Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Blessing or Curse of Friendships

I heard the following statements recently.  They have stayed with me and so I'm passing them on to you.
Friends will influence you for good or for bad,
so choose your friendships wisely.

When God wants to bless your life and future, how does He do it?  He sends people into your life.

When the devil wants to destroy your life and future, how does he do it?  He sends people into your life.
But don't forget, we are the ones who choose which people we will open the door of our heart to.  We also choose how far into our lives we will allow them to come.  God's blessing through friendship becomes our choice.  The devil's destruction through friendship becomes our choice.
Wisdom and discernment are needed with every relationship we have.  Our enemy is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devourer and one of his most effective tools is sending people to capture our hearts, our emotions, our imaginations and our very lives – messengers disguised as “angels of light” and wolves in sheep’s clothing is how the Bible describes people that he sends.  Watch out!

Friends will influence you for good or for bad, so choose your friendships wisely.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Self-Made Prison

An acquaintance of mine, Ben Madison, once told this story (names have been changed).  He was at an airport waiting for a connecting flight.  He noticed a man who seemed to be staring at him.  He ignored it but the man kept staring.  The man finally approached him and asked rather rudely if his name was Ben Madison.  My friend said he was and the man angrily proceeded to tell him that he had ruined his life and his family.  Ben was startled by not only the accusation, but by the man’s rage.
"I can't believe you don't remember me or what you did to us!"
Ben said, “Sir, I’m not certain that I know you, let alone ruined your life.”  At this the man was even more angered.  “My name is Dwight Ferguson.  I can’t believe you don’t remember me and what you did to us!”  Dwight went on to say that when Ben was the principal of a Christian school 11 years ago in another city, he had expelled Dwight’s son from the school. It hurt him and his wife deeply that their son would be expelled and he vowed never to forgiven Ben.  Someday he had hoped and prayed to run into Ben and let him know the years of pain he had endured in being so embarrassed by having a son expelled and how he had hated Ben all these years.  
That day had arrived and Dwight went on and on pouring his anger and pain on Ben.  He was drawing quite a few stares from onlookers.  Ben’s flight was finally called and he apologized to the man and quickly boarded his flight glad to be away for the man’s anger and ranting.
Ben thought and thought about this on the plane and vaguely remembered the incident that had taken place so many years ago.  Ben remembered that the boy had been a problem in the school and had been given a number of chances. However the incident that required the expulsion was clearly spelled out in the student handbook and was of the type that Ben had no choice but to expel him.
Ben went on and said something that has stuck with me.  He said that it really saddened him to think that for 11 years Dwight had been imprisoned by his own hatred and bitterness hoping for and wishing harm on Ben and waiting for the day that he could confront him.  But every day for 11 years Ben had never thought about the incident.
That is the power of unforgiveness.  It robs the person holding it.  It steals joy, peace, and sleep.  It eats away at our insides like an acid.  Yet the person we are holding unforgiveness and bitterness towards may not even remember us or the incident.  We are in prison and they are walking around free.
Ben said he was glad he always worked hard to forgive all who had ever offended or hurt him and he encouraged me to do the same.  It has stuck with me.  I never want to be in a self-made prison like Dwight was.  But I have to work on it.  Many things come my way that try to lodge in my heart and sometimes they succeed for a season.  But when I realize what I am doing, I choose to work through them and avoid putting myself in a self-made prison. 
It is said, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  I also recently heard it said, “When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free – yourself.”  Good words to ponder.
(This post was also submitted  to The Republic, Columbus Indiana's local newspaper and they recently ran it.)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Turn Off The Noise!

A major source of weakness in my ability to
hear from God is that I don’t unplug,
I don’t turn off the noise or get
away from the distractions.
I am reading the book of Acts right now in my Bible reading plan and came across the passage in Acts 10 where Cornelius is praying at the ninth hour (3:00 PM) and is visited by an angel.  It occurred to me that in Acts 3 it said that Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour and that is when the man, lame from birth, was healed.

Later in Acts 10, Peter is on the roof of the house at the sixth hour (Noon) and receives the vision of the sheet and the unclean animals being lowered from heaven. The Lord speaks to him about what not to call unclean and this leads to the Gentiles receiving Jesus and being Baptized in the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit is first poured out at the third hour (9:00 AM).

Powerful miracles, powerful messages, powerful encounters with God and angels and all of them mention the time of day these took place.  My mind started looking for a pattern, the sixth hour, the ninth hour, or the third hour – was there something in common?  And then I saw it.  It was not the time of day; it was that in each of these instances the people had taken the time to separate themselves from the noise and busyness of life and pray. 

Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour – the hour of prayer.  Cornelius was praying at the ninth hour, Peter was on the rooftop at noon praying.  The group in Acts 2 was in the upper room several days after Jesus ascended into heaven.  It says in Acts 1 that they were devoting themselves to prayer.  They had set aside time for prayer.  The inference in the Scripture was that this was a pattern for each of these people; they often set time aside to be alone with God, and God visited them during these times.

A major source of weakness in my ability to hear from God is that I don’t unplug, I don’t turn off the noise or get away from the distractions.  And because I don’t, my mind and spirit do not easily connect with God.

We need to stop fooling ourselves that the devotions we have with our phone, computer, or tablet at our side are effective unless we really have them off, or unplugged from all of our aps. 

I am reading my Bible on my tablet and a message pops up at the top.  It is a text, email, or Facebook message from someone.  I see it.  It distracts me and so I switch from the Bible and respond.

I’m in prayer with my phone on my belt and I get the familiar chime or vibration that I have a text or email.  It distracts me.  I get the phone out to see what someone needs and I respond. 

I’m in prayer or I’m reading and I remember something that I wanted to check on the web.  So I get out my phone to look something up.  Then I see I have two aps that need updating and I have 10 Facebook notifications and I have a free spin for coins on my game and once again my focus is switched and I am distracted and I usually take care of all of these things (because they only take a minute and if I don’t take care of them now I’ll forget) and 10 or even 20 minutes later I get back to prayer or Bible reading.  Of course now I only have a couple of minutes left before my next appointment.  

Each time something like this happens I break the connection with the Word or with the Father in prayer. The connection that I may have had with the Father or His Word is gone.  Each distraction, each broken connection weakens my spiritual life.  But it is so subtle or to such a small degree that I don't really notice and so I don't make changes.  And I get spiritually weaker and weaker.

My concern is that as believers our devises are keeping us from hearing what the Lord is speaking because they are constantly a source of distraction.

Here is something I have discovered.  Sometimes God speaks to me when I am seeking him about a problem or issue. More often God speaks to me when I have taken time to quiet myself in prayer and Bible reading. These are usually the most powerful and insightful encounters but they are happening less and less because I have not taken the time to silence the noise in my life, to unplug from the distraction.

Here is my appeal – turn off the noise, get unplugged.  God is speaking, we are not hearing Him because we are distracted and our minds and spirits cannot get in tune with His voice.  I am choosing to turn off the noise, to have my devotions with devises set aside or turned off.  It is what I need to do.

The days we live in require that I hear the voice of the Father so that I can obey the voice of my Father. My I challenge each one reading this to do the same.