November 11, 2019

Curiosity


I am so glad that I was given a good sense of curiosity. Very, very glad. There has seldom been a forest road I did not want to follow to see where it led, or a ghost town on the map that I did not want to explore. I visited a private Indian ruin in Arizona and got down in the dirt to excavate pottery shards. I was captivated by the curator’s theories about the Anasazi.

As I grew up in the church, and eventually on into Seminary, curiosity became my modus operandi. Not intentionally, not even knowingly. I only know this in the rear-view mirror. I was not happy to be lectured and then expected to regurgitate all the doctrinal views I was told to adhere. I often asked, “Why do you believe this? Why do you interpret this passage in this way? How do others view this truth? Is this statistic or opinion really valid, or is it contrived? What is the underlying bias of this writer or speaker?”  

It wasn’t always postulated truth that captured my curiosity, but practical doctrine and Christian living. I didn’t question just to be questioning. God brought crossroads into my life where I needed to know rightly. Necessity is the mother of invention, it is said. And for me, necessity became the motivating factor to sort out truth from myth.  

A good dose of mature curiosity is healthy, not dangerous. Perhaps even a judicious dose of doubt. Without it we have a tendency to become very close-minded, sacrosanct, locking the door to our mind and preventing anything new from turning on the light bulb of understanding. God is not able to teach us what He wants us to know. Can you imagine Moses on Mt Sinai, without an overwhelming curiosity to know the mind of God? Or the Apostle Paul without incredible curiosity? He overcame all his Pharisee upbringing to give us some of the most revelatory truths of the New Testament.

I was given some great advice by a wise friend in my early years of ministry. He said, “Dave, you need to know what you believe, but hold it lightly.” I have often shared that advice, though it is seldom understood and appreciated. It is usually interpreted as a gateway to heresy. But for me, it became the guiding light to change my beliefs about hearing the Holy Spirit, about ministering to the demonized, about living in grace rather than self-righteous striving. It also put me on a life long study to understand the meaning of the revelations of Daniel and John’s Apocalypse, discarding many cherished and deeply embedded views of Christ’s second coming. I am so very, very glad for the curiosity with which God blessed me.

While visiting Boston recently, I toured the Kennedy Presidential Library. I was impressed by many historical recollections, but one statement in particular captured my mind. All politics aside, consider this statement in light of theology and Biblical interpretation. Students of the Word, take note: “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, pervasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold to the clich├ęs of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” (JFK, Yale commencement address, 1962)

Have you ever heard this comment? “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.” If that works for you, so be it. I’m sorry, though, but you may be blind and deaf to any facts that contradict what you think you know.

Scott Peck wrote in his book, The Road Less Traveled, some additional insight on curiosity. He wrote, “Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice, and a profound tendency to see what they want to see rather than what is really there… Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, ever enlarging and refining and redefining their understanding of the world and what is true.”

“Study to show yourself approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of God.” (II Tim 2:15)

July 15, 2019

Ears That Do Not Hear


The hearing specialist came out to call the next patient, “Stephen”. I looked around the waiting room, but there was no one else but me. So I asked her, do you mean “David”? She said “yes, that’s who I just said.”

She was helping me decide about getting hearing aids. We looked over the results of the first hearing test. My left ear dropped off so badly in the high frequencies that they insisted I get an MRI on my inner ear canal to rule out a physiological cause. But the result that I had not noticed, prior, she pointed out. One of the tests had been word recognition. With my left ear I scored only 52%. I got 13 right and 12 wrong. The other ear was 80%. The funny thing is this. I remembered doing that word recognition test. I didn’t miss a single word, I thought. Certainly don’t need hearing aids.

My dear, wonderful wife, Carol, is the one who insisted that I get my hearing checked. So I did so, just to prove to her that I could hear just fine, thank you. She also insisted I get my vision checked. I went to the optometrist to see if I needed glasses, something a bit more prescriptive than the reading glasses I had been buying from the Dollar Store. After the vision test the optometrist started looking into my eyeballs with some special scope. He told me that glasses would do me no good, because I had cataracts that were clouding my vision so much.

I had recognized that one eye was getting more and more blurry, or cloudy, so I wasn’t surprised. When I went to see the Ophthalmologist to discuss cataract surgery she looked into my eyeballs as well. Her comment was simple, “I don’t know how you can even see.”

The morning after surgery to remove the cataract in my right eye is a vivid memory. I got up like usual and went to the sink to wash my face and wake up. I was startled and stepped back from the mirror, hardly recognizing the guy looking back at me. He had spots, scars, wrinkles and whiskers, a face I had not seen in years, I reckon. After a few days I began to realize that the left eye, the one that was my good eye, was now very cloudy. What I thought was a good eye was almost as bad as my bad eye. The doctor said, “I told you so. I have reserved another surgery date for you.”

I am amazed at how bad my hearing and my eyesight was and I did not even have a clue. It reminds me of statements in Scripture. “They have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear” (Jer 5:21). After telling a parable Jesus often challenged his listeners, saying, “He who has ears let him hear” (Mt 11:15). And at the close of each of the assessments of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 Jesus said the same, “He who has ears let him hear”.

The Jews of OT times were dull and blind to the truth of the prophets. Hard hearts, molded by the cultures around them, defiantly insisting that God should conform to their lifestyle. The Jews of NT times were dull and blind to the teaching of Jesus about the New Kingdom. They thought they had God all figured out. You can’t change a mind that is smarter than God. And the church, full of believers, is pictured by the Lord of the Church as being dull and blind to its condition. A happy, going concern, but off the mark.  All of these, having ears and eyes, are totally unaware that they do not hear the voice of God. Clueless. Just like me, with my ears and my eyes.

I wanted to understand this phenomenon. Why do so many people have ears but do not hear God, eyes but not see Him. Even those who seem to be otherwise spiritually inclined. The answer could be summed up in one word. Bias. We tend to hear God (or not hear Him), interpret His truth, and incorporate it into our life, based on the bias of our heart. The bias to accept the lifestyle of the world about us. The bias to accept long-standing theological beliefs that rule out any other understanding. The bias to be carefree and easygoing in surrendering all to the amazing love of God. In the parable of the four soils, there is one who hears the word of God, receives it, and bears fruit. That person is “noble and good” (Mt 13:13-23).

July 13, 2019

Today In the US of A


Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many
 will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end
 will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)

Welcome to today in the US of A.

Where sex is free and love is expensive. Where losing a phone is more painful than losing your virginity. Where modernization means nudity, profanity, surfing the web, and “what’s in it for me.” Where if you don't drink or smoke dope you're out of fashion, not in style. Where social media has replaced real relationships.

Where boys stay boys and never want to become men, and girls become men to rule over them. Where if you don't fool your partner it's because you're not clever enough. Where the bathrooms have become photography studios. Where pizza delivery is faster than the emergency response. Where people fear thieves and terrorists more than they fear God.

Where worshiping God is difficult. Where temples turn into dating pools. Where lies are expedient and deceptions become realities. Where ladies fear pregnancy more than HIV, and babies are murdered so women can escape. Where people become toxic when they speak the truth. Where political stances are more important to the Body of Christ than love, hope, and mercy.

Where perspectives and clothes decide the value of a person. Where money is more important than family and God. Where children are ready to leave their families for their love of the moment, rebellion and spite. Where pop stars are far more revered than statesmen or great leaders. Where education is liquid, where teaching the current social trends is more important than historical facts and important life skills.

Where love is a game. Where the marriage covenant is no longer sacred or taken seriously. Where 25th and 50th anniversaries are as archaic as the phone booth, or the horse and buggy. Where it's easier to play house than to build a home. Where jumping from partner to partner for sex or attention is easy and normal.

Where the concept of evil no longer exists, and sin is a forgotten concept. Where confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation are put on the shelf only to collect dust.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  (II Tim 3:1-4)

There's still hope in Jesus. Love and forgiveness, too.  Always. It's never, ever too late!

(Reposted form the internet, original source unknown, with some revisions by Dave Eymann)