It’s Not The Mountain But Stone That Trips Us Up

Earl Nightingale once said, “It’s not the mountains in your life that trip you up but the little stone.” Now, I really have to be vigilant about potential fall hazards. Due to a recent brain injury, I am now more of a fall risk. Because I used to work as a neuro/trauma chaplain, I am much more aware of how a ground level fall can lead to someone’s demise. I have had people say to me, “That’s just negative self-talk, and I just don’t allow myself to go there.” Those who have ever worked in neurology, trauma, or rehabilitation units are very aware of how fragile the brain is—soft as warm butter—housed in a skull with bony, sharp, ridges. God created the brain well-insulated and well-protected, but their are times that humans exceed the limit of what is safe. Despite being fearfully and wonderfully made, the brain remains vulnerable to being injured.

Like the brain, we have spiritually vulnerable areas. Humans are known to have five senses of the nervous system: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Some believe, myself included, our senses are the avenues to the soul. Interestingly, Paul mentions six components—the armor of God—to spiritually protect our vulnerability (Ephesians 6:12-16). Although we often think we can visualize our enemies, Paul tells us the fight is really with the unseen forces. And he instructed Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” He also said, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. … we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5). In other words, nothing left unbarred; nothing considered too small or too insignificant.

There is a verse that has me captivated at the moment. “Avoid worldly, empty, talk, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly” (2 Timothy 2:16, my paraphrase). There are certain conversational arenas that I can easily enter into—sports and politics. I think men have an affinity to both of them. Men are not typically known to be talkers, but engage an interest or seek an opinion, and they are usually hooked. Sports has been said to be the religion of males and politics could be as well. Why? Men prefer activities that leave them out of the conversation. (If you are interested in this topic, I wrote a dissertation on it. Trust me. It’s hard to not want to elaborate further.)

The key word in the verse above is avoid. It is in the imperative mood, which means that it is action that must be taken and repeatedly. We are to avoid indulging (in this sentence it is an adjective) in worldly, empty, talk because we will become more and more ungodly. In other words, for men, this is the Achilles heel. Men are more spontaneous— impulsive—which makes jumping in easier. Is it any wonder that females out live males? Men do not have to take time to ponder and think about it, because they thought about it a long time ago and THINK they know how to instantly respond. Because men already know what to do, this sometimes leads to a sooner exit from this world. Although I am being somewhat facetious, there is still truth here.

Notice that what Paul said above is not written subjunctively (hypothetically), as if we might become more ungodly through indulging in worldly, empty, talk. It is written in the future tense, which means by indulging we will become more and more ungodly. Obviously, what Paul wrote makes perfect sense, but the effects of such behavior is subtler. That’s because the effects come later—in the future—and not necessarily realized immediately.

You may have guessed that I am speaking about something tangible concerning myself. Facebook is an easy vehicle for offering our opinions in a forum from a distance. There are hooks and ladders to our news feed—what we have already written, what our friends have said, and what the general public has said. And not everything we consume on Facebook is positive. LOL! Sorry, I couldn’t help but use the social media acronym. The negative has a stronger attraction for many of us than we might want to admit.

So, here’s my confession, and we all know that confession is good for the soul. Far too much of the discussion on Facebook is worldly and empty. And what is the result of it? God says that we WILL become more and more ungodly. It is spiritually healthy to remember that it is the little things that can bring this man down—and maybe there’s something worthwhile for everyone else to consider as well.

Part 2 – Is It My Role To Offend You Or Save You?

 

I personally know someone who had a heart attack and thought they had died and gone to heaven. They described their temporary new existence as utopia—all peaceful and full of light. Suddenly, they were literally shocked back into reality by the use of a defibrillator. The first emotion they felt was not gratitude but anger. “Why?” I asked. This person felt they had been yanked back from heaven to hell. If they had the wherewithal, they would have smacked the EMT’s for their intervention. The question could be asked, were the paramedics interfering or doing their job? It depends on the perspective.

 

In today’s society, offending someone is easy. Labels are prevalent for classifying haters—sexist, misogynist, chauvinist, etc. Obviously, those are merely judgmental terms to put people into disreputable categories. Never mind that such labels are also judgmental and, therefore, hateful terms.

 

In my last blog, Is Political Correctness A Disguise For The Truth?, I ended the discussion with we are all in the same boat. That is the apostle Paul’s summation in Romans two, not mine. Paul is crystal clear in chapter two, that we are all decadent, sinful, immoral, condemned by the ten commandments as law breakers. Paul specifically calls out his brethren, the Jews, who are zealous for the law. He says, the Jews teach that we are to obey the law, but they are, themselves, lawbreakers. Do you see Paul’s point? Whether we are religious or irreligious it doesn’t matter! Sometimes, we do wrong; and, we are all guilty of wrongdoing.

 

In chapter three, there’s no advantage to one’s ethnicity or religious persuasion. In other words, Paul goes out of his way to make this point, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS! NO, NOT ONE!” He even risks alienating himself from the Church by saying the law merely tells us how sinful we are and has nothing AT ALL to do with righteousness (Romans 3:20, 21)! Paul does the unthinkable, he separates law from righteousness. In his day, this could get a person stoned—and Paul was—several times. Miraculously, he survived, repeatedly, for expressing an unpopular opinion. Chapter three ends with righteousness is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. The law is said to have nothing to do with righteousness by faith, but it leaves us wondering what is the function of the law (and Paul will clarify this in chapter seven).

 

Chapter four reiterates that we are only justified by faith IN Jesus Christ. I capitalized the pronoun, in, because in Christ, a term for Paul, means far more than we could possibly imagine. Christians typically think of it as substitutionary, but the meaning is far more inclusive, as we will learn later. Paul wants everyone to realize that they already have God’s approval through faith alone.

 

In chapter five, he continues discussing the benefits of being justified through Christ, contrasting what we received through being a son of Adam. Because of Adam, we are all sinners, condemned, judged, and then death follows. In Christ, we receive grace (undeserved favor), justification (free from guilt or any penalty for wrongdoing), righteousness (as though I had never sinned), and NEVER ENDING life (as opposed to death). The last parentheses in chapter five explains the ENTIRE function of law—it is to increase (v. 20) sinfulness (increase guilt).

 

          I asked the question in the beginning, is it my role to offend or save you. The answer is simple—neither! Because I am human, I will offend you at times, and that is the beauty of Christ—grace, forgiveness, and love. Equally, it is not my role to save you, because I am not your savior. ONLY JESUS SAVES!

 

Is Political Correctness A Disguise For The Truth?

 

To answer if political correctness is about truthfulness, we need to know its origin. Where did PC come from? Its roots are from Stalinism. It is not about free speech but control. Its intention is purely oppressive, yet framed as a motive for loving the repressed minority. Think about it? How does being pretentious make anyone more loving? It doesn’t, and political correctness only makes someone a more efficient hypocrite!

 

You may remember the song, “Little Lies,” by the rock group Fleetwood Mac. The lyrics reveal the preference of being told lies rather than the truth. Of course, the famous line from the movie, “A Few Good Men,” “The truth, you can’t handle the truth,” is only too true. There are times when the truth has to be told discreetly and with tact. However, the 21st Century culture has invented a form of deceptive communication—political correctness—and it is entirely propagated on the premise of pretentiousness.

 

The challenge for the Apostle Paul in the 1st Century A.D. was the huge paradigm shift from Judaism to Christianity—Old Covenant to New Covenant. Gentile converts complicated this matter and the struggle with the transition is visible in Acts 15. When Paul wrote the believers in Rome, he was partially addressing a familiar problem of what is the relationship of law and grace. Because he was addressing Jewish and Gentile believers, Paul had to be very diplomatic. And the book of Romans is an absolute theological masterpiece of delineating Paul’s gospel. For most of us, understanding Paul’s gospel will rock our world by changing our beliefs and transforming our experience.

 

Paul wants his readers on the same page, so he begins talking about the depravity of mankind. Humanity has always had an aspiration for gossip. There is a reason why tabloid journalism is so popular. Consequently, Paul gains our attention by discussing the lascivious behavior of the world. This includes the downward spiral from intelligence (knowing about God) to ignorance to indulgence to impenitence to utter decadence—FROM NORMAL TO ABNORMAL.

 

In chapter two, he quickly swings to “we are all in the same boat.” Modern society rejects such thinking, because society has bought into the new age philosophy of being positive about one’s self. Consider this, if I have no flaws, I have no need of a Savior! If I have no flaws, I have no need of correction or for humility! Someone will argue that recognizing flaws in each other leads to judgmentalism and hate. NO, IT DOES NOT! The lack of humility—the inability of seeing one’s self as equals to another—is the problem!!!

 

The solution isn’t changing how I talk, it is a change of heart! Political correctness is a sham, and the first clue is the word political. Who equates truthfulness with politics? Seriously? To be continued …

 

What Has Captivated Your Attention?

For several months, many American’s, certainly not all, have been discussing the election. It is my intention to ask a different question, what is it that has your focus now? This question is about our spiritual and mental well-being, sometimes called self-care. As for me, I no longer watch the news, as it is a very negative source. I also have curbed my Facebook time. I have friends who represent varying political opinions, and the incessant arguing seems to have no end. It has become extremely unhealthy to sift through my Facebook feed, as more than half of it is political wrangling. I have deliberately joined two nature groups, which has considerably reduced the negativity, but not eliminated it.

Two verses, both addressed to Timothy, have my current focus. “Avoid (or shun) empty talk, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly” ( 2 Timothy 2:16) and, “Meditate on these things; give yourself ENTIRELY to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15). A proverb says, “Be careful what you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts” (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, whatever occupies our thoughts is the rudder of our boat! A picture is worth a thousand words, because what we has our attention molds us. Paul used this imagery, “And all of us, beholding the Lord’s glory are continually being transformed into the Lord’s image” ( 2 Corinthians 3:18).

I believe in the 1st Amendment right to free speech, but if it owns us (and it has me), it becomes a runaway freight train. The wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, came to the realization that EVERYTHING on this earth is vanity. In other words, most of life is a distraction to our real purpose. Every generation aspires to change their world. Solomon tried everything to change his world. Solomon is considered the richest king to have ever lived. Gold was so prevalent that silver had no value (1 Kings 10:21). He constructed ornate buildings and elaborate gardens. He had more than any king could want, even a thousand different bed partners, and he concluded that it was a total waste of time! Solomon concluded that only one thing mattered, “Remember your Creator.” Here is the secret to soul health. Whatever we do, do it as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17). The focus of our lives and efforts should be to remember where we originated from and who is really our Lord.

What has our attention is the wrong question, it is really Who. Who is the Master of our ship?  If politics and the news has our primary focus, we are out of balance, and we are not healthy (myself, most recently, included). If we wish to walk in the Spirit, then it requires a different focus. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5, my paraphrase). If you and I could tally what our minds were most engaged in, how would it all add up?

 

 

 

The Most Neglected Doctrine – Walking in the Spirit

You haven’t heard of it? That’s because it is more than a doctrine,* it is an experience! That is, it is TOTALLY not understandable intellectually. And there is a HUGE difference between intellectual and experiential. The intellect cannot perceive it, because it is not something that can be known. Therefore, science would reject it, because it is not earthly.

Spirit-walking is not something discoverable, as if it is visible to the naked eye. Do you remember Paul stating, “Eye has not seen,” “spiritual things are spiritually discerned,” and, “we walk by faith, not by sight”? Thus, walking in the Spirit comes by revelation from the Spirit. It requires a very particular FAITH FOCUS. Spirit-walking follows the New Birth. The only way to be reborn is to die. Now, am I stating something you did not already know? It is humanly impossible to die and be reborn!!!

I can assure you from personal experience, I attempted to seek a different, out-of-this-world, experience through certain religious strategies; such as, more spiritual solitude, memorizing Scripture, praying all night, fasting, dying to self. I could list the practice of every spiritual discipline, yet it does not lead to walking in the Spirit. In Colossians 2:20, 21, Paul asks, “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? After asking this question, Paul states, “These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Colossians 2:22, 23). Dying to self is a wonderful spiritual discipline, but it does not lead to Spirit-walking–it follows it. As Watchman Nee said, “Dying to our sinful nature takes but a moment. Dying to self takes a lifetime.”

Paul said, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” This is ALL that matters!!! Consider all of the so-called great religions of the world. All of them have common ground; that is, rules to abide by if you wish to belong to their particular religious brand. Such rules, or as they choose to refer to them as beliefs, only make one more committed to that particular denomination, but they do not help at all to escape the shackles of sin. Seventh-day Adventist’s believe their unique identity, the Sabbath, sets them apart from the rest of society, and makes them more special to God. However, a day doesn’t make anyone holier or contribute to a more consistent walking in the Spirit! I can tell you from personal experience, rules, such as the Sabbath, only guarantees that Spirit-walking will not happen! Jesus put it this way, “You hypocrites, teachers of the law and religious practitioners! You travel far and wide to recruit a single follower, and when you do, you make that person twice as fit for hell as you are.” Jesus is talking to you and me, because many of us have gone to foreign lands on mission trips to convince the natives that we have the right brand of religion.

Paul, having been raised in Judaism, speaks of his people as having a veil that prevents them from seeing the truth. “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only IN Christ is it taken away. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:14, 16). Unfortunately, religion generally functions as a veil—or we may prefer the term, filter—but it prevents us from understanding the spiritual reality that is in Christ. Notice how ONLY the veil can be removed: “in Christ.” This term is pregnant with meaning, as it is far more than just a preposition and noun. The negro spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”, encapsulates what it means to be in Christ. In Christ means to be crucified with Him (see Galatians 2:20)! Christians often speak of Jesus as our Substitute. He was more than our Substitute, since His sacrifice was inclusive—we died with Him! Until we realize, by faith, the inclusive fact of the Cross, our religion will remain a very frustrated, up-and-down, experience. That is because our religion, our striving to be good, can only come to an end at Calvary. As Andrew Murray once said, “If we are doing something, then God cannot do everything.”

*Doctrine – The word doctrine is not a biblical word. It came into being through the Catholic Church in the 13th Century. It’s root word comes from the Latin for doctor or teaching. I tend to think of doctrine as static, dead, and lifeless.

 

 

 

The End of Morality As We Know It!

For decades, we have listened to the scientific community tell us we evolved from apes, and many have bought into the theory of evolution. I have literally watched some of my friends and family buy into the myth that there is no God and we live by chance. I take the position that we were created by an all-knowing and all-powerful God who “spoke, and it came into existence; he commanded, and it remained constant” (Ps. 33:9, my paraphrase). Yes, I have faith this is true, just as the atheist has faith in a set of theories. However, I will take it even further, that I have what the atheist or agnostic does not have: personal experience with the Presence of God functioning in my life, miraculously, in a way that no human can comprehend.

It is not my intention to list every reason for belief in a Creator God or to exhaustively refute the theory of evolution. That would certainly require far more than a page or two. I am merely going to suggest there are two complexities for which there is no human explanation. The first complexity is that our position in the universe, to support human and animal life, could not have occurred by accident. If the earth, tilted on its axis, was off by one degree, we would either freeze or burn to death. There are no other planets that are the perfect distance to the Sun to support and sustain life. The second complexity is the human body. Our bodies are composed of 11 basic elements. It is truly remarkable to understand how these chemicals are so vital and could not come together naturally—that is, by accident. Blood clotting is another excellent example of how we could not have simply evolved. For in the process of evolving, we would have bled to death before coagulation would have normalized. It is ludicrous to believe that the human body just came together with all the organs cooperating succinctly! It took an extremely Intelligent Designer to construct the human anatomy in such a way as to live and to thrive. However, there is a bigger reason for Darwinism than just to give us another ideology to debate about.

We are here for such a time as this—in other words, life is in the process of ending as we know it! Canaanite morality is being reconstructed, and it is occurring with hardly any consciousness—even by the Christian community—and certainly not being labeled as such! Recently, National Geographic Magazine published, “Gender Revolution,” and tonight the discussion will be broadcast on the National Geographic Wild channel. The question could be asked, why is there suddenly a gender revolution? The answer is simple, Darwinism. Harvey Mansfield, in his book (“Manliness”) explains that Darwinism set up society for nihilism—the rejection of all religious and moral beliefs—in order to formulate new beliefs and values. We are in a gender revolution because we have been in a religious and moral beliefs revolution. Christianity has been drifting without a paddle, and it has been extremely vulnerable to anything other than religion to explain life and make sense out of it. Science operates on the premise of real and observable facts, although it also popular because it functions by certain assumptions. The most popular assumption is that if I can see it, then it is real—it is known—it is true. For example, here is an assumption: gender “is something we do, not something we inherit” (Kaleidoscope of Gender, p. 7). Who decided that gender is something we do and not what we inherit? From where did that assumption originate? The best answer of science is that it is observable with the naked eye. One of the human arguments is that we are not male and female as God told us. Instead, we are cisgender—a fairly new term—for explaining how we recognize our identity according to our gender by birth. Please, simply because this sounds like nonsense, do not make the mistake of dismissing it? Trust me, there are plenty of people who already believe it, and much of it has already been taught to your children. I suspect it will be fully accepted as fact in another generation.

There’s another reason for the gender revolution, and it is because feminists and gays need it to be believed to promote their brand of ideology. A well-known feminist sociologist attributes masculinity as “problematic” to the feminist and gay causes; and “cultural turbulence around themes of masculinity has grown.” And we have been watching the turbulence on TV every single night! Furthermore, the feminist and gay movements wish to dismantle male power as well as heterosexuality as the norm. As they state, “Gays cannot be free from oppression while heterosexual masculinity remains as it is.” Consequently, if feminists and gays have society buy into the gender revolution, they will feel totally secure. Notice, feminists and gays do not only want us to believe their lifestyle is normal, they want male and female to be understood as abnormal. If you are thinking that is twisted that’s because it is!

Katie Couric will come into some homes tonight as an authority on the gender revolution. She has a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from the University of Virginia. How does that give her credibility and authority on the topic? It doesn’t, although many will believe her, because it will be presented as believable. Science has been using celebrities to promote the liberal ideology for some time now. And most people will believe it because someone with influence is telling them what is allegedly true!

If you thought the United States is messed up now, hang on, because you have not seen anything yet. In the near future, we will see morality turned on its head. There is a very good reason why we have seen Coexist bumper stickers. It is making way for a new future, where no religion answers what is moral. Furthermore, if you think we have seen violence, we have seen nothing yet! An unbelievable wave of violence is coming and will manifest itself in an unbelievable fashion. Why do you think everyone has been buying guns and ammunition? I realize some will say that I am making empty assertions—because I have no scientific evidence for it—oh, but, I do! Some will accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist, although it is based upon nothing more than common sense and realizing it is happening in front of my very eyes. Incidentally, as crazy as it sounds, are those not the observable claims of scientific evidence?

Is Facebook Getting You Down?

Those of us who spend any time on Facebook understand how it is negatively impacting our mental and spiritual health. There are a few people that I would describe as mentally tough-as-nails! In the last few weeks, I have had conversations with several individuals who have admitted that the tone on Facebook is demoralizing. Several have had to take extended breaks from Facebook, only to return and find nothing has changed. PERHAPS THERE NEEDS TO BE A SUPPORT GROUP FOR FACEBOOK DEPRESSION! I state this cynically, but I am also QUITE SERIOUS!!!

The worst enemy of the spiritual life are the emotions. How do I know this to be true? “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). The Hebrew literally reads, “Protect your heart, because all of life’s issues involve it.” Obviously, the heart is the seat of the emotions. In the Greek, the word for inward parts included the heart but located in the bowels. This was because the bowels and our emotions are integrally related.

The gut is generally one of the first places in our body that sound off to being over-stimulated—stressed out! We all know that someone can literally pee or poop in their pants if they’re really frightened. It’s an emotive response to outward stimuli. Bad news is popular and that’s why smut magazines thrive. In fact, most people cannot live without the sensational. However, IS IT REALLY HEALTHY FOR US TO BE CONSTANTLY STIRRED UP? Two books, “Emotional Intelligence” and “Stress and Adrenaline,” both address the detrimental effects of chronic stress in our lives. It should come as no surprise that disease is simply the combination of dis and ease. Today, there is much that disrupts our ease, and we humans suffer from a lack of it!

The news media is one source, and their target is our interest for bad news. Do we have a natural negativity bias? (I can hear someone say, “No way, I don’t allow myself to go there!” Come on, for God’s sake, be smarter! God warned us to guard the heart for a reason.) Psychologists claim that we are drawn to the negative, sensational, stories and that’s what our news sources are targeting. Social media is an even more subtle for of negativity bias, since much of it is coming from our friends and contributing to our political bias. Facebook employees are tracking our interests and then targeting our newsfeed. We make their job easier every time we like and comment on issues.

My wife is my best friend and has my best interest at heart. I am reminded of a quote from the 1800’s (I am paraphrasing), “Having a woman friend is a wonderful advantage. … A woman will seldom counsel a man to do a shabby thing.” Admittedly, it bugs me that my wife questions how much time I spend on Facebook; after all, I am an adult! Did you just hear my ego blaring? I use myself as an example to make this point: perhaps it would be well for all of us to have Facebook exposure parameters? Some of us know it is very addictive and some of us don’t believe it is. For those naysayers, YOU ARE ADDICTED TO LYING TO YOURSELF! Of course, Facebook is addictive, and IT IS MEANT TO BE! The more you and I use Facebook the more advertisers are addicted to spend billions of advertising dollars. It literally pays Facebook the more we use their social medium.

I am going to confirm what some probably already suspected—I wrote this as a reminder to myself. I also started writing it because I was inspired by a young lady—wise beyond her years—who wrote her friends on Facebook, indicating that she was taking a break for SELF-CARE REASONS. So, there will be times that I, like Kayti, will do self-care and step away. So, if I seem to be missing, I am—and maybe that’s a hint for you to take a break as well. By the way young lady, thanks for the reminder. See, you were missed, and you encouraged me to follow your example.