No Matter What

artworks-000047241810-pwfc5v-t500x500But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4)

This might seem like an unsettling Scripture, but to me, it’s comforting. It reminds me that God knows my thoughts. And it challenges me, too, that He knows my thoughts!

No matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’re thinking about, God is well aware, and He’s interested. He always wants more and better for you. You can trust Him to guide. Let Him filter everything in your life, including your thoughts. You might be challenged, but you won’t be disappointed.

Use Your Filter

images (1).jpgThe one who guards his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23)

Guarding our mouth doesn’t mean we’re always silent. There’s a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). When we speak when we shouldn’t, we get ourselves into trouble. It’s happened to me more than I care to admit, and probably more than I realize.

The photo reminds me that speaking when we shouldn’t puts us on the hook. It takes us where we don’t want to go. And it hurts – ourselves and others – even if we don’t realize it at the time.

The solution is simple – difficult and challenging but simple. We need to use our filter. Actually, we need to use God’s filter. We only discern best when we rely on Him.

Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell. (James 3:3-6)

The Share Approval Process

007b8ae266d2a977ac0157e273dcdacbI created a video for a nonprofit organization, and because it featured a minor’s story, it had to go through the proper channels for approval.

The first round didn’t take long. A couple minor changes were requested, and after quickly making those, I resubmitted it, thinking the approval process would be much shorter.

Wrong.

Two months later, the video was approved. It was still usable, but it wasn’t as timely as I had hoped.

I understand the lengthy process. It was for a person’s protection. I am grateful for that.

I wonder if we all had to go through such a lengthy process when considering what to share via social media. It might be beneficial for everyone involved, the sharer and the sharees. It would require perseverance and patience, two things with which many of us struggle. One of the things we like most about social media is the immediacy and accessibility of it. But that’s not always a good thing.

Put a share approval process in place. You will likely thank yourself years from now when Timehop reports what you posted in the past, and I’m certain many who are reading your posts will thank you, too.

Use Your Filter

We all use filters. Yes, even those people who we’d say don’t have filters…the people who seem to have a direct link from their minds to their mouths. Others, who rarely share their opinions, might say they have the “proper” filter, only speaking when it’s absolutely essential. Perhaps you filter things through your experiences, counseling perspective, education, culture, and the list goes on. It’s important to know your filters, because if your filters are faulty, or even if the priorities of your filters are out of order, what you end up with at the end of the trail of filters won’t be as pure as you trust it to be.

For example, perhaps you’ve learned some great tools through counseling. When a problem arises, you return to those tools and the things you’ve learned and filter the problem through them. If the straining process resolves the issue, that’s all you need. You consider the solution a success.

Or, perhaps an issue comes up, and you can tie it to your education. You can chart the flow of information or organization because of what you’ve been taught, so as you strain the issue through your education, it all pretty much falls into place and makes sense. You can explain it, so from your perspective, the issue is resolved.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of a past experience. You remember what worked and what didn’t, so you determine how to respond based on what makes sense from past experiences, good and bad.

Learning from counseling, education, and experiences is important, even essential, to moving forward in life at times. Yet if they’re your primary filters, you’re missing out on something. Until our primary filters are God’s Word, we’re going to let some things through that aren’t His truth, and we might filter some things out that are. God’s Word has to be the first filter, not the last resort. We can’t run to it as a self-help book when we’ve exhausted all our other resources. It’s the top filter, where we initially pour our problems, issues, relationships, and questions. All other filters are secondary.

Know your filters. Don’t just assume because you are a Christian, you stand firmly on God’s Word in all situations and relationships. You might say you fully trust God, but do you, really? Are you letting Him consume every single moment of your life, every decision you make? Do you run to Him before anything and everyone else, then trust Him to guide you to the right resources and people He’s placed in your life? If you trust Him, really trust Him. And if you don’t, you can start right now, today, by asking Him to begin filtering every aspect of your life. You can depend on Him.

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10, HCSB)

You’re Quoting WHO?

QuotationsI’m surprised at some of the comments I receive when I quote someone who, for one reason or another, ruffles someone’s feathers. It’s usually not the actual quote that creates the problem. It’s the person’s name at the end of the quote. Someone exclaims, “How could you possibly quote _______? I thought you were a Christian! Don’t you know what they believe?” In most cases, “Well, yes. Yes, I do.”

Quoting someone doesn’t mean I agree with absolutely everything that person has written or said. In fact, it’s not even possible for me to know all of that. Even people I disagree with on the majority of their opinions have some important, even truthful, things to say. I think it’s important to find common ground. Accepting one thing doesn’t mean I accept everything. (In a similar vein, I have never agreed with absolutely everything a political candidate has stood for, but I still voted for someone. And I’ve heard the same response: “You voted for WHO? Don’t you know what they said, did, thought, hinted, promised?”)

Anyone who quotes me surely doesn’t agree with, or even know, everything I’ve said. Even if that was possible, I’d sorely disappoint them when I opened up my thought-bank and let them dig even deeper.

We are supposed to discern who and what influences us, but we are not to live insulated or isolated.

Jesus didn’t.

If guilt-by-association was of monumental concern, Jesus wouldn’t have hung out with the sinners as much as He did. After all, He is the only person who ever lived without sin. He was confident enough to know that His truth was stronger than their influence.

We need to avoid situations in which we are weak and easily influenced by deception and false teaching. But when we’re rooted in God’s truth, we’re going to be able to sift through what is good and what is not. A firm foundation allows us to be exposed to some harsh elements without being tossed by the wind.

Invest in deep roots, then trust God to hang on as you explore and impact the world around you.

I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
I sanctify Myself for them,
so they also may be sanctified by the truth.

(John 17:15-19)

 

Problems with Media

351473-mediaTV-1332052664-192-640x480This is not a post to slam media coverage. From different conversations with people, I think most see the shortcomings of media coverage. Media will cover what people will watch. Even if you don’t personally watch the gloom and doom stories, someone does. Plenty of someones must create the demand. Otherwise, media outlets wouldn’t highlight them. We all also know media is slanted. Honestly, I don’t know how it can’t be. There is no way we can completely portray reality without running it through a filter. The camera lens gives limited perspective. The captions give limited perspective. The news reporter gives limited perspective. Add the filters of the producers, time allotments, editing, and other factors, and it becomes clear why reality gets skewed. Of course, some media outlets seem to represent reality a bit better than others, or at least, we want to believe they do. Perhaps we’ve just chosen the perspective that most matches our own perspective. Perhaps we’ve just become accustomed to specific perspectives, so we’re more accepting and less shocked or disgruntled.

We complain about the filters the skew what the media presents, but we can’t do a lot about that…unless you decide to go on a personal mission to rework the entire media empire. (And spewing your opinions on Facebook doesn’t qualify.) But there’s something we can all do:

Pay attention to your own filters.

We need to filter what we’re taking in instead of just complaining about what others offer us. I was reminded of the importance of filters when in Israel. Family and friends of our group were watching news reports for any updates on happenings in Israel. With the violent fighting throughout the summer, many were concerned for our safety. I understood their concern, but when you travel much and see the chasm between what fits in the small frame of a television and what is happening around you, the concern lessens. Incidents were usually isolated enough that we weren’t aware of anything going on; in fact, most people in Israel probably weren’t. However, people watching the news back home might see an extended report of an isolated event. Which is exactly what happened.

Several women got texts asking how we were and if we were close to the fighting. Fighting? What fighting? Everything around us seemed calm. We heard and saw no commotion. We didn’t hear any more sirens than we’d expect on a normal day in any city–abroad or in the U.S. Several of us looked online to watch the news report to see what others were seeing. The video lasted several minutes. The first 20-30 seconds included the actual scuffle, which involved a few people yelling and pushing each other. No guns, no harmful violence. Yes, it could have escalated to that level, but it didn’t. The rest of the segment included two videos of more violent footage involving many more people. At the bottom of the screen, we noticed small words–“file footage”–with one date that was the height of the summer conflict and one that was an earlier date that originally escalated the conflict. File footage means just what it sounds: video footage (or photographs or an interview, whatever the format) that is pulled from a file. It is related to the current footage, but it’s not current.

Why would a media outlet include something that ignites emotion, conflict, and controversy? That’s not my focus of this post. Instead, let’s ask,

How carefully do I filter what I’m watching and listening?

What assumptions do I bring with me?

What snap judgments do I make?

What do I do, either with my internal reaction or as I share with others, to ignite emotion, conflict, and controversy?

Why should I blame others when I’m not willing to take responsibility for my own response?

Maybe you refuse to watch the news because you’re trying to avoid dealing with these kinds of issues, you’re not off the hook. You need to filter any information coming in. You have assumptions that you need to be aware of and make snap judgments at times. You let yourself respond in ways that aren’t truth-seeking, and you spread that to others. You share inflammatory things on social media, spew around your table, or pass along false or partial information. We all do from time to time, more than we want to admit.

It’s our responsibility, each one of us, to seek truth. Use God’s truth as your filter. Respond with truth. You can’t control all media, but you can be an example in your sphere of influence.

 

Gathering at the Water Gate

water-pakistan_1601384iAll the people of Israel gathered together in the square by the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the teacher to bring out the Book of the Teachings of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought out the Teachings for the crowd. Men, women, and all who could listen and understand had gathered. At the square by the Water Gate Ezra read the Teachings out loud from early morning until noon to the men, women, and everyone who could listen and understand. All the people listened carefully to the Book of the Teachings. Nehemiah 8:1-3

The Water Gate was where the water supplying the temple flowed into the city. It was a place everyone could gather and learn. While some places were reserved for men, the Water Gate was available for men, women and children. Families could learn together. Mothers could gather and hear. Everyone was welcome.

Learning as a community is a rich experience. It allows us to come face-to-face and listen. We share space, thoughts and lives together. Each of us as individuals experience the same situation differently. We have a different perspective because of where we stand. We have different distractions around and within us. We process what’s heard and seen at different speeds and through different filters.

Yet God’s Word doesn’t change. God doesn’t change. His Spirit works within each of us to coordinate the timing of where we are and what we experience. He can use a distraction to intensify focus. He can use an experience to prime us for sensitivity. He can use a filter to fan the flame of passion.

When have you clearly felt or heard God even if you were among throngs of people?

When have you been distracted among a crowd so you missed what you had gathered to experience?

God speaks to you personally, yet every time you gather with others, it’s not all about you. God can multi-task. He wants to nourish you as an individual, while at the same time he’s nourishing the community of believers around you.

Live It. Identify the distractions throughout your day. Notice how you respond to them. Be prepared at all times to focus on God. Encourage those around you to do the same.