Category Archives: Discipleship

An Observation

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

When my children were young, they would occasionally say to me, “How do you know that?”  Typically, I answered glibly, “I’m your father; I know everything.”  Of course, they came to realize the fallacy of this boast as they grew older and as far as I know, they never held it against me.  I like to think that despite not knowing everything, I have grown knowledge over the years and, hopefully, in wisdom…and I think I’m as observant as I’ve ever been.

One of those observations, or should I say range of observations, is in the intersection of Scripture and everyday life and its patterns and trends.  In the millennia that have passed since the settling of the canon of Scripture, innumerable societal changes have occurred in every phase of life.  Kingdoms and nations have risen and fallen and risen and fallen again; hierarchies and class structures have morphed; structures of philosophies and religious beliefs have heavily influenced thought and behavior; wars and brutality have consumed populations; growth in science and technology has steadily marched forward (but still is not the panacea so often promised); the desire for monetary wealth and consumption is a guiding hunger for many; and the poor remain with us.   Perhaps the Teacher of Ecclesiastes (Solomon?) was right: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).     

There is a proverb (22:6, NIV) that says, Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  I’ve never believed that this is a formulaic promise as much as it is a principle.  Still, children pointed toward a healthy direction in life and given continual support in that direction are more likely to independently buy-in to parental instruction when they are of an age to make adult-level assessments about what is good, better, and best than if they are never taught and left to their own devices.  This proverbial idea is the same as what Moses instructed in the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9), i.e., the importance of teaching children the way and will of GOD so that when they are older, their knowledge of GOD will be their internal motivator.  

Over time, as the Israelites who first received the covenant of God, died-off and syncretism (a mixture of components from different belief systems) became prominent in subsequent generations, a time came when it could be said of Israel a“generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.”  Those who had been called to be a nation of priests had become as common as every other people.  Is this not where we are now…again?  Perhaps my eyes and ears deceive me, but I don’t think so.  

It seems to me that many have attached enough other things to their Christian faith that their lives don’t look a lot like the mind of Christ Paul speaks about in his letter to the Philippians, but some self-created syncretistic thing.  Here are some indicative red-flags:   

  1. Selecting those portions of Scripture we like and mentally discarding those we don’t, preferring some alternative thinking that aligns with our personal preferences and comfort.  
  2. Conflating (bringing together; fusing) the spiritual and the political into a pseudo-unified whole in a confusing attempt to make Christ’s kingdom be of this world (when Jesus was explicit in saying His kingdom is not of this world)
  3. Continually employing carnal weapons to combat spiritual problems, repeatedly proving Einstein’s maxim about insanity.  
  4. Using human arguments to justify biases and other unholy attitudes (and actions) even while singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Joy to the World” (I originally drafted this just before Christmas).  

These symptoms are indicative of contemporary golden calves attempting to stand as equals alongside the Most High GOD whom we may also claim.  Wherever this is prevalent, it’s no wonder children are growing up not knowing the GOD of the Bible nor the Christ who bore their sins and who offers the way, the truth, and the life: they are neither tasting the salt nor are they seeing the light. 

Perhaps an old calling that is still timely: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

© Byron L. Hannon, 2022.  All rights reserved unless otherwise noted.                

The World’s Glow Globe

I am an unapologetic Dune1 fan.  This fandom is not new; I have been into Dune since the 1984 movie premiered.  Though not a science fiction fan per se, I’ve read the entire Dune book series.

One small piece of technology in the Dune world is something called a glow globe, a suspensor- buoyed, self-powered illumination device that provides light in darkened spaces.  It’s essentially a personal, self-operating ball of light.  If you had one, it would anticipate your movements and correspond them to yours, preceding you so that as you walked in the dark, a lighted pathway would be provided.  With your glow globe, you would never walk in the dark.  

There are many dark scenes in the Dune, reflecting the story’s overall tone, at least initially.  Consequently, several scenes take place in darkened locations and glow globes provide light to the principal characters as they walk in and through these spaces.

Ironically, glow globe is the first thing I thought about yesterday when I read, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12).  He is the eternal glow globe available to any and all.  

There is one key difference.  In the Dune narrative, glow globes go where you wish to go.  Jesus, on the other hand, is only light for those who follow Him.  The other option is to walk in darkness…including when darkness masquerades as light.

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6,7)

1 Dune is the first in a series of science fiction books written by Frank Herbert first published in 1965.  It is the basis of two movies (1984 and 2021) and a television miniseries (2000).  

© Byron L. Hannon, 2022.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.      

Counting My Blessings

This is my first post in several months, something those of you who read me regularly know.  This sabbatical from writing was unplanned initially.  One week, it just occurred to me that I didn’t have anything fresh to say, so rather than write something just for the sake of posting it, I rested.  This was after writing continuously for three and a half years, with the exception of missing a week here and there.  In the second week of not having anything to write, I gave myself permission to take a break, to refresh without having an end date in mind.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure if I will post much beyond this, although I hope to.

Today, however, I felt the need to share the experience of counting my blessings.  Some of you may know that old hymn by the same name and I believe it to be a worthwhile and easy discipline for any season.  As I was washing up the dishes left from the night before in the quiet of the early morning and, shortly after, as I settled into an easy chair with my Bible, other devotional reading and my journal for the purpose of meeting with GOD, it was impressed upon me how deeply blessed I am.  It was as if a gentle wave of awareness came over me.  I just sat in the quiet reflecting, taking it all in.   Then, I began to say, “Thank You” repeatedly to the One who sent the wave, the One from whom all blessings flow.  The psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) and I have tasted and it is so good.  

As we embark on this new year with its many possibilities and opportunities, I am deeply grateful for the love that has been there from the beginning before I was in my mother’s womb, for my parents who are gone but not lost, for my wife and life mate whose only other name besides her given one could be Grace, for my children with their distinct personalities, gifts and passions,  for my family in all of their iterations, for my dear friends and colleagues who make life so interesting, for all of those who have poured some portion of their lives into mine over the course of many decades, for the privileges I have been granted and the experiences I have had, and certainly for the love of GOD that I know and treasure because of Jesus Christ.

May this new year bring you and yours an abundance of joy and hope. 

                                     Chorus:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
1

1 “Count Your Blessings by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1897).  Copyright in the Public Domain.    

© Byron L. Hannon, 2022.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

9.11.01 and Now

“GOD opposes the proud but favors the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)

   Like most who were adults on September 11, 2001, I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and the sequence of events that constituted my day that day.  The horrific manner in which so many lives were lost was an incomparable experience for most of my generation and younger generations old enough to be aware of what had taken place. The physical and psychological boundaries of this nation had been penetrated.

Not surprisingly, houses of worship all over the nation were packed the following weekend as people mourned, sought comfort and, perhaps, confronted their own mortality.  Like most funeral and memorial services (and these gatherings were memorial services in the truest sense), the one-time visitors to these worship houses ceased attending once their immediate needs were met and places of worship settled back into their normal routines.

Annual anniversary remembrances have become the norm and here we are, 20 years later, having just done the same.  History, the good and the bad, needs to be remembered.  The people who died,  the spouses and children who suddenly experienced the loss of a wife, a husband, a mom, a dad, the first responders who sacrificed themselves, and those who subsequently died or have become incapacitated because of injuries or related illnesses should be remembered, not just in ceremonies but in tangible, material support for the survivors.

And…we need to be careful to not dirty-up the history by mythologizing it.  Myths can be an incredibly attractive ways of viewing the past, using rose-colored glasses to see only the positive and to hide/avoid the negative about ourselves and only the negative about others.  A result is self-aggrandizement.  The myths of a nation can have the same effect so that acknowledging and thinking only about the good-feeling parts of history can lead to over-inflated national pride and an attitude of hegemony rather than humility.  Hiding what we do not wish to see is nothing but a form of repression which will eventually bear its dangerous thorns.

As we remember history, let’s remember it in a way that is fair and true, and toss the rose-colored glasses away.  Our future depends on it.     

For it was GOD who created all nations. He determined when they should rise and fall and their boundaries (Acts 17:26).

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

A Great Labor

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 16:24)

Today is Labor Day (in the U.S.), a holiday honoring the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the nation.  The monuments of blue-collar labor are visible in the homes we live in, the food we eat, the streets and highways we drive on, the bridges we cross, the buildings many of us work in, and on and on.  

Physical labor is hard.  It demands strength, stamina, the mental toughness to keep at it over long periods of time, and the commitment to do the job well.  Relatively few do this work…but we are all dependent on those who do.    

Carrying a cross is blue-collar spiritual work.  This teaching by Jesus confronts the fallacy of “cheap” grace as it He explicitly identifies the chief demand on anyone who is sincere about committing to Him.  The cross is to be carried on one’s back more than it is a gold chain around one’s neck.  To carry it requires moral strength, spiritual stamina, the mental toughness to keep at it over a lifetime, and a commitment to doing the job well which is to glorify Him before all of heaven and earth.   

The cross is an instrument of death and love: death of self and self-rule and love for GOD and others (whether they know Him or not).  It is a constant reminder of the sacrificial life into which we have entered.  Facing the cross, therefore, is not be a one-time conversion experience; the Holy Spirit will always draw the committed back and then back again to be reminded that we are not our own, that we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).  We face the cross over and over again and carry it so that the remnants of self can be crucified and to continually recommit to the job of being living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). 

This is a great and wonderful labor.  Thank you to all who have borne it in days past.  May those who bear it now find rest and glory in Him.  For everyone else, the invitation to join is still there.                   

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.    

A Tutor, Not An Anchor

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Having just experienced another birthday, I found myself reliving a series of memories.  They were mostly disconnected and some of them went far back into my childhood.  Most were pleasant and others, not so much.  I don’t know what prompted my mind to walk these mental pathways with such intensity of feeling, but I recall thinking that I was watching a video of my life and that I needed to turn it off and go on living.

I don’t know much about boats, but I do know that the anchor serves an important purpose.  It holds the boat in place, keeping it from drifting.  Even a concerted effort to force a boat forward without lifting the anchor will only result in dragging the anchor, hindering the boat’s forward movement and preventing it from attaining optimum forward speed.  Anchors are heavy for a reason.  

We are not boats and yet our pasts can sometime function as anchors, making it difficult to move forward.  Failing to come to grips with unpleasant parts of our past, we are often stuck, like a boat with the anchor down, allowing the weight of those memories to keep us from living in the present.  Even good memories, if we idolize them, can do the same thing.  We can hold onto these memories longer than is healthy when we prefer them to our present. Our growth is chronological, but our emotional lives (and sometimes our behaviors) are holding on to the pleasantness of years-old and decades-old experiences.  Either way, we are not fully in the present, and we can’t move forward from points in past. 

We can’t deny or change our past (the parts we like as well as the parts we don’t like), but we shouldn’t be captives to them either, voluntarily or involuntarily.  Captives of the past cannot move on to maturity.  Using the past as a tutor seems to me to be a better use.  What can we learn from the past?  How can I use the past rather than past using me?  My past is a part of me, but I don’t want it to define my present nor my future. 

Let’s leverage the past for our benefit.  That may mean purposely taking quiet reflection time periodically (maybe with some prayer added in).  For some, it also may mean getting some help from someone skilled in this.  This is not a bad thing.     

Maybe the mark or calling to which you are pressing is different than mine, but we can only press on to maturity if we lift the anchor and store it in its proper place so that it does not function as a drag on our progress.  Take care of yourself.  There’s not another one of you out there.  

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                       

Refreshing

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” (Philemon 1:7)

I received an unexpected blessing yesterday.  I had just spoken at a church, filling-in for a pastor on sabbatical, and was on my way to visit an old friend who had been hospitalized.  

I say old friend because I’ve known him since the third grade.  We now live in adjoining towns, connecting infrequently as often happens in life.  It’s one of those relationships where we enjoy each other’s company for a bit, not see or speak to each other for weeks or months other than an occasional text or direct message, and then when we do see each other, we pick up conversation easily.

It’s common for me, as a member of the clergy, to go into hospitals (at least prior to Covid being at its height and no one was allowed in the hospitals other than patients and staff).  This visit, on the surface, seemed like so many I had done before.  Once I entered his room and we starting catching-up, however, we could just as easily have been in a park or standing on a street corner hanging out or having lunch someplace, aside for when the nurse came in the room to check his vitals.

He is and has long been a deeply committed believer with a son who is a pastor so it was natural for our conversation to take a spiritual turn.  In fact, he was the one who initiated that turn.  It was a relaxed and natural conversation in which we were encouraging and refreshing each other in the Spirit.  At one point, I said to him that I was receiving much more from him than whatever I was giving to him…and I was in a good frame of mind when I walked into his room.   Still, I was deeply blessed.

I’m used to being with all kinds of people, people of different origins, ethnicities, races, educational backgrounds, economic status, philosophical orientation, and belief systems, including those who would say they have no particular belief system (not true; everyone does).  It comes with the territory of what I do.  Still, like I wrote a few weeks ago, I am most at home when in the presence of those whose hearts belong to Jesus.  I was at home in that hospital room with my friend and my brother in the Lord.  So grateful; so refreshed.            

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.  

The Shrubbery Parable

There is a flower and shrubbery bed outside of my kitchen window.  In it are several kinds of shrubs and flowers that are well tended by the landscapers of our condo association.  One of the shrubs has attracted my attention because it doesn’t seem to be thriving like the others nearby.  

Nearly every day, as I sit at our kitchen table and look out the window, I notice how half the branches are in full leaf with new buds forming, while the remaining half of the branches have no leaves at all.  It’s as if they’re two different plants…except they’re not.  Something is keeping the full plant from blooming.  This plant is only half alive.

I look at it day by day and recall that Jesus frequently used plant life to illustrate healthy and unhealthy spiritual life. On one occasion He said, “[GOD] cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more” (John 15:2, NLT).

The Scriptures, which Jesus used to underscore spiritual wisdom, occasionally talk about the importance of having “eyes that see and ears that hear” because invisible truths are often made evident by the visible, things like shrubberies and fruit trees.  The key is that we are keen to discern and react to these truths when we see them before us.  It may be that they are here for more than pleasant scenery, but to teach us important lessons about our own lives.  

May we all have eyes that see and ears that hear.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

Words That Reverberate

Most of the people I know can pinpoint things they have read or which someone has said to them that impacts them at a visceral level.  Mr. Gerald Prater, my 8th grade homeroom and social studies teacher, told me he was going to intellectually emancipate me.  I was 13.  Here is it 57 years later and I remember it as if I was just standing in his classroom.  I’m sure you have memory of another’s words which still reverberate in your mind, irrespective of the time passed. 

Earlier this week I came across a statement, “God calls us not to solitary sainthood but to fellowship in a company of committed men.”1  Although it was stated at a time when gender neutral terms were atypical, the statement still struck a chord, absent allusions to sainthood and more so about with whom I feel most at home.  I believe it’s true that most of us feel more “at home” with some than with others, meaning feeling free to be completely relaxed and open, without any façade. 

I read this in the early morning and noodled on it the rest of the morning.  With whom do I feel most at home?  I hadn’t considered the question before, and it seemed important to be able to answer, particularly since I know a lot of people in varying degrees and am almost always crossing paths with more.  It comes with the territory of what I do.

The answer came.  While I desire to love and care for everyone, I find that I am most at home when I fellowship in the company of committed believers whose love and hunger for GOD removes all pretense, false faces and artificial barriers.  It is with them that very little needs to be explained.  We intuitively know and understand one another.  Acknowledging this to myself is freeing.  It is a new level of spiritual emancipation. 

Upon further reflection, it should not have been all that surprising that the Spirit led me down this path and to this conclusion.  It is consistent with the mind of Christ.  Once, when His mother and brothers were looking for Him, thinking to take Him home because of the public spectacle they were afraid He had become, He said when told that they were outside seeking Him, Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  Pointing to his disciples, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:47-50). 

With whom do you feel most at home?

  1. David S. Schuller. Found in Deep Fire, compiled by Harold Vaughn, p. 189. 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

Steward the Faith

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

A family occasion was the recent cause for my wife and I to look at old family pictures and other family memorabilia.  It doesn’t seem that long ago when we were so young that our parents still held onto some of their youth.  Then, there was a time when my afro was so large, my dad “hinted” (a euphemism) how nice it would be if I got it cut.  Looking at pictures of our children at various stages of their own growth, pictures that seem like they were taken yesterday was a reminder that time never slows down for they are all now at or near middle age and have their own families.

Growing up, I was always interested in, and later grateful for, the family stories my parents shared with me.  These were stories of the events of their lives and their families of origin including some I met and got to know and grow close to and many whom I didn’t.  I heard about mom’s and dad’s experiences as children and young adults and even beyond, things that shaped them as people.  Those lessons were critically important to me.  

I know I’m not unique in this; I think it’s natural for parents to do this with their children.  These narratives provide context for life, value formation and hopefully, healthy spiritual formation, something that many children, I fear, are not getting in their homes.  

Early in the formation of the national Israel, GOD instructed His people, through Moses, to be proactive with certain things, including passing down the narratives of what GOD had done for them to succeeding generations. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deut. 6:6-7).

People share a lot of things with their children, verbally and by being observed daily over the course of years as the children grow: history, culture, values, habits, expectations, dogmas, flaws, prejudices, etc.  For those of us who claim to know, love and trust GOD, where is He, and what He has done, on that particular list which we proactively and purposefully share with the generations that follow us?  

Time never slows down and soon another generation will “be gathered to their ancestors” until that “great day of the Lord.”  Let it not be said of us that we lived and then left without intentionally, purposefully, faithfully paying forward our faith and that we left behind us another generation that grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done.   

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.