Monday, March 31, 2014

De-humanizing the human...

Week 14:

Romans 7:15-25 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

As a Christian High School Principal, I deal with students, parents, and teachers on a regular basis.  An interesting phenomenon for me is how each group will tend to de-humanize another.  It happens the most with a students’ view of a teacher.  He may view his teacher as an emotionless being who thinks of school all the time.  When he sees his teacher at the store out of the context of school and dressed differently than the normal school attire, it throws him a little.  “My teacher eats normal groceries?”  Okay, so this is an over-exaggerated analogy, but not far off.  When a teacher has a human reaction to a student, it takes the student back. 

Upon encountering one of these situations recently, I began to look inward and ask myself, “Where in my life do I do this as well?”  That was an easy answer, “Lots of places.”  Sometimes the people I disagree with become faceless, emotionless, unhuman beings in my world.  It is just easier for me to put them in that category.  It gives me someone to blame for how I feel as a result of what decision they have made.  In fact, many times I de-humanize men and women of the Bible.  I place them in a Spiritual bubble and compare myself to them.  When I compare myself to them in this way, I never will be as spiritual as they are.  I miss their human qualities, or at least dismiss those qualities with the idea that the characters had a closer contact with God than I do.  Taking the idea of de-humanization further; I especially de-humanize government officials. 

Why do I de-humanize others?  Well, there are several reasons.  First of all, I do this when I feel I will never measure up to the person or persons I am de-humanizing.  This is especially true about the Biblical characters.  I get to see the outcome of their lives.  I forget, or do not read into the human struggles they encountered and through God became what I read about.  I set them apart as more than human and in a place I can never reach.  I also will do this with leaders I look up to and follow.  I do not see the hard work they have put in to get where they are now.  I forget how much it takes to get to the position they are in and I see them as super-human.

A second reason is that it is easier to de-humanize than to look at myself.  I can blame others for my shortcomings, laziness, broken agreements, misguided anger, etc., by looking upon them as other than human.  I place them in some sort of category that is so void of human emotion or reasoning that they are the enemy.  By doing this, I do not have to look inward and face some truth about myself.  I essentially protect myself from any pain I may feel when I face those parts of me I may not like. 

Finally, I am selfish.  Yep, I said it.  Crud, I said it.  I want what I want when I want it and how I want it.  To de-humanize is to justify my selfishness.  I want something, and in the way may be another person.  If I look at them as something other than human, my conscience is not violated by my action.  It allows me to bulldoze forward knowing that I am not hurting a de-humanized person. 

So why did I choose this passage for this thought?  I chose it because Paul was human.  I can relate to this verse on so many levels.  Paul was a Spiritual giant.  Yet, he was also a vulnerable, man.  He knew God’s law and God’s grace, yet he still struggled and spoke of that struggle.  Paul gives me hope.  Paul also reminds me that I tend to de-humanize people.  To know that Paul struggled yet was godly, reminds me that those I de-humanize are the same.  So, I go back to the example of the student de-humanizing the teacher.  I explain that a teacher is called to a higher standard, disciplined, trained, a prepared.  However, when challenged, disrespected, and de-humanized enough, she will react.  Why?  Because she is human and has the same emotions the student does.  Helping the student see the teacher’s human qualities allows the student to gain a different perspective.  Helping me see others as a created being by God, allows me the same.


1.      Who is a specific set of people you have de-humanized?
2.      Why do you suppose you do this?
3.      What do you gain out of de-humanizing others?
4.      What Bible characters seem out of reach for you and why?
5.      Pay attention this week to how you treat others as human beings.  Let God reveal to you when you de-humanize and show you something about their humanness.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Relationship and fellowship...

Week 13:

I John 1:5-7 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

I John 2:9-11 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

I have been looking at my fellowship with others lately and how intentional I may or may not be.  There are times in my life where I withdraw and avoid fellowship.  Sometimes, I have been hurt by those I have been in fellowship with.  Sometimes, I feel I do not belong in the company of the fellowship I have been following.  Sometimes, I have wronged someone in my fellowship circle and I am ashamed.  Sometimes there is conflict going on in my fellowship circle (involving me directly or indirectly) and I just want to avoid the conflict. 

These two passages combined remind me of some things about fellowship with other believers.  First, I need fellowship.  Without fellowship, I can be prone to walk in darkness.  Other believers help me to stay in the light where God is.  Sometimes others shed light through their life.  Other times, other believers are the hands, voice, and love of God.  God uses them to show me the light without their knowledge.  At times, they see me in darkness and call me on my walk in that darkness. 

Another revelation for me is the fact that my fellowship gives me some insight into my relationship with God.  When I am struggling with fellowship with others, I am struggling with my relationship with God.  My lack of good fellowship is not a “fellowship” problem, it is a “God” problem.  If I claim that my walk with God is good; yet my fellowship with others is strained, I am deceived.  My darkness has blinded me. 

A further step into this logic would be that if I am avoiding fellowship, then I am very likely avoiding God.  My brothers and sisters are an extension of God’s love and guidance.  If I am avoiding them, I am likely avoiding God.  Who knows why?  I could be living out of my own selfish motives and do not want God to call me on that lifestyle.  I may be ashamed with my life.  I may feel abandoned by what I perceive as unanswered prayers.  I may not want to be told what to do or that I may not be “right”. 

The problem with all of this is that I cannot follow God on an island.  Yes, He reveals Himself in so many ways.  However, the most telling way to know that I follow God is through my fellowship with other believers.  John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  To love, I must be in fellowship.  To feel God with “skin on”, I must be in fellowship.  To know whether or not I am right with God, I need to check my fellowship.  To walk in light, I need others to point out where I am walking.  I challenge you, as I do myself, to stay in fellowship.


1.      Explain the comparison between your relationship with God and fellowship with others.
2.      Describe what is going on or what has gone on when you have been out of fellowship with other believers.
3.      As you look or reflect back, how is/was your relationship with God?
4.      What needs to change in your relationship with God to enhance your fellowship with others?
5.      Pay attention this week to how you feel about other believers you fellowship with.  How is this related to your relationship with God?

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Am I ready...?

Week 12:

Luke 22:33-34 33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

As I walk through transitions in my life, I notice that I have some sort of goal or vision in mind.  However, I do not always reach that goal or the fruition for that vision within the time I expect.  Or, sometimes I do not reach that destination at all.  It is here that I become discouraged and at times retreat to not even dreaming or trying to follow the spirit’s lead.  My fear of rejection and further discouragement gets in the way and I succumb to that fear through inaction.

When I dream of what I might do next in the Kingdom of God, I need to run these dreams through two questions:  The first is, “Is this what I am supposed to do?”  The second is, “Am I ready?”  I also have to look at what is coming up for me.  Is this a dream?  Is this a vision?  Is this a goal?  Dave Ramsey in his book EntreLeadership gives a description of the three.  Dreaming is good if it leads to a vision and a goal.  If a dream does not lead down this path, it is only a dream.  The vision is what the end may look like.  The goal is a dream and vision “with work clothes on.” 

Answering the first question is basically my deciding if what has come up for me is merely a dream or if it has a vision attached.  This takes prayer; time; paying attention to what’s going on around me; inquiring of scripture; and tapping into my advisors for feedback.  Answering the second question is many times what happens for me.  I see that God has some plan for me, I see a vision and many times I have a goal.  However, the timing may not fit what I had planned.  SO the burning question for me is, “Am I ready?” 

For encouragement, I connect with the above passage.  Peter felt he was ready to die for and with Jesus.  However, Jesus knew that Peter was not ready yet.  Peter had much more to accomplish before his martyr.  I can imagine how emotional the weeping was for Peter when he heard the roster crow.  He was so sure he was ready, yet he went against his word to Jesus.  We know the end of the story.  We know how Peter’s life turned out.  Peter was the foundation builder of the first Church.

When I reflect back on some of the work I have been able to take part in God’s Kingdom, I realize that the timing has not always been what I envisioned.  Yet, I see where I reached a goal even if it wasn’t when or how I envisioned it to be reached.  The Spirit was leading, but God had to get me ready.  There are certain experiences I must go through in order to be used by God.  Peter is not the only example we have.  Joseph, Moses, Jacob, etc. had to be prepared by God to face the task He had for them. 

The next time I face discouragement, I need to remember the two questions.  If I find this is what I supposed to do, then I need to ask God to prepare me.  I need to ask for His guidance and an extra measure of patience as I wait upon Him and His timing.  I must ask myself, “Am I ready?”  If not, I wait, learn, and prepare.


1.      What dreams and visions have you been discouraged about?
2.      What visions and goals have come to fruition but not the way you envisioned?
3.      How are you encouraged by the human qualities of the stories of Joseph, Moses, Jacob, Peter, etc.?
4.      Name and explain a vision you currently have.
5.      Where are you toward reaching the goal of that vision?
6.      Where and how do you think God is preparing you?
7.      Take inventory this week on your dreams, visions, and goals.  Walk yourself through the two questions:  Is this what I am supposed to do?  Am I ready?  Visit with God and see where what comes up for you.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Test and hold on to the good...

Week 11:

I Thessalonians 5:19-22 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

Two weeks ago I talked about loving the good.  I have since run across this passage.  Holding on to the good can be a part of loving the good.  All good comes from above.  To hold onto the good, I make steps toward loving and applying good in my life.

So, where else does the good come from?  As I read this, I notice some thoughts come up for me.  “Do not quench the Spirit.”  We take the Spirit of God into our heart when we accept Jesus.  The Spirit begins to work in our lives.  The Spirit speaks to us through God’s Word.  However, the Spirit works in other ways as well.  At times, my conservative Church background has limited me.  There have been times where I have missed the Spirit’s call (quenched) just because I did not read it in the Bible.  The Bible is very important to be our guide into our Christian life.  However, God is bigger than the Bible.  His Spirit is working all throughout creation.  God can use whatever means necessary to accomplish His purposes, He is God and His Spirit fallows Him.  Therefore, I must remember that prophesies can come from other areas in my life besides Church and the Bible.  A step further for me is when I have heard these charges or prophesies and have gone back to what I know in the Bible and about God; these prophesies have lined up with the character of God.  This is the testing that this verse speaks of. 

A second thought is in the area of rejecting evil.  Test the message.  Use what is truth and good.  Reject untruth and evil.  In my blog article Books, studies, sermons, and/or other avenues, I wrote about discerning what is truth from what is being presented.  Used to, I would hear or read something that didn’t match up with Biblical truth and would instantly reject everything.  It is later that I realized that some of what was being presented is through the Spirit of God and the rest is from humankind (which what is from humankind may or may not be true).  I even found this to be true of me.  Some of what I write and speak on is Spirit led and some of it is from me.  I think that most of what is from me is based on truth, but there are times that my own opinion does not match up with truth.  However, I still want what God is speaking through me to be heard.  So, a key word around this passage is “Discernment”.

This brings me to the phrase, “Do not treat prophesies with contempt.”  When I have rejected whole messages because I have run across something I disagree with or something that makes me uncomfortable, I quite possible just missed something God wanted me to hear or learn.  Why do I normally treat some prophesies with contempt?  1.  Conviction:  I am convicted by the message and I do not want to admit that I may be in the wrong.  So I reject the message.  2.  Disagreement:  I disagree with the message or at least part of it.  Or, I may disagree with the messenger.  He/she may have exhibited something character-wise that hit me in an uncomfortable way.  3.  Evil:  The message being sent does not line up with God’s truth or His goodness.  Again, the key to following this verse in my life around the messages/prophesies is my ability to exercise discernment. 

My challenge is to have an open mind.  Within that open mindset, I am to test what I am receiving against the character of God.  The Spirit will show me what lands on my heart.


1.      How do you interpret quenching the Spirit?
2.      Where have you held a message or prophesy in contempt lately?
3.      What was the block for you?
4.      Recalling back to the above message from #3; was there some truth or good God may have wanted you to hear despite the block?
5.      This week, pay attention to how you receive messages and prophesies.  Notice where God is speaking and where humankind is speaking.  Ask God to reveal Himself to you.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

From God's perspective...

Week 10:

Exodus 5:22-6:1 22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”

I can relate to Moses in so many ways.  In fact, I get uncomfortable when I read about Moses questioning God.  Yet, I see that God blessed Moses.  God had patience with Moses as he asked questions.  I think that Moses had a different view of how the exodus from Egypt would play out.  I think like that many times.  I see something in the Kingdom that God has called me to take part in and have a plan or idea on how it should play out.  Then, I look up, and God has taken the scenario in another direction.  Or, many times I feel like Moses at times did…I feel I failed.

Henry Blackabay in his Experiencing God material has a great take on this process.  He redirects me to ask God His perspective on what is going on.  Notice how Moses complains.  Notice how he blames God.  On other occasions, Moses played victim and felt sorry for his self.  I do both.  I make my determination upon my perspective, my agenda.  In this instance, God informs Moses that He is about to show His mighty power.  All of this happened in order for God to be glorified.  That was God’s perspective.  God’s plan was bigger than Moses.  God’s plan would prevail even if Moses failed. 

I do this quite often.  I see a work in the Kingdom and I begin to add my services.  I have and agenda and I have a goal.  I am determined to do a good work for God.  Then I encounter what I perceive as road blocks.  I begin to second-guess whether I am following God’s plan or not.  I become discouraged and at times I cease what I am doing.  However, this may not be what God wanted…me to cease.  He wants me to persist and ask Him for His perspective.

See, I have an agenda.  So does God.  I think His will is going to prevail.  What I need to do in that situation is to ask His perspective on the situation.  I need to be still and watch what He is doing and how He is working.  Then I need to re-engage and follow Him and His leading.  When I do this, the joy is so much deeper and my eyes are opened to His leading and the wonderful work He is doing.  And, furthermore, He gets the praise and glory; not me…which, is how it should be. 

So, the next time I feel I have failed or I have hit the wall, or I think I’m on the wrong path; I need to realize that God is working.  He has a plan and it’s time to ask and listen with no agenda attached.  That surrender is difficult; it will take practice.  But the rewards are greater and just plain right.


1.      Describe a time where you just knew you were doing God’s work and hit a road block?
2.      Did you see God’s plan afterward?  How so?
3.      Describe a time where you knew you were in God’s plan, yet it didn’t turn out how you planned.
4.      How do you approach God in these times?
5.      What kind of results do you get?
6.      This week, take inventory on the works you have done for God.  Where did He take the work that you did not expect?  In fact, where did you disagree yet saw God’s plan in the end?
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