sandwiches to school for a week. Have you ever tried to keep baloney and cheese together while munching on two sheets of stale Manischewitz matzo crackers?

Back to Basics: Sabbath

In this series, Back to Basics, it’s my hope to shed some insight about the freedom I found in Christ through some personal stories from my early years of wrestling with fear of Old Testament law.

Back to Basics: Sabbath

When I was eight, I had a mesh baseball cap featuring Garfield the cat saying, “I live for Saturdays.” It wasn’t true. I survived Saturdays.

I lived at my grandparents’ house. They belonged to a church that I later learned was designated as a cult. I wasn’t forced to go to the church, but I was expected to obey the house rules.

One of those house rules, the Sabbath, was a doozy for a kid to handle. The Sabbath lasted from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. The Sabbath meant no television, no video games, and no playing outside or inside with friends. Basically, it meant no fun.

My grandparents went to church. I stayed at home. Alone.

Being a resourceful kid, I read all day, played with toys and listened to the radio (securing 80’s song lyrics in my head that stay with me today). I even went so far as to tape record the audio from Cheers episodes when they aired on Thursday nights so I could listen to them again on Saturday if I wanted to.

The hypocrisy. I was “obeying” the Sabbath, but I was audibly hanging out with a bunch of boozing adults at a Boston bar.

Beating the system felt good. But, I felt guilty. If Saturdays weren’t supposed to be fun, what did God think of my actions to disobey even though I was never officially told not to do something? I sure wasn’t going to tell my grandparents what I was up to. They just might take me with them to church if so.

Proverbs 31: An Ancient Question

Proverbs 31: An Ancient Question

Proverbs 31 starts with the question, “What are you doing?”

The question posed by a father to his son beckons the son to consider kingly behavior.

For those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ, sons and daughters of God, we have an opportunity to pose this question to ourselves daily.

The rest of the chapter describes The Woman Who Fears the Lord.

We’ve come to know this example as The Proverbs 31 woman. A well-respected, Christian lady may be described as a Proverbs 31. This moniker can be a blessing. As many women might find, this name can also be a curse.

Certainly there are many women, like men, that when faced with the standard of Jesus’ thoughts, words and actions, know how we fall short of His standards daily.

For any woman described as a Proverbs 31 woman, keeping that title may prove difficult because the Proverbs 31 woman sounds just about perfect. For those who would like that title, attaining that seemingly perfect character and accompanying actions must prove difficult too.

We see in the text the Proverbs 31 woman is: