Author Archives: Bill Dalgetty

The High Cost of Lies

It takes a lot of effort to support a lie.  Can you remember a time when a little “white lie” led to another lie, and then to another?

The chief priests and elders of Jesus’ day did not know how to deal with an empty tomb and the possibility that Jesus, whom they crucified, was raised from the dead.  Most everything that Jesus said and did was outside their paradigm for a Messiah.  His resurrection was untenable to them.  So, they devised a lie and paid those who were guarding his tomb a large sum of money to testify to the lie.  As Matthew reports, “Then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’  The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.” (Mt. 28:12-13, 15)

Providing cover for a lie can get complicated, taking time, creating anxiety and exacting an emotional toll.  How often have we seen public figures pay a high price for living a lie, sometimes costing them their marriage, family, career and, like the chief priests, even hush money?

In contrast, I have a friend, Pat, who had struggled to get a job after completing her master’s degree.  She obtained temporary work at a small university to write a report about the effectiveness of a federal grant for a media center to improve teaching methods.  When her report included survey data about the lack of use of the media center by the faculty, she was asked by the department chair to alter the data so that he and the university would not look bad.  He implied that a permanent job would be in the offering if she acceded to his request, but probably not if she refused.  Pat refused to go along with the lie. The job was not offered.  But Pat’s conscience was clear, and her response helped her get even a better job months later. 

Truth is less complicated than a lie.  It is liberating.  It is cleansing.  The lack of truth is an obstacle to the Holy Spirit acting in our lives, while its presence testifies to the power of God.

Jesus said, “If you remain in my word…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  I am the way the truth and the life.” (John 8:32; 14:6) 

How much do we value the truth?  How much is a lie costing us? 

Jesus Responding to Our Requests

 “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51)

This is the question that Jesus asked Bartimaeus, a blind man sitting beside the road outside of Jericho as Jesus passed by.   “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me,” yelled Bartimaeus.  Those nearby rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David have pity on me.”

Mark reports that in spite of the large crowd and the efforts to suppress Bartimaeus’ shouts, Jesus stopped.  Though he could see that Bartimaeus was blind, he did not presume to act on his need.  Instead, Jesus asked what it was that he wanted him to do.

What an amazing moment for Bartimaeus!  He knew his need – “Master, I want to see.”  Jesus granted his request.  “Go, your faith has saved you,” and immediately Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus. (Mark 10:46-52)

If you were able to meet Jesus face to face, how would you respond to his question, “What do you want me to do for you?” 

When our children graduated from college and entered their adult years, my wife started praying that God would introduce each of them to just the right Christian person to marry.  After twenty-five years, four weddings and thirteen grandchildren, it appears that God surely answered those prayers.

We may not always know what our true need is.  Our physical needs are usually more obvious, but sometimes we need other things such as help in giving up a particular sin, or offering and receiving forgiveness.  Sometimes we ask for the wrong things, like James and John asking to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when he came into his glory.

Solomon asked for wisdom instead of riches and God gave him both.  I have never asked God for money or position, but he has more than provided for the needs of our family. I have made countless requests for my wife, children, grandchildren, and friends, and many of those requests have been answered. 

What do you want Jesus to do for you? 

Work — Part of God’s Plan

“The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15) 

After creating us in his image and likeness, God gives us an assignment – to work and take care of his creation.  Many people look on work as a curse resulting from the fall, but work was ordained before the fall, so work is a part of God’s divine plan for us.  Our purpose is to take care of creation until God is, as St. Paul says, “all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:28)

Lester DeKoster, in his book, Work, the Meaning of Your Life, defines work as “the form in which we make ourselves useful to others and thus to God.”  He explains, “Culture and civilization don’t just happen.  They are made to happen and keep happening by work—by God, the Holy Spirit, through our work.”  He poses the question of what would happen if everyone quit working and answers, “Civilized life quickly melts away.  Food vanishes from the store shelves, gas pumps dry up, streets are no longer patrolled, and fires burn themselves out. Communication and transportation services end and utilities go dead. Those who survive at all are soon huddled around camp fires, sleeping in tents and clothed in rags.  The difference between barbarism and culture is, simply, work.  As seeds multiply themselves into harvest, so work flowers into civilization.”  

DeKoster supports his view of work by relying on the Parable of the Last Judgment. (Matthew 25:31-46)  While this parable is usually considered to be about the universal judgment of all people taking into account how they have loved and served others, DeKoster contends that Jesus is talking not only about specific people who are in need, but also about providing food, drink, clothing, shelter, healthcare and other needs to society [creation] at large. This involves all the basic occupations that make up civilization.   He says, “The fabric of civilization, like all fabrics is made up of countless tiny threads—each thread, the work of someone.” 

All work that contributes to the production of goods and services for others, unless immoral, is part of God’s plan for creation.  As the parable says, our reward (inheriting the kingdom) was prepared for us “from the foundation of the world.”  Thus, work has always been a part of God’s plan for his creation.  What surprises people in the parable is that in working at providing the basic necessities for others they are serving God himself. 

Like the people in the parable, we may be surprised that in doing our work we, too, are serving God.  In working as an attorney for most of my career, I did not consider early on that my work was serving God, but it was indeed a “thread in the larger fabric of civilization” arising out of God’s creation.  My summer jobs in high school and college of serving on a road asphalt crew and a laborer in a cement plant were also “threads” making up the larger fabric of civilization.  

God calls us to love him and one another. (Luke 10:27) He calls us to be holy as he is holy. (1Peter 1:15) He also calls us to work and take care of our thread in the fabric of civilization arising from his creation. 

Do you realize that you are serving God in your work?

Thorns of Busyness

“Those sown among thorns…are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit.” (Mark 4:18-19)

In explaining the Parable of the Sower, Jesus says the seed is the word of God.  Some seed falls among the thorns, is choked, and bears no fruit.  Jesus explains that there are many kinds of thorns – worries, ambition, wealth, recognition, position, possessions and busyness, to name a few. 

Busyness, as much any other circumstance, makes the word in many of us unfruitful.  We rush to get dressed in the morning and have our breakfast before we rush to work.  At work, there is often more to do than the time available, so we rush from one task to another.  After work, we rush to take our kids to practice or a sporting event.  We then rush home for dinner because we have a meeting after dinner at church, school or some other place, or we need to help the children with their homework, or we have a brief case full of work.  

Even when we are not in fact being rushed, we have a sense of being rushed.   

All of this rushing crowds out God. Intimacy with him is sacrificed.  The noise of busyness keeps us from hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit and understanding the Spirit’s call each day.  Notice that Jesus says the outcome is that the word in us becomes unfruitful.  The rich guidance of the word goes unused.  Jesus’ desire for us is just the opposite – “I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)  

Life will always have its demands.  Do we let these demands choke out God’s word and presence in us, or do we invite him to join us in their midst?  I used to pray a lot in hallways and elevators as I went from one meeting to another, acknowledging God’s presence and asking him to go before me.  There seemed to be more fruit when I did and less when I didn’t. 

God’s presence is available to us in the midst of our busyness.  Offer up your schedule to him at the beginning of each day.  Remember his words, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)

Does busyness choke out your relationship with God – spending time with him in prayer, reading scripture and seeking his will in your lives? 

Do We value the Holy Spirit?

“’No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” (1 Co. 2:9-10 NIV)

St. Paul says that no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, but in the Holy Spirit, we may come to understand what God has freely given us – words taught not by human wisdom, but by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 

In contrast, St. Paul also says that the person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to them, and they cannot understand them because they must be spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2: 14)

The Holy Spirit gives me a sense of belonging to God – a feeling of security, knowing that the God of all creation is my Father. He is not distant and out of reach.  He has made himself available to me by becoming one of us through his son, Jesus, the Messiah.  I can see how much he loves me by how he sacrificed his life for me through the tortuous death of Roman crucifixion.  His Spirit gives me the desire to overcome my selfish nature, and love and serve my wife, family and others as much as I am inclined serve myself. 

The Holy Spirit helps me to understand that I am to be a good steward of the responsibilities and circumstances in my life, including family, work, and relationships with others.  He has taught me to have courage and trust in God when faced with the life threatening illness of cancer, the family challenge of a child with an intellectual disability, and circumstances that threaten a presumed career path.

The Spirit gives us knowledge and understanding in our perspectives, conduct, and relationships.  He enables us to see the natural order of God’s creation.  Some people see conflict between science and faith, but the Spirit shows us that science is simply the discovery of the mysteries of God’s creation.

How remarkable!  Who can equal God’s love for us and the gift of the Holy Spirit which is our enabler in love, wisdom, and truth?   

I once read that the contrast between living life in the fullness of the Holy Spirit and not doing so is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Jesus said, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”  (Luke 11:13)

As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost this week, are you experiencing the personal presence of God the Father and God the Son as enabled by the Holy Spirit?  If not, ask God to release the power of the Holy Spirit in you.  It will change your life. 

A Stretch Goal – Loving as Jesus Loved

“This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)  

In business, athletics and other endeavors of life, we often set goals for ourselves that exceed anything we have done before. Whether they include increased sales or production, running faster and longer, improving our grade point average in school or job performance measures at work, we refer to them as stretch goals.

Jesus set a stretch goal for the disciples and us with the above commandment.

How did Jesus love the disciples?  He called them.  He taught them with his words, stories, and example.  He empowered them and sent them out to serve the needs of others by healing, casting out demons and proclaiming that the kingdom of God had arrived.  And in a crowning illustration of love, he freely laid down his life for us to reconcile us to the Father and provide a means to overcome sin, death and Satan’s hold on creation.

He simplified all of the commandments into the love of God and neighbor, and said our neighbor is anyone we encounter, even a stranger as in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Through the Beatitudes, he promised blessings and happiness if we are humble in heart, mourn over sin, hunger for righteousness, show mercy, and seek to be pure in heart and peacemakers. 

How do we love as Jesus loves?  The opportunities are endless.  The key principle in most situations is to think of others over ourselves.  When our oldest daughter was three or four, as I walked in the door after a long day at work, she would say, “Come on, Daddy.  Let’s play.”  I got so tired of playing the board game, “Flintstones,” again and again, but I knew that I needed to love my daughter and our other children by spending time with them. 

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)  While this could actually involve giving up our life for someone else, more often it is about laying down our will, comfort, and desires for the needs of someone else.  Some examples might be letting go of career ambitions for the sake of family; accepting that someone else’s idea is better than ours; letting love rather than judgment be our first response to another’s difficulty; or simply stopping and listening.

A few years ago I participated in a gathering where people were being prayed with for physical healing, reconciliation of broken relationships and other needs.  At one point as I was standing to the side of the room observing all that was happening, the words came into my mind, “It’s all about love.”  People were caring for one another, showing mercy, and humbly and faithfully interceding with God to be and bring his presence to bear on others’ needs.  It was a stretch goal, but that did not deter those who were praying. 

Are you called to stretch in your love for a family member, friend or colleague?

Why Forgive?

“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Mt. 6:14)

Jesus spoke these words immediately after giving the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, apparently to highlight the importance of the petition on forgiveness — “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  In other words, we can’t expect God to forgive us of our sins against him and his Word if we are not forgiving others of their sins against us.

When Peter asked how many times we should forgive, Jesus said “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Mt. 18:22) Jesus then shares the parable of the unforgiving servant who, after having his debt forgiven by his master, did not do the same with a fellow servant. When his master learns of this he responds, “You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” (Mt. 18:21- 35)  Finally, we remember the example of Jesus’ unforgettable words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Forgiveness is absolutely essential for the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth.

Without God’s grace, our nature is not to forgive. We hold a grudge or seek revenge for wrongs committed against us, “an eye for an eye.” But unforgiveness is like a cancer.  It gives rise to anger and resentment, robbing us of our peace and affecting us as negatively as the original wrong that may have been committed against us. This effect applies to groups, tribes and nations as well as individuals, and has led to a never ending cycle of violence throughout human history.

Many years ago a friend and I joined the music group playing our guitars for a Saturday evening mass at a small parish in New York. After a couple of months we were abruptly asked to leave without any explanation.  We were naturally angered by this summary dismissal. We brooded for several months.  At a Christmas Eve mass during the sign of the peace, I walked over to the music group and offered the sign of peace to the leader, which led to an embrace. The leader and I became close Christian friends, and even though we no longer live in the same locality, still stay in touch. My guitar playing friend continued to brood.  That was more than 40 years ago.  

Are you brooding over a past hurt or wrong that God is waiting for you to forgive?

“To Whom Shall We Go?”

“Jesus then said to the twelve,Do you also want to leave?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.’” (John 6:67-68)

The Gospel of John reports that at one point many of Jesus’ followers started to grumble about some of his teachings and stopped following him.  Jesus asked the twelve whether they wanted leave him also.  Peter answered with the above statement. 

With our fractious society today and its many competing agendas, where do we go for truth, moral guidance, and peace?  We have Covid related mandates vs. constitutional freedoms, the right to life vs. abortion, and concerns for the environment vs. the economy. We have the challenge of managing illegal immigration with compassion; public schools being closed during the past year, and a media that is not always objective, to name just a few examples. 

Many are looking for meaning and purpose, but the world tosses us to and fro like a small boat in a stormy sea.  Everyone seeks peace, but few find it without God becoming a priority in their lives.

In our early 40’s while our children were still young, my wife and I faced a decision as to how we wanted to live our lives as a married couple and family.  We each had experienced a spiritual renewal with the aid of the Holy Spirit, but how were we going to live as a family?

We believed that God was calling us to put him at the center of our marriage and family.  We thought of the words of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” Looking back after many years, I would attribute a number of blessings to this decision:

  • Two more children added to our existing three daughters, including a son, and a daughter with special needs; the daughter has taught us so much about God’s love and ways;
  • Career choices attempting to follow God’s will that allowed for more time with family and him while still providing for us;
  • Four married children who are now raising Christian families themselves;
  • Thirteen grandchildren to love and pray for;
  • Involvement in Christian ministry.

Of course, we have made mistakes and there have been our share of challenges along the way, but God has remained absolutely faithful in his care and provision for us. 

To whom do you go for answers to the questions of life?       

“Do You Love Me?”

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’” (John 21:15)

If Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved him in order to redeem the three times Peter denied him, how many times would Jesus need to ask us?

Most Bible commentators seem to confirm that the threefold challenge to Peter was designed to counter his threefold denial.   With the third time, Peter protested, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus did not mince words on this subject. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.  But whoever denies me before others, I will deny him before my heavenly Father.” (Mt. 10:32-33)  

Denial can take a variety of forms.  There is the direct denial like Peter’s, when we deny our Christian faith or that we are followers of Jesus Christ.  While this is not a circumstance that most Christians have had to face in this country historically, this may change in the future. 

There are the more subtle forms of denial such as failing to speak up when our Christian beliefs are challenged or when explicit anti-Christian conduct by others is taking place in our presence.  When I used to attend receptions and dinners following day-long company meetings or conferences, the conversation during cocktails could often get a bit raw with off-color jokes, and stories of various exploits.  After experiencing a renewal in my relationship with Jesus Christ, I started to quietly walk away these conversations.    

Another form of denial may be the times when we fail to live up to Jesus’ commandments of love of God and neighbor.  While I hesitate to think how often I have failed to love according to this standard, we can thank God that we have just celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and the promise of life with him forever.      

While we may not reach perfection in our love for God and the people he puts in our lives, we should still strive for it, so we can say, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  

“It’s the Lord!”

“Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not recognize that it was Jesus.” (John 21:4)

The Gospel of John reports that seven of the disciples went fishing on the Sea of Tiberias sometime after Jesus’ resurrection, but they did not recognize him as he called out to them from shore.  It was only after he suggested they cast their nets on the right side of the boat and they caught 153 large fish, did John say to Peter, “It’s the Lord!.” (John 21:7)

During the days following Jesus’ resurrection, most of his closest followers did not recognize him in their first encounter. 

Mary Magdalene thought he was the gardener and did not recognize him until he said her name, “Mary.”  The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus even after he spent considerable time with them explaining what all of the scriptures had to say about him.  It was only at his breaking of the bread while dining with them that they recognized him.

How often do we fail to see the risen Lord in our lives?  Like Mary Magdalene, he may be calling us by name.  Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he may be opening our minds to the meaning of some scripture.  Like the seven disciples fishing, he may be suggesting we take an action that will have a surprising (miraculous) result.

Today, as I am writing this blog, we will soon be celebrating the 35st birthday of our daughter Emily who was born with Down syndrome.  At the time of her birth I did not recognize the presence of the risen Lord in our midst.  Later I came to see Jesus in her big beautiful smile, her purity of heart, and her natural inclination to love and hug the people she meets. 

While we may not always recognize Jesus in the people or circumstances of our lives, the apostle John in his first letter says that “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

Wherever there is love, Jesus is present.  Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, I was ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Mt. 25:35-36)  Jesus is telling us that when we love others through our actions, we love him and he is present to us. 

 In the musical Les Miserables, ValJean’s closing words are:

“And remember

The truth that once was spoken.

To love another person

Is to see the face of God.”

Let us offer love and receive love, so someone can say, “It’s the Lord.” 

Do you recognize the risen Jesus when you see him?