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Breaking Free from the Dungeon of Depression

Fear4Depression.

In 21st century America, we hear that word every day. While depression takes on a variety of forms, a “blanket” definition would be…

“the state of being depressed–a feeling of let down, of hopelessness.”

It can affect the body. It can cause an overwhelming sense of fatigue to come upon a person. In fact, there are studies that indicate that many psychological neuroses, as well as some fatigue diseases, are the results of living with depression.

A permanent cure for depression?

Is there such a thing? Statistics show that multitudes of Americans are hoping for the quick cure. In 2001, it was estimated that 28 million Americans were taking anti-depressants. In 2016, studies suggest that one in six Americans are on some kind of psychiatric drug, a figure nearly double the 2001 number.

When Jesus began His ministry, His very first sermon included a quote from Isaiah 61…

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. 
~ Luke 4:18-19

In Isaiah 61 (the original passage Jesus quoted), He goes on to say…

“… And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

The Bible doesn’t call it depression. The Bible calls it the spirit of heaviness. There is a demon involved here. David called it “being cast down.” Depression is a state of mourning in your life, a state of heaviness over circumstances. You are under the circumstances of your life. A great many things can open your life to the spirit of depression; circumstances, illness, negative and unhealthy thought patterns, bad (sinful) habits, rejection, death and loss, lack of direction, failure, and loss of passion for God can all be contributing factors that allow the enemy to gain access to your mind. The symptoms of depression as as varied as the causes; feelings of panic, unrelenting dissatisfaction,  unstable emotions, oppression, and feelings of being overwhelmed or forgotten are all signs that you are heading down a dark and lonely road of depression.

So how do you hit the brakes? How do you recover when depression has you bound up? What can put you on the path to positive spiritual and mental health?

In order to be healed from depression, you must experience a fresh work of the Holy Spirit in your life! Isaiah 61 (then again in Luke 4) tells how Jesus would come to the depressed, enslaved, and the broken…

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord anointed Me….”

Jesus came with an anointing, a yoke-breaking, depression-crushing, life-giving, freedom-announcing anointing. All you need to do is ask Him for it. Then ask for a fresh word from the Lord. He says, “I’ve come to proclaim. I’ve come with a word.” He is our help and our salvation!

The third thing you need is a fresh worship offering to God.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. ~ Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)

Remember Jesus says to, “Put on a garment of praise.” Don’t be afraid to let God do something different in your worship life.

You say, “Well, Brother Ron, I just praise Him in my heart.”

I can guarantee that when you get up tomorrow morning at 6 a.m., no matter how tired you are, you will get dressed for work. You can’t walk into your workplace with no clothes on, saying, “I didn’t feel like getting dressed; I thought I’d just skip that today.” God said, “I’ll give you a garment of praise.” You put on a garment whether you feel like it or not. Your heart may be heavy. You may have been through some painful stuff, but shout to the Lord anyway.

The devil can’t take away the blood of the cross. Satan can’t take away the resurrection of Jesus. He can’t take away your salvation. Proclaim along with Job…

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…”
~ Job 13:15a  (NKJV)

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth”
~ Job 19:25 (NKJV)

This devil of depression must be rooted out, or its impact will be devastating. If the depressed father doesn’t take these steps to overcome it, it could take his wife and it could take his children. Grandmother, it could take your grandchildren. You had better get rid of it.

I used to have to fight this spirit of depression every Christmas. Because of difficulties in my youth and the memories that would flood me, I feel myself begin to withdraw even as my children and friends around me were celebrating Jesus’ coming. God has used my kids to pull me out of this seasonal attack of depression.

Demons can’t possess Christians, but they can obsess, compress, and depress you. They can live in you like a rat or a cockroach. You have to drive them out. I didn’t get rid of them by telling them, “Well, I’m just so sorry you’re here.”  I just told them where to go. “Get out of my life, heaviness!”  And by the power and blood of Jesus, those spirits must flee!

~ Adapted from my book
Everyone’s Guide to Demons and Spiritual Warfare
Copyright © 2010 Ron Phillips
Published by Charisma House Book Group

Worship

When Truth Remains…

Las Vegas

Over three years ago, following the Boston Marathon attack that killed and injured our fellow citizens, I shared the following blog with you, my friends here in cyber-space. As I thought about the events of this week in Las Vegas, and the horrific pain, terror, and heartache inflicted by one man, these words came back to mind. Fear is a formidable foe, which takes on many forms — as many as there are evil designs in the minds of twisted men. But we are a resilient people, and at times such as these, we experience our nation’s Foundation of Faith holding us up, comforting us, and keeping us from being consumed and buried in the ashes of such tragedy.

However, truth is truth. Whether 9-11, Boston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, or Las Vegas, the truth about how we respond in such times, and where we need to go from here, remains the same…

“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

Our prayers continue for the families of the victims, for those injured, for the people of Las Vegas, and for a nation in mourning.

No Fear

After following the news in the wake of this week’s terror attack, it is obvious and understandable that emotions in our nation are running the gamut.

We are saddened by the physical and emotional pain that our friends and fellow Americans are facing as a result of those killed and injured. Our prayers for healing and comfort go out to the victims and their families during this time…

We are angry that someone had the audacity to commit this heinous crime…

We are confused as to why and how this could have happened. Who committed this act? Why did they do it? As our fine law enforcement officials investigate, we believe that answers will be forthcoming.

We are afraid. Many people in our nation are now living in fear on a variety of levels:

People are in fear that it could happen again.

Witnesses may face fear from the memories of that horrific day.

Victims are fearful of moving forward into a future of uncertainty.

Terror, by it’s very definition, is about eliciting a fear response. Terror means “extreme fear”. Terrorism is not simply about killing and wounding innocent men, women, and children; it is about inciting fear in those who remain, and causing people to live in fear.

The problem we face is that fear (terror) is a vicious cycle. Fear is a magnet to demons. The more we discuss and voice our fear with our lips, the more demons are attracted to the atmosphere of fear. Fear is more than emotion… fear is a spirit. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that…

God has not not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind
“.

In the Bible, Job was considered a righteous man. However, Job had a fatal flaw. In Job 3:25, Job confesses:

“For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me,
and what I dreaded has happened to me.”

Job feared the loss of his children and his treasures, and Satan was drawn to that fear. And while we may think that fear is an unavoidable part of life, living in fear is an existence that we do not have to settle for. 1 John 4:18 tells us that “perfect love casts out fear“, and in Proverbs 29:25, we have this promise:

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.

Abraham Lincoln is arguably the greatest president our country has ever seen. However, history bears out that he lost every single election he ran until he ran for president. What if he had allowed fear from past experiences to convince him to quit? How different would our country look today.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” For the believer in Jesus Christ, the opposite of fear is more than courage… it is faith and hope.

For those of you that watch my television program, Ron Phillips from Abba’s House, you are familiar with my co-host, Angie McGregor. What many of you may not realize is that Angie is a gifted songwriter and singer. Several years ago, in the immediate shadow of 9/11, Angie released a song that resonates today. Having faced down some fear in her own life, she penned the song simply titled, I Will Not Fear. After the events of 9/11, this song took on a whole new meaning for all of us that heard it.

— from the CD Could We Dance? ©Copyright 2002 FacePlace Music

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. ~ II Corinthians 1:3-5

Why I Stand

Flag 2

With all of the controversy surrounding the NFL, the National Anthem, and Old Glory, I just wanted to share a few thoughts why I, personally, choose to stand.

I stand…

… because our flag, Old Glory, is the symbol of the United States of America, the land I love and the nation of which I am proud to be a citizen. To do otherwise, for me, would be to not only disrespect our nation, but to dishonor God by showing a lack of appreciation for His good and perfect gifts that He has afforded me because I am an American.

I stand… when The Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, plays because that is a show of respect for the flag that it so eloquently describes, and a show of unity with my fellow citizens. Even when we may disagree about sports, politics, religion, etc., when the words “O say can you see…” are heard, we become silent and unified in our mutual respect for the flag, the anthem, and all that it symbolizes.

I stand… because of fifty-six men from all walks of life who, in putting their signatures on a parchment known as The Declaration of Independence, knew they were putting their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line in the name of freedom. These men were as flawed and imperfect as the rest of us, but found the courage to stand for an ideal greater than themselves.

I stand… because I want to be an example to future generations that we are more than a collection of individuals, each going their own direction.

Flag FoldedI stand… because from the streets of Lexington and Concord to the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq, for over 240 years, brave men and women have given their last full measure of devotion to secure the freedom the rest of us enjoy on a daily basis. I stand, saluting an unfurled flag because of all of the wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, and family members who have been handed a folded one.

I stand… because standing is a universal sign of honor and respect.

I stand… because I believe that our battle is not against flesh and blood, and that we can accomplish more through the power of prayer than through hollow protests.

I stand… because we are better when we operate in unity, as “one nation under God, indivisible…” As a Christian, I believe the truth expressed by the psalmist who said,

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity! ~ Psalm 133:1

I stand… because our flag and national anthem symbolize what is right with our country, not what is wrong with it.

I stand… because there are other countries where people are poor and oppressed beyond measure, and are looking to America to be an example — The shining city on a hill.

I stand… because I am the recipient of a grace that has been granted to me in the form of a life in a free country called America.

I stand… not because we are perfect and have it all together, but as a sign that I am willing to take my place — standing beside you — working together to make America a better place.

I stand… to show that I am up on my feet and ready to go; to be a part of the solution, not a symptom of the problem.

I stand… because I am grateful.

Flag 3O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

                                                      ~ Katharine Lee Bates

Reflections from an Outpouring

Kilpatrick and crowd

Another Big Event is behind us, and after a couple of days to soak in the glory of all that happened at The Outpouring, I want to stop for a moment and say thank you to so many people on behalf of Pastor Ronnie and me…

RP1To all of our attendees… Thank you for joining us for The Outpouring, and for investing your time and resources into what we are doing at Abba’s House Media! We hope that you were as blessed by being here as we were by your presence. It was wonderful to meet and minister to so many of you, and we hope that you will be back with us again soon.

John KilpatrickTo John Kilpatrick and Nathan Morris… you brought His message with a power and anointing that shook the House! We received the Word you brought, and saw miracles and healing take place. Lives were changed because of the time and anointing that you shared with our people… not just here in Hixson, but around the world. We heard from people across the nation and in other nations as thousands of people took advantage of technology and joined us online. Thank you both for being open to the Holy Spirit, and for bringing the streams of revival that are a part of your lives into the river of The Outpouring!

Nathan MorrisTo the Abba’s House Media Team… You guys knocked it out of the park through your diligence, planning, and preparation. Thank you to Pastor Angie McGregor and all the AHM staff for putting in the long hours, hard work, and heart-felt commitment to seeing lives changed.

RP & RonnieTo our Worship, Hospitality, and Servant leaders… From greeting people in the parking lot to taking them before the Throne in worship, you all did such a fabulous job of making The Big Event experience a positive one for every one of our over 800 visitors. Thank you all for your sacrifice of time, energy, and praise. We couldn’t have done it without you all.

There were a number of videos that we showed to our attendees, from testimonials of the work Abba’s House Media does in reaching people, to the vision Pastor Ronnie has for our ministry as we move into the future. I invite you to check them out below. Also, if you missed The Outpouring at The Big Event, and would like to experience it for yourself (or you were here and would like to get a copy to re-experience it, or share it with a friend), you can order the complete set of messages by clicking HERE.

Worth the drive: The Parkerson’s story…

 

Following the Truthtellers: The Heinemeier’s story…

 

Points of Light: Pastor Ronnie’s vision…

Choose To Be (a guest blog)

Coming off a long Labor Day weekend following a week of so much turmoil in our nation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, I wanted to just take a moment to encourage you. Last week, Dr. Ronnie Phillips Jr published a great blog that is a timely word for now. Without further ado, here we go…

RonnieEvery day when we wake up we make a conscious choice to be…

…to do, to learn, to grow, and to BE. The choices we make every day determine who we are and what we become. An addict makes a choice every morning to continue down the road of addiction or live sober. A liar makes a choice every day to continue living a lie or to be real. A married person makes a choice every day to be loyal and loving or to be hateful and hurtful. We must make the right choices in our pursuit of Holiness, or we will become that which we despise. I want to challenge you to make a choice… to BE!

       Be… Who God created you to be. Paul said in Ephesians 2:10 that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. Do what God has called you to do in the body and do not try to imitate someone else. If you do not know your role yet, pray that the Lord reveal it to you, but in the meantime, help somewhere.

    Be… Who He says you are, not what the world says you are. Don’t allow yourself to be defined by people — or a society — that either doesn’t understand you or is trying to fit you into a mold or box. The God of the universe has established your path (Psalm 139)… walk in that!

 Be… who God says you are.  When Jesus gives you a new identity that’s who you are: Son, daughter, leader, heir, ambassador… the list goes on. Remember, the past is gone and who you were is no longer apart of you, therefore, no longer identify yourself with the past.

Be… your very best. God called you to be YOU! Be the best YOU you can be. We need originators not imitators in the kingdom. Once you find your role, give it everything you have to further grow the kingdom.

Be… submitted to the Father.  Submission to God brings protection, favor, and blessing from the hand of the Father. He is close to those who walk in submission (James 4:7-8).

Be… spiritually aware of your surroundings. 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” The closer we are to God, the more we see things from His vantage point, and are sensitive to what is going on in the spiritual dimension.

Be… strong and very courageous. In the Bible, Joshua was encouraged over and again to “be strong and very courageous”. Sounds like good advice! We must make the right (courageous) choices if we are to become what God has called us to be.

 Napoleon, the great war general, was inspecting his troops when his horse got spooked and began to buck. When a young soldier saw what was occurring, he ran to Napoleon and got the horse under control even though he easily could have been killed. After a moment, Napoleon looked at the lad — a corporal — and said, “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“But sir,” the lad protested, “I am but a corporal.”
Napoleon’s Adjutant General said to the young soldier, “When the General called you Lieutenant, that’s what you are now.”

So what is God calling you? Regardless of your self-image or the negative words spoken over you by another, God has a high opinion of you, and has called you “child, heir, king, priest”… the list goes on. It’s time to stop acting on the words of others and start BE-ing what God has declared. Choose to be great and walk in the gifts and callings God has placed on you. Remember, for the Church body to thrive, we must all show greatness in the areas God has gifted us in. I pray you choose to be everything God has called you to be and have a blessed day.

God Bless,

Dr. Ronnie Phillips Jr.

RPM InternationalIf you’d like to follow Ronnie’s devotionals and what he is doing around the world through Ronnie Phillips Ministries International, visit here to subscribe.  

5 Reasons You Might Want To Reconsider The Lists You Re-post

We’ve all seen them. We’ve all read them. We’ve all re-posted them.

Yep… me too. Guilty as charged.

Sprout 2THE LISTS. Like God’s promise in Genesis to Abraham about his offspring, social media/internet lists are becoming as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. Lists for every conceivable vocation, location, and 12-step program in 15 easy steps. For someone who is in the ministry (like me), it seems like these lists grow faster than the weeds in my flower beds at home. For ministers and ministry-types, the topics can include (but are certainly not limited to) things like…

10 Things You are Doing Right in Your Ministry.

20 Things You are Doing Wrong in Your Ministry.

22 Things You’d Be Doing Right if Your Weren’t Doing Them Wrong (in Your Ministry).

You get the idea. Can I hear an “amen”?

And while some lists are totally informational and harmless — lists like “10 Things to See on Your Trip to Vermont” or “The 15 Top Dining Spots in Coos Bay, Oregon”, others are less so. Others go to the heart of who we are, not just as organizations, but who God made us as individuals.

So here is my list. It’s short — just 5 points — so here we go…

5 Things You Should Consider Before Re-posting Lists

  1. Who is posting your list of choice? Just because someone has a popular blog or website does not necessarily make them an authority on every given subject. Before you re-post something as Gospel that could have a far reaching effect on someone else’s spirit, make sure it actually IS Gospel. Just because you agree with it does not make it right or accurate, it just means it struck a nerve with you for some reason. There is a good chance that, if you agree with it but it does not line up with the Word of God, you might need to step away from the screen and do a little soul searching yourself. Regardless of the authors “credentials”, you should always do your due diligence before parroting anything. Even experts make mistakes.

    The Bottom Line: Don’t listen to every voice. Choose carefully those you allow to speak into your life and destiny.

  2. Beware the “Guilt-List Post.” I think 20 years from now, we will have an entirely new and thriving area of psychology brought on by psychoses born in the realm of social media. I am seeing more and more where we have gotten to a place in which public statements on social media are taking the place of disagreements that should be handled in private conversations; primary among these are what I would term the “Guilt-List Post“… someone who disagrees with something, and posts a list on social media or a blog to add validity to their argument. For ministry-types, whether it is preaching styles, music tastes, or witnessing ideas, people often re-post lists because they either feel guilty, or are trying to “guilt” someone else into seeing things their way, all because some “expert” says “this is what you are doing wrong”.
    In Isaiah 1, the Bible says…

    “Come now, and let us reason together,”
    Says the Lord,
    “Though your sins are like scarlet,
    They shall be as white as snow;
    Though they are red like crimson,
    They shall be as wool.” ~ Isaiah 1:18

    Social media posting, messaging, and emailing will never be a good substitute for sitting down face to face and reasoning things out with another person. Passive-aggressive chastisement on Facebook is not what Jesus was talking about when He gave us His words in Matthew 18 about how brothers and sisters should deal with disagreement and offense. Unfortunately, it is fast becoming a cheap, ill-used, and misdirected substitute.

    The Bottom Line: Social media posts and emails are breeding grounds for misunderstandings and confusion. Learn the art of conversing and (more importantly) listening.

  3. The Self-Aggrandizement Post. The opposite of the Guilt-List Post is the Self-Aggrandizement Post. This is posting a list to reaffirm what you are doing right, and to let everyone else across the world know what you are doing right as well. While affirmation is fine (and we all need it), I’m not sure posting a subjective list based on one person’s opinion as your basis for success is the best way to go about it. Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 say it better than any 12-point list…

    A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. ~ Matthew 7:18-20

    As someone wiser than me once said…

    A man’s gift makes room for him,
    And brings him before great men. ~ Proverbs 18:16

    In other words, when you let your gifts and talent do the talking, is doesn’t take a lot of words for people to take notice.

    The Bottom Line: Memorize Proverbs 18:16, and remember: “A little humility goes a long way.”

  4. What works for them may not work for you. Celebrating the success of others is great, but one person’s (or organization’s) recipe for success does not necessarily mean it will work for you or yours. While there are some basic, common-sense elements to success that we should all strive to maintain (hard work, diligence, kindness, fiscal responsibility), the fact is that what works in Chattanooga, TN — “the buckle of the Bible-Belt” — might not necessarily work in a place like Oakland, CA. A church in Birmingham, AL that has a thriving bus ministry might not be a great model for a church in Manhattan, KS. There’s an old saying that goes “Bloom where you’re planted.” If you are “planted” in a place that is hard and rocky, you are going to have to get more creative in order to be a success than someone who is “planted” in fertile soil. In fact, you may find that your definition of success is markedly different.

    The Bottom Line: Find your sufficiency in God. Allow Him to define your measure of success.

  5. What has God told you to do? This really is the heart of the matter: What is the revelation God has given YOU? What is the call of God on YOUR life or the life of your organization? Many times in the Bible (and throughout history, for that matter), we have seen God reveal Himself in unusual ways, and give individuals or groups an unusual call or command. For example:

    Moses parted the Red Sea simply by lifting his staff and stretching out his hand.

    The children of Israel leveled the walls of Jericho with a shout and the sound of trumpets.

    A kid named David took out a giant warrior named Goliath with a single stone.

    John The Baptist subsisted on a diet of locusts and wild honey.

    In the end, while advice is good and good advice should always be considered, nothing can replace the calling of God for you. It might look unusual. It might be unconventional. It might be what the “experts” call crazy. However, if it truly is from God, then you can rest assured that, even if it seems chaotic or way out of the norm, He will be in the middle of it to guide your hand every step of the way.

    The Bottom Line: No ten-step plan to success will ever make you as successful as the single plan of God for your life and circumstances.

So be encouraged if you are a work in progress. If you have a true word from God, He is going to make a way in whatever wilderness you find yourself.

And if you don’t have that word yet, just remember what God said in Jeremiah 29:13…

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Living smart in a smartphone world.

Creación_de_Adám hands

There is an old adage…

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

The problem is, we live in a time of sound-bite-driven and movie-trailer-style culture. We want to be able to wrap up our assessments of others into nice, neat packages, put a bow on them, and divide life into “simple” categories. We want to define others by how they fit into our agenda, without the messiness or benefit of personal relationship. We have become “experts” at the 30-Second Evaluation, without considering the years (and moments) leading up to that evaluation. We don’t often take into account the bad morning (of history of events leading up to that bad morning) before we pass judgment. We look to the surface of appearance and circumstance without considering the depth of another person’s experience, psyche, or soul.

So how do we remedy this as a society? How do we regain the decency and humanity we have lost in our social-media-driven, sit-com addicted culture? Here’s three ideas that may be a good place for you and me to start…

WWJD?

It sounds a little simplistic, and a bit of a throwback to the ’90’s (remember the WWJD bracelets?), but there’s a lot of truth in that little acronym. “What would Jesus do?” is a legitimate question, especially for anyone who calls himself or herself a follower of His. So, when it comes to relationships, what is the example He sets for us? How did Jesus treat those close to Him? We find in the Gospels many examples of how He responded to people in various situations.

 

  • judasAfter Peter denied Him, He gave Him another chance without throwing His failure up in His face (John 21).
  • When the woman accused of adultery was brought before Him, He offered her mercy, then with a simple question, shined a light on the hypocrisy of her accusers (John 8).
  • He wept at the loss of a friend (John 11), lovingly corrected Martha over her frustration with Mary (Luke 10), and used the Truth as a defense in the light of criticism.
  • He quietly dismissed Judas from the upper room and Last Supper without calling attention to his imminent betrayal.

So how does Jesus see those around you; the odd, disagreeable, quirky, and unpleasant? In the face of the misfortune of another, would Jesus break out His camera phone and put that misfortune on public display, or would He pick that person up and become an agent of healing?

ACTION STEP: Before you react to another person, make the decision to ask yourself how Jesus would respond in that situation. Better yet… ask Him.

Open your eyes.

In the “ME” culture in which we live, it’s easy to pass by and not notice the suffering of those around us. When we are surrounded on every side by voices that are telling us to “look out for #1”, we must make a conscious effort to get out from in front of the mirror, get our noses out of our smart phones, and stop staring at the ground. We must notice what is going on around us, the beauty of God’s creation, and the needs of others at the end of our reach. It’s amazing, for a society as connected and “caught on camera” as we are, that we have become as blind to the needs of others as we have. Jesus didn’t wait for someone to come into the synagogue to be healed or ministered to. He hit the streets, visited the homes of “publicans and sinners”, and made Himself available to the masses. His life was the antithesis of the self-preservation mindset we see today.

 

ACTION STEP: Commit a couple of times a day (for starters) that, when you go into a public place, you are going to turn off your ringer, put up your cellphone, and take notice of those around you, looking for a way to be of assistance to someone else.

Listen.

Monitor 1One of the things that drives me crazy about politics is when, in a debate or interview, someone won’t answer a direct question. It is as though they have paid no attention to the question, and simply use their response as an opportunity to change the subject, and advance their own agenda. In the Bible, the apostle James encourages us to be “quick to listen and slow to speak…” (James 1:19). Too often, instead of really listening to what someone else is saying, we are simply working on formulating a pithy or intellectual response while they are talking. We are HEARING, but not truly LISTENING. Really listening requires undivided attention, focusing on the person who is speaking, and if they are in front of you (ie: not on the phone), observing facial expression and body language. There was a time not long ago when we were NOT connected 24/7; NOT constantly looking at Facebook and Snapchat, and NOT at the instant beck-and-call of every email or phone call. And you know what? We survived! We probably had a better quality of life, and definitely had better interpersonal relationship skills. Honestly, short of some sort of personal or dire emergency, when you are having a conversation, there should be nothing more important at that moment than the person sitting across from you with whom you are conversing.

A group of ministry friends of mine were having dinner with the pastor of a church where they were ministering; five or six men sitting in a restaurant conversing over a meal. About three-quarters of the way through the meal, the pastor looked up and exclaimed, “I just want to point out something. As we have been sitting here, the thing I have noticed is the way John (one of the guys at the table) has engaged everyone here. He has been listening to everyone, and has made it a point to draw every person here at the table into the conversation. That is a rare and wonderful ability.” In pointing out this observation about John, the pastor revealed that he, too, had been listening and observing, and had taken an interest in all of the men at the table. He was right… these days, that is a rare ability. Too often, we simply use our silence as the time in which we formulate our next opportunity to say something seemingly wise or clever.

ACTION STEP: The next time you sit down for a meeting, dinner, or just a conversation, encourage those you are with to turn off their phones, and put them in a place to the side, out of sight and mind. Whatever it is, it can wait. Commit to being a better listener.

We are made in God’s image, and it is the nature of God to want communion and fellowship with us, His creation. We all need someone to confide in, someone to talk to, and someone to listen to. It preserves our humanity. It makes us (and others) less lonely. It improves the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.

For those of us who are believers in Christ, I am reminded of this saying…

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

So, I encourage you… saddle up, head out, go forth, and reconnect with the world around you. See others the way Jesus does, and take the time to draw them into your circle.

By drawing them into your circle, you might find them drawn into His heart.

 

Pastor Ron