Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Perception
Perception is our personal reality accumulated over time, some good and some not 
accurate in reality or just an illusion. I do believe that our perception is our reality and therefore must best be understood by both our self and another with whom we may be trying to communicate. Listening is a key, but our sieve and filters, however marred create our perception that must be explained and received by the listener or communications fail or are fuzzy, i.e. misperceived. This thought does not include that at least for me, A Scripture with which I struggle, “Everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:17). Listening better and reflecting before speaking is one of my disciplines chosen for 2019 and beyond.

In conversation I want to assume that the motivations of another’s heart are good unless proven otherwise by experience. Each of us has our doubts, fears, frames of reference, history and perception that help define how we receive communication from someone else. I want to pause and reflect before responding. This might require a clarifying question. As well, I don’t want to react. Some people don’t reflect they just punch back without clarifying the truth of their perception, not good. Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:18, “As much as it depends upon you, if it is at all possible, be at peace with everyone.”  But we can listen. 

Our perception can easily be blurred by family dysfunction or brokenness like PTSD, mental impairment or sin in our lives. This can cause defensiveness like I had this morning with my wife when talking about my perceptions, which will often be different from hers and may be flawed, nonetheless real. I am working on being less reactive or “Hippitty-hoppy” as my children used to call me at times I might have overreacted. Like all flaws it can take a lifetime of sanctification from God to bring my behavior more fully into His will. This still does not mean that others will like it, because no person always responds in God’s will or way, because His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. Perceptions can change, but remember they are somewhat burned in and more difficult to modify than opinions that can blow in the wind. It is critical that our perceptions and opinions become in line with Scripture and led by the Holy Spirit for believers. Otherwise they are fleshly in nature. 

I enjoyed watching long cancelled TV series Perception with the main character being a Neuro-Psychiatrist with Schizophrenia to add to the craziness. He had perceptive visions that allowed him to be led to solve forensic crimes in amazing, albeit sometimes through hallucinated clues and ways. It was very entertaining as he taught college classes that suggested that our perceptions of realities become more open and therefore more hospitable.  Genius, good or evil can dwell in many perceptions. God’s Word can powerfully change them for good if obeyed as well. 

I said that I am writing after contemplating wisdom lessons suggested by my wife this morning on the subject of perception. It is an issue I confess in which I need continuing transformation. She was right, however, not necessarily fully understanding my perspective. Congruence is a lifelong process to be pursued for the good of any relationship. And for whoever is reading, contemplate that perhaps your spouse knows you better than others and even you; listen to her/him. Take it in and reflect. But above all else seek God for wisdom and discernment. James 1:5 suggests that if anyone lacks wisdom to ask of God who will generously pour it out to us, unless we doubt or are double-minded on the matter. Sometimes we will find discernment that is heaven-sent and even healing or saving in its essence. So be alert and open with your heart and hands wide open to hear.  We need to understand that some people approach conversations with confidence and openness, some with fear and mistrust. It’s where they are on their journey of faith. So listen with all your senses including this 6thwhich is spiritual.

Stephen Covey, a Bishop in the Mormon Church and author of Bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “Seek to understand first, then to be understood.” Life is not about me; it is more so living in a complex environment with a myriad of variables. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” In other words we unconsciously develop patterns of behavior and perspective or perception that stay with us through life unless challenged and renewed or transformed through education, other godly peoples feedback, circumstances and most importantly God through prayer, Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Highly effective people grow more perceptive, understanding their biases and predispositions. This is self-awareness strengthened through proactive effort or will, spirit, imagination and learning through free choices made by humans hopefully attaining godly wisdom. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Soon

“Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the Lord.” Alleluia!  These are the first words of a Negro Gospel hymn composed by Andre Crouch. It was written in the 60’s but seems to reflect the spiritual words of those in slavery. Yet at the same time these timeless words speak to us today in a world full of strife and destruction of people, places and things. For we are in the “End-times.” This is a hopeful tune for the “Believer” and a frightening one for the non-believer. Why? Because the truth that soon we are going to see the Lord is a biblical one.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, the final book of the Bible, starts with, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show His servants what must take place soon” (Revelation 1:1). It is the testimony of God through Jesus given to an angel to tell John the Apostle to tell us today. “Blessed is the one who hears these words.” Yes, Jesus says at the end of the Book, “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of prophecy in this book”  (Revelation 22:7). He later says that His reward is with Him and that He will give to each according to what they have done. That is a lot scary too.

So what is this “soon?” The dictionary says, quickly or close. Now this book was written 1900 years ago, so what is near or soon?  Well, “’No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). Jesus states this in a sermon on the “End-times” He is preaching to His disciples.

All prophecy has come true concerning the return of Jesus Christ to redeem and world and take His children (believers) with Him. “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This is Gabriel or Michael bringing the incredible news that will happen in an instant. The whole world is waiting in anticipation for this moment. So what should you do?

·      Be Ready! The time of His coming is unknown so we must be prepared.
·      Invite the Lord Jesus Christ into your hearts, confessing your sins and need for a Savior to cleanse and redeem you.
·      Stay alert! For the devil walks the earth looking for someone to devour.
·      Be filled with hope for your redemption draws near. Take heart!
·      Rejoice and be glad and share the “Good News” which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Soon and very soon we are going to see the Lord!” I am so glad that I know Him, do you?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Rude

   


 Rude

Which of Santa's reindeers needs to mind his manners the most?                           "Rude"olph!  

The so-called “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 is quoted at many wedding ceremonies as how we are supposed to love one another. After an introduction of resounding gongs and clanging cymbals, we are led to a thesis that “If I have not love, I am nothing…but have not love I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3,4). Then before telling us that on this side of eternity we are imperfect and “see through a glass darkly (a poor reflection in a mirror” (v.12), the Apostle Paul tells us what love is. 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”  (vs. 4-8a). Paul tells us that we now see or do all of this imperfectly like a child until perfection comes and we see and know fully. That time is the soon second coming of Jesus Christ to rule and reign and show us, even complete us in His love. “God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 3:16,18). It is God who is love and first loved us so that we could love others. We can’t do it on our own. We are too selfish as the above passage describes. For me beyond the selfish, which was the reason for the fall along with pride, is being “rude.”

As you might expect, this Christmas time of year, my name sometimes drifts into Rudolph, like the one with the red shiny nose dancing dangerously on the roof of a neighbor’s rooftop. He has a red nose to guide the sleigh, which makes sense. Or at least it comports with some FAA regulations on flying things. I don’t see many drones with red flashing lights. But I digress. I have been in a very worshipful and introspective time of my life as God has laid His hand heavily on me about certain behaviors/sins that He wants me to confront with His help. In other words God, through the Holy Spirit and His Word has told me that I need to heed the Epistle of James’s admonition to be, “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19). Paul goes on to talk about getting rid of all moral filth and evil and to humbly accept the word of God, not just listening to it, but doing it. 

Well, I have been convicted that I speak a lot, which is not pleasing to God. As well I am quick to speak and not so much on the listening side, even though I am a healthcare chaplain who would always be a listening presence. Some say that I just get excited and “over speak” or interrupt people. That is often true, and this also is sinful and rude. Yes rude, there it is. In fact nearly three years ago one of our daughter-in-laws described me in a “frankly speaking” telephone conversation saying, “you are just rude.” This initially angered me, but recently the condemnation has come to be a strange truth or even blessing in its conviction. She may have meant it for harm, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:21). This double dose of the Spirit’s chastisement has gone deep and I am taking very seriously the need to pray and meditate as well as seek godly counsel and accountability about these transgressions and change my lousy behaviors. I have asked and given several strong brothers in the Lord permission to admonish and counsel me if my behavior seems to be drifting into the ruff or into the woods of rudeness. 

I am praying for wisdom from God and other godly people, meditating on God’s Word on the subject and praying as continuously as I can as I journey through this valley rich in opportunity to please God and other people. Or at least I hope to be more civil. Using a baseball metaphor, so far I have hit many foul balls, struck out, popped out and almost got a hit recently. Waiting on the Lord and quieting my Spirit is essential. Finding silence and solitude while in sacred and public space it essential. And I am journaling and writing on the issue therefore putting my word where I need my behavior to go too. This is part of the fruit of the Spirit of self-control, patience, kindness and gentleness along with peace. I guess it also includes love and being joyful and faithful in it all as I run along. That sounds pretty much like the whole fruit, against which there is not law and is highly encouraged. So time to quiet my soul and mouth before I head off to a Men’s Bible study where I usually talk a lot. 

I realize that this valley time with God as my Guide also reminds me of the reason for the season, so I also need to rejoice and find peace in Messiah’s saving birth. 
Each morning, slam the door on despair. If you don't, it will slip in and rob you.
And you'll soon find a peace missing.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Holy Spirit Within

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Now there is a difficult Scripture to absorb into you. Yet it says that God is in you by the Holy Spirit. As we become believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior a transformation takes place. Jesus tells us that He is giving us the Holy Spirit to counsel and guide as well as comfort, teach us in His truth and convict us of sin (John 14,16). But perhaps even more dramatically, God tells us that His Holy Spirit has come to live within us. This does not make us God, for we are God image bearers. Now that is already an incredible privilege and responsibility. Moreover, with the Holy Spirit living with and within us we have an impossible burden. Or do we?  It is the Hoy Spirit who allows or guides us to live as God’s children, sinless and pure. His holiness is imputed into us upon salvation. It is a gift of God as Ephesians 2:8 tells us.

“The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live”  (John 14:17-19). Perhaps now this Scripture truth is coming home to you? It is frightening and exhilarating. It is difficult becausewe are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).  So why does God live with and within us, because He made us in His image and likeness and wants a personal relationship with each of us. Many of you as readers may have turned off already, however, this is not my opinion, it is what God Himself has said regarding life in the Spirit.

So does this truth change us? It has been changing me as the Holy Spirit, being made new, is transforming me. It is a process of sanctification or being made holy and righteous through the power of the Holy Spirit. In John 4 in the story of the Samaritan woman, Jesus tells us that we will be worshipping in spirit and truth anywhere for God is everywhere. God within us as our power source also tells us that we must keep our bodies clean and filled with the Holy Spirit, not dirty or evil things. As God’s temple we are to be holy as He is holy. Humans are not like that, but through the Holy Spirit we are given new desires and capabilities. We are to “honor our bodies” as if it is Christ’s. We are to live clean lives in a dark and dirty world with God’s help. How does that look?

Paul tells us a number of lists that tell us what the fruit of the Holy Spirit is, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:23). Paul tells the Colossians, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14). The opposite is a list of evil or fleshly things in Galatians 5:16-26, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Wow, that is serous stuff. Very sadly I believe that the world mirrors this list. Therefore, we will not find in the world our pattern to follow. It is in Christ Jesus, empowered by His Holy Spirit that we find the “most excellent way” (1Corinthians 12:31) that leads to faith, hope and love which leads to the good things of God.


Ephesians 4:29-32 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  This is a tough list and can be overcome only by the Holy Spirit within us.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Backsliding and forward sliding

Baseball used to be America’s game, fun to watch and play. You have all watched a base runner slide into second face first or cleat first. It is a way to score or advance the game in your favor. As a Christian we too can “backslide” or forward slide. We have a choice. It is always a surprise to me around Easter time that I read in the gospels of Peter disowning his Master, Jesus, 3 times. This is backsliding; how about you?

The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of Israel’s backsliding saying, “Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you…I will cure you of blacksliding”  (Jeremiah 2:19; 3:22). He tells them, Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God” This is serious business. We backslide from a person not a place. In the case of Peter it was from his Lord and Savior. Jesus says to him, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). And a few verses later as Jesus is led away to be crucified, Peter is confronted as a Jesus follower, “but he denied I, saying, woman I don’t know Him…Man I don’t know what you are talking about” (Luke 22:57,60).  The rooster then crowed as Jesus prophesied and Peter wept.

The Prophet Ezekiel also speaks of the Hebrew people saying, “They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding and I will cleanse the” (Ezekiel 37:23). This prophecy is foretelling of Jesus’s redemption of sinners to occur some 800 years in the future. But they would have none of it. How about you?

Are you backsliden, or have you not even come to a place where you realize your sin and need for a Savior? God was forsaken that we might receive forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins, past, present and future. Yesterday, on Palm Sunday of all days, I heard a sermon on “transgender.” It seemed very out of place, in fact some were astonished. Today as I look back to the cross I see that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yes, we all have our sins. God made us in His image and likeness and wants us to walk in it. But we don’t. We continue to sin. We have our graven images and idols like money and sex and booze and women. Yes, it was appropriate for our pastor to preach on this subject. However, it would have been good for those who didn’t get it, that he would have connected us into Holy Week and Jesus’s walk into Jerusalem.

We will sin, but as believers we have Christ in us the hope of glory and our salvation. Matthew 10:22 reminds the disciples, “he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  When you sin, confess and repent, remove the sin from your lives. In Hebrews 13:5 we read the encouraging words, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  We also read in 2 Timothy 2:12, If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we disown Him, He will also disown us.”  I prefer to cling to the cross, not to deny Him. I pray for His Holy Spirit power and grace to stand firm until the end. Jesus told His disciples in His last word before ascending to His Father, Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of this age” (Matthew 28:20). Slide forward to the cross and be saved.



Slow Down

The faster I go the “behinder” I get. Ever hear that? Do you believe it? I do now. I once had so much to do that I had to move faster and faster to complete or even catch up with the work. I once was a senior hospital executive and worked 12-16 hour days, often including weekends. I don’t think this is unique to hospitals or me. Do you relate to this? If so, that’s a problem, one of the biggest ones in our western society. Slowing down is quitting or getting behind or just being lazy I hear many saying. God would say that is a fatal flaw.

God is described in Exodus 34:6 “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”  Yes God is a lot, more than we can describe. But many think He is slow. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9). Now there is a great contrast between God and people. Awesomely God has made some 7,500 promises in Scripture and He keeps them all in His timing and ways. Therein lies the problem for many people, He’s too slow, I need it now! But that’s not how God works or wants us to work. God is patient and waits for us to slow down even stop and repent of our quick and sinful ways.  He wants us to come to faith in the only One who can help us slow down with purpose. Self-discipline will help, but only when empowered by the Holy Spirit.

God wants us also to be slow in other ways. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). We have a tendency to jump to conclusions or react to comments. This is not pleasing to God. It has taken me most of my adult life to come to grips with this. In fact, I am learning that it might even be better to not be just slow but silent at times. I don’t have to comment on everything said. I might learn something if I actually listen slowly without working on my next statement while the other person is talking.


In the beginning God created heaven and earth and everything in it in six days. Then He rested on the seventh, not because He needed it, but because we need it. We need to slow down and refresh, be renewed. Resting is slowing down. Isaiah 30:15 says  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust in your strength, but you would have none of it.”  Do you get that? Rest brings us strength. Slowing down is part of that. We just returned from a short vacation. My wife said it took the first three days to relax. You cannot rest if you are not relaxed and you need to slow down intentionally to do it.