Even the best of athletes hit a slump every now and then. But getting in a rut is an entirely different malady and can prove fatal to a career, or a life. There are particular danger zones that usually precede getting caught in one of these grooves that can prove difficult to extricate ones self from.
The year was 1976—easy to remember, because of the Bicentennial of our nation. My two brothers and I were ripping around the desert outside Rock Springs Wyoming in my first bomb of a car, a Delmont 88—the one with the big 425 engine. Coming upon an abandoned dirt race track; we had a great time flying around the oval, like crazed demolition derby drivers.
On the outside of the lanes were two ruts worn into the track. Well we figured we could take the corners even faster if we rode inside those two ruts. The wheel base was a perfect fit as we slid right in there. Problem was, on the other side of the track the ruts got deeper. Just like ruts in life; they always tend to get deeper as you go. And the longer you stay in them, the harder it is to get out.
Within a dozen yards we bottomed out; the transmission started cutting a furrow between the double ruts. We got stuck. Our only recourse was to stop, get out, and fill in the ruts to make a ramp up and out of the self catching trap.
Getting in a life rut can prove much more difficult to solve. As a writer I've experienced the proverbial writers block on several occasions. That's a mental rut. There are also physical ruts. But no rut is quite as harmful to our well being in all areas of life as a spiritual rut. I haven't forgotten about the danger zones—we'll get to that.
There is a simple, yet very important fail safe that we can incorporate into our philosophy of life that will help keep us from all of these traps. In a single word it's "Challenge". We must continue to present challenges to ourselves, mentally, physically and spiritually.
Staying mentally sharp is achieved by good nutrition, proper rest and exercise, and constantly challenging ourselves to learn new things.
Physical ruts are avoided pretty much the same way: nutrition, rest, exercise and staying mentally sharp. But there's more. Muscles that are not used grow weak and if neglected long enough begin to atrophy, shriveling up to near nothing. If you've ever worked out to stay in shape, you know that it doesn't last. You have to keep working-out or you'll soon be out of shape again, unless of course you like round as a shape. Muscles grow larger and stronger by constantly challenging them to do more.
On the spiritual side of things we find the most insipid rut of all. I've learned that if I'm not growing spiritually, then I'm regressing spiritually. There's no neutral gear and no idling—it's either forwards or backwards.
If you've ever driven any kind of vehicle up a real steep dirt hill, you know how important forward momentum is. If you stop half way up, you'll just slide back down. And if you try to turn around or turn side ways, you just might roll back down. It's the same with climbing up that spiritual mountain. We can't stop—we must keep growing.
Daily spiritual nutrition and exercise is vital. Bible study and prayer is our staple food there. Listening to mentors and counselors, and fellowshipping with other Christians is also important for good growth. We top it off with at least one day a week of refreshing spiritual rest and worship.
Here are the hazardous zones. When things are going great—I'm up, and everything is running smooth, that's when I tend to relax and get lulled into a deceiving sense of,
"I'm doing great."
"Hey, I can afford to skip a few days of my work-out. I'm in great shape."
But then the few days become a week, then two, and soon I get in a rut. Before long I find I'm out of shape again. This includes all three areas.
Avoiding getting into a rut is much easier than getting out of one. We can avoid the dangerous rut-rows of life by constantly challenging ourselves; mentally, physically and spiritually. And by remembering: there are no real vacations from life.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
(1 John 2:15 KJV)
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)
Conversion of the soul is that which sets our heart upon God—upon goodness, light and truth. Jesus also states,
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Mathew 6:33 KJV)
I think of the old hymn, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", that reveals the glorious truth of turning away from the things of the world and the flesh, and setting our affections upon the Lord Jesus. We begin simply by looking to Him, seeing Him; getting to know Him. When you come to know the awesome creator of this vast universe, you can't help but to fall deeply in love with Him. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24)
We either love the good and hate the evil, or we will love our sin and hate the light that exposes them. Light is truth and goodness; it is revealing. It shows what's really in our hearts, bringing those secrets into the light. We can't love the world, the flesh and sin, and then say we love God. We can't say we love God if we have hatred and bitterness in our hearts toward our fellow man. That's not living in love. We either hate or we love, it is a clear choice. We must choose one or the other, so let's look at what goes along with each one, with God or with the world, and then make our decision. The world or Jesus.
The world and Satan offer temporary pleasures that always leads to heartache, bitterness and sorrow. They please us for a very short time.
The joy, peace and pleasure that God offers are real and last forever. Hmmm, which should I choose?
Sin can make us feel good, but two very important truths go along with fleshly pleasure, and we must be aware of them before we make decisions. One; is that the pleasure part only lasts a very short time, leaving us hungering for more of the same, yet it never really satisfies. That good feeling fizzles out quickly. Two is, that there are severe consequences for straying from God's moral and spiritual laws for us. I'm tired of that same old cycle. Jesus offers rest from that rat race.
"Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest."—Jesus
In a world where things are not always as they seem, you can't judge a book by its cover, and deception is everywhere, there is one thing we need to be absolutely certain of. Am I going to Heaven or to Hell?
There is great news. You can be sure. In fact God does not want us to have any doubts about it at all. That's why the answer is made very clear and easy to understand in the Bible.
Through many years of ministry, I've shown folks what the Bible has to say about our eternal destination. And what a person needs to answer that question for them self, remains the same. But God has shown me that, now; it's time to make it even more clear than ever before. People want to know—people need to know!
I can't tell you if you are going to heaven or not, but I can show you how you, yourself can know for certain. God has led me to show what a person that is going to heaven is like, before giving the mechanics of what we do, for God to give us this assurance. Maybe you have made the confession of faith in Christ and been baptized into Him (the mechanics), but are not certain of your eternal destination. Let's fix that.
"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death." (1 John 3:14 NIV)
"Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble."
(1 John 2:10 NIV)
It doesn't get any clearer than that. Love is of God, and hatred is of Satan and the world. If we are in Christ we begin to love the way God does.
The greatest and most noticeable change that takes place after a person has been saved, is love. It doesn't usually come all at once, but begins as a seed planted in our hearts the moment we accept Christ. And then grows to a beautiful maturity as time goes on. The most poignant allegory I've read about this love-seed is a book titled, "Hinds Feet on High Places" by Hannah Hurnard. I highly recommend it.
Love begins as an act of obedience to God. We decide we are going to love and begin treating everyone in a loving fashion. Most times, miraculously, the actual feeling of love toward them will follow. "Love is a decision". That's the title of another great book by Gary Smalley I believe.
Love is the greatest and foremost command from God. Love leads us toward perfection. (1 John 2:5)
The second indicator is obedience. Though not one of us are yet perfected and 100% obedient all the time (it's a growing process called being sanctified or 'Growing up in Jesus'), perfection is the goal, and we move toward it by being obedient to God's commands. If we have the kind of faith that guarantees we are going to heaven, it will be our greatest desire and our deepest longing to be righteous and pure as Jesus is.
When we are truly saved our hearts are firmly set upon God, upon holiness and goodness and light and truth, and turned away from sin and the things of the world. We love the good and hate sin, just as God does. Though we make mistakes and sin at times, we have forgiveness (1 John 1:9). And when we do sin, we hate it and can't stand ourselves until we go and confess it to God, same verse: (1 John 1:9).
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Jesus
Romans 10:9-10 gives us the mechanics of what we do to be saved in a simple way.
"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (NIV)
Our obedience does not save us. Doing the greatest things on earth and being good does not save us. Only faith in Jesus Christ gets us into heaven.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father except through me." -Jesus
Okay, so you now love Jesus and hate your old sins. You've admitted that you're a sinner and need a Savior. You have confessed with your mouth, that Jesus is God's Son and that He paid the price for your sins by dying on the cross, and that Jesus is now the Lord of your life. You believe He rose to life again to give you eternal life in heaven. You believe with all your heart. You have decided to treat everyone with love. You want very much to be obedient to God, and to become perfect and holy. You obey Him by being baptized into Christ and do your best to stop sinning. You love His church and want to be a part of it. When we do these things, it shows that we have faith in what God has promised, that he is faithful and true—we are going to heaven.
No eye has ever seen, and no ear has ever heard, in fact no one could possibly imagine the wonderful things God has prepared for those who truly love Him.
Exposing the Enemy
As soldiers in the US Army, we quickly learned the value of knowing our enemy well. Studying their tactics and strategies allowed us to develop and initiate counter tactics; that we could emerge victorious.
As Christians, we too have an enemy. When we join a cause, the opponents and enemies of that cause are now our opposition. Though Satan is against all of mankind, and harbors malicious intent towards everyone, it is the Christian's efforts he most wants to thwart. He is Jesus Christ's enemy; thus our enemy as well. The Bible is clear when speaking of Christ's rival and his intentions.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour..." (1 Peter 5: 8 KJV)
The Bible warns us to be vigilant in our fight against; temptation, evil, and the forces of darkness; to keep up our guard against sin. Satan was once Lucifer, the glorious and powerful covering cherub; the highest ranking angel in heaven. He is wise, cunning and powerful. But God is much wiser and much more powerful. We are no match for the devil—yet in the power of Christ, we can defeat him. The more we understand the methods employed against us, the the easier it will be to emerge victorious as a Christian over-comer. There is much to discuss. Here is just one nugget of information we all need. There is much more to come.
One of the many tactics Satan employs against us is to minimize our view of the effects of sin in our lives, getting us to drop our guard and lessen our resistance to him.
In the interim between high school and the Army, I worked as a plumber's apprentice. One job site was the Pinellas County jail and court house annex in St. Petersburg Florida; replacing their out dated pipes. Most of the pipe ran up along the ceiling, beneath which, was a drop ceiling. From the actual ceiling to the floor measured about 15 feet. But working up above the false ceiling, gave us a false sense of security, of being only three feet in the air. The cardboard strength tiles of the drop ceiling blocked the view to the real danger: the concrete floor, 15 feet below.
That's sort of how Satan get's us to view sin. Along with the temptation comes the lie that get's us to feel as though, if we did give in to this sin, the consequences wouldn't be so bad. It's only a three foot drop, when it is really much farther than that, and the consequences of giving in are much greater than he would have us believe. Sin not only interposes between us and God, but it also interrupts our fellowship with him, steals our peace and gets us in hot water. It can also have a bearing on our rewards in eternity. Then there is the effect our disobedience has on those around us, hurting them, or destroying our Christian witness. We could even damage the trust we've worked so hard to earn.
Speaking of Satan, God's word implores us; "Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5: 9 NIV)
Resisting temptation is classified as suffering for the cause of Christ. It comes with great eternal rewards, the promise of God's presence with us always, and the strength to endure.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV)
That's an awesome promise! And so is this next one.
"But as it is written, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9 ISV)
God bless you with strength in your stand for Christ. "Be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty strength." We are praying for your victory in Christ today.
What is so amazing about God's Grace?
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(1 John 1:9 KJV)
Grace: Undeserved, Unmerited Favor
It saddens me, when I hear someone talking about how they don't think God could ever forgive them for the things they've done.
"But you don't understand—I've done terrible things."
"God is angry with me!" or
" I've strayed too far."
My heart aches for those who do not know what God has said. Even more heart wrenching are those who know what God say's, but don't believe it.
"For God loved the world so much, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)- (slight paraphrase for clarity)
"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!" (Acts 16:31 NIV) (exclamation added)
Satan would have us believe God to be an angry tyrant demanding perfect conformity to His holiness, but that is false. We don't even have the capability for perfection while we live in these fleshly bodies that are predisposed to sin. That is why His grace is so amazing. If we are in Christ, and our hearts are turned toward Him, and we desire righteousness with all our hearts; no matter how far short we come, he will forgive our: mistakes, sins, imperfections. John writes,
"God is love." (1 John 4:16)
Yes He hates sin because He is holy, and He is angry against sin, against those who, after all he's done to prove His love, throw His love back in His face and say, I don't want or need your love or your grace. But He will never turn away from anyone who seeks His forgiveness. That's what He wants to do; forgive. He is merciful and compassionate.
God knows we are still housed in a body of flesh that wars against the Spirit. (Romans 7) He knows we are going to sin at times. He has made provision for that. 1 John 1:9 alludes to this provision. Taking this verse in stages helps us to gain clarity of its meaning.
"If we confess our sins..." If we come to God, seeking His forgiveness, confessing our need for His grace, acknowledging, that we are yet imperfect, and we rely upon His grace to be acceptable in His presence... (He will forgive us) We come before Him and itemize our sins as the Spirit reveals them to us.
"..He is faithful..." Even though we try our hardest, sometimes we are not faithful to God. We hunger and thirst to be righteous, yet fall short of perfect righteousness. Christians are not always faithful to God. But God IS faithful all the time. He said He will forgive us. He will be faithful to what He says—always, regardless of our unfaithfulness!
"...And just..." It also states here that He is just. This indicates that God has the right to forgive us. He is just in doing so, because He paid our sin debt for us. His righteous requirement states that sin must be punished. If He did not punish sin, He would no longer be just, but unjust. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God counts our sins as having already been punished. He is just in forgiving our sins, because he is the one who paid for them in our behalf, by giving His own Son to be our perfect sacrifice—our substitute on the cross.
"...Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Heb. 9:22 NIV) Jesus gave His life blood for us; to satisfy God's holy justice. God's anger against sin was poured out on His own Son on the cross. Jesus became our sin: past sins, and future sins, that we haven't even done yet. He died and took them to the grave, then rose to life victorious. He gives us His righteousness, so that we are fit to be in God's presence.
Have you ever been to a high class restaurant where a coat and tie are required, but you weren't wearing them? Then the Maître D went to the back and brought out a coat and tie so you could come in and dine in style? That's what Jesus gives us: holy clothes: His righteousness, so we can come in and live in God's presence, enjoying all His glorious benefits—in style and splendor.
"(God) will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
However, I always try to keep in mind, that growth is expected of us; becoming more like Jesus every day. (Romans 8:29)
Praise God for His amazing Grace!
Firelight danced across the elder's rugged features, enhancing the weight of his message, as flickering flames cast shadows onto the background trees. He was one of the few left who had walked with Jesus; eating with Him, touching Him; hearing His words.
Not far off, the sound of surf washing onto the sand and rocks lulled them into comfort. Every so often, some sea bird would echo, "caw", into the moonlit night. All seven in attendance, with hungry hearts, intently listened.
"When we come to Jesus and experience the exhilaration of our first encounter with Him, we begin to know God personally. We are like children splashing joyfully in the shallow waters on the shores of the vast sea that is God. But this is not where He intends for us to remain. He would have us know Him more fully, more intimately."
All bodies leaned in closer, not wanting to miss a single syllable.
"We must learn to swim, instead of just splash around, going nowhere. We must grow in knowledge and trust and faith. The only way this is possible, is to allow the Lord to lead us into deeper waters, where we are totally reliant upon Him. As faith grows, we gain spiritual wisdom and start to swim, while God supports us upon the waves of His love."
The Apostle's words sounded sweet; poetic.
"Too often Christians are content to remain in the shallows, never knowing complete abandonment of self in faith to Christ. If we do not follow into the deep things of God, He will send a storm or strong current to upset our comfort, to wash us out to a place where we must depend on Him. We are not to rely on our legs to stand on the sandy bottom forever. We must learn to fully trust Him."
Sparks from the blazing campfire flew upward, swirling toward the heavens, as if to join the thousands of sparkling points of light looking down from above.
"Learning to swim is learning to pray, and to obey God's Spirit within us; to obey His word. Learning to swim is learning all the Christian disciplines. It is trusting that He is sufficient for all we need, not splashing and thrashing about in opposition to His working. And it is the knowledge that greater joys are yet ahead. The deeper the water, or the trial we face, the more we learn to trust Him, and the greater becomes His peace that washes over us."
The old Apostle's eyes shone with warmth and love, and his words rang with truth in the hearts of these new believers.
"The rewards of being a strong swimmer; having a mature faith, is discovering the depths of God's unending love. It's discovering that His power has no limit. It is the anticipation of eternal rewards and hope that does not disappoint."
The listeners, in bare feet, dug their toes into the warm sand, enraptured. Even the air seemed thick with the spirit of love; for one another, for the beloved Apostle; for Jesus.
"God is unlike the sea in that it has a coastline, an end somewhere. The more we come to know our Savior, the more we begin to realize how vast; how eternal His endless resources are. Giving ourselves to Jesus in complete abandonment of self, in absolute surrender, is the only means of having an intimate relationship with our Redeemer. When we unite with the Creator of this marvelous universe, we become one with all His love and power."
From outside the ring of firelight, suddenly came a fisherman, who'd been standing just out of sight, listening.
"Forgive me for intruding," he began. "I want to know this Jesus. I want to give myself to Him and be saved."
Nothing could have pleased the group more than a new spiritual birth!
The Mediterranean Sea felt warm, as Apostle Jude and the new Christian named Jacob waded out for the baptism.
"I've lived a terribly selfish life," said Jacob. "And I want to make a big splash when I go under the water, loud enough for the devil to hear that I now belong to Jesus."
This brought grins all around, which came easily in the celebratory atmosphere.
Abandoning his selfish will, Jacob surrendered in faith; splashing into the sea of God's grace and power.
Afterwards, in recognition of the Apostle's metaphors, all decided upon a night-time swim. Some splashed in the shallows, while others swam into the deep.
Jesus' most lucid discourse and favorite sermon of many folks may be the Sermon on the Mount. I was led to Matthew five this morning and my attention was drawn to the section of my NIV Bible that is sub-titled Love for enemies, beginning in verse 43. That's one thing I like about the NIV, it has subtitles, making it faster to locate particular portions of scripture when I can't remember the exact address. But I always have my KJV along-side as well.
After reading these and other verses, coming to mind was a book by Charles Swindoll that I read some 25 years ago. My how the time flies! I really don't remember what was said in the book; it is the title that has stuck with me all these years: Living Above the Level of Mediocrity.
There is so much in those few words that calls us to a higher standard of living, to a level above the average or norm of society. That is precisely what Christ calls us to do here in Mathew 5 and beyond. But first I want to jump forward, where Jesus indicates that only a few will enter into (eternal) life.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Mathew 7:13 NIV)
That's an eye opening statement. It reveals that we indeed need to do better than average, and that we are called to a higher standard of living than the rest of the world. Automatically this fact precludes following the crowd; doing what everyone else is doing in the way they do it. We follow Jesus. How many times do we hear: That's just the way it's done, or we don't do things like that? That's exactly the point. As Christians, we don't do the things the rest of the world does, and our objectives are reached in an entirely different manner.
Backing up to Mathew five, we see Jesus laying out some specifics in verses 43-48.
In essence Jesus say's that it is common practice to hate your enemies and to love those who love you. The world does this. But rising above the standard of the masses, we are to love even our enemy. He cites the Father bestowing blessing on the evil and the good. By and by, judgment is coming and the wicked shall not prosper in his way. They might for a time appear to prosper, but it is temporary, fleeting and futile. He closes this section with a call to perfection, just as God is perfect. We will of course fall short of that objective in this life, yet perfection is the goal, the standard to which we are being conformed, which brings to mind those words Paul wrote in Romans 12: 2.
Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind...
Once we have surrendered our lives to Christ we begin a new life. We are recreated in spirit (2nd Cor. 5:17). We are babes in Christ and so now we must learn the right way to think and live. We begin by forgetting our old way of thinking, which has become habitual, and learning God's way for us, which leads down that narrow road. There is so much for us to learn, yet I want to expound upon Jesus' life giving principle in these verses (Mt. 5:43-48), that speeds us on our way to spiritual maturity. LOVE!
I've shared this testimony many times because of the power it reveals. Power that is available to us as Christians, power to do the things Jesus leads us to do that seem impossible to accomplish; like loving an enemy.
During my sales career there was a man who set himself up as my enemy. He opposed me at every turn for no cause that I could see. He has admitted; he just didn't like me. The things that man did to me were infuriating. I was extremely angry. He stole from me constantly; spread false rumors and accusations concerning me, which affected my Christian witness. Then he called my wife the B word and my children he called bastards. Then the man went so far as to punch me in the nose and run so I couldn't hit him back. Then he threatened to kill my dog. I was smokin mad! And it began to come between me and Jesus. The Spirit convicted me of hatred towards this guy, and I knew God's law about loving everyone and even forgiving them. If I want to be forgiven, I must forgive. To save my relationship with Jesus, I had to find a way!
The only way to talk to God is through gut wrenching honesty, and I was honest.
"Lord, do you know what he's done to me?"
"I know, forgive him."
"Okay Lord, I don't feel it but I forgive him."
"You can do that Lord because you can do anything, but I'm only human. How am I supposed to feel love for that horrible man?"
"I did not say to feel it I said to do it."
"Yes Lord, I will try."
I did try. Every time I saw the man in the office, I treated him just as if I felt great love for him. It took a while, about three weeks, and then things began to change. One day as I was in that guy's presence I discovered something amazing! I felt genuine Christian love for the guy, for his soul. With this new feeling, my efforts were intensified, and after another two weeks that man became my friend. God went on to use my relationship with the man to bring him to repentance. He gave his life to Christ and will be with me in eternity, all because I stepped out in faith and obeyed. Now don't get the wrong idea here. I didn't do anything worthy of note except believe God. He did everything else, and He does the same for each of us through our faith and obedience. With God all things are possible!
Discover God's purposes and Dreams for You—
Take Steps Forward in Obedience—
Enjoy the Adventure!
Right way or Wrong way?
I feel a certain activity is alright for me to do, or to participate in, so I go to the Bible to show that it is indeed okay for me to do. Right Way or Wrong Way?
God's word is the light of truth and can be interpreted in many ways, but there is only one accurate interpretation, so how do we know which one God intends? Jesus said, When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you into all truth. (John 16:13) As Christians we have the benefit of God's Spirit dwelling inside us to lead us to the truths we need to govern our lives. He also provides us the power to live a life that is pleasing to God, through; strength to resist temptation, knowledge, wisdom, and tools to use for various things involved with a Christian life.
Approaching scripture with a preconceived idea of what it says, or what we want it to say, will never teach us what God is speaking to us. That is called "Isogesis". We must come with an open mind and no bias. We must pray and ask God to speak the truth to our hearts through His word, and be willing to hear the truth, especially when it makes us un-comfortable. We must align our thinking with God's truth. This is called "Exegesis", and is the right way to study God's word.
Doing word studies with a good Lexicon can be helpful. We must examine each word in the context of; the sentence it was written in, the paragraph, the chapter and the book. What is the writer's over-all intent for writing the book? Who is he writing it to? What were the customs like when he wrote it to them? What were the people like? What is the over-all meaning of each chapter? And most of all, "How can I apply these truths to my life in a way that will please God?"
Furthermore, no scripture will ever contradict another scripture. If this appears to be the case, then our understanding is not clear. Scripture supports scripture. Topical Bibles are useful for these situations, leading us to supporting scriptures for each topic of study.
Bible commentaries are very useful for certain situations. However, they can be a hindrance as well. There are many modern translations of the Bible today that make it easier to understand. If you don't understand something, ask God to help you understand, before asking what another person says it means. This is very important and it pleases God! But yes it is good to ask a mature Christian afterwards. The answer may take a while to come, but God will use many ways to reveal truth to you. Some of those ways include; through other people, other scriptures, and our circumstances or events in our lives. God has taught me through things my five year old son would say, and even from non-Christians.
It is very exciting when we begin to realize God is working with us individually, one on one! Study and conversation with God at the same time is powerful!! Read His word back to Him and ask Him questions about it. Thank Him when something becomes clear or is special to you. I pray that the Jesus in you is showing today!
Good communication skills are needed in every aspect of life, unless of course we are a hermit or some sort of recluse. Christians are to be highly social, especially with those within the body of Christ, but we must also communicate well with the rest of the world. I was first going to discuss this on the Leadership Development page, until I realized its importance here as well. If we are maturing in knowledge and faith, we are also learning to communicate in love. For now we are focusing on one aspect alone: Listening in love.
By Sheldon Bass
Communication experts and statisticians report that nearly 90% of all miscommunication stems from the lack of listening skills. Lots of people believe they are listening, when they are actually only hearing themselves think, causing them to form wrong conclusions.
One of the greatest hindrances to really understanding what is being spoken is trying to finish someone else's sentences, thoughts and ideas ourselves, usually in our mind and sometimes we very rudely do it audibly. People generally feel that everyone thinks as they do, convinced they know what a person is going to say based on the first two or three words spoken and they stop listening. Or we have formulated in our mind the type of person who is speaking and we project our own words into their sentences and garble the true meaning, arrogantly believing that we know all there is to know about the speaker and the topic. This always results in a misunderstanding of what the person was attempting to communicate.
Have you ever spoken with a person who, as soon as you start to answer a question they have asked, they start talking again? They have given themselves the answer they think that you gave them, when you did not actually answer the question, because they did not give you the opportunity to answer. This is a major indicator that this person has never learned to listen, they still do not know the best means of learning, and they don't know how to communicate.
Then there are those who have been educated by people who classify everyone into psychological categories. Each of these categories has a particular psychological profile based on observations of other people's responses and actions and backgrounds. The eggheads are continually adding new possible profiles in which to group characters into nice little baskets of probable thinking. The TV series "Criminal Minds" is a good example of this. It is called psychological profiling, which does have a place and value, but not when we are trying to communicate. They say that we all have ulterior motives and reasoning; hidden meanings behind what we say, what we do, and how we respond socially. You can tell them, "I love you", and instead of feeling good about it, they begin to analyze what you are trying to deceive them about, or what you want from them.
I have profiled the profilers as "idiots". These types are trying to analyze you as you speak. They form far out conclusions of your meaning and intent. These are the worst types of communicators on the planet. They will give reasons for why you said what you did based on a psychological profile, which has about a 20% rate of accuracy. Yet they are so arrogant that they believe they can read everyone in this manner, thus cutting themselves off from not only reality, but also from forming good and healthy relationships. According to them, the reason they cannot make heart-felt connections, is always due to something wrong with the other person. When the real problem is; they never learned how to listen or communicate in a healthy manner.
Many of these poor communicators have a high degree of education; a Masters or even a Doctorate degree. Unfortunately for them, the greater their education becomes, the deeper is the trench they dig for themselves. They must follow the course of the trench, because they know no other way of relating to others. They must come face to face with their dilemma, confront the problem in the light of biblical truth, and follow the Spirit's lead to wholeness and truth.
Sometimes it is emotion that stands like a hockey goalie to block the true words a person speaks from reaching the sufferer's understanding. These souls are emotionally injured, weak and overly sensitive. The dominating blockade to their understanding is fear. It is nearly pandemic today that people have an unnatural need for self validation, caused by the fear of not being accepted, recognized or paid attention to. The causes are wide and varied. One reason is that what television purports to be normal, is way out of reach to the average person. Perfectly sculpted bodies, genius minds, super athletes and social wranglers have left most of the populous feeling less than average, when in reality the rich and famous on television amounts to less than three percent of the population. That leaves the other 97% of us to figure out that we have no need for such superficial perfection in order to be highly valuable. And most of the characters portrayed are of course, fictitious.
Our youth have turned to putting each other down; criticizing one another, attempting to convince themselves and others that; they are better, smarter, prettier... and on it goes. Unfortunately, this is not limited to the youth. It has oozed over to infect the adults as well. Immature thinking has swept across the world to infect massive numbers of people, creating middle-aged adolescents in self acceptance.
When a person is not happy with who and what they are, and do not like themselves, the defensive mechanism begins to lash out to criticize everyone around them. Profiling others and putting them in a "lesser than me" category, helps us feel better about ourselves, or does it? No! It merely perpetuates the problem.
Until we learn to love and forgive as Jesus teaches us, we will never accept ourselves or others for whom and what they and we are. Neither will we be capable of reaching the heights of our potential. Poor pathetic souls that we are at times, some of us need sympathy and understanding, but most of all it is acceptance we crave, many times unconsciously. I personally have suffered this malady, unwittingly. Christ fulfilled my need for acceptance and love, yet I still needed the same from a warm blooded body. So I bought a dog... Okay, I got married too.
Installment #2 of "My Crazy Adventures."
When I think back to who I used to be before Jesus performed heart surgery on me, it seems like I was a totally different person, especially me as a kid. Sometimes I was downright selfish, mean and prideful. Yet the truth has helped me grow to be who I am today, because of God's amazing grace; because of Jesus. Not that I've got it all wired to an art now, but in comparison, I like myself a whole lot better now than before I surrendered my life to Christ.
Before going into some of the really adventurous times as an adult, I wanted to back up even further than last time and give a glimpse of my younger days. Please bear in mind that my heart was not yet surrendered to Christ and these true stories are offered for contrast to the Jesus in me today.
The Grapefruit Jungle
Behind the house where I grew up in Florida stood an abandoned grapefruit grove. There were also a few trees of oranges, limes, avocados and tangerines. Nearly our entire neighborhood took advantage of the free citrus. When we travelled out of state I thought people were crazy for paying the prices the stores charged for fruit. In Pinellas County Florida, the citrus trees are every where, and most people had a few in their yard. Back then I thought fruit was supposed to be free, along with 'fishin' and stuff like that.
When we weren't playing baseball, the local kids would form teams and have grapefruit fights out in the grove. The young green fruit really hurt, and could leave a good sized welt. The rotten moldy ones were fun too, especially if you got someone in the face with it. I was the most feared predator in the citrus jungle for two reasons. One was my deadly aim. I still have it too. And I enjoy drawing attention by the incredible shots I make throwing anything at all. I learned it in the grove. Secondly, I could hurl them like an automatic weapon, rapid fire. I'd hold a dozen or so small ones in the front of my shirt tucked in. I'd look like a lumpy pregnant kid. If I could see a body, it was hit, and usually three times.
My cousin Frank was the biggest kid on the block. Me and him would be one team against a team of six or seven. Those guys didn't have a chance. They were all afraid to get hit by a grapefruit thrown by Frank because of his size, but I can't remember him ever actually hitting his targets. After a while they wouldn't play unless the two of us were on separate teams.
Climbing trees was something I did when I needed some quiet time, and I can remember talking to God about all of my youthful problems up there. The grove was also the pet cemetery for our area. And it was my favorite playground. It would take a novel to relate everything we did out there. The weeds would grow taller than us kids and we liked it like that. It was a jungle, replete with all sorts of wild critters; such as raccoons, opossum, rabbit, rats, cats, lots of snakes, armadillos, turtles, parakeets, doves and all sorts of wild things.
Well the adults didn't like all that wild growth breeding rodents for the neighborhood. So every once and awhile someone would complain to whatever agency handled that sort of thing and eventually a tractor would show up to mow it all down. We couldn't have them ruining our fun, so we came up with creative ways to keep things as they were.
Those guys didn't know who they were messing with. They would bring the big bush hog the evening before they were going to mow and leave it sitting on a trailer in the adjacent field, which lie at the side of my house. The workers could never figure out why that mower would never start the next day. Sabotage? You bet. But they kept coming back to try again, until we fixed it so that no one would ever return to cut down our jungle.
This is the first time I've ever admitted that I had a hand in this, but I believe the statute of limitations has finally expired. We decided to dig a great big hole, six feet deep and ten by ten. We had already built underground forts out there and we didn't want those to be discovered or we'd all get whippings. We'd been warned about that when one of our underground bunkers was discovered by a father, who was concerned about it caving in on us. Well, we camouflaged that pit really well. No one knew about that tractor trap except for Frank and me. (I guess I just told on ya cuz, sorry)
Us two made sure we were down the street when that tractor started up. We didn't want to be seen, afraid they might make the connection that we were the perpetrators of this heinous act. That thing cranked up and went straight down the row we knew he would start on. Within about five minutes we heard a huge crash, and I was scared to death that the guy riding the thing might have been hurt bad, or that it would explode or something. But my fears were alleviated by the loudest and longest stream of 'cussin' I've ever heard. I think I learned some new words that day. We started laughing and couldn't quit. Frank was rolling on the ground holding his stomach; cracking up.
The bush hog stayed in the hole for a week before they finally came to pull it out and haul the damaged tractor off. After that, no one ever came back to mow down the neighborhood grove. Well, once we mowed out a big loop ourselves, for a racetrack to drive our junk cars. We were all too young to have a driver's license.
Last time I visited home as an adult, there was a housing complex where the Grapefruit Jungle used to sit. I cried.