Sometimes I Deceive Myself

Slogan: Deception Infection

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do watch on You Tube parts of American Idol

I am careful, since it does sound kind of … idolatrous

If you were to watch the first few shows of the season — when the judges travel around the country for auditions

You soon become aware of how easily people are self-deceived

You watch people trying out for a spot on the show when competition starts in ernest

It is seriously difficult to comprehend how many horrifically bad singers truly believe they deserve to be the next vocal superstar!

They are truly self-deceived — and no one has had the honesty to tell them so

Many people will laugh at the stupidy of this self-deception Read more

Sometimes I’m My Own Worst Enemy

Most weeks everyone of us faces a number of demands upon our life

Events, relationships, circumstances, and situations that demand our time and attention

But, at the same time, there is a personal and private side of life that also needs you to invest some time and effort into it on a regular basis

This is our inner life that deals with the soul and spirit realm – the essence of who we are

But the demands of life can be fairly heavy, consistent, and demanding so we put our soul aside in order to carry on with the demand of life

We all do it

Life goes on, despite our personal struggles

Read more

Sometimes I Don’t Walk by Faith

In this series of teachings / discussions I have targeted a number of every day issues – spiritual and life issues – that we, as believers and disciples of Jesus, tend to encounter on a regular basis

Sometimes I Doubt God – Bout With Doubt

Sometimes I Worry – But What If…

Sometimes I Get Angry – Rage Rash

Sometimes I Feel Incredibly Lonely – Seclusion Conclusions

Today: Sometimes I Don’t Walk By Faith – “No More Beyond”

Subtitle: “Don’t Settle In Spain”

I don’t believe that disciples of Jesus – those of us who follow Jesus today – were ever suppose to end up as couch potatoes Read more

Sometimes I’m Afraid I’ll Fail

Everyone faces a fear or two in their lifetime …

One fear that I have faced a number of times over the last 50 years has been fear of failure … looked a little different each time

          • Fear of not being able to live up to my ordination vows
          • Fear of failing to be adequate enough in my first parish
          • Fear of preaching
          • Fear of starting an independent church
          • Fear of overseas ministry and the unknown over there after communism fell
          • Fear of not honouring the Name of Jesus
          • Fear of pushing too hard and burning out

Read more

 Sometimes I Doubt God [The Bout With Doubt]

In the midst of daily life there are many opportunities to doubt God

      • When a baby dies we wonder “So, where is God when we need Him?”
      • With a world-wide epidemic taking thousands of lives a day we wonder. “Is God real?” And “If He is, is He good?” And, “If He is real and good – where is He?”
      • If God is all-powerful, then why doesn’t He just stop all the bad things going on in the world right now?

Read more

The Lesson From a Group Of Monkeys

I am always astonished at what people believe. Not just in matters of the faith but in all aspects of life. Of course, with COVID-19 there are so many differing opinions and viewpoints. The most obvious currently: the mask or no mask debate and divide. We have people who believe that asymptomatic people cannot spread the virus when scientific and medical experts tell us the opposite. We have conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus…

People put their thoughts and opinions on social media and repeat them often enough that some people begin to believe they are true. And, of course, then they retweet or repost and thus spread them further ‘as truth.’ So we end up with large numbers of people believing something that is not true. 

The other day in a series of interviews with doctors and nurses they were sharing that people who they are ministering to in hospital and the ICU – people who are dying from COVID-19 – think the COVID-19 virus is not real and simply a hoax. They believe what they have been told and what they have heard over-and-over again … not checking the facts, just believing. Even when dying they still do not believe they were really dying of COVID-19. 

It reminds me of the scientific study done a number of years ago. I have reproduced it below….

Scientists once conduced a very interesting experiment

In the middle of a room, they hung a bushel of fresh bananas halfway up a pole

Then they let four monkeys loose in the room.

Immediately the hungry monkeys dashed towards the bright yellow bananas

As they climbed the scientists blasted the monkeys with icy-cold water

The monkeys backed off, regrouped, then made a second attempt. As they started to climb the pole, once again they received the discouraging dousing

After several unsuccessful attempts, the monkeys became convinced that failure was inevitable and finally stopped trying.

The next day, the researchers removed one of the four monkeys and replaced him with a new monkey.

What did the rookie do?

He went straight for the bananas

But before he even reached the pole, the three veterans pulled him away

Undeterred, the new money tried again. 

Again his compassionate roommates intervened

At last he gave up and adopted their fatalistic attitude

Each day, the scientists replaced one of the original monkeys with a new one

By the fifth day, four monkeys occupied the room, not one of whom had ever been sprayed with cold water

From that day forward, whenever a new monkey was traded in, the others would prevent him from going for the bananas … without even knowing why 

Four had failed, and then they conditioned the novices to not even try

This happens with more than a group of monkeys. 

This happens to us as believers more often than we care to admit

People hear what we are wanting to do and tell you all the reasons we should not. You hear it often enough and you decide that you likely were not hearing God or misinterpreted what you heard.

You were in a friendship that didn’t work – others tell you that friendships are always unpredictable and usually painful so you decide not to risk another attempt at friendshipwith someone else

You were married and the marriage failed. Others tell you to just stay single as it is not worth the pain to remarry

Your first child was a pain in the neck an totally upset your life – so you don’t ever have a second one

Once burnt – twice shy

Several people I know were told by their parents and teachers as they were growing up that they would never amount to anything. Born losers. And, having heard it often enough – they  live up to the negative expectation and never use their abilities, skills, and talents to build a life that they could be proud of; a life that would benefit others and be a blessing.

It seems that we can be programmed to believe anything if we hear it often enough. And, it seems that the source of the ‘belief’ matters little. What matters is that it is repeated over and over again until it “becomes truth” to the hearer although not based in any facts. 

Remember: just because you read or hear or see something on social media does not make it true

Remember: what others say about you is not near as important as what God has declared about you

Remember: what God declares about you is always, and I repeat, always true

Remember: it is perfectly alright to check out every thing you hear or read to see if it is based in fact and is not just someone’s opinion. This is true even with teachings and sermons you may have heard. Don’t believe it because someone said it; believe it after you check it out with the written Word of God – the Bible. 

Don’t let others “make a monkey out of you.”

The Anatomy of a Great Relationship – Part Three

The second benefit of being a man or woman of character (Psalm 15) is found at the end of the psalm. After describing the person of character in detail (see Part One), the psalmist concludes, “He who does these things will never be shaken.”

Now this is a benefit you don’t experience immediately. It’s something that comes from weeks, months, or years of investing in your character and your relationship with the Lord based in that character. It’s the result of adopting a lifestyle. The image the psalmist paints is that of two trees in a storm. And while the same storm sweeps over both trees with the same force, one tree is destroyed while the other is left standing. 

So it is with men and women of character. They are not delivered from the storms of life. But they are delivered through them. For their roots go deep. Their faith is strong. Their resolve is unwavering.

Their pursuit of Christlikeness has gained them the unique privilege of saying to God, “God, I’m just doing what You told me to do. You got me into this. It’s up to You to get me through it.” And so they deliberately and sincerely cast their deepest and most intimate cares upon God. And they live with confidence that He is going to care for them (1 Peter 5:7).

No place in the world is more secure than in the middle of God’s will. It’s the only real security. In that way, to pursue a life of character is to prepare for the storms of life. Remember, “he who does these things will never be shaken.” 

God assumes total responsibility for the life that’s yielded to Him. That’s why men and women of character will never be shaken. Navigating the storms of life is not their responsibility. Being obedient to the voice of God is. 

The greatest tragedy of missing this process isn’t that your marriage might fall apart. Or that you’ll flounder in your career. Or that you’ll be lonely the rest of your life. As tragic as these things may be, the greatest tragedy of refusing to pursue the character of Christ is that you’ll miss Him. There is a price for becoming a person of character. But it’s not nearly as high as the price of pursuing other things.

Character paves the way to intimacy with God. To know Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to live with the confidence that He will not allow you to be shaken. That’s the ultimate promise of character. It is the promise of His presence, a presence you cannot possibly miss. 

The Anatomy of a Great Relationship – Part Two

Let’s turn from looking at the key relationship – intimacy with God – and look at our personal relationships. You’ve probably known someone in your past who pursued a relationship with you for all the wrong reasons. Once you got close to him, you realized he had a hidden agenda. Do you remember how that felt?

How do you respond internally to a person like that? Do you open up and become more transparent? Of course not. You become cautious. Everything he does is suspect. You rehearse old conversations and think, Oh, so that’s why he said that.

Think a minute. If your interaction with God is focused primarily on getting something from Him, what does that say about your relationship? You aren’t coming to Him on terms that warrant a relationship of intimacy.

Still, God listens to your self-centered prayers. Sometimes Her actually grants your requests. But as long as you see Him only as a means to your ends, you will never experience intimacy. You will never truly know Him. This unique depth of relationship is reserved for those who respect Him, trust Him, and are willing to communicate honestly with Him. It is withheld from those who dishonour Him by treating Him like a vending machine.

There is a correlation between your personal holiness (character) and your intimacy with God. There is a direct relationship between your willingness to obey God and His willingness to reveal Himself to you. This is THE primary benefit of character. Character brings a heightened sense of intimacy with God, an intimacy available only through the pursuit of Christlike character. 

During His ministry on earth, Jesus modeled this cause-and-effect relationship. He reserved a level of intimacy for a select group. They had left everything to follow Him. They respected Him. They trusted Him. And they were in constant communication. No, the twelve apostles were not perfect. But they had left their businesses and their families to pursue a relationship with Him. He was their priority.

Further evidence of this is found in an incident that took place immediately following the telling of a parable. The meaning behind Jesus’ parables was not always clear. And apparently, that began to bother the disciples. On this particular occasion the disciples pulled Jesus aside and asked Him why He wasn’t more direct with His audience. He said, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11 NKJV).

Jesus was suggesting to His disciples that there would always be people who remained on the fringe relationally. There would always be curious onlookers who had a distant interest in Jesus. But special insights were reserved only for those in His inner circle. Did Jesus love the multitudes? Yes. He died for them as well as the Twelve. But the multitudes did not know Jesus as the Twelve did. He chose to reveal Himself to them at a deeper level. After answering the disciples’ question, Jesus took them aside and explained the meaning of each parable. To His special friends, it had been given “to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

We are not talking about a relationship that excludes anyone. This exclusive relationship is available to everyone; everyone that is, whose walk is blameless and who does what is right. In other words, it is available to those in pursuit of character. 

Jeremiah echoed this same idea when he wrote, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). 

So, I was out walking the other day and it was one of those still days when there was little to no wind in my region of the country. An unusual occurrence as there is always a wind, it seems. I walked a long distance in the still air and sunshine. But then I turned around to return home and seemingly out of nowhere there was a gentle breeze blowing. Where had it come from? It had been there all along. I just wasn’t’t aware of it. As long as it was at my back, I didn’t hear or feel it. But as soon as I faced the other way, my ears immediately sensed its presence. 

The same is true of God. As long as we have our backs turned to Him, doing our own thing, living life the way we think it should be lived, we are less aware of His presence. He is there, but we remain unaware. Once we begin prioritizing our lives around His values and principles, it is as if He comes alive in our lives. We have a heightened sense of the reality of God. But again, the sense of His presence is reserved for those who have turned in His direction. 

More next time… 

The Anatomy of a Great Relationship – Part One

Since mid-summer and a three week camping trip in the forests of my region of Canada I have been studying and reading a lot on healthy relationships. The believer’s relationship with God being the foundation for all healthy relationships. It is an interesting study as I learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Topics such as friendships in a time when we are ruled by social media; how to end unhealthy relationships; the need for solid character to develop healthy relationships; and how to grow healthy relationships.

As believers, the key to all relationships is our walk with God. Psalm 15 is a wonderful psalm that talks about the character of one who would abide with the Lord and have intimacy with Him. The writer asks (KJV), “Who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?” The assumption is that these are two things to be sought after. However, neither sounds appealing. After all, who wants to live in a tent? And what’s the big deal about living on a holy hill?

The tent referred to the place where God resided. And the holy hill was the hill in Jerusalem where the permanent temple was eventually built. To have access to these places was to have access to God.

The Israelites of that day thought of God as dwelling in the ark of the covenant inside the sanctuary tent. God gave them that picture as a tangible reminder of His presence. In their way of thinking, the closer they were to the ark and the tent, the closer they were to God. The farther they were from the ark and the tent, the farther they were from God. They believed this so deeply that they took the ark of the covenant with them into battle. And who could blame them?

So when you take these questions, steeped in ancient Jewish culture, and translate them into our language, this passage asks and answers one of the most relevant questions imaginable: Who gets an inside track with God? The implication is that intimacy with God is a real possibility.

The psalmist makes it clear that this privilege is reserved for men and women of character. Psalm 15 in full reads (TPT):

Lord, who dares to dwell with you?

Who presumes the privilege of being close to you,

living next to you in your shining place of glory?

Who are those who daily dwell in the life of the Holy Spirit?

They are passionate and wholehearted,

always sincere and always speaking the truth—

for their hearts are trustworthy.

They refuse to slander or insult others;

they’ll never listen to gossip or rumours,

nor would they ever harm another with their words.

They will speak out passionately against evil and evil workers

while commending the faithful ones who follow after the truth.

They make firm commitments and follow through,

even at great cost.

They never crush others with exploitation or abuse

and they would never be bought with a bribe

against the innocent.

They will never be shaken; they will stand firm forever.

Let’s list the description in modern day terms:

      • They walk with integrity
      • They do what is right
      • They tell the truth
      • They don’t gossip
      • They don’t mistreat people
      • They side with those who are right
      • They keep their word
      • They lend money to those in need without interest
      • They don’t take advantage of people for financial gain

That’s quite a list. Clearly, character paves the way to intimacy with God.

Initially, this idea may sound somewhat pretentious. Unchristian. But that is not the case at all. Throughout Scripture, God is described as having a personality. Again and again, we see Him relating to humankind much the same way we relate to one another. In fact, the rules that govern human relationships are very similar the rules that govern our relationship with the Father – God the Creator.

Three elements are always present in a healthy relationship.

    1. Respect
    2. Trust
    3. Communication

To have a quality relationship with someone, you must respect him, trust him, and communicate with him. The same is true about your relationship with God.

The pursuit of character (the list from Psalm 15) entails all three elements of a healthy relationship. When you acknowledge that God’s standard is THE standard, you demonstrate respect. When you commit to follow God’s standard, regardless of what it costs you personally, you demonstrate trust. And as you seek to understand His standard more thoroughly, and as you run up against your inability to live out His standards consistently, you communicate with Him. 

The pursuit of character (Psalm 15) inevitably becomes the pursuit of God, for the standard by which you judge your life flows from the nature of the heavenly Father. You may begin with a list in mind. But eventually, you discover that you are pursuing a Person, not a standard.

More next time…

Giants That Kill Our Passion – Part Four

We are looking at the life of David and his fight with the giant Goliath and pulling out some personal observations to help us fight and defeat the giants in our personal lives. Giants that stand in the way of living passionately.

We saw last time…

1> Confront your giant

2> Remain consistent in preparation

3> Consider the cost

There are three more observations that will help us in our battle against giants in our personal lives…

4> Be courageous in battle

King Saul attempted to equip David for battle by outfitting him in his own battle armour. You need to remember that Saul was a big man, at least a head taller than his peers (see 1 Samuel 9:2), but David was just a kid. After trying to walk in the armour, David declined the offer. He didn’t need armour and a big sword when defending his sheep. His strength and protection were in the power of the Spirit. David announced, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). So he courageously marched into battle with the five small stones and one big God.

There have been times in your life when you have seen God knock your big problems down to size. Reflect upon those victories. Replay them in your heart and mind. Take courage and “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). As someone has said, you plus God equals a majority. No giant can withstand you when you are led an empowered by God’s Spirit. 

5> Be a champion for God

When you step out boldly to confront your giant, you join the ranks of God’s army of champions. David is in that brave band, as is Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Peter, Paul, and countless numbers of heroic warriors in the pages of the Bible. 

But be aware that when you move out as God’s champion, you may be criticized by others, even those closest to you. Some family members and friends may feel threatened as you step out in the Spirit to pursue your passion. When David showed up on the front lines and began inquiring about Goliath, his own family shot him down. His eldest brother said, ““Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle” (1 Samuel 17:28). Instead of lauding David’s courage, his brothers chided him for abandoning the sheep.

Like David, silence your critics with your courage, determination, and trust in God. The Spirit-empowered shepherd boy strode confidently into battle armed with a sling and five stones. The first stone flew and found its mark. Goliath toppled like a felled tree, and Israel enjoyed a great victory and new freedom to be God’s people in their world.

The same God who brought victory to an underdog shepherd boy stands ready to help you conquer your giants and to free you to the passionate life He created you to enjoy. Like David, you have a choice before you: You can remain paralyzed by your pain or problems, going nowhere; or you can face them, overcome them, and follow your passions.

6> Don’t give in to the giant of false humility

There are a few confused saints among us who have taken the notion that Christians should not desire success. Imagine David saying, “Oh, but God wants me to be humble, and I’d look so pompous challenging giants.” I suggest you read these words from Erwin Raphael McManus and take them to heart:

“It is important to note that ambition is not wrong. In fact, the Bible never speaks of ambition itself as negative. Ambition is a God-given motivation. One of the great tragedies among many followers of Christ is the loss in ambition after coming to faith. They have become convinced that any personal ambition is dishonouring to God. I have met some who have gone as far as to only do the opposite of what they desire because they were so persuaded that any passion to achieve had to be rejected and overcome. The simple reasoning is “it can’t be God’s will if I want to do it.” (Erwin Raphael McManus, Uprising — A Revolution of the Soul, page 38)

If you want to do it, and it’s something you know Good wants done, then ambition is just another gift God has given you for the task. Ambition can be a very important element of your passion. So, move forward and don’t be so critical of yourself. Move forward to the glory of God, and you’ll begin the see the giants fall in your life.