Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Athens Still Needs the Unknown God

This will be a quick blog post, as I’m currently in Greece, preparing to speak at a retreat for women who are serving globally around the world. 

While we aren’t here to “tour,” we did arrive a day early and chartered a one day cruise that left the port at 6:15 AM and arrived back at the hotel at 9:30 PM.  We stopped at three islands: Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. 

Once again, I’m overwhelmed by the notion of standing on the shores of the very waters that brought the Apostle Paul to this country. A country where he was able to inform the Grecian folk about the “unknown god.” 

It’s an interesting read (Acts 17:16-34). By clicking on the verse, read the passage.

This is what impresses me as I sit in my little hotel room, overlooking the sunrise just off my balcony.

As Paul wandered about the city of Athens, he took note that the city was filled with idols. 

He attempted to talk to the resident Jews, reasoning with them and preaching Jesus.

Instead, they called him a “babbler.” An empty talker. One who is like a bird picking up seed, who picks up tidbits of truth from this teaching and that, second hand thoughts he might have borrowed from others (kind of like I do sometimes).  It was not meant to be flattering, obviously.

But, of all things you might call Paul, a babbler, by this definition, he wasn’t.

Instead, the story proves the man was an incredibly creative evangelist. 

The rulers of the synagogue take him straight to the Areopagus.

Here’s what I know about this place situated in Athens, and also known as the “rock of Ares/Mars (the Greek god of war);” thus, you may have heard it more commonly referred to as Mars Hill. 

It was situated opposite the west end of the well known Acropolis.

As the story goes, Mars, having slain the son of Neptune, for the attempted violation of his daughter (Alicippe), was tried for the murder in this spot before twelve other “gods” as judges. 

Apparently, this, then, became a typical place for future Athenian judges to convene, and they had jurisdiction over offenses such as willful murder, arson, poisoning, malicious wounding…all the capital offenses. However, they were also responsible to weigh in on and investigate new teachings. 

Because the Greeks, by nature of the culture, were all about NEW TEACHINGS…

So, this is where the philosophers and spiritual leaders bring Paul, not to defend himself, but to hear the court’s opinion on this strange new teaching, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting. For you bring some strange things to our ears! (Acts 17:19-20)”

Hear the brilliance of Paul:

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious!” 

He’d seen all the altars, the objects of worship to all the many gods. The Greeks had a god for everything; and, just in case, not wanting to neglect any other deity, they even built an altar to an “unknown god.” 

So, Paul continues, “What, therefore, you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…” 

How can you argue with this logic? 

He compliments them! You’re very religious, good job! 

But, how can you worship a god you don’t know, so let me help you, because I KNOW HIM!

Now their interest is piqued and they are all ears!

Paul sets himself up beautifully to download the greatness of his God, the goodness of his God, the government of God, and the AWE-MAZING grace of God (Wiersbe). 

He masterfully communicates to these judges who God is, then concludes leaving them with an application and a decision they must make. Of course, some mock him, some consider his words, but many made decisions to follow Jesus… 

As I sit outside Athens in my little hotel, I’m reminded the world still needs creative evangelists. Daring men and women unafraid to make the gospel the most important priority of conversation.

I’m reminded that wise minds still need Christ presented to them in a relevant way.

I’m reminded that those who are wise in this world are still ignorant and foolish when it comes to the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21-31). 

I’m reminded that God still calls His children to go to “Athens” with the TRUTH.


Where might your Athens be? 

How can you creatively, boldly, truthfully, compassionately, enter into conversations that allow you to present Jesus, so that others might know the God they thought they knew existed, but needed help to perceive. 


(Volunteer Team)

These next few days over the rest of the week, I’ll be meeting with women who are doing just this. My role is to remind them of their #why, bring words of TRUTH to refresh and restore and renew and revive their calling. When we finish the week, we’ll send them back to their Athens (some are in pretty difficult countries). Would you pray for the group of volunteers I am working alongside to help them persevere?

Thursday, October 19, 2023

A Lesson Observed from the Attack on Israel

A year ago, I visited Israel for the purpose of speaking at a women's retreat. 

The majority of gals who attended lived in country after years of researching, filling out paperwork, and providing DNA proof of their Jewish heritage.

This process they call "making Aliyah" under the "Law of Return" established circa 1950.

What a sweet and tender time for me, speaking in a setting where as I spoke I overlooked the Sea of Galilee where Jesus began His ministry. 

Over the last couple of days in-country, and following the end of the retreat, the volunteer team I partnered with toured a few sacred places. 

Just prior to boarding the bus to head to Tel Aviv and the international airport, a few of us decided to pay the entrance fee that allowed us to walk the ramparts around the old city.

Surprisingly, this became my favorite sight-seeing opportunity.

It truly is a "hidden gem" in terms of gaining perspective, overlooking the beauty of the city of Jerusalem, and gaining a sense of history. 

I found it easier to imagine the "tsaphah (Hebrew for watchmen)" through the years leaning forward, peering into the distance, watching, waiting, wondering, ready to warn at the drop of a hat. 

There was one other reason I enjoyed the walk.

Prior to the retreat, we received a spoken word: "WATCH."

It kept creeping up in morning devotionals, in prayer time, from conversations, and even through the reading of different Scriptures as we prepared for the women to arrive.

Why "watch," I questioned at the time? 

So, I began digging into Scripture...

The Old Testament is filled with passages about the importance of "watchmen" who stand on the ramparts to look for messengers or, more specifically, invading armies on the move. 

The New Testament loses the language of watchmen, but scattered about warns us all to "watch" and be sober-minded, on the alert for our enemy, who especially wants to rob us of greater faith. 

We're all challenged to "watchmanship" for these same purposes - to:

- keep an eye open for the enemy who is roaring about like a lion seeking whom he might devour...

- be on the alert for "exposed places," weaknesses that might allow the enemy to sneak into our lives without warning...

- stand in the gap, looking out for "the interests of Christ Jesus," which would be His Church, His Bride, His Beloved...warning and leading away from danger. Just as the watchmen of old stood at attention on behalf of others, we must do the same for the protection of souls...

- watch unto prayer, especially as last days approach, because we do not know the hour of our Lord's return...

- stay awake, lest we drift off to sleep, or drift away into those "misty flats" we talked about a few weeks back...

- to warn of turbulent days to come that our hearts might be established, steadfast, and we won't be caught off guard...

- to encourage that a "new dawn" will come in spite of the darkness that currently surrounds us...

(This, by no means, is an exhaustive, nor an exclusive, list...)

My walk around the ramparts came to mind several times over this last week as Israel, caught off guard, suffered attack from Hamas. 

It appears the "watchmen" were not fully on alert.

How can a country, so skilled in espionage, experience such failure? 

Did they let down their guard? 

Was Hamas that good? 

I wouldn't begin to give thought to an answer...

BUT, this is a great reminder for us all:

I believe we've a viable warning, a siren-call to step up, or step into, our calling to WATCH at all times, to PRAY at all times, and to remain SOBER-MINDED in order to be fully alert.  

We must heed this admonition above all as we step heavenward on the path of life...

Don't let this be said of us!

Thursday, October 12, 2023

"Blind Driveway" Ahead...

I love my morning walks in every season.

I'm always looking, keeping watch for God's beauty to emerge in spectacular and new ways.

He never disappoints.

So, one morning, recently, I noticed a new sign had popped up on the road I typically walk. 

It sits right before the rise of a small hill, before a car tops it, and begins the descent down.

This isn't a steep hill, yet significant enough, that apparently there's been cause for concern, hence the warning:

The first time I saw this sign, I chuckled.

There's just something about the pairing of "blind" and "driveway" that makes me giggle...

Yet, the notification means that those driving must proceed with caution.

Immediately at the bottom of this little hill sits an old ranch with traffic that zips in and out throughout the day. 

If both the driver on the hill, and the vehicle operator coming out the drive (who can't see the top of the hill), don't slow down, there won't be enough time to brake and avoid a collision,  (PS. Having walked this road, A LOT, overall the cars that travel the road pay zero-mind to the speed limit.)

For a brief few moments, both drivers approach one another blindly.

Hence, the admonition.

We live with a lot of admonitions sprinkled throughout our day, reminding us of potential danger, giving us an opportunity to proceed with caution, lest we be hit with some big, unpleasant catastrophe. 

These useful tools are meant to give help BEFORE we find ourselves in great difficulty.

They aren't meant to give us cause to mock or giggle, or roll our eyes...

They aren't rules.........not, yet........but guidelines, that, if broken too often, are destined to become rules.

But, seriously, how many of us see the warning signs, and, sometimes, glance around, think no one is watching and pay them no heed....and, sometimes, just sometimes, we get away with it.

Until we don't.

Human nature tends to shrug off warnings, especially if they inconvenience us, or cut into our pleasure.

"Man-of-earth" (what the ESV calls mortal humans with an expiration date) desires-above-all to live for what "feels right to me;" or, allows me to "live my own truth;" strokes my ego; or, lets me "follow my heart."

We'd prefer to take our chances at not getting caught, rather than sacrificing our own "want to."

But, eventually it catches up with us, and, if nothing else, we're caught off guard, unaware, and left wondering: "What just happened?"

As we step heavenward along the path the Lord has ordained for each of us, there will be such warnings.

We're provided plenty of notifications, posted along the way, not meant to restrict us, but to prevent us from wandering off the path into trouble, or transgressing into strange and diverse teachings, or stopping an undetected, avoidable collision from which it can be difficult to recover.

These admonitions are sprinkled throughout the Scriptures, especially in Proverbs, the writings of Paul, and even those of Peter, James and John. 

We can laugh at them...

...or scoff.

We can think them no longer relevant.

We can look around and say to ourselves, as the Psalmist writes about some of his acquaintances, "In his pride, the arrogant, does not seek God, and all his thoughts are: 'There is no God.' He says in his heart, "God hides his face, he will never see this...never call me to account (Ps 10:4,11b, 7b).'"

That may be true for a season; it may seem like we can "get away with not paying attention to the warnings of life," but, as David (again, in the Psalms) writes, there will come a day when those who keep on playing the avoidance game will be "snared in the work of their own hands" or stand before the throne of God for judgment. 

I find these words both strangely comforting, but HUGELY FEARSOME

Comforting in the sense that the Psalmist reminds us a day of reckoning is coming...those who don't seek God; who don't walk according to His ways; who think, if He exists at all, He doesn't care about what we' do here on earth...there's a day coming when all will be made right.

Fearsome for the same reasons. I know folks who "follow their own hearts," and "live their own truths," and long for them to see the "blind driveway" ahead, before the worst occurs.

 FOR ALL OF US, the admonitions in Scripture aren't just included so the Most High God, who sits enthroned as King forever, could write a large, thick book we call the Bible.

The admonitions in God's Word are there for our welfare, for our deep abiding joy, for our wisdom and understanding, for our success (I use this term loosely, for it really means "advancement") along the path of life. 

Truly, they are as relevant and protective for our well-being (in every way: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, occupationally, relationally, even physically) TODAY as they were when written "YESTERDAY."

Whether we heed these admonitions, or not, is up to us...

...because, the consequences of not heeding need to be considered with a fierce fervor:

There is great cause for concern.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Lessons from a Long-Ago-Planned-Trip to Prince Edward Island


Every time I flip a calendar to the month of October, I can't help but think of LM Montgomery's famous line from Anne of Green Gables: "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

It always makes me smile.

I love October...and, we live in a world where October shows off EvErY (!) yEaR (!).

Yet the smile isn't just from the memory of a single quote. 

We raised an Anne of Green Gables girl.

Our youngest daughter arrived in our home with an Anne-like-style for drama and flair, love of words and books, and, a wonder and appreciation for life.

There was no question in our minds that one day we would take her to visit the land of Anne, Prince Edward Island, strategically placed above Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Canada.

..and, so, it turned out that during her freshman year of college (as a high school graduation gift), Bay arranged for us to travel to PEI from Phoenix: he gave us miles to use for our airline ticket, and co-ordinated with friends who lived on the island a place to stay. The date was set! 

As you can imagine, our excitement held no bounds. 

We researched all the things we wanted to see, we planned, we set an itinerary...

As the time drew close, I packed my carry-on-bag, and drove from Pagosa to Phoenix, where we'd catch our flight out of Sky Harbor directly into Charlottetown.

The day arrived and we showed up at the airport the required two hours early for check-in.

All seemed smooth sailing, until the gal behind the counter asked me for my passport. 

Huh? Passport? 

Ruh-roh! My passport was back at home.

I'd just been to Canada two months prior to speak at a women's event in Toronto, I didn't NEED MY PASSPORT, only my driver's license!

I explained this to the agent (thinking she'd give me a pass without a pass-port), but the rules changed about a month before and she swore that a notification had been emailed.

Now everyone (including "moi") who wanted to enter Canada MUST HAVE a passport. 

I begged, pleaded, wanted to throw-up...but, there was no way they'd let me on that plane.

It became quite clear - I was not going to Prince Edward Island.

I was without excuse.

Mandy had her passport. She could have gone on without me, but didn't want to do a solo trip.  We were "in this" together...

So, together, we left the airport, as Anne would have said, "in the depths of despair."

Mom fail!

My worst mom fail! 

I had great intentions; but I'd focused so much on the destination that I really forgot about the journey. 

We do this spiritually speaking, as well, don't we? 

Sometimes our sights are so set on where we want to be (whether it's a goal in front of us, or our heavenly home) that we forget to look deeply into the steps we need to take to get where we are going,

We know what we want...we just don't pay attention to the details along the way. 

And, when we don't pay attention to the steps along the way, it's easy to get off course (or not make your flight)... 😑

It's amazing to me (I know because I've been looking) at the number of verses in Scripture that talk bout the steps we take, the path we are on, the way we take, our journey forward... Hundreds!

The journey we are on matters.

The path we take matters.

The direction we go makes a difference when it comes to our desired destination. 

Every step needs to be intentional. 

Every decision needs to be weighed out. 

I've gotten stuck on this verse this week:

"Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure (ESV, Proverbs 4:26)."

The direction we take is critical when it comes to our destination. 
And every decision impacts our direction...

Our intentions may be filled with anticipation; we may have even researched, planned, and written an itinerary...

But, if we aren't taking heed to the steps along the way, we'll not be prepared and ready when we get to the "gate." 

If we aren't watching for the emails (the written WORD) that will give us the instructions, we'll not make it far on the journey. 

We can't just know all about the end of the road, we must give careful thought to our feet... 

Looking ahead for obstacles that might cause us to stumble or trap us...

Watching for distractions that might cause us to wander off into dangerous territory...

Seeing the pitfalls ahead that we might avoid them...

Most of all, we should always travel with a COMPANION (and, even a "companion") who is on the journey with is for aid along the way and words of wisdom...

There are a lot of helpful hints in Scripture, especially in the book of Proverbs, about our journey heavenward. Some are warnings. Some are beautiful pointers that will help us make the most of every day we spend on the road... And, some are promises - extra special gifts along the way, if/when we take ownership of them!

The point of all this:  

Don't just focus on your destination and get stuck before you ever get very far on the journey. Good intentions get you nowhere...


Good news:  

About 6 years ago, I finally got to Prince Edward Island. 

Not with just one daughter, but with two.

It was a trip of a lifetime, enjoying sweet memories I will forever hold in my heart of time with my sweet girls. 

And, this time, I was ready for the journey - passport in hand - watching and enjoying every step we took all over the birthplace of LM Montgomery and her Anne of Green Gables.

PS. A special thank you to Lorne and Lorraine MacKenzie, who made our ultimate trip to Prince Edward Island and all-things-Anne-of-Greene-Gables most WoNdErFuL! You are the BEST! We love you still.