Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Emotional Capacity



The term emotional intelligence (EI)  has become a buzz word to address the role of emotion in relationships, work, organization, and family environments.  But most of what we hear on this topic has very little to do with emotions.  EI seems to have more to do with cognitive awareness and attempts to avoid or subdue emotions.    
I think Emotional Capacity (EC) is a better way to consider the emotional aspects of the human creature.  Intellect draws on the memory bank of the mind, but the capacity of emotional experience goes deeper to the heart of a person.  Unwanted feelings may produce unpleasant emotions, but the capacity to change these to pleasant emotions requires more than a mere decision to change.  Deeper qualities of love, joy, peace,  temperance, gratitude, contentment, kindness, and faithfulness must go beyond the imagination to provide meaning for ourselves and others around us.  
EI focuses on controlling behaviors. EC focuses on positively influencing behaviors by expanding core belief systems to engage and enrich a person . Mere cognitive awareness of emotion does not produce transformation.   Inside out change is much more rewarding, productive, and longer lasting.  
Emotions carry messages.  The messages they report are gathered from thoughts and feelings about the environment.  Who we are as a person is based on our constant evaluation of our value and worth in our environment.  Therefore, our identity directly relates to our EC.  
EC can be defined as the ability to interpret and express inner emotional messages with unshaken assurance of personal worth and identity.  
I discovered valuable insights on EC by reading things by Dr. Richard Ecker.  We learn how to navigate our environment by developing coping skills.  Ecker points to Webster’s definition of coping as “successful striving.”  In the Emotional Survival Training Manual, he writes that coping, “is the ability to stand and endure in the face of difficult circumstances— or maneuver to avoid them. But we do not cope when we merely stand and endure or run and hide. We cope when we strive actively against the realities we face— and succeed.”  
  Ecker also says, “Typically, coping success is believed to be tied to the ultimate outcome of the situation that has made the coping necessary. If the outcome is good from the standpoint of the individual who is trying to cope, then that person is generally considered to have coped successfully. If the outcome is undesirable, then most people tend to feel that they coped badly. The fact is, outcomes have nothing at all to do with whether or not an individual coped successfully with the situation. The only real measure of coping success is whether or not that person emerged from the encounter with a positive feeling of personal value— that is, has successfully striven.”  
Cope-ability is based on increasing a sense of God-given personal value and worthfulness.  Let me distinguish between self-worth and self-esteem. Value and worth is an attribute given by God inherent in the existence of every human life.  Nothing a person does (or doesn’t do) can add or detract from the image of God in personhood.  Esteeming self by ex halting one’s human ability to create or maintain superior value, is not the kind of striving discussed here.  Selfish satisfaction of personal desire works against the created order of God.  Self-worth is selflessly accepting and  loving the person who God made you to be.  
Ecker says,  “if you learn how to confront the realities of life in such a way that you can emerge from each experience with a positive sense of personal worth, then you can gain from each experience valuable equipment that will make you even more successful in succeeding confrontations.”   Increasing emotional capacity is the goal.  Accepting your unconditional personal worth is the means to that goal.  
In order to obtain the full message from emotion, one must be able to identify specific thoughts and feelings and determine the reality of their impact.  EC allows a person to feel.  Fear of feeling, shuts a person down so that the true messages being sent by emotions are not received.  If a person denies or minimizes the feeling of sad, they will also not be able to feel glad.  Pushing away the feeling of alone, will also prohibit a feeling of belonging.  Refusing to feel wherein one’s discontent lies, will also limit the capacity to feel true contentment.  Whatever negative feeling is avoided will inevitably cut off the ability to feel the positive counterpart.   
Anger management, for example, without anger engagement, may actually diminish one’s EC.  (see article http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2015/09/anger-management-or-anger-engagement.html)  Anger is a surface emotion in that a deeper message is always behind the anger.  If feelings like rejection, guilt, or shame are the source of the anger, a cause nor solution have no chance of being discovered if the anger is merely “controlled” and not also engaged at a deeper level. EI may offer a solution to anger that would include withdrawing from situations that make you angry.  EC would build the ability to cope with the inner source of anger so that tougher and tougher situations can be endured without triggering the anger.   
At one time or another, we all face overwhelming emotional circumstances in life.  Our coping skills have limitations based on our perceptions of our personal worth.  Our capacity to overcome (or lack thereof), is most significantly influenced by our parents and the people in our background who shaped core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.  
Another thing to realize is that negative feelings are the default mode of our human condition. From birth we feel things like the following without having to take lessons: rejected, deserted, left out, ashamed, trashy, unfit, unworthy, anxious, desperate, fearful, powerless, helpless, oppressed, weak, damaged, flawed, inferior, insignificant, unappreciated, unloved, defeated, hopeless, disoriented, and depressed.  From a very young age we assimilate these into our concept of self-worth and unconsciously create conditions for accepting love and affirmation from other people.  We form habits of interpreting and expressing inner emotional messages that condemn rather than build up.  When this negativity is reinforced or aggravated by those around us, developing a positive sense of self-worth is all the more difficult.  
It takes some effort to increase the capacity of the emotional part of our being, but it is worth every bit of effort.  Building resilience  is like filling a reservoir with clean water in preparation for an unknown drought season.  We may not know when the next crisis or conflict tests our stamina or stability, but we know our personal worth is not based on how the situation turns out.  We fill our soul with “clean water” by uncovering and healing the source of damaged self-concept, learning and developing new coping skills, and replacing bad habits with good habits.   
In the next article I will address more of the how to’s for increasing emotional capacity.  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Religious Barriers


            Could it be possible that religion is a barrier to finding God? Can religion hinder a deeper or more meaningful relationship with God? 
            This is part 2 of a discussion on barriers to better living. The previous blog post talked about sin, unmet legitimate needs, psychological pain, and false beliefs as barriers to a better quality of life.  In some ways it may seem like religion is an answer to overcoming these barriers, but I'll unpack here, a statement I made.  "God is not accessed through religion, but through relationship.  Religion can become a barrier of its own  that hinders a relationship with God.  Religion can encapsulate all four of the barriers listed above." 
            Religion tends to direct more focus on the human than on the divine.  Religion is about human effort.  Religious practice is based on self-effort to achieve a self-imaged perception of the divine.  It's about becoming good enough, strong enough, or worthy enough to please God.  No matter how well we perform, however, our human limitations cause us to eventually "miss the mark."  The mark is placed  higher and longer with every tryout or race on life's journey. 
            Take "good enough" as an example.  Relationship of any kind is based on trust.  Although many point to evil things in the world and blame God for allowing them, God is not responsible for bad things that happen.  God has proved himself trustworthy.  Everything God thinks and does is for the good of people.  Anything bad has nothing to do with God.  Reframing our perceptions of God toward his goodness is part of trusting God more and improving relationship.  God is good, all the time.
            Somehow we think that in order for God to accept us, we must attain a certain level of goodness to qualify.  Some err by giving up on God completely, and others (calling themselves religious people) try way too hard.   If we try to "relate up" to God's goodness, we will fail every time because his goodness is inexhaustible.  The bar will always go higher and we will get more and more frustrated with trying harder to be good.  Religion does not see this deficiency, and tries to produce good rather than surrendering (yielding) to it. 
            Jesus came to solve this dilemma and tear down barriers that keep people from relationship with God.  Isaiah the prophet spoke of Jesus the Messiah's mission,
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1).
            Christ's earthly life, crucifixion, and resurrection restored the path to Father God. 
Our sin produces guilt that leaves our heart broken and wounded.
Our unmet needs may leave us in poor condition.
Our psychological pain holds us captive to inner turmoil.
Our false beliefs filter out the light of truth leaving us in a dark prison.
Believing in Jesus (not religion) is the Way through all the barriers. 
            Church background, family practices, and cultural norms may all factor in to our filtered perceptions of who God really is.  Some of our views may line up with what the Bible tells us about God's ways, and some may not.  Although a Christian since boyhood, my own personal journey is sprinkled with sin, unmet needs, pain, and mis-beliefs.  For example, I recently encountered a different interpretation of a Bible story I had known since childhood. 
            The classic Bible story of David and Goliath highlights a small shepherd boy defeating a heavily armed, giant of a man taunting the armies of ancient Israel.   A common interpretation is that  God strengthened the underdog David to battle Goliath;  God can strengthen us to defeat giants in our lives.  While it is true that God strengthens his people to do great things, that is not the point of this story.   In the story (see 1 Samuel 17), David is to be interpreted as a type of the Messiah Jesus.  Jesus came as the Savior.  Jesus has conquered the giants.  Jesus defeated the enemy of our soul and all evil.  Now we (as representative of the armies of Israel in the story)  battle from a position of the final outcome having been determined.  But fight we must.  And the cleanup of conquered territory must continue.  I recently discovered this insight about the story by watching a sermon online called "Goliath Must Fall"  by Louie Giglio at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUkGDn4HnqI
            By inserting ourselves into the story as David, we reinforce the idea that somehow we can become good enough, strong enough or worthy enough to conquer bad things in our lives.  We can add religion into the mix and say, "God wants me to conquer _____" (fill in the blank with your personal struggle).  But the truth is, by surrendering to Jesus as our Savior/ Messiah, our relationship  with God and access to his power is restored.  Our giants are not conquered by our own efforts (religion), but through the relationship Jesus made possible.  
            The largest giants in our personal stories are not the financial struggles, relational struggles, or health concerns.  The big giants are inner person issues like anger, fear, guilt, shame, and rejection.  These giants are too big.  Jesus is the one who conquers giants.  I've been following Jesus for about a half a century now, and I still need reminded of that truth!   I'm dependent more than ever on my relationship with God to repeal and replace the sins, needs, pain, and falsehood for the righteousness, abundance, peace, and truth for better living.  God is the one who initiated removing the barriers and he accomplished barrier removal.  Our part is not to try harder to remove barriers on our own, but to surrender to what God has done.
            The gospel of John records the details of the intimate fellowship the Son Jesus demonstrated with Father God.  At the very end of John, the very last words he recorded as spoken by Jesus, are "follow me."  Becoming a follower of Jesus means you commit to grow your relationship with him as life moves on.  Following Jesus is not just a concept, principle, prayer, going to church, remembering a stained-glass picture on a wall, or relying on a deeply spiritual experience in the past.  Following Jesus is an active pursuit of discovering more of the person of God and putting your whole trust in him. 
            I'm not encouraging anyone to sever all ties to religious practices and traditions.  My hope is for people to discern between religion and relationship with God.  One more thing to point out is mankind's vulnerability to false religion.  We must recognize that some people in our  would hold to ideologies which pose as religion, but are more aligned with forces of evil than good.   False religion can become  extremely dangerous.  Blaise Pascal has stated, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.”   Without naming them here, I'm sure we can all think of examples of this in our world today.  May God deal with this kind of giant as well.  
            My prayer is that everyone reading this will see through barriers of religion,  to find the authentic relationship with God that fulfills their true purpose and destiny.
            I end once again by returning to my roots in Jesus Music.  I couldn't decide on one, so I mention two songs that helped me overcome religious barriers.  These songs are about four decades old, but the message still rings true today.  John Michael Talbot "Would You Crucify Him?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKvfk4Su9LU,  and Scott Wesley Brown  "I'm Not Religious Anymore"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7aTVzW2kFA . 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Four Barriers to Better Living


            If you are a Christian,, (or just want to know God better), and honest enough with yourself to admit you don't have it all together yet, this article has something for you.  Like me, I'm sure you struggle at times with allowing the spirit part of your being to become greater, and the physical taking a lesser role in the soul. Our soul is the intersection of two distinctly different realms; the spiritual (supernatural) and physical (natural).  Our personhood is designed by our Creator for these two realms to work together to make the journey of life more complete and successful.
            However, many of us spend a significant portion of our lives in "brokenness."  .  First of all, we are all born into a broken world, so we are born broken.  The spirit part of our being is made alive when we believe in Jesus.  Following Jesus begins a process of change in our soul, whereby the spirit part of our being should influence the physical part in greater and greater measures.  The process is given terms like transformation, sanctification, healing, and inner person change. 
            But sometimes this process of change becomes very difficult.  I have found in my personal journey that the simpler I can make things, the easier the journey becomes.  Volumes have been written about each of the following four difficulties, but hopefully here are some thoughts about each you find helpful in the direction of simplifying. Quality of life is determined by how well these four factors are navigated.
1. Sin
Sin is an ugly word. Whether you call it transgression, wrong doing, offense, or rebellion  against God, sin is the ugliest barrier that keeps us from experiencing connection to God.  We are created for eternal connection, but sin created a disconnect.  God sent his one and only son Jesus into the world so that whoever believes in him is saved from the eternal damnation (see John 3:16).  For those who believe, life on earth is a constant process of change to be governing more and more each day by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus announced when his work on earth was completed.  The Holy Spirit works with our personal spirit and soul to accomplish this change through repentance and forgiveness (see other blog posts for more on that). 
            All sin offends God.  There is no such thing as "big sin" and "little sin."  There is, however,  obvious and not-so-obvious, sin.  The Bible calls the devil the "father of lies."  Deception is a key factor we'll talk more about a little further down.  Even the most discerning people sometimes have difficulty allowing hidden heart issues to be exposed.  Jesus consistently through his teaching identified the heart as the source of sin.  The contents of our heart determines our actions (good or bad), and people around us see our actions and not our heart.  Although our actions cause us to appear guilty, when we offend, it is God who we offend the most (because of our resistant heart condition). 
            Many definitions for sin have surfaced, but a simple way to discover it is anything within our being that resists God.  It's not a sin to have a bad thought.  It's sin to grow (harbor, explore, expand, etc.) bad thoughts.  A bad thought is any thought that condemns yourself, God, or another human being.  Bad thoughts produce bad feelings and attitudes of heart, which produce bad actions.  When we accept Jesus as the solution for our brokenness, we agree to allow God to break down walls our resistance piece by piece.  He then reshapes our parts so they fit together as a better-functioning "whole" person. 
2. Legitimate Unmet Needs
            In crisis situations meeting immediate physical and emotional needs is of primary importance. However, in the day-to-day physical world, too much "stuff" can create distraction.  A TV or the latest technology device is not a "need."  Getting by with less stuff simplifies life.  So too in our psychological and  emotional world, expectations that are set too high will set us up for deeper disappointment.  For example, it's okay to expect people to treat you with respect and dignity.  When you feel like you are treated without respect and love, taking the hurt to the Lord and asking him to fill your need for love and respect may be the answer.  Depending on the relationship, this need may indicate more work to be done in communication and acceptance.  A spouse, for example, though no spouse is perfect, should be providing for needs of love and respect at the deepest level possible in a human relationship.  Working things through to have legitimate needs met is very important. 
3. False Beliefs
            The more whole we become, the more free we are to be who we were created to be.  Believing falsehood is an obstacle to freedom.  Jesus declared, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).  Many people quote the second sentence and conclude that knowing the truth sets a person free.  Knowing truth does not necessarily mean you believe truth.   In the verse quoted above, the word "then" makes it only true when the preceding condition is true.  Being a disciple of Christ, as evidenced by holding to his teaching, is the Truth that sets a person free.  Mentally agreeing with Christ's teaching isn't enough to overcome engrained patterns of bad thought and destructive habits. 
            Practicing Christ's teaching is the measuring stick for belief.  Jesus simplified the ten commandments into two.  Jesus said, "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’" (Matthew 22:37-39).  Loving God with your whole being and showing it by loving yourself and other people is the core of Christ's teaching.  To the degree we hold to this truth, we demonstrate that we really believe it.   Love (acting in the best interest of another) is a solution to removing barriers.  
            The problem is, the broken world we grow up in, forms our core belief system with bits and pieces of Christ's truth, at best.  Our default natural condition forms beliefs about God, ourselves, and other people which are false (and unloving).  Chief of these false beliefs is that we can decide for ourselves which beliefs are true or not (good or evil), and we don't need God's help to decide.  We also conclude things like "people don't like us if they don't give us what we want," and "I'm not worthy of love" if someone criticizes something we do.  Most of these beliefs come from our parents (or primary caretakers), but we cannot blame them for how we behave as a result of adopting false beliefs. 
            Correcting our misperceptions caused by believing things not true, is a bit like putting on new glasses with new prescription lenses for better eyesight.  We may still have "blind spots" and not see perfectly.  Our glasses still become dirty (creating distortions) and need regular cleaning.  But the pair of lenses is the tool we need to focus our gaze on our surroundings.  The tool we need for focusing on Truth is the Bible.  It is called God's Word because it is the final word.  The Bible is the recorded history of God's people living out the combination of the natural and supernatural realm (see also Hebrews 4:12).   It is the lenses through which all our beliefs need to be filtered for complete vision.
4.  Psychological Pain
            The two distinct categories of pain I wish to mention here are: self inflicted pain, and pain inflicted by others.  Self inflicted pain means your own personal sin, unmet needs, and/ or false beliefs are the primary source.  The most common types of feelings of pain are rejection and shame.  Sin creates guilt for behavior which can be corrected.  Guilt then is a positive motivator.  Same on the other hand, is based on a false sense of guilt and has no solution.  Guilt says, "I did bad," whereas shame says, "I AM bad."   Shame causes rejection of self and the God who created the self.  Self-rejections fuels bitterness, resentment, and blame in the deepest part of your core being. 
            The pain of shame can be very hard to identify, but this obstacle is common in every human being.  Shame is impossible to resolve without finding the source where a person has rejected self.  Remember, resisting God is sin.  Resisting who God made you to be is resisting God.   Dissatisfaction, discontent, and rebellion against who God made you as a person, is an offense against God.  So, self inflicted pain may require repentance and forgiveness to become free and return to wholeness. 
            Pain inflicted by others causes different kinds of issues.  This is emotional damage caused by abuse, violence, traumatic injury, or some type of injustice for which a reason cannot be explained.  Injustice is part of our broken world, but our broken soul has no way to justify it.  Jesus came not only to save the world from sin, but to heal the world from the consequences of sin (see Isaiah 53 and 61).  Jesus can heal the broken heart caused by injustice. 
            In summary, God does not expect you to remove these four barriers before you can have his favor.  In fact, he implores us to come to him for help on the journey.  He says, "Come to me .... and I will give you rest" (see Matthew 11:28-30)  ... rest from trying to perform your own way around these barriers.  So, I sometimes ask, "Why is it so hard to make/ keep things simple?"  I haven't come up with a good answer, but I know the enemy of our soul wants nothing more than to have us believe the way to God is about working instead of resting. 
            God is not accessed through religion, but through relationship.  Religion can become a barrier of its own  that hinders a relationship with God.  Religion can encapsulate all four of the barriers listed above. 
A simple cry of the Psalmist heart is,
"Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).
            May this be our heart's cry to God.  I can speak from my experience that as I surrender more of my heart to God's search light, I encounter less resistance from these barriers. 
            If you are facing struggles you feel are overwhelming you., seek out the help of a counselor.  If I can assist you, drop me a line.  I tell people,  "I'm not a medical doctor, but I am a heart specialist."   You can also check out some of the other articles on the blog site to see how to practically walk out the inner person change for successful living. 
            I end with a link to a song.  This song meant a lot to me decades ago when I was beginning my journey, and I still find it's simple message inspiring today.  The song is "He Loves You" by 2nd Chapter of Acts:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9ksIsp58pg

by Ed Hersh, BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Words Matter for Leaders


            Topics in the previous (part 1) article discussed euphemism,  political correctness (PC), and abuse by the media.  Reading it will help provide a foundation for what I address here to leaders and specifically Christian speakers.   
            In the book of James a warning is given that, "we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1).   I believe that part of this judgment involves the words we use and the care given to choosing biblical correctness over political correctness (see also 2 Timothy 4:3). 
            Inaccurate speech dilutes and devalues the message.  I used the example of the word "choice" in the previous article.  Another example is the word "gay."  Gay has become a euphemism for the word homosexual.  In addition, attaching the word gay to the word marriage makes it a much more complicated issue.  Every time the word marriage is used to describe a homosexual union, the true biblical definition of the word marriage (and the Word of God) is down graded and  defamed. 
            I agree with the comments of psychologist and author Dr. James Dobson in this video following the June 16, 2016 US Supreme Court decision:
http://drjamesdobson.org/media/parenting-and-marriage-videos/dr-dobson-on-the-definition-of-marriage .  Marriage is a God-ordained institution and cannot be redefined by a man-made court.  Our speech must uphold the godly definition.  Christ himself says, "at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’" (Matthew 19:4-5).  If we believe Christ's words there is absolutely no way to justify using the term "same-sex" to describe a marriage relationship. 
            It grieves me deeply every time I hear a pastor or Christian leader use the words "gay" (or "same-sex") and the word "marriage" together to describe the unholy union of homosexual relationship.  A position of leadership and influence requires a closer scrutiny of the words used to speak truth and wholeness for personal and community well-being.  This terminology is a crafty twist of the truth conceived by the enemy of our souls.  A Proverb says, "A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul" (Proverbs 18:7).  Words matter.  We should not be foolishly repeating words we picked up through the media (or any other source) when they so blatantly defy the Truth.  
            Dr. Dobson and others warn of the dangers of redefining marriage.  Whenever a word (like marriage) is misused, the true meaning is diminished.  When "same-sex marriage" is spoken, the biblical definition is degraded and disavowed.  Words matter.  They speak life and support of true marriage, or they speak death and detract from the true meaning of marriage.  
            As the moral climate of our culture deteriorates, examples of these kinds of misuse of words are on the increase.  We must be vigilant to recognize the falsehood, and use alternatively accurate words to ensure integrity of speech. 
            In case you still think I'm making a big deal out of nothing, consider further what the Bible has to say about words.  In the context of prayer and communicating with God, Ed Kurath in the book I Will Give You Rest writes,  "For some reason, God set up the universe in such a way that words have power. Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light (Genesis 1:3). The words that I speak bring my thoughts into reality. Once they are spoken, it is as though a legal contract has been signed, or a legal event has happened, in the spiritual realm. The words can be "bad" and bring about difficulty (for example judging), or they can be "good" and bring about life (for example blessing someone)." 
            A spoken word has great power.  In fact, we call the Bible "the Word" of God because it carries the authority of God.  God's authority is supreme authority.  God's authority is revealed through a number of human beings recording His words throughout a period of time to be included in the cannon of Scripture.  Consider what is recorded in the Bible about God Himself.  John records in his gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5). 
            Jesus came as the Word.  Our very life depends on the Word.  Every person's soul is doomed to darkness without the light of the Word.  The Word speaks life.  The Word speaks light.  To be called disciples of Christ, we must speak the Word.  We must speak light.  We must speak life.   
            My purpose for writing this is not only to raise awareness of language used toward evil ends, but to encourage speakers of truth to redeem the spoken language.  We must be careful not to use strictly PC speech, and let people know why we are using terms which speak truth.  It's not enough to use "biblically correct" language ourselves, but we must teach other disciples of Christ to do so as well.  If Jesus is the Word, we must represent Him with our words.  If the Bible is the Word, we must use words that speak Truth.  If Jesus matters to you, words matter.  If the Bible matters to you, words matter. 
            Please understand I am not advocating using inconsiderate, insensitive, or deliberately offensive language to make a point.  With love as our motivation (see Ephesians 4:25), we must demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our speech (Galatians 6:22).  Because ultimate Truth rests with God, there will always be some people offended by the Truth (see 1 Peter 2:8).  Some will label Truth speakers as intolerant, bigoted, and phobic.  We may even be called "deplorables" and "irredeemables" (if you remember the 2016 political candidate using those terms). There will always be those who consider the Truth to be "hate speech."  Hatred of the Word is what put Jesus to death. 
             Proclaimers of the Word are not called to be trendy, relatable, or relevant as a first priority.  Considering our audience or delivery methods is not as important as considering who owns the message we have to deliver.  Jesus himself says, "The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work" (John 14:10).  Jesus says this in the context of explaining that He and the Father are one.  Christ's message is Father God's message.  As Christ's disciples, our message is Father God's message. 
            The phrase "same sex marriage" pollutes the atmosphere with a false, ungodly  message.  Never, never, say it!  By speaking the words we are  participating in the acceptance of the practice of homosexuality.  Worse yet, we   are speaking death to marriage.  Next to our relationship with God, marriage is the most sacred relationship mankind can know.  Marriage is God's creation from the beginning and provides the foundation for human existence.  The definition of marriage cannot be tampered with. 
            A message is made of the words used to deliver it.  Words matter. "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart; be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).  May this be the prayer of our heart, and the motivation for the words we speak. 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Words Matter


            Words have the power of life and death.  Words reveal wisdom and foolishness.  Words we say can either help or hinder.   As the Proverb says, "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly" (Proverbs15:2).
            As Kevin Hall explains in his book, Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words, words are the basic material for communication.  Stephen R. Covey says in his foreword to Hall's book, "words have an inherent power, a force capable of lighting one′s paths and horizons. Used correctly and positively, words are the first building blocks for success and inner peace. Used incorrectly and negatively, they are capable of undermining even the best of intentions. This is true in business, in personal relationships, and every other walk of life."   Words create thoughts ... thoughts create ideas ... ideas linked with feelings create actions ..., and actions produce results (good or bad results).  Words paint mental pictures of reality, and set the forces into action to bring the picture alive. 
            This becomes very important because a person's reality is determined by what he believes to be true.  A person's beliefs may be based on truth, or beliefs may be based on falsehood.  Beliefs based on truth produce constructive actions.  Beliefs based on  falsehood yield destructive results.  Every lie contains enough truth to make it believable.  Discerning truth from falsehood is not always easy, especially when words are incorrectly used to intentionally confuse or mislead the hearer.  
            Euphemism is a common technique used to hide the truth.  The dictionary definition of the word "euphemism" is, "the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant."  Because of the human innate bent toward the negative, the truth is often disagreeable with our natural inclinations.  But whether we agree or not, the truth is the truth.  If the truth survives our self-made test of "agreeableness," then it faces our emotional condition also bent toward judgmentalism and taking offense.  Many times the truth hurts.  But trying to hide the truth in order to avoid disagreement and pain undermines (destroys) accuracy and trust in communication. 
            Euphemism is commonly used by people trying to engineer social change.  Socially acceptable terminology is crafted to sensitize acceptance of otherwise unacceptable practices.  Words become the weapons for the battleground of debate.  Over time, the meaning of some words are intentionally (and unintentionally) altered in attempt to shift a "new normal."  One such example in my lifetime has been the word "choice."
            Americans place a high value on choice.  Options are a good thing.  But options have no value without life itself.  The truth is that life trumps choice.  Any falsehood trying to discredit this truth would exalt choice to a higher value than life itself. 
            Thus, the word "choice" has become the key to the debate for or against abortion.  But the real issue is life vs. death, not pro-choice vs. anti-choice.  Abortion does not give a choice to the baby whatsoever, but it claims to be "pro-choice."  This is a lie made believable by denying the life of a baby.  So, never should a person who supports the rights of a baby's life use the term "pro-choice" to identify abortion advocates.  In reality, abortion means babies have no choice.  In reality abortion is pro-death, and makes mockery of the word "choice."   The pro-abortion movement uses the "pro-choice" label in an effort to hide their true pro-death actions.  Hence the word "choice" is used to twist the truth by hiding an unfavorable action to highlight a more acceptable idea.  
            For pro-lifers to use the term "pro-choice" is speaking agreement with destruction of  life.  The debate is defined by the words used to describe the ideas.  Use the correct words (to describe the truth), and the debate can be won.  Use the wrong words (in agreement with the  opponent), and the debate is lost before it begins.  
            The recent presidential election demonstrated more than ever that the establishment media is one-sided on matters relating to politics and social issues. In my opinion, the establishment media has become mostly propaganda at the hands of skilled deceivers.  I believe this because words are used over and over again to manipulate the truth and influence people's minds with falsehood.  When lies are used to hide, ignore, or twist the truth, you have deception.  When deception is used to hide, ignore, or twist the facts, you have propaganda.  As someone has said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to the wrong facts." 
            The major so-called news outlets have often abandoned factual reporting for sensational scoring.  They have proven themselves inaccurate and untrustworthy communicators.  Their misuse of words and ideas to negatively influence their hearers' thinking and behavior  is very destructive.  A number of books have appeared recently written by journalists and others who have been stonewalled in bringing the truth to the public.  One such book is by Sheryl Attkisson called The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote.  Attkisson goes into much greater details than I can here. 
            My point is not to bash the media, but to raise our awareness that words matter.  "Political correctness" (PC) ranks high on the list of enemies of the ideals our nation was founded upon.   PC is a favorite media technique.  PC devalues words and the imagination of the hearer.  PC devalues free speech and communication.  PC devalues individual thinking and expression.  PC must be recognized and eliminated from our conversation.   Another Proverb says, "Using the speech of a fool makes you one too. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him" (Proverbs  26:4).
            My hope is that those reading this will make a choice for truth over falsehood.  Euphemisms like casual sex, affair, and gay are replacements for the truth of fornication, adultery, and homosexuality (respectively).  "Fake news" is deceptive propaganda.  "Gender identity" is a term often used for gender confusion.  The phrase "separation of church and state" was crafted to limit religious speech and faith practices in the public square.  The phrase has no origin in the US Constitution and no legitimacy for preventing people to practice their faith.  The list goes on ....   What terminology can we think of right now that would be another example of word manipulation to hide, ignore, or misrepresent the truth? 
            Words matter.  After we discover the incorrect use of words, the next step is to re-program our minds to use the correct words in our speech.  Make a choice to buck the trends of "political" correctness, and simply speak correctness.   Whenever we hear words put together in a way we haven't heard before, we should stop and ask ourselves, "What is the REAL meaning behind these words?" 
            Will we pay attention to words and language we use to communicate, or will we let others dictate our thinking, speech, and behavior in a negative direction?  Let us make our choice of words ring truth and life!
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry