Failure to communicate?

Failure to communicate?

“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Mark 4:23 

Mark 4:23-25

 23 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

 24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given– and you will receive even more.

 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

“Can you hear me now?” Paul Marcarelli was the “Test Man” character for Verizon Wireless cell phone commercials from 2002 to 2011.  Entertainment Weekly named him one of the most intriguing people of 2002. He appeared in all of his Verizon commercials wearing a gray Verizon jacket and his own horn-rimmed glasses. He was repeatedly checking to make sure that the Verizon signal was reaching the desired area and communication was taking place.

Communication is an art that can be studied and mastered. Communication is the activity of conveying information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and intended recipients. The communication process is complete once the receivers have understood the message of the sender.

If the folks you are attempting to communicate with do not get it, you have not communicated!

When it comes to Biblical communication, we are engaged primarily in receiving the Father’s communication to us and passing on to others.

What is the goal of biblical communication? Biblical communication intends to share the living and active Word of God in a clear and easily understood way. The Father will use His Word to accomplish His purpose.

1 Timothy 1:5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Hebrews 5:14 Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

REFLECT & PRAY

Communicating the great truth that the Father has provided to the world is not only possible for, but required of each child of God.

Father thank You that You have communicated Your truth in such a way that even I can understand. Teach me, to teach others, as You have taught me.

INSIGHT

How did the Father communicate truth to mankind? The Holy Spirit facilitated the process. Referring to how the Old Testament Scriptures were written, Peter writes:

2 Peter 1:21 no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

No biblical prophecy was ever produced merely because a man wanted to prophesy. The prophecy in Scripture was given by the Father through men, who “spoke” as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was working within the Old Testament prophets. The men spoke the Father’s words, using their own personalities, knowledge, background, vocabulary, and style.

The same Holy Spirit, who is responsible for the inspiration and production of the Scriptures, is available to each child of the Father to empower our communication with others.  He empowers us in our study and research, our preparation, our organization, and often the very words we speak

There is no one set formula. The Holy Spirit often energizes our careful effort and preparation. Or insight and wording may be spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment. In essence the Holy Spirit does what is necessary to get the job done.

Most of the preaching and teaching in the book of Acts was spontaneous and extemporaneous. Usually there wasn’t time to prepare a message. “It was not the performance of an hour but the preparation of a lifetime.” It was the preachers who were prepared, not the sermons (BBC).

How does spiritual communication take place? By the Filling of the Holy Spirit. The Father enables people. The Holy Spirit empowers, emboldens, and energizes.  He often supplies the words and nuances of communication.

Matthew 10:19-20 Don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking– it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

This empowerment is frequently called the Filling of the Holy Spirit.

Micah 3:8 I am filled with power– With the Spirit of the LORD

Acts 4: 8 Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ” . . .

Acts 13:9-10 Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, and said . . .

Our part is to seek to be cleansed, empty, and available conduits through which the Holy Spirit can work. Ideally it should be the outworking of our walk with Him.  However, in addition, we pray to be empty of self-ambition and pride.  We seek cleansing from known sin.  We empty ourselves of ourselves that we might be filled and empowered.  In so doing we follow the example of Christ.

How did the Father facilitate the communication process? Effective communication is need driven – person driven. The Father created needs or circumstances in the lives of individuals. He then supernaturally provided what was needed and applicable to resolve the needs and comfort the people. Knowledge was communicated, and that knowledge was the Father’s answer. The Scriptures are replete with answers from the Father for the needs of our everyday lives.

The Holy Spirit always has one-on-one communication. When we teach, He speaks to each person’s heart and mind. We are merely His conduit. For it is not we who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in us. (Mat 10:20). This is the promise and the reality of Biblical Communication.

The Father knows the depths of each individual soul. He searches our hearts and knows our ways. He knows exactly how to speak to each individual. This is, in part why Christ was such an effective communicator. His ability was perceived as keen, penetrating insight, wisdom, authority, and bold confidence.

John 2:25 He Himself knew what was in man.

Matthew 7:29 He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

This ability transferred to the apostles who had been with Him. 

Acts 4:13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

The same Holy Spirit is with us to empower our teaching and communicate to each individual.

Understanding Scripture is not an intellectual matter but a spiritual and moral problem. No matter how great the intellect, or advanced one’s education, without the Father’s enablement, we are inadequate. 

1 Corinthians 2:7-8, 14

 7 we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory;

 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;

14 A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Matthew 23:23 Do not neglect the more important things.

Hide and seek

Hide and seek

The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. – Luke 19:10

Luke 19:1-10

 1 He entered Jericho and was passing through.
 2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.
 3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature.
 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.

 5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly.

 10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Americans love to go camping. The whole family goes off to some national Park or camping grounds and sets up for some time alone in the woods without cell phone reception. Sadly, far too often little children wander off alone and become separated from their families. They get disoriented and then find themselves lost in the woods. Often fear takes over when they realize they’re totally by themselves and have no clue where they are. Rescue missions are organized. Sometimes they are successful, other times not.

The Father sent the Lord Jesus Christ on a rescue mission for people just like us. We are truly lost, but most of us do not know it. The Lord Jesus Christ said that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” The fact of the matter is that He is seeking us. If we really want to be found and rescued in this life and for eternity, the Lord Jesus Christ makes it possible through His sacrificial death.

When we are born into this world, most of us have a human family. Others, are unwanted and “alone” separated from their natural mother and/or father. We are all born spiritually separated and far removed from the Father God.

Some of us are “alone” even in the midst of crowds. We are social isolates. We come to see ourselves as outcasts with no sense of belonging. We are lost. We too need to be rescued! So it was with Zaccheus.

In order to be found, we have to know we are lost. Often, it takes desperation and great sorrow to bring many of us to this point.

Zaccheus was determined to see Jesus and would let nothing stop him. For Zacchaeus to mingle with the crowd at all was a courageous thing to do. It was an opportunity not to be missed. Things were not easy for Zacchaeus, but the little man had the courage of desperation (Barclay).

REFLECT & PRAY

The Heavenly Father has drawn up rescue plan. He has executed it. He is now actively seeking us.

Father thank You for rescuing me from being eternally lost. Show me how to experience life as You intended it for me.

INSIGHT

We are like sheep that have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus the good Shepherd seeks out lost sheep. All those who accept His gracious offer are found and saved.

To be “found” requires an act of “radical repentance.” Often repentance is seriously misunderstood. Many of us think it requires mental and physical contrition, remorse, and penitence. The Greek word translated repentance is metanoeo. Metanoeocomes from two Greek words meta – change and noeo – mind. It simply means to “change one’s mind,” in the OT called for a change in a person’s attitude toward God that impacted one’s actions and life choices; it involved the idea of “turning,” that is, from one way of thinking and living to a different way (ESV notes). External acts of contrition often follow along with prayers of remorse, confession, and the renouncing of sin. But repentance itself is simply changing your mind

We change our minds about the Truth which the Father had provided in the Word of God. His Truth becomes our Truth. We enter into a personal relationship with our Rescuer.. Father then begins a lifelong process of rescuing us from ourselves, our wrong thinking and heart wounds. He transforms us from the inside out, and we change our ways.

When we are “found,” we are no longer outcasts, but rather we are adopted and welcomed into the Father’s forever family. We become His precious, beloved, and cherished children.

But there is more! He has made it possible for us to experience all that He has dreamed and planned for our lives.

John 10:10 I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

For one reason or another, many of us find ourselves merely passing through life, not really enjoying it. We get busy doing things, but we do not experience the joy that comes from a close relationship with the Father. Many of us lack close, intimate, long-term friendships and relationships. Our lives become very superficial and materialistic. We give ourselves over to things which have only temporal value and significance rather than eternal worth. Can you imagine what it would be like to one day stand before the Father, and admit we lived dull, boring lives of “quiet desperation.”  

1 Timothy 6:17 God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

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Battered but

Battered

Will you stay mad at us forever? Will you remain angry throughout future generations? – Psalms 85:5

Psalms 85:1-11

 1 LORD, you poured out blessings on your land! You restored the fortunes of Israel.

 2 You forgave the guilt of your people – yes, you covered all their sins.

 3 You held back your fury. You kept back your blazing anger.

 4 Now restore us again, O God of our salvation. Put aside your anger against us once more.

 5 Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations?

 6 Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?

 7 Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.

 10 Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed!

 11 Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven.

The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, two families that lived on land located in Kentucky and West Virginia, is one the more spirited and colorful stories from American history. It has become a part of American folklore. It was marked by claims and counterclaims, choosing different sides during the Civil War, and ultimately violence and death.

And how did the feud begin? It involved a dispute about the ownership of the pig. For generations people were fighting and dying because of a pig. In 1878, Floyd Hatfield had the hog in his possession. But simultaneously, Randolph McCoy claimed the pig was his property. It seems back in the day pigs were identified in a fashion somewhat similar to cattle. But rather than branding them, they put distinctive notches on a pig’s ears. McCoy asserted that the notches on this particular pig were made by a McCoy and not a Hatfield.

The dispute was brought before a local Justice of the Peace, Anderson “Preacher Anse” Hatfield. Guess what? The judge ruled in favor of the Hatfields[FH1] . His decision was made based upon the testimony of Bill Staton. In June 1880, two McCoy brothers killed Bill Staton. They were tried, but acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. Over time, the antagonism settled down.

In 1979, the families united for a special week’s taping of the popular game show Family Feud, in which they played for a cash prize and a pig which was kept on stage during the games.

It seems that feuding became a part of our human DNA after the Fall. We feud amongst ourselves, family members, friends, but ultimately and tragically with the Father. How often, if we dared to admit it, are we angry with the Father and maintain our distance. But more importantly, we feel that He is angry with us. No matter what we do, we just cannot seem to get things right between us. We feel battered and in need of restoration.

Sadly, most the time it is nothing more than our imagination, dread, and fear playing out. But there have been times during the Old Testament period when the Father was truly displeased. Psalms 85 recalls such a time. It is a community lament written when the Father was indeed displeased with His people’s unfaithfulness.

The people of Israel needed to get right with the Father. Psalms 85 provides a pattern, steps of action, that any of us can take at any time to make right with the Father. The same steps of action carry over into human relationships as well.

The people needed a redo. They needed to make a fresh start, new beginning. The Scottish preacher George H. Morrison said, “The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings,” and he is right. It is a sin to disobey God and fall, but it is also a sin to stay fallen. We must always make a new beginning, and this psalm gives us some instructions that we can follow after times of failure and chastening (Weirsbe).

Psalms 85 provides three steps of action to make things right.

REFLECT & PRAY

Because perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), we need no longer fear and flee from the Father. He ended the feud and now He seeks intimate companionship us with each of his children.

Father there are times when I am battered and need restoration and renewal. Help me to remember that that is exactly what You joyfully do! Enable me to recognize the error of my ways and return to You.

INSIGHT

Spiritual revival is not only about getting right with God; even more it is about returning to a place where we can delight in God, where we can joyfully celebrate His goodness and love and mercy (Stanley).

The Father is characterized by steadfast, loyal love and eternal self-consistency. He does not just provide salvation; He delights in saving us and coming to our aid. His response to sin is to make provision for forgiveness, and then He forgives us. He takes great joy and satisfaction in doing this.

Psalms 85:10 Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

In poetic language, the psalmist creates a beautiful word picture. It is hard to take it all in. Loyal love and truth are partners, not opponents. Righteousness and peace are loving companions. They meet, embrace, and kisseach other. These words are intended to engender in our minds the delightful intimacy of our relationship with the Father.

The Father not only restores us. The Father rushes to meet us, embraces us, and kisses us (Luke 15:20-24). What could be better than that?

Our part, is recognition, coming to terms with what we have done, and changing course. Repentance is all about changing our minds and then following through and changing our lives.

Luke 5:31-32

 31 It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.

 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

Steadfast love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace are four characteristics of the Father’s personality. These abstract qualities are personified. They meet and greet each other with a kiss as they prepare to go and bless the Father’s people. The Hebrew text could be translated: “Faithful Love and Loyalty join together, Saving Justice and Peace embrace” (NJB). The Father as a person is characterized by delightful and lovely personality traits. The Father is moving force Who initiates and develops love and peace within human hearts (UBS).

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father

There is no shadow of turning with thee

Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not

As thou hast been thou forever wilt be

And great is thy faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness

Lord unto me

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 [FH1]

Recalculating

Recalculating

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. – Proverbs 16:9

Proverbs 16:1-3

 1 We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer.

 2 People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives.

 3 Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.

Have you ever been traveling in your vehicle and missed a turn? Then you hear the rather passive aggressive monotone words from your GPS system “recalculating.” This little subtle reminder is intended to indicate that you are not following directions properly.

Perhaps a bit of GPS humor might help set the tone.

My GPS asked me how much I loved it. I replied, “Well, I’d be lost without you.”

My Dad kept using this GPS in his car that kept directing him to cliff edges. I think that is what led him to his downfall.

I tagged Waldo with a GPS device. Problem solved.

I recently gave my soulmate a new GPS for her car. I am not saying she is a bad driver, but after driving a bit with her new GPS, it blurted out, “After 400 feet, stop and let me out!”

One wise tip to consider is not to set your “Home” address on your GPS to your actual home address. This is in case someone steals your car. They will know you are out and can then proceed to ransack your property. Instead, you should set the “Home” address to that of your local police station. That will teach the rascals a much-needed lesson.(https://gpstracklog.com/2015/03/funny-gps-jokes-for-your-sunday-afternoon.html)

“How do we commit our works to the Lord? Not merely by asking Him to bless what we’ve already done, but by committing ourselves and our plans to Him before, during, and after we have done our work” (Stanley).

How often do we bring unwarranted expectations to the experiences and aspirations? We develop our plans and timeframe and then simply hope that everything will go smoothly and turn out as desired. So often expectations are unmet. Eventually we come to realize that life just does not work that way. This is even more true in the kingdom of God. The Father often throws in totally unexpected and unanticipated events as He mysteriously works in our lives and circumstances. For example: a burning bush, spending a night in the lion’s den totally unharmed, horses and chariots of fire, weird, cryptic handwriting on a wall, prison doors and chains suddenly unlocked, the splitting of the Red Sea.

We are simply unable to anticipate the unexpected. And so it is on the spiritual level. The Father has a way of rerouting our lives, speeding things up, or slowing things down. Of course He is not “recalculating.” He is simply actualizing His predetermined plan and dream for our lives.

Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, was well aware of what we today experience as an “recalculating.” Recalculating is necessary on the human level when we make our plans without regard to the direction and guidance of the Father. Solomon, of course, did not have a GPS, but he knew all about recalculating. Solomon contrasts the way in which we make plans apart from the Father’s input and when we make plans as the Father directs.

We could paraphrase the comments of Solomon in Proverbs 16 as follows: we often make our own plans, but the Father has the final say, success comes when we determine to allow the Father’s plans to become our plans, we propose and aspire but the Father will have the last word.

The best and wisest course of action is to ask the Father what He wishes to accomplish, what are His plans? When we receive divine guidance, we have a choice to make. We can choose to follow His direction and pray that it will be done as He so desires.

So often in life we have this exactly backwards. We make plans and then we pray and ask the Father to bless them. As they say in parts of the southern United States, “that dog will not hunt.” And we become very disappointed when He does not come through as we expect and hope. This often leads to discouragement and disillusionment. Anger often follows along with the bitterness, resentment, and separation.

REFLECT & PRAY

Trade trust for frustration and disappointment. The Father will guide your way.

Father I recognize that I make plans without involving You only to be extremely disappointed and discouraged when I do not get my own way. Help me to simply trust you and depend upon You to guide me step-by-step.

INSIGHT

The Father is always at work around you. He has been actively involved in human affairs throughout history. In fact, He is orchestrating history. The Father invites you to become involved with Him in His work.

The Father is the sovereign ruler of the universe. He has been working throughout history to accomplish His purposes. He does not ask us to dream our dreams for Him. He does not invite us to set magnificent goals and then pray that He will help us achieve them.

He already has His own agenda when He approaches us. His desire is to get us from where we are to where He is working. He leads us from being self-centered to being God-centered. When the Father reveals to you where He is working, that becomes His invitation to join Him in His activity. When the Father reveals His work to you, that is the time to respond to Him (Blackaby).

It is so very regrettable but common that we repeatedly lose track of this spiritual truth. We make our plans, forgetting to ask Him what His plans are.

In place of disappointment with its consequent anger, we could choose to follow Solomon’s advice. It is simply a matter of trusting the Father and allowing Him to present His plans to us. As we choose to follow, He will direct our ways.

On the human level, we need to develop a bit of flexibility and expect “recalculating” and “redirection” as needed.

It might have been

It might have been

As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God! – Psalms 42:1

Psalms 42:1-11

 1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

 8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
 9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

 10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’” (John Greenleaf Whittier). What is your highest priority? The answers are endless: happiness, wealth, family, safety, physical strength, and vitality . . .

The Father’s highest priority for our lives is to develop an intimate and growing relationship with Him. He made us to thirst for Him as we thirst for water and to seek Him as we seek relief from a parched throat (Stanley).

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. What a picture of the longing of the soul for God! One can visualize the deer, in a parched land, neck outstretched, seeking to get the scent of water, without which it will surely perish. So is the thirst for God” (Tesh and Zorn).

Psalms 42 is a nostalgic, lament about life no longer being what it used to be. As we advance in age and become older adults, most physical things diminish and weaken. For many of us are mental resources decline as well. Our memory and capacity to focus wane. But our human spirits remain intact and actually grow stronger over time. Many children of the King who walk closely with Him throughout their lifetimes, become mighty in their spirits. John the Baptist was an example of a person who was strong in spirit. Had his life not been ended by Herod the tetrarch, he would undoubtedly have become stronger and stronger in spirit as he moved into his twilight years.

Luke 1:80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit,

REFLECT & PRAY

While we wait, we can rest in the Father’s song of love.

Lord, we wait and long for intimacy with You,, being close and near to You. As we wait, help us to wait for it patiently.
 
INSIGHT


When we are spiritually dry, believers should remind ourselves that God is sufficient for all our needs. This remembrance will encourage us to continue to trust Him while we go through temporarily distressing periods (Swindoll).

We are not alone, there is a quiet peace available in our pain. The Father’s tender voice surrounds us, a voice assuring us that even though we sometimes have no answers, we are dearly loved.

Sometimes we do not even know why we feel discouraged or down or sad. It is good at those times to consciously put our hope in God, to draw on His strength, and to anticipate the grace He will show us (Stanley).

In the haunting force of the psalmist’s imagery, he is deprived of communion with God. He craves the intimacy and exhilaration that once filled his consciousness. His introspective comments oscillate between thirst and tears. He “pours out” his soul within his deeper self. The absence of his God causes his very life essence to ooze away. The dryness of his spirituality becomes the death of his physicality (Terrien).

If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. – Romans 8:25

Hope is the confident expectation that what the Father has promised will one day be realized in our lives. The moment we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are given hope, the blessed hope of that future day when the Father will reveal who His children really are (Romans 8:19). The Father offers us a complete and total perspective transformation if we will only embrace it and think His thoughts after Him.

Romans 8:24-25

 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.

 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently).

“To Paul, life was not a weary, defeated waiting; it was a throbbing, vivid expectation. Christians are involved in the human situation. Within, they must battle with their own evil human nature; without, they must live in a world of death and decay.”

“Nonetheless, Christians do not live only in the world; they also live in Christ. They do not see only the world; they look beyond it to God. They do not see only the consequences of human sin; they see the power of God’s mercy and love. Therefore, the keynote of the Christian life is always hope and never despair. Christians wait not for death but for life” (Barclay).

Romans 8:19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.

The Greek word translated waiting eagerly is apokaradokia. Apokaradokia is an intensely desired expectation with a high confidence of fulfillment. “It describes the stance of someone who scans the horizon with head thrust forward, eagerly searching the distance for the first signs of the dawn breaking – the daybreak of glory” (Barclay).

For children of the King, the future is certain and secure. When we fully comprehend this, we eagerly long for the fulfillment of our hope, our confident expectation. Rather than looking back longingly for the “good old days,” we look forward to the future wonderful days to come. Paul could hardly wait.

Philippians 1:23-25

 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.

 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith.

“The Christian perspective is determined not by the frustrations of the present, but by its future hope” (Dunn).

The illusion of control

The illusion of control

For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth. – Ecclesiastes 3:1  

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding. – Job 38:4

Job 42:2-6

 2 “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.

 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I – and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.

 4 You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ Him

 5 I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.

 6 I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

The “illusion of control” is the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they demonstrably have no influence over. Consider the lottery. People believe that if they choose the numbers rather than accepting randomly assigned ones, they have better control over the outcome.

The “illusion of control” effect was named by psychologist Ellen Langer and has been replicated in many different contexts (1975). In a series of experiments, Langer demonstrated that people were more likely to behave as if they could exercise control in chance events which involve the use of personal skills and experience.

Time and time again, research and experimentation have demonstrated that people believe they can somehow control events in their lives when such control is impossible

The question needs to be asked why? Why do well-intentioned, rational people delude themselves on a regular basis?

Could it be about security? Is personal peace and safety at the root of the illusion of control? So often for some folks, things need to be just so, narrowly defined according to their comfort zone, and tightly controlled. Letting go is just not in their vocabulary. Panic ensues when circumstances change.

Flexibility, calmness, and conscious acceptance of the Father’s will and choices are a far better option. Once you’ve determined, “Hey, I really don’t have control over this at all,” you can begin practicing flexibility and conserve your energy for those matters that you really can influence (Sandra Sanger).

Recognition of the Father’s knowledge, love, and sovereignty allows us to come to terms with the issue of control, really let go, and trust Him in deliberate and conscious submission. And we are able to make the same decision repeatedly for the same reason and rest in the secure knowledge of our Father’s heart and mind.

Matthew 11:23 if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you [Capernaum], it would have remained to this day.

Sodom was the epitome of a “sin city.” Jesus says, even Sodom would have repented if it had witnessed His miracles. But the opportunity was never offered.

Ultimately the Father, the Sovereign Lord is in control. He has made the best of all possible choices regarding our current world and circumstances. The Father knows all and decided all that happens. He knows all the permutations of what might have happened and chose not to happen. This can be mind-blowing, but it is in fact a fact.

REFLECT & PRAY

Who is in control? The Father, The Sovereign Lord!

Father I know I have limited understanding and seemingly unlimited questions. Help me to come to terms with Your eternal mind and control of all things and be at peace.

INSIGHT

When we are in the midst of difficulties or hardship and our world seems to be collapsing and our hopes and expectations were dashed, when we are disappointed and sad, when we are betrayed, let down, or abandoned, the Father is still in control.

The fact we are given the ability to make free moral choices gives us the control over a smidgen what happens in our lives. This contributes to the illusion of control. Each morning we make conscious decisions about what clothes we wear. None of us doubt that. But at the same time somehow in the eternal and infinite mind of the Father, He has made exactly the same choices before the foundation of the world.

We have the right and are actually encouraged to question the Father and ask tough questions. We can do this out of curiosity and wonder, but not out of arrogance, pride,

or disillusionment. The Father often answers our queries, with probing challenges of His own. This is exactly what transpired between Job and the Father.

Job 38:4 Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.

The Father rules in the affairs of men. Napoleon lost his final battle at Waterloo and lost his empire. Years later, in exile on the island of St. Helena, chastened and humbled, Napoleon is reported to have quoted the words of Thomas a Kempis: “Man proposes; God disposes.”

This is the lesson with which history confronts us all. The Father is able to work His sovereign will – despite man. It is like holding onto a water balloon. The more tightly you grasp it, the more likely it is to burst.

The Father is sovereign! He is the King of the universe. His rule and authority are all-encompassing. The Father has the unlimited power. He has sovereign control over the affairs of nature, man, and history. He has created all things. He has created the earth and all of its environs. He has created all of the life forms which occupy them.

He is the creator God and as such rules over all of His creation. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:16 Hallelujah for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.

God is sovereign and He is in complete control. Sometimes He delegates leadership responsibility and its consequent control to others. But He can take it back at any time. Human control is delegated control. Human control is transitory and illusionary.

If we relinquish chasing after the “illusion of control” we can learn at last to rest in confidence in His enlightened, sovereign control. Indeed, the Father seeks our best and has our back.

Two young girls were talking, and one said she had ten pennies. The other girl looked at her hand and only saw five. She said, “You only have five pennies.”

The first girl replied, “I have five and my father told me he would give me five more tonight. So I have ten.”

She understood that her father’s promise was as good as done (Green).

Matthew 11:28-30

 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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A spirit of contentment

A spirit of contentment

So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” – Hebrews 13:6

Deuteronomy 31:3-8

 3 The LORD your God himself will go over before you.

 6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

A safe place, a feeling of safety, is often essential for a spirit of contentment and well-being. It is often hard to find a safe place when life is fraught with anxiety, stress, and trauma. Where do you go to feel safe?

Many think of a safe place as a safe location. While others think of it, mainly as a mental or emotional state. In the realm of psychology, this often involves imagining or visualizing a tranquil, serene, often uplifting spot or scene. For children of the King our safe place is not imaginary. It is real and it is found in a person, the Father God, and the promises which He has made to us His children.

Sadly, many of us grew up in circumstances that were not secure. Often this has to do with the lack of good and biblically based parenting. Parents are to impart a sense of security and safety. They are supposed to provide “our safe place.” This is particularly true of the role our dads are intended by the Father to play in the lives.

If we lacked a safe place, truly we have a hole in our hearts and souls. Our heart is terribly wounded.

Our Father in heaven truly intends to make this right in our lifetimes. He has made unconditional promises regarding His intentions. Although we are often told and believe otherwise, contentment really has little to do with material wealth, prestige, position, or power. Further, our physical security can never be fully guaranteed in the world filled with unexpected events and catastrophes.

But there is a better way, a more excellent way. Given time, practice, and perseverance, it works. We have the Father, and in and through Him, we have all we need.

But contentment is like a muscle and it must be exercised. Through persistent effort and repetition, over time we develop a spirit of contentment and learn to rely firmly on the Father’s presence and provision.

Living with contentment does not mean that we do not experience fear or anxiety from time to time. But we do not have to give into our worst fears and let them control us. Why do we feel fear and dread? Is it because we feel vulnerable or like we are losing? Is it because we are not able to control our circumstances or even a small corner of the world in which we live? What empowers our fear? Surely the pain, sorrow, and wounds of a lifetime are pervasive.

REFLECT & PRAY

Could anything feel more disconcerting or frightening than having to face a terrible trial all by yourself? The Father tells us that those who know Him never have to worry about that. He’s right there with us, in the easiest and most difficult of times (Stanley).

Father, at times I have such fear and dread in my heart. I do not want to be like this. You promised that perfect love casts out fear. I long for my heart to know and experience the safe place that You have promised.

INSIGHT

C. S. Lewis has said that “100 percent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased.” Death is inevitable but are we as children of the King , do we have to live in fear of death?

“Where does the fear of death come from? Partly, it comes from fear of the unknown. But still more, it comes from the sense of sin . . . But where does that sense of sin come from? It comes from a sense of being under the law” (Barclay).

“As long as people see in God only the law of righteousness, they must always be in the position of criminals before the judge with no hope of acquittal. But this is precisely what Jesus came to abolish. He came to tell us that God is not law but love, that the center of God’s being is not legalism but grace, that we go out not to a judge but to a Father who awaits his children coming home. Because of that, Jesus gave us the victory over death, its fear banished in the wonder of God’s love” (Barclay).

1 Corinthians 15:54-57

 54 “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.

 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This promised victory is certain. It is a part the inheritance of every child of the King. It is also our present possession. We do not have to struggle and try to win. The battle has already been won. By faith we actualize it.

This is where modern psychology and scriptural truth coalesce. Psychology speaks of visualizing real or imaginary locations that are pleasant, tranquil safe places. The Scriptures ask us to hold fast and believe the Father’s promises by faith.

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

If the ultimate fear is death and Jesus conquered it through His resurrection and the redemption it provided each of us, why do we fear death?

Hebrews 13:6 So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

But we do have a responsibility in this. We have to choose to walk with the Father daily and live out our faith. We have to build restorative times when we occupy our safe place. We focus on building character rather than focusing on the outcome of our efforts. And love rather than judgment and condemnation should become our natural, “normal” spontaneous reflex. Our love, compassion, and forgiveness should speak louder than our fears and doubts. Him and

Nehushtan

Nehushtan

Hezekiah broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. – 2 Kings 18:4

Ezekiel 14:3-6

 3 “Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin. Why should I listen to their requests?

 4 Tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin, and then they go to a prophet asking for a message. So I, the LORD, will give them the kind of answer their great idolatry deserves.

 5 I will do this to capture the minds and hearts of all my people who have turned from me to worship their detestable idols.’

 6 “Therefore, tell the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins.

People like to worship stuff. However, most of us do not consider ourselves idol worshipers. We scoff at the very notion that we worship idols. “Idols?” “What, I have no idols!” A very common notion is that idol worship is something done by ignorant, ancient peoples who prostrated themselves before some dumb, lifeless, carved images that they wrongly believed were deity. Surely, I would never worship a physical object as a god!

The Father provided strong directives concerning idolatry in the first two of the ten commandments. He knew that they would be an ongoing problem for us.

Deuteronomy 5:7-9

 7 “‘You shall have no other gods before me.

 8 “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

 9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God,

What is an idol? Webster defined idolatry as “the worship of a physical object as a god.” We need to expand our thinking a bit to get this right. An idol is anything we put before the Father in our heart. We make idols out of things we cherish. It could be our quest for success, a person, a pet, a hobby, an athletic group,  an idea, social media, a car, a boat, and addictive behavior or even ourselves. Yes, people worship themselves and they worship their heroes.

In order for the people to escape death from fiery serpents in the wilderness, The Father instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent (Numbers 21:4-9).  Once it served its purpose, rather than discarding it, the people chose to keep it and they placed it in the Ark of the Covenant.

Although it was a lifeless, useless relic, it became an object of worship, an idol. This is a simple case of a good thing morphing into a bad thing. The Hebrew word Nehushtan meant a bronze serpent, or simply a piece of bronze, a brass thing.

When Hezekiah became king, he purged the land of idols and ordered the destruction of the Nehushtan, because the people had made this 700-year-old fetish into an object of worship. To get right with the Father, we need to take a personal inventory, examine what we rank before the Father in importance and purge our lives of our idols.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.

REFLECT & PRAY

When we take something made to be good and turn it into something vile, it is time to get rid of it entirely (Stanley).

Father yes, my heart is indeed deceitful and wicked. Protect me from self-deception. A person who is deceived, does not know that they are deceived.

INSIGHT

But there is a far worse kind of idol than a physical one made of stone, wood, or precious metal. There many “false gods” lurking in our hearts of which we are not aware. They do not stand on outward pedestals, but rather on the inward pedestals we erect for them in our hearts.

The Father requires exclusive allegiance, not merely outward but more importantly inward. The Father warned ancient Israel against “idols in their hearts” (Ezekiel 14). Idols of the heart initially, imperceptibly separated them from the Father and then smoothed their slide into sin and lawlessness.

Ezekiel 14:3 [They] set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin.

For the people of Israel there was a subtle irony lurking right beneath the surface. Little or nothing had changed in their outward allegiance to the Lord. But they were suffering from heart disease. Their souls were becoming lean.

The very things that these people believed were doing them good, were actually harming them. Instead of spurning erroneous thinking and beliefs, they embraced them. It was their downfall. Do you have any old pieces of bronze or brass to unload? Reflect and search for any concealed Nehushtan that might be lingering in your heart. Ask the Father to help you identify it.

Proverbs 28:26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Obadiah 1:3 The arrogance of your heart has deceived you.

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Sentinel chickens

Sentinel chickens

O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD. – Isaiah 62:6

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

 1 Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we do not really need to write you.

 2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.

 3 When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.

 4 But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers, and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.

 5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.

 6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.

Not all heroes wear capes. In fact, some do not even wear clothes. In spite of advancing technologies, a seemingly primitive method for detecting some of the world’s most widespread diseases reigns supreme in counties across the country: sentinel chickens. Sentinel chickens are an essential ally in disease detection.

Designated chicken coops are placed in areas believed to be endemic to infected mosquitos. There, the chickens are fed and cared for and go about living “normal” chicken lives while waiting to be bitten by the mosquitos. On a regular basis, blood is drawn from the chickens and tested for viruses known to be carried by mosquitoes, most notably West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). When chickens test positive, it is a clear indication that there are carrier mosquitoes in the area. Unlike humans, chickens do not get sick from the diseases they contract from mosquitoes. They are not harmed in any way.

Without the sentinel program, the level of virus activity ongoing in an area would be nothing more than guesswork. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be effectively flying blind until human cases popped up.

BTW – Chicken little did not make the cut – too much imagination.

The Father has many reasons for keeping His children in the world. As children of the light and knowing the truth of Scripture, they can act as sentinels, watchmen. They are often more aware than others of approaching danger as they observe signs of trouble. The day of Judgement is coming, and the Lord will return unexpectedly like a thief in the night. The children of darkness will be taken by surprise, but not so for the children of the light. It will not be a shock for the Father’s children. They longingly await the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As children of the light, we have a responsibility to be on guard and not lulled to sleep by those who say, “peace and safety.”

REFLECT & PRAY

As the predicted return of Jesus Christ draws closer, the signs will indicate that the time is near. Rather than fear and dread, we are to rejoice.

Father keep me spiritually alert and aware. I long for the return of Your son, but I ache for those that I love who do not know Him.

INSIGHT

When does a thief strike his target? No one knows in advance. So it is with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. No one knows the day and the hour of His return. We are to remain vigilant.

The Lord Jesus Christ told us to watch for Him and keep at His business until He comes. The prospect of His return should motivate us to not become lazy but to work even harder.

John 9:4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.

In our society today, one out of three people dies from cancer. When a terminal case of cancer is diagnosed, a short period of time is predicted until the end. When a patient is faced with certain death, how do they react? Some people become discouraged and dismayed. They just give up. While others determine to get things right with the Father, and all those that they will leave behind.

As the last days of our lives approach, we should dedicate ourselves to serving the Father as much as possible until He takes us home.

1 Chronicles 12:32 The sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.

This special group of people understood the signs of the times and knew the best course of action for people to take. So it should be with us.

Isaiah 62:6-7

 6 I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves;

 7 And give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

The Father’s watchmen are guardians, like sentries on the city wall. They pray and watch for the fulfillment of the Father’s promises. His sentinels will never be silent and take no rest, they will never give up. They are diligent to pray that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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Life without regret

Life without regret

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21

Philippians 1:6-20

 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

 12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,

 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

“If you get to the end of your life with no regrets at all, you probably haven’t lived that interesting a life,” Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist at Cornell University, told TODAY about his conversations with older Americans. “But they can’t believe how people waste their time. Petty fights, resentments and worry.”

Pillemer, and his team interviewed 1,500 people over 65 about what haunts them most about their life choices. Ranked number seven was not taking more career risk-taking opportunities. Many regretted saying no to possible options because they were afraid of taking a chance or felt too comfortable in their current job.

“Our oldest generation is telling us that we need to live a life with ‘yes’ as our bias,” wrote Jeremy Bloom, the founder of Wish of a Lifetime, a charity that grants wishes to older people.

You are much more likely to regret a career move you did not make than trying and having it not work out so well.

Their advice: Always say yes to a career opportunity unless there is a very compelling reason to decline it. Try something new and do not be stuck in a box (https://www.today.com/health/biggest-regrets-older-people-share-what-they-d-do-differently-t118918).

Life in the 21st century seems to be producing more and more cause for a greater and greater sense of gloom and doom. Despair, sadness, fear, physical and social pandemics are the new normal. Are we going to allow ourselves to be defined by personal tragedy and hardship, poor decisions and failures, and world events? Is it possible for us to have greater control over our present and future reality?

Paul would answer a resounding yes! He continually faced difficult circumstances and outright persecution. Paul’s response to his circumstances is the direct byproduct of his commitment to fulfill the Father’s dream for his life. The Father’s dream has now become Paul’s dream. Paul has learned to view everything from the Father’s perspective. Paul experienced great joy in the face of very difficult conditions and mistreatment. Paul chose to be joyful and thankful.

How is this possible? What was the source of his joy and overcoming spirit?

He chose to live for Christ and the gospel. It made no difference what happened to him, just as long as the Lord Jesus Christ was glorified, and the Gospel was proclaimed. A child of the King is designed to be like “a telescope that brings Jesus Christ close to people. To the average person, Christ is a misty figure in history who lived centuries ago. But as the unsaved watch the believer go through a crisis, they can see Jesus magnified and brought so much closer” (Wiersbe).

REFLECT & PRAY

“God is faithful to finish what He starts. Once we accept Christ as our Savior, there is always more to walking with God than what we’ve known, seen, learned, or experienced” (Stanley).

Father, you are at work all the time. You invite me to participate with you. As much as I am able at this time, I accept your invitation. I commit myself to Your purpose and leave my anxious heart behind. 

INSIGHT

Galatians 2:20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Paul’s life was defined by the choices he made. A choice was made in a moment in time, it was a defining moment. He never looked back. In each circumstance, he simply made the same choice over and over again. Serving the Lord Jesus Christ became the center of his life.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21

Trusting the Father alleviates anxiety and leads us into rest. “When you have the single mind, you will not complain about circumstances because you know that difficult circumstances will result in the strengthening of the fellowship of the Gospel” (Wiersbe)

When you ponder whether to engage in some activity, it is a much better way to live to constantly ask yourself, “what is excellent about it?” rather than, “what’s wrong with it?” (Stanley)

Good choices enable life without regret. “Our efforts are useless and futile if we do not partner with God in what He wants, where He wants, and how He wants it. The blessing of the Lord spells the difference between success and failure, satisfaction and regret” (Stanley).
 
The Father has a delightful way of turning negatives into positives. He loves to take things that Satan means for our harm and use them instead for His glory and our benefit. “Paul did not want to do great things for God; He wanted God to do great things in and through him. His goal was to serve as the hands and feet and mouth of Christ, doing in Christ’s power what Christ would do” (Stanley).