Month: September 2020

The Head of the Year

Developing Discernment Series
Sunday Sermon 9.18.20

This weekend marks the Jewish New Year and is celebrated by Rosh Hashanah. It will be ending the Hebrew year 5780 and entering into 5781. (2020 to 2021). Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year”.

This is important to understand as we are seeking to develop discernment and understand the times in which we live. What is happening around us are not simply events set in motion by human action or inaction. They are related to and in fulfillment of a great, plan and purpose.

It is vital to understand, distinguish, and yes, discern what is going on.

In previous blogs, we have spoken about having our senses awakened and being able to discern with our eyes, feelings, taste and smell.

Today, we will conclude this series by speaking about using our mouth/words in discerning.

It is no small “coincidence” that the year 5780 introduced the decade of the mouth. 2020 and 5780 began a new decade, one in which the mouth would be preeminent. (Hebrew numbers and letters have word associations, values and symbols that support these things.)

And what have we seen happening in the decade of the mouth?

  • masks to muzzle the mouth
  • voices silenced
  • interactions prohibited
  • The Word attempted to be shut up
  • churches banned from meeting and singing
  • gatherings forbidden

Stadium gatherings that were planned this year, all over the world, for Gospel advancing and awakening had to be cancelled.

It takes little discerning to process this as a spiritual assault. There is an evil force seeking to silence the mouth and strip it of its power. But why?

Because the mouth DOES HAVE POWER. Your words have power. The Word of God is powerful and effective. And if that power can be rendered impotent, then that evil, spiritual force believes it has won and often convinces many there is no hope.

Your mouth is powerful. Look at what the bible says about it:

  • Proverbs 18:21 – the tongue has the power of life and death
  • James 3:5-6 – the tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts; the tongue is a fire, it sets the whole course of one’s life on fire
  • Matthew 12:36 – I tell you every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment
  • Matthew 12:27 – the words you say will either acquit or condemn you
  • James 3:10 – blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth, surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right
  • 1 Peter 3:10 – if you want to see happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies
  • Matthew 4:1-11- Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations and words with The Word of God & said man does not love by bread alone, but by every word of God
  • Hebrews 4:12- the word of God is living and active and sharper than a double-edge sword, piercing between joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents if the heart

There is power in the words that we speak and these are the days in which we must use and choose our words wisely! We are not to be silenced.

We must allow the Lord to put his words in our mouth. Jesus did this, the Apostles did this and the Old Testament prophets did this. They submitted their mouth (along with their mind and will) to God and His Word, asking for his words to be put in their mouth.

Read it – Jeremiah 1; Isaiah 51 & 59; Luke 21; 2 Peter 1; Paul in most of his epistles; John 1.

Even in heaven, what do we see?

“I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him…He is dressed in a robe dripped in blood, and his name is The Word of God.”

Revelation 19:11-21

When it is all said and done, at the end of all our time on the earth, what will remain is The Word of God. The Word of God will triumph forever.

“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

1 Peter 1:25

So what are we doing with our mouth? What are we saying?

Stop now, take a private, personal inventory of what has come from your mouth in the last couple of hours? Yes, you’ve been working at your daily duties, but in between, around, before, amid and after; what comes from your mouth? (not to mention your thoughts…)

What words have been released? Life? Death? Encouragement? Peace? Compassion?

For us Jesus followers, what Word of God has come from our mouth? Have we spoken it? Prayed it? Declared it? Stood on it? Meditated on it?

For all of us, do we know it? Do we know the Word of God? Do we spend quality time reading and or studying it?

His word in our mouth is as powerful as Genesis 1, when He created all things. His word in our mouth, at the right time, will bring victory. His word coming from our mouth and anchored to love will change not only our world but THE world.

Those of us seeking to walk in discernment must learn to apply the Word of God to every situation and speak it forth.

We are about to enter the year 5781/2021, and although we remain in the decade of the mouth, we now enter the year of the teeth – 21.

Teeth in scripture represent judgment, rebellion, sin; so there are no assurances that the year ahead will be absent what we have seen in 2020, I’m sorry.

The assurances we do have are in the power of the Word of God to stay us, anchor us, stabilize us, cover us, use us, empower us, equip us and release us to stand in victory.

Utilizing the Jewish custom of reading the Psalm that corresponds to the birthday you are turning, 5781 – chapter 81 of Psalms says,

“I am the Lord your God; who brought you out of Egypt. OPEN WIDE YOUR MOUTH AND I WILL FILL IT.”

Psalm 81:10

Be that discerning one who knows what to say, when to say it; who knows when and how to apply the Word of God to the situation and does so with the authority and the power of heaven.

Be that one who knows the will of the Father in heaven and brings it down on earth with your words.

Don’t allow your mouth to be muzzled, it is time to speak forth, release life, truth, hope and peace- all found in the Word of God. It is time to live the very things we are speaking and speak the very things we are living. It’s time to move things from our heart and head and into every corner of our lives. It’s time to make the Word of God visible in and through our lives via words.

Dust off that Bible, open up that APP, and get into the Word deeper than ever before. It is your life and victory in the days that lie ahead.

Through this coming year and beyond, you will need your senses activated and in tune with the Word of God to be able to discern effectively what is happening. I trust these studies have helped in some way.

In closing, perhaps you will want to join in the Rosh Hashanah, New Year celebration by dipping an apple in honey as a symbol of the ultra sweet year we trust God will grant us.

Shanah Tovah, have a good year.

Go with God

Your Amazing…

Eyes

Helen Keller, who lost her eyesight and hearing to scarlet fever, as a toddler of nineteen months is quoted as saying,

“Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful.”

Helen Keller

Would you agree? Disagree?

Helen Keller, with the patience and expertise of Anne Sullivan not only overcame her blindness, deafness and muteness but developed her sense of touch so sensitively that she “listened to music” via the vibrations in the air and things around her.

She also developed her sense of taste and smell so acutely that she was able to gather more info through her limited senses than we probably do with our five senses. And yet, she had no eyesight.

Helen eventually went on to become the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree. She is amazing!

“I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which is to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world.” “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”

We see, but do we have vision?

Our eyes are amazing. They provide vision of the world around us, and also reveal if we’re happy, tired, down, or confused and they even serve as “windows to the soul”.

Allow me to take you through a quick review of how exactly our amazing eye works. (Thanks to my own refresher course at livescience.com.) Then I’ll tie it all together with some interesting applications for you. Hang in there.

We humans have a “camera-type” eye. Just like a camera lens focuses light onto film, our cornea focuses light onto our retina, that big screen at the back of our eyeball. The cornea is transparent and is at the front of your eye to help focus the incoming light.

The iris, you’ll remember is that part that gives you your eye color. It is ring-shaped and it has an adjustable opening called the pupil. The pupil controls just exactly how much light enters the eye. It has to adjust to let the light in.

The colorless, transparent lens is located behind the pupil and focuses the light onto the screen of your retina. (Aren’t you glad we don’t have to remember all this before we see anything? It just happens, we have sight, we have an amazing eye.)

Inside that eyeball chamber are two different kinds of jelly, liquid type substances. The aqueous humor and the vitreous humor. (Can you guess the application of these two? 🙂 ha ha)

Of course, there are muscles involved inside the eye, too. The ciliary muscles for example, hold the lens and must both relax (pull and flatten the lens) and contract (thicken the lens) for far away and up close sight.

Review is almost done.

On the retina are millions of light sensitive cells called rods and cones, which differentiate between us seeing colors or black and white. When the light hits them it is converted to an electrical signal that travels to the brain via the optic nerve.

The brain then accepts that electric signal and changes it into images for us to see. Phew!!!! Review done.

Seriously, I could say nothing else and I think we’d be challenged and reminded just how amazing our eyes are, right? How perfectly designed. How intricate. How complex, having liquids and electric signals in the same spot without loss of power. How significant each part is and vital for sight to be effective. If a part of the eye anatomy is defective, sight is hindered, disabled or lost. For perfect clarity and vision, all parts of the eye must be fully functional.

The same can be said for the clarity of our other vision. By that I mean our “world view”, how we see the world around us. Not just anatomical seeing. The “eyes” through which we see what is happening around us.

Check out these practical tips for clear eyesight in these days, that I have drawn from our look at the amazing eye:

  1. Cornea – we need to focus on the light. Let the light in, focus on it not the darkness
  2. Lens – we must fight to stay transparent, stop trying to hide or cover up what we are feeling
  3. Pupil – we can and must control what we allow into our lives. We give things an opening and we decide how much to let in. Put controls in place in your life.
  4. Aqueous and vitreous humor – LAUGH! Find joy. Seek humor, make people laugh, laugh yourself. It is a medicine that we need a double dose of in these days.
  5. Ciliary muscles – to see things in the distance we must relax. Pull back, flatten out. Learn to relax and not jump too far ahead. To see things up close we need to have a bit more thick skin. Thicken our lens, be tough and we will see more clearly.
  6. Retina – seeing color is determined by millions of very, very sensitive cells; and those cells are responsible for sharp, clear vision. Our vision of color will sharpen as we are sensitive to those around us.
  7. Signal conversions – remember that everything we see has been converted to appear as an image we see. The brain makes translations for us and helps us make sense of what we are seeing.

We have an amazing eye who’s function is to help us see clearly. Today, at the very least I trust that your appreciation for your vision has been boosted.

Yet, beyond that, I hope that you are able to take away a more tangible lesson from the eye to apply and use to help you see more clearly in these days.

“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”

You’re amazing and so are your eyes.

Cheers to you.

How’s Your Sense of Smell and Taste

Developing Discernment Series
Sunday Sermon 9.12.20

I find it totally fascinating that on the list of symptoms for Covid19 is the loss (sometimes permanent) of smell and taste. Vanderbilt University tells us that up to 80% of people who test positive for the virus have complaints of taste and smell loss.

That same study goes on to say, based on their evidence, those who suffer such loss will experience a milder onset of the virus, yet those without any loss of smell or taste “appear to have a worse disease course”. Hmmm.

We all remember that “taste and smell are separate senses with their own receptor organs, and yet, they are intimately entwined.” (Brainfacts.org) Those organs send different and separate signals and those signals will eventually converge and allow us to detect the flavors in foods.

“Just as sound is the perception of changes in air pressure and sight the perception of light, tastes and smells are the perception of chemicals in the air or in our food.” (Brainfacts.org)

Get that? Smells are the perception of things in the air… The spiritual implications are clear, here.

Hence, we have the phrase, often with our head shaking, no, “Something doesn’t smell right”, or “I smell a rat”, or “we’ve got to sniff this out”.

We are talking about developing discernment, with the emphasis today on our senses of taste and smell. In real life, having the ability and perception to sniff out the afore mentioned rat. Perceiving in the air around us that something just isn’t right, it smells rotten. We’ve got a bad taste in our mouth.

You’ve used those phrases, haven’t you? You have identified discernment. That urging to use that spiritual sense inside you, prompted by Holy Spirit to help lead you and guide you into all truth.

I’m not going off some spiritual deep end here, there’s plenty of biblical support for these truths about discernment. Check out these passages:

  • 2 Cor. 2:14 – he spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere
  • Job 6:30 – can my mouth not discern malice?
  • Ps. 119:103 – your words are sweet to my taste
  • SS 2:3 – the Lord touched my mouth
  • Jer. 1:9 – the Lord put his words in my mouth
  • 1 Cor. 12:10 – to another the distinguishing of spirits
  • Hos. 14:9 – who is discerning, let him understand

Our spiritual smell and taste help us to distinguish good and evil. They work together to help us perceive the atmosphere around us, and get a taste for what is happening.

They pick up signals just as the nose and tongue pick up chemicals. Those signals then, are offered in prayer to the Lord, asking for his clarity, understanding and knowledge. And the Lord in his faithfulness will make clear what we are sensing.

Bottom line friends, allowing our senses to be awakened and alerted to spiritual things is nothing short of the New Testament pattern. Read the Book of Acts, pay attention to what the Holy Spirit did, said, and used people to do, say and reveal. Dreams, visions, wonders, healings, resurrections, miracles, earthquakes, bold explanations, stonings, beatings, trances, angelic visitations, riots, church growth, persecution, government interference, unquenchable faith, casting out demons, turning the world upside down.

I AM IN!! I WANT IT! There’s no more exciting way to live, than being in tune with the Father, and listening to his voice by means of Holy Spirit within us, and having His Word, the Bible as the foundation for everything we do, say, know, and follow.

The Apostle Paul tells us that there are many gifts that Holy Spirit gives, and one of them is – “the gift to discern what the spirit is speaking.” 1 Cor. 12:10 TPT

So my prayer for you echoes Paul’s, as found in Galatians 5:16 – “Walk by the Spirit…” and ” Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” 5:25 Let’s live in a place and way that we can discern the spirit speaking to us.

Discernment is needed everyday to help us distinguish between God, Satan and the world, and to warn others. We must train ourselves to walk in it and exercise it. Heb. 5:14

In my simplistic discernment, I find it simply amazing that even amid this Covid19 mess, the evil one is seeking to rob people of their sense of taste and their sense of smell. That is not coincidental nor are they unrelated symptoms. It is a spiritual signal that we need to be picking up on.

There are so many of those signals around us. Are you picking up on them?

How is your spiritual sense of taste and smell?

Go with God.

What Do You See?

It was my son, the artist who first taught me about “negative space” in art work. I was interested then and I am interested now.

“Negative space” is the space around and between the subjects of an image. It is considered most effective and evident when the space around the subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting shape.

Here’s a classic example to help you visualize it:

what do you see?
vase? 2 faces?

In the 1980’s, I was working for a very young company based in Memphis, who’s goal was to ship packages overnight everywhere in the world. They wanted to beat out UPS and USPS. The CEO’s name was Fred Smith and we affectionately called him Uncle Freddy.

In 2000 they changed their logo to this, one that I believe nearly everyone has seen:

They changed it to utilize the negative space between the E and the x. What do you see?

There between the E and the x is a white arrow, pointing to the right, and is meant to represent the idea of moving forward with speed and precision, much like the FedEx brand.

Brilliant use of negative space, right? Had you noticed it before?

Below I am going to insert several logos, most of which are familiar. Study them, and not just the negative space, what do you see?

In each of these there is more to see than meets the eye, there is more to the message.

  • Wendy’s – look at her collar. It spells MOM. Home and family, are Wendy’s priorities.
  • Baskin Robbins – pink lettering reveals the number 31 – because they have 31 flavors. (that’s what I still call them to this day)
  • LG – the round, red circle is designed to be a face with the L and the nose and the G encircling it the outline of the face. Bringing humanity to machines.
  • Tostitos – delish chips for sure. Did you notice the “i” is a small table, it has salsa on it; the dot of the “i” is a chip, and surrounding the table (i) the 2, t’s are designed to look like people. The messaging, Tostitos are for sharing.
  • WHAT DO YOU SEE?
  • Formula 1 racing – easy to see the negative space 1 speeding away
  • Hershey’s kisses – hidden in the logo is another kiss. Can you find it? It is between the K and the I… see it? Message – another kiss is hidden in there
  • Goodwill – I always saw the smiley face in the left corner, but I never realized it was meant to also be another g… 2 g’s making the goodwill point.

These types of brain teasers I have always enjoyed. I’m hoping that you are too.

But there is another message too, and I’ll share it after this next and last set of logos. Look at them, what do you see?

  • Apple – we all know this one. True story, it is designed to represent when Eve took the bite from the “apple” and received knowledge (of good and evil.)
  • MLB baseball team the Milwaukee Brewers. A baseball glove with MB
  • Toyota’s logo of interlocking ovals shapes every alphabet letter of the company’s name
  • Pinterest- we have all seen this one, right? The P is a pin.
  • Toblerone – featuring the Matterhorn Mountain of Switzerland, has a hidden bear in the mountain symbolizing it is made in the “city of bears”
  • Sun Mircosystems – sun spelled out in the microchip, facing every direction
  • Hope for African Children Initiative – HACI – not only does it appear to be the continent of Africa but the outline is actually created by contours of two people – an adult and a child

So, what do you see?

What did you see before some of the messages were revealed? Did you see the entire, intended message?

Today, I am challenged by the fact that not everything we see is clearly understood. I am challenged to search for the underlying messaging, the hidden messages, if you will.

I am confident, there is more to it than meets the eye and the discerning will see beyond the curtain and realize just who is pulling the strings and levers in this land of oohs and aahs.

What do you see?

Cheers to you.

I Gotta Feeling

Sunday Sermon 9.5.20
Developing Discernment Series

Yes, I stole today’s title from will.i.am and The Black Eyes Peas. Woohoo. (Some of you are hearing it play now in your head, right? Go ahead, let it play out, then continue reading.)

As we continue to look at developing discernment in our senses, today we move from the senses of hearing and seeing to that physical sensation of touch, or we could also call it, our feelings.

Remember, the book of Hebrews tells us of a people who have have learned, or have trained their senses to discern both good and evil. (5:14)

So, how can we train our feelings to discern?

Feelings. those pesky things that often overwhelm us, fool us, and ignite us, can be good and controlled on one hand, and be negative, demanding and out of control on the other hand. How can they be trained and exercised for good?

We are triune beings like our Creator/Father, we are body, soul and spirit; and we know our feelings come from the soul part of us which is comprised of our mind, will and emotions.

That ole soul part can be problematic. Within it we find all of our emotions, all of our feelings, all of our thoughts, our conscience, our intuition, and our “gut” – that place where “I got a feeling”.

Because we experience our feelings consciously, and they are often triggered by events, it is so easy for their influence to be driving us. It is so easy for us to be driven by a feeling that may or may not be of God or His Spirit.

And let’s address too, our past experiences, prejudices, and traumas and admit that they too, affect our feelings.

What you have is a powder keg of explosive potential, for good, and for evil.

Hence, the desperate need to develop discernment over our feelings.

I have heard many people say, “I gotta go with my conscience”. (my inner feelings). Here’s the problem with that. Our conscience is determined by our life experiences and influences and therefore can become polluted.

1 Timothy 1:5 says that faith and a good conscience go hand in hand. In other words, without faith in God operating in your life, you will not have a godly, or good conscience.

Titus 1:15 tells us that to the pure all things are pure but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.

The New Testament is full of this principle:

If you feed on the Word – you will obey God. If you feed on the world you will disobey God.

Therefore, your conscience cannot be trusted to lead you to God/good unless it is filled with the Word and the Spirit. That goes too for “your gut”, your intuition, your hunches and your feelings.

Bottom line, the Holy Spirit is an actual person. Not an “it”. One of his many jobs is to work in the lives of believers and their conscience to notify them of sin, to see to it that no one (or thought, or feeling) takes that believer captive. Colossians 2:8

The Holy Spirit will lead and guide us. He will convince us. He will teach us to discern between our feelings and those prompted by Himself.

The Holy Spirit is a person. He does not evolve. Cannot be conditioned. Cannot be deceived.

Yet, our conscience, our feelings can. They evolve, are conditioned and can be deceiving.

Charles Stanley teaches that there are these types of consciences:

  • good 1 Tim. 1:19
  • struggling 1 Cor. 8:7-12
  • soiled Tit. 1:15
  • seared 1 Tim. 4:2

No matter the number, or the levels, the point is that our conscience, our feelings must be washed by the Word of God and submitted to God for them to be relied upon for guidance.

God wants to speak to us and will do so in any way He chooses and if He is to use our feelings effectively, they must be yielded to Him and cleansed of our own leanings.

God has given us feelings and emotions because He has them. We are made in His image. Therefore, He wants us to feel as He does. To be moved with what moves Him. To be broken with what breaks His heart, to be moved with mercy, justice and compassion as He is.

We cannot be effective in discerning the Spirit of God if we are tied up in the knot of our own feelings and emotions. He cannot reveal His Father’s heart to us if our heart is overgrown with weeds of hurt, distrust, and insensitivity.

Our heart must be tended to, groomed, softened and healed. Our heart must be submitted to God because from it flows everything that we are. Prov. 4:23

From our healed and tuned heart will flow the promptings of the Spirit and our faith will arise to follow that “feeling” – that feeling of the Spirit of God touching a man or woman with the very heart of God. Those feelings that have been trained to align with The Word of God and the heart of the Father.

Those feelings that reflect the influence of God as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22-23

All the other feelings have been trained to submit to the Word, and so we can quickly distinguish good from evil, wrong from right, God’s will from man’s will. We can feel Him inside of us, directing us and teaching us, we can hear His voice and feel His presence.

That heart, that person – is a powder keg of explosive potential for good!

That is the one to whom discernment will come, because their senses have been trained by reason of much use.

Again, to quote will.i.am :

“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday, Saturday, Saturday to Sunday.”

Let those days be the ones that you discern a feeling…(from God).

Go with God.

Times are Changing

Sometimes it’s kinda fun to look back, especially when you can laugh at what you remember. Do you remember these?

Times are changing! Right!?

Sometimes the change is gradual and unintentional, other times change is targeted, and opposed. Consider the following that were inventions to target change yet they were criticized, opposed and spoken against when they were revealed:

  • Automobiles – in 1902, they were scorned and the leaders said, “the prices will never be low enough”
  • Liquid nail polish – in 1917, many doubted its usefulness
  • Talkies – movies in 1928 had no sound. When sound was introduced, the actors declared “talking doesn’t belong in pictures” it will be too distracting
  • Cheeseburgers – In 1934, in CA when cheese was added to beef, it was considered “just another crazy California idea”
  • Personal computer – those in the field agreed, there was “no reason anyone would want one.”

My, how times have changed.

Some changes really do stick around. Like these changes that are turning 40 years old this year – they were introduced in 1980 and are still with us; even bigger and (mostly) better:

Times are changing.

We are creatures designed to live in the present. We cannot live in the past, nor can we live in the future. Yet, our past affects our present and our future.

Our mind seeks possibilities yet it resists change.

In these tenuous times of change, what changes will be temporary and funny to look back on?

What changes will continue to be opposed? Which will be defeated by opposition and criticism? Which will overcome and change our world?

Which changes will be around another 40 years and make make our world a better place?

Times are certainly changing…

Cheers to you.