Sunday, March 30, 2014


Most of you reading this want to make a difference in the world and to leave something behind that says, “I was here and I created something of worth.” That “something” can be a family, a skyscraper, an artist’s opus, a business, or an orchard. Whatever the symbol, we want it to live on after we die monumentalizing for future generations our pursuit of incarnating our beliefs, principles, and view of life.

With some people this desire is ego driven: “I, Monte E Wilson, was here in all of my glory. Behold and stand in awe!” Here, it is not a symbol of your beliefs, principles, and view of life that you are building but an image you wish to perpetuate. The edifice you leave behind is not inscribed with your most sacred beliefs but, rather, is adorned with a selfie. Vanity.

Years ago I knew a missionary whom I greatly admired. He was relentless in his pursuit of sharing God’s love with the poor in the village where he had chosen to serve. I remember the morning a mutual friend of ours called and told me of his death. I was shocked, as he wasn’t even 60 years old. The first reports were that his death was due to the enormous sacrifices he made on behalf of others. A few months later, I was visiting his area of the world and decided to go pay my respects to his family and co-workers. Within an hour of my arrival a different story emerged as to the cause of his death. He was a diabetic and for years had refused to take his insulin shots. I was told that he wanted to be seen and remembered as a martyr. His monument was a paper-thin piece of tin inscribed with the words, Vain Foolishness.  

For people of faith, the ego often takes on robes of false-humility and a self-flattering earnest desire to show ourselves worthy of God. In other words we set out to justify our existence. “Look at what I did with my life: I deserved to exist. I deserve God’s honor, grace, and life itself!” This person sees life as a probationary period where we seek to prove ourselves worthy … of something for which we can never earn. Really? We think our works that must appear (at best) to the Creator as sandcastles on the beach leave Him speechless in His awe of what we did with our lives? “Whoa, Wilson! Okay, I give you a divine two-thumbs up. You earned my gift to you!”  Vanity of vanities: nothing but vanity.  

With some personalities, however, the robes of false-humility aren’t a good fit for their supersized egos. No, what they put on is the armor of an angry self-righteousness. They alone are the voice in the wilderness crying out for mankind to repent. They alone stand for Truth, Justice, and Integrity. They walk securely in the awareness that, while the suckers around them have succumbed to darkness, they see the Light. Their voices are singular, distinct, and filled with the righteous wrath of God. “I see, I know, I am correct, I matter, I am special,” hear the ego roar! “Certainly the Almighty sees my righteous warfare for His sake, smiles, and counts me worthy of His gift of life.” The echo of a Pharisee whose life and prayer were seen by God as only so much chasing after wind: “God, I thank You that I'm not like other people--greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector!” (Luke 18.11) Vainglory.  

All attempts to earn God’s gifts are an affront to His unmerited grace. Life is a gift that we are to humbly embrace with gratitude. The work we perform, the monuments we erect, are only acceptable to God when done from a heart filled with thanksgiving and a desire to be faithful to Him who has given us unworthy people such astounding gifts.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Your True Self v Off the Rack Personalities

In the world to come I will not be asked, “Why were you not Moses.” I shall be asked, “Why were you not Zusya?” 
-Rabbi Zusya

The most common form of despair is not being who you are.
-Søren Kierkegaard

The Psalmist declares that we were fearfully and wonderfully made. This is not solely a declaration regarding the wonders of bones and muscles, organs and neurons, but about that which makes you a once in all eternity human being. Your existence is a gift from God and you are His gift to the world in which you live.
Yet how many of us spend our lives seeking to be other than whom we were created to be, effectively telling our Creator that we reject His gift, His designs, and His purposes for our existence? True peace and joy are found in being the individual whom you were created to become, for only that person “fits” in the grand scheme of God’s designs.
Your identity is not out there hanging on a sales rack. It can’t be found for $599 at a seminar promising that you can reinvent yourself. What does it say about us when we scurry around trying on personalities like clothes off of a rack, seeking to be loved, honored, and successful—not as God defines those experiences but as our culture defines them? Whatever it is we think we are doing, all we will end up with is emptiness and despair.
In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, author Bonnie Ware writes that the number one regret of those who are facing impending death is that they wish they had “the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” I would add here, “and not the life I lived in reaction to those who did not believe in me, seeking to prove them wrong.” Whatever. The point is you have a knowing-ness as to your true self: all other personality makeovers don’t fit, trouble you, and make you into someone you don’t recognize when alone with God.
We are not self-authenticating because our self is a gift given to us by our Creator. Sure, many of us want to be other than who we are because our culture has exalted personality-types and lifestyles that help us all feel good about being narcissists and condemned those that dampen the party. But we won’t be standing before our culture when we die: we will stand before the One who said, “Let there be … you!”
Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

-St John

When it comes to the Bible, I have found that most of us are scheming and conniving lawyers. We love looking for loopholes so we can get around its simple and clear commands. When we can’t find a loophole we yank out a Get Out of Jail Free card claiming a special dispensation. I’m confused, ill, suffering, or, a favorite go-to today, doing that won’t work in today’s culture.  Phew! Always feels good when I can figure out how to be a Christian while at the same time keeping the New Testament from intruding in my life.

Consider four direct commandments for those who say they are followers of Jesus Christ:

Love one another (John 13.34) Pretty straightforward command with plenty of descriptions throughout the NT as to how love behaves and does not behave (e.g. I Corinthians 13). Loving others is not left in a fog of opinions but has objective and concrete descriptions with which we can evaluate the nature and depth of our professed love. It is terrifyingly simple: whatever we do to or for the least of Christ’s brothers, we have done to or for him. (Matt. 25.40)

Walk in the light (I John 1.6,7) Be directed by the Light of God’s Truth, allow the Light of Christ to continually burn away all of our darkness, and be truthful and honest in all our dealings with others. And when we see that we have been walking in darkness?

Confess your sins one to another (James 5.16: Note It does not say to confess his or her sins to others!) Certainly we confess to God. Here, however, because our darkness affects the people around us, we are to humble ourselves and confess what we have done and left undone that is unbecoming for a child of God’s. Yet this command is not simply about asking forgiveness of those whom we have failed. It is broader than this, as it is describing a fundamental transparency with fellow Christians regarding our failures. Talk about an effective means for dealing deathblows to pride and vanity. Yowzer!

Bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6. 2) Our burdens—our concerns, internal battles, frailties, failures, fears, conflicts, and insecurities—are not for our shoulders alone. For many of us the challenge is not in serving others but in allowing other people to serve us where we most need their strength and wisdom.

“No problem, Wilson. I am all for love, light, confession, and serving others.”


Show me where it is happening in your life.

Name the individuals with whom you are living out these commands in your day-to-day living.

It’s easy to agree with the demands of the NT without carrying them out in a specific context.  But Christ said if we loved him, we'd obey his commandments, not just parrot them. 

It is disingenuous to stand before the jury, telling them how highly we value Christ’s commands, while at the same time doing everything in our power to nullify or circumvent those commands. The jury of our peers may buy it: the Judge doesn’t.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

What Were You Looking For?

A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.

A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, "Grab my hand and I will pull you up!" But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.

When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

We’ve all been there. We cry out to God for help, deliverance, salvation, comfort, but he is nowhere to be found. Or was He there all along? He sent a priest, then a friend kept showing up offering to help, a couple of buddies told us about this support group, “out of the blue” someone mailed us a book or a DVD  … yet we stayed on our knees begging God to come to our aid.

Read the scriptures: Divine, “face to face” encounters are incredibly rare. What we do see, however, are divine appointments with people whom God sent to speak to us, to serve us, to get us out of harm’s way before we drowned.

It’s easy to say, “I am trusting God in God alone.” It’s all quite spiritual sounding but actually displays a misunderstanding as to the ways of God.

God: Wilson, do you trust me?

Wilson: Yeah verily and spiritually I do, most Sovereign-eth and Loving-eth God! (Throwing in the Old English ought to impress Him.)

God: Then trust me to use that person over there for your welfare.

Wilson: Now wait just a minute Lord: her? (Believe me here: God has a tremendous sense of humor, as the “help” He sends is often the last person we want to talk to.)

Throughout Israel’s history, God sent people (Prophets) to point them in the direction of wisdom and spiritual health. They were pretty much always treated as pariah. Of course, if you are like me, when you read these stories you think to yourself, “What a bunch of idiots: I would have listened!”

That’s what the Pharisees said to Jesus. Remember?

Jesus: And you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” (Matthew 23)

He then goes on and tells them they surely would have stoned those men, and, to prove it, they were going to kill the very Son of God who comes in God’s name.

He closes his rebuke with this terrifying declaration: “You aren’t going to see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who come in the name of the Lord.’” You Pharisees want to see God? You had better welcome and bless me.

I don’t want to make this passage say more than what is actually being said. This is all about Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, I do believe there is a spiritual principle here. We cry out to God to come to us. He sends him, her, or them, to help us. If we want to see Him, if we want His aid, comfort, and wisdom, it’s a pretty good idea to face these people and say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Come right in!” Of course, we can always die, trusting in God alone. But then there’s that uncomfortable conversation with Him where He points to whom all He sent our way and asks, “What were you looking for?”

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Your Tongue's On Fire!

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

(T)he tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

--St James

A couple of weeks ago I had a nightmare where I had discovered that someone whose respect and friendship meant the world to me had heard something about me that destroyed his trust in me.  It was one of those dreams where you wake up shaking and nauseated. For hours afterward, I had to keep telling myself it was just a dream. Ever since that night I have been thinking non-stop about the ability of our tongue’s to ruin lives.

By the time we are around 9 years old, we have all experienced the pain of discovering that someone we thought was our friend has been speaking ill of us, behind our backs. “She is such a baby.” “He is so arrogant.” “Did you know that she told me that she thought you were stupid?” The pain of those first experiences is world shattering and potentially life altering.

As we grow older, the stories take on greater sophistication and subtlety, as few people want to be known as gossips and backstabbers. “I’m really concerned about her marriage. I think she is hitting the bottle every night. We need to watch our for her.” In Christian circles, the added twist would be, “We need to pray for her.” Gossip baptized in a prayer request is okay, right? RIGHT?

I have seen businesses driven into bankruptcy by slander. I have witnessed first hand marriages sped along the path to divorce by “well-meaning” friends who thought it their duty to tell their friend about what “actually happened the other night with your spouse,” and then proceeded to tell a yarn they had heard second or third hand. I have repeatedly sought to help bring healing between friends whose bonds had been obliterated by a third party’s half-truths and false accusations.

Most all of us have seen the destructive nature of gossip, bearing false-witness, and slander. Many of us have been on the receiving end of such behavior, as well. It’s brutal, it’s deadly, and it’s morally reprehensible.

But I don’t want to talk about those gossips; I want to talk about you and me!

When out with the guys, have you ever noticed how many of the conversations are about someone who isn’t at the table? And what about those conversations around the office coffee pot where we all laughed at the idiocies of a co-worker … who wasn’t standing there? If we were the subject of the ridicule and later heard about the running commentary on our performance or personalities, how will we feel, what thoughts will explode in our brains? And what is going to happen to our relationships with these people? And what happens to my reputation of being a person of integrity in this person’s mind?

How many times have you begun a conversation with the line, “I don’t want to talk out of school…” and then proceeded to “talk out of school”?

How often do we report to others the unconfirmed tabloid accusations du jure as if they were unquestionably accurate?

And what about those times where, yes, we did tell “the truth” about someone but it was with the intent to harm, ridicule, or gloat?

In other words, how often do people do to us what we have done to others?

Gossip, bearing false-witness, and slander, are sparks from hell. We can’t control what others say, but we can resist hell-fire from bellowing out of our own mouths.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Gift Of Creation

There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places. --Wendell Berry

Eden. So, there’s this tree in the Garden with fruit that the guys are told not to eat. It’s the only thing in the Garden that doesn’t have God’s blessing. Being like me—or am I like them?—and seeing a line in the sand as something begging you to step over, they chow down. “I know what’s best for me, I am my own man, the serpent is only wanting my best, for me to be free, blah, blah, you’re not the boss of me, blah.” Bad News, guys. Before you stepped over that line all of creation, except that one tree, was given to you as life and blessing and a means for communing with God. Now? All you get to eat is death.

Think of it this way. God gives us the gift of the world. Everything in the world but the fruit of this one tree was blessed of God for our good. So what do we do? We go to the one tree that is off limits, telling God that we now choose to see the world as an end in and of itself: it is not a means for communing with him, not something we transform into life. Consequently, the world is no longer a gift from God for us but a possession of man to use for his own end. Tragically, in doing this we cut the world off from it’s Creator and Sustainer so that it is no longer a means for communing with the light, life, and love of God, for us, no longer something we are to steward for his sake. But nothing has life in and of itself. Everything depends upon the life of God. Cut off from its Source, it may still appear to be alive, but it is disintegrating and dying, along with all of the breathing corpses running around behaving as if there is any meaning to existence apart from God.

Reoriented to the World
And then God came into the world as the Person, Jesus Christ, and offered us His life and love, so that for all who trust in Him for forgiveness and salvation life is restored. However, this is not simply a restoration of life with God but a restoration that also reorients us to His creation. Now, receiving these gifts as intended, with gratitude and dependence upon him for all things, the world is once again a means of communing with the God of Life.

Sadly, many Christians still behave as if the world was not affected by Christ’s death and resurrection. For these people the world and all of its beauty, glory, and wonders are, at best, pleasantries to distract us on our way to heaven, or, worse, things to be shunned. Where God says (Genesis 1. 26-29) go out and make the world more beautiful, manage its resources for his sake and for the good of others, and do your best to see to it that it increasingly reflects the very glory of its Creator, these people say, “Nonsense, all that matters is getting ready for heaven.”  

When we treat the gift of his creation as irrelevancies, aren’t we then saying that creation is not to be received with gratitude and stewarded for its owner? Explain to me exactly how such ingratitude honors God.

When we eat to survive rather than as a communal act with loved ones and God himself, what is it we are saying? That food and the world are still divorced from God and ... what, an end to itself? I thought we were to be imitators of Christ, not of Adam.

If we insist that God’s gift in Christ has nothing to do with our relationship to creation, what are we saying? That we aren’t to see God’s creation as a reflection of his beauty, glory, and life, no longer see it as a means for communing with him, no longer have any calling to be responsible stewards of his creation. Again, exactly how does this honor the Creator?

Somewhere along the line, many religious people decided that there was the spiritual world and then there was the material world, and we all know what really counts, eh? The spiritual banquet prepared by religion is more sacred than the dinner that was prepared for you last night, right? Wrong.

Part of our calling in the world, for the world, is to see and handle creation as the gift it is, to take it into our hands and, through our gratitude and praise to God, we are to transform it into life. In doing this, creation, once again, is reoriented to its God ordained purpose: a means for seeing and communing with our Creator and Father.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014