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.

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.

Why Isn’t My Religion Working for Me?

Your religion wasn’t meant to work, any more than the Jewish faith worked for the Israelites! I know, you probably call your religion faith, but is it really faith or something else? Do you know the difference between Pseudo-Spirituality and True Spirituality? I will guarantee that most people do not know the difference, yet it is vital that you know!

It is not a matter that is often discussed about Jesus, but He lost a great deal of disciples over a particular teaching. The incident is recorded in John 6:25-69. The 70 disciples, not to be confused with the 12, could not understand and, therefore, tolerate the part about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to have life. Every time I read this story it is troubling for me, because the 70 lacked spiritual discernment to realize that Jesus was about to radically change their lives and that of the world for the better. I mention this story as a transition—a pause—since I may be about to rock your world. I fully expect most people will struggle with this topic. I am reminded of Paul’s admonition, “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Obviously, an extremely wise practice to follow.

About 25 years ago, I had a faith crisis and it took me 10 years to act on it; and, with that said, I temporarily took the wrong course. So, prepare yourself. If it is truly spirituality, Christ-likeness, you seek, then a tough road lies ahead. I think often of God saying He will “shake what can be shaken … so that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27). Sanctification means “to set apart for a holy use.”  We are not called to a life of ease. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, the calling of Christ is an invitation “to come and die.” It is a journey toward suffering, but it is more than that—”the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 89). Jesus said, “I want to make this very clear, unless a wheat seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. However, if it should die, it bears much fruit. The one who loves their life loses it, and the one who hates (detests, loathes, abhors, extreme repugnance for) his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24, 25, my paraphrase). I can tell you, it is not in our human nature to die; instead, we are about survival, and it is natural for us to resist dying. God doesn’t ask us to die. He asks us to accept by faith that we already are dead in Christ. This concept of death is not understood doctrinally; it can only be realized by faith.

There are barriers to spirituality: the world, close friendships, self, religion, our wealth, and the desire to help God. “At times, it seems we require more grace to lose our wealth then to lose our life” (Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, p. 188)! Here is my question for you, Is anything worth more than genuinely walking with God? Our job, our spouse, or our children? All of us possesses an Isaac. I grew up loving team sports. It was in my DNA. Trust me, the older one gets, the easier it is to sit in the recliner and watch spectator sports. I used to be possessed by sports and it was what I predominantly talked about. Sports was one of my gods!

Let me ask you, is anything worth more than your relationship with God? What about your denominational affiliation? Is your religion—your denomination—prohibiting spiritual maturity? I once struggled the most with this question, as I was totally certain it was not. The reason: I did not view denominationalism as a man-made institution; especially mine. Pseudo-spirituality—hypocrisy—thrives under the cover of religion!!! The common denominator of all religions—rules—prevents Christ-likeness. Yes, each religion is distinguished by its own PECULIAR rules or belief system. We generally mistake progress in our religion for spiritual growth, and that is due to not understanding the true definition of what is spiritual. We usually have a distorted view of the Imago Dei (image or view of God) and this completely influences our definition of what is spiritual. I agree 100% with Bonhoeffer, spiritual has nothing to do with anything that is human. Spiritual is “that which is created only by the Holy Spirit, who puts Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior” (Life Together, p. 31). This is actually not Bonhoeffer theology, but Pauline.

The biggest barrier to spirituality (the Holy Spirit working within) is the Law. I expect the vast majority will reject this idea. After all, what’s wrong with the law? Nothing!!! In fact, the law is “holy, and just and good” (Romans 7:12). What is wrong is our understanding of the function of the law! The law is intended to reveal our sinfulness and lead us to our great need of a Savior—and that’s it! Read the books of Romans and Galatians and tell me it isn’t so. So, how does the law—what is holy, just, and good—prohibit growth? Because the law was never given to be obeyed, but to reveal to us that it could not be obeyed. As Paul said, “The laws … were added to increase the failure” (Romans 3:20). “Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19). Paul is TOO CLEAR. If we think the Ten Commandments are still binding, we are under the condemnation of the law, cursed, not living by faith, but living by the flesh. Because, “the law is not of faith” (Galatians 3:12)! We are literally bound up and hemmed in by the law! As a result, the law is preventing spiritual progression, and this was Paul’s problem in Romans 7. Consequently, most confuse religious progression with spiritual progression; and they are radically diametrically opposed! Because of it, the vast majority of religious people are living out of the flesh, and that is why their spiritual life is full of up and down experiences. It is also why they avoid transparency like the plague. Spiritually, they are frauds! They are not living by faith alone in Jesus Christ. They have not a clue how to walk in the Spirit and avoid walking in sin. They are living a pseudo-spiritual existence according to the brand of their own religion. The solution is faith alone, as outlined in the book of Romans. So, here’s the question: Is your spiritual life being directed by man or by the Word of the Lord?



First blog post

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

We have Facebook but nothing equaling its popularity as a public domain for discussing faith in God and nurturing the spirit. Actually, I have not found Facebook to contribute to my spiritual experience, but to be a distraction from it. Consequently, Facebook has been an addiction to a sharing of finite rather than infinite matters. Perhaps that problem is only unique for me or others can also identify. C.S. Lewis said, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.” So, if it does not have lasting value, there’s no value in it. I am not suggesting that Facebook is immoral; merely recognizing that I have been overly indulgent in my time with it. After all, it really is about finding balance, eh? So, it is my intention to make this my positive contribution to Facebook. Politics is not my genre of expertise, anyway. Instead, ultimately, it has been a detour down a dead-end road. And, I intend that to apply to me and to me only. Some are only too aware that the majority of my Facebook posts have been political and, at times, controversial. During the recent U.S. Presidential election cycle, I lost some friends and, perhaps, created enemies. So, this is a matter of intentionality for me to regain focus, reengage my expertise, and encourage the spirits of others. Just as an addendum, I will be gingerly determining to what degree I become involved with Facebook in the future. It is my hope to remain vigilant about “encouraging one another while there is still time.”