REFLECTIONS

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written by Elder Mike Hosey.
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Challenging Your Culture is Wide Open Throttle

Living your life Wide Open Throttle means allowing the maximum amount of fuel from God’s word to run into your engine, then burning that fuel with the maximum amount of air from prayer and the Holy Spirit. But you can’t live life Wide Open Throttle until you put that engine into gear and do something with all of that power. If your engine is just idling with the throttle wide open, then you’re just wasting fuel. Interestingly, if you’re in gear, but your throttle isn’t open, then your engine will die from lack of fuel and air, and you won’t go anywhere either.
The prophet Elijah is a great example of how a person can throttle up and win for the Kingdom of God. He is also an example of how a person can choke the power of God by taking a hand off of the throttle and letting an engine sputter out. Consider his victory at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:21-29). The evil King Ahab of Israel had allowed the people to worship pagan Gods. Elijah challenged the king at the top of Mount Carmel to follow a real God.  Then in a true display of God’s power, he vanquished 450 prophets of Baal when he called down fire on an altar. But only after he had dared them to call down fire from their false God. They didn’t succeed. The people saw Elijah’s demonstration of power, and then at his command killed all the evil prophets. Elijah had understood the word of God. He believed it’s power, he spoke to God regularly, and he acted on that word! He was wide open throttle!

But just one chapter over (1 Kings 19:1-18), Ahab’s queen, Jezebel, hears of Elijah’s victory. In her anger over the deaths of her false prophets, she vows to kill Elijah. Elijah, the man who had just called down fire from heaven, becomes afraid of a pagan woman who worships an impotent God who could not display any power at all when called upon by 450 prophets. She was an evil woman who did not love or know God! Elijah forgot about God’s power, and his own status as a prophet. He forgot to pray for the fuel of God’s word, or a renewal of his spirit, and instead retreats into the wilderness, and prays a whiney prayer asking to die. He had cut off his throttle, and he had taken himself out of gear. His engine was sputtering instead of roaring. Thankfully, at the top of Mount Horeb, God breaks Elijah’s self focus and restores his fuel and spirit.

What areas in your life are open throttle? What areas aren’t? When was the last time you refueled? When was the last time you prayed a prayer to throttle up? When was the last time you challenged a pagan world with the fire of God?

Wide Open Throttles

There’s a saying in the biker culture that goes something like this: “Some pop pills, others tilt bottles, but we solve our problems with wide open throttles.” A throttle is the  human/machine interface on an engine that governs the flow of fuel and air. When a throttle is wide open, say on a motorcycle, or when the pedal is to the metal in an automobile, the greatest amount of air and fuel possible flow into the engine, and it performs at peak. The engine will produce maximum output, and the vehicle will assume maximum speed for the gear that it happens to be in. When bikers cite this bit of wisdom, they are proclaiming that the dismal problems of the world pale in comparison to the exhilaration they experience when they fully commit themselves and their machines to the open road. There’s no doubt that this principle is true across several life areas. Consider the drug addict who commits his life completely to his habit. When he opens the throttle wide open, the responsible world is drowned out. It pales in comparison (he thinks) to the pleasures of his drugs. The business woman who commits herself fully to her endeavors experiences a ride that drowns out the distractions of all other potential roads. When she opens the throttle wide open, she may end up building an organization that reshapes her economy, and perhaps the economies of multitudes of others.

The bible is full of men and women who lived wide-open-throttle lives. People like Daniel, or John the Baptist, or Paul, or Jesus. Their lives, quite literally changed the world. If you are reading this, you have benefitted — even if you are not a believer — from how they lived their lives with throttles wide open. Consider how Paul, the apostle, boasts of his strivings for Christ in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 where he shares, “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with  far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,[b] in cold and exposure.”

His wide open throttle life gave us most of the New Testament, and modeled for us how we can change from something old, to something much better. How open is your throttle?

Can I Get A Witness?

We use the word “witness” in our modern language a lot. We usually define it as: “one who gives evidence; specifically, one who testifies in a cause, or before a judicial tribunal.” Sometimes, it is defined as, “something serving as evidence or proof.” So a witness is someone or something that supports the truth of something else. If you see a murder, and are asked to testify in court about what you saw, then you become a witness. If the police find a video tape of the murder, and use it in court, then that video tape becomes a witness to the horrible event. If you see Superman save the day, and the newspaper reporter asks you what you saw, and you describe the excitement of a man jumping over a building in a single bound, then you are a witness to the miraculous. If the police find a couple of burglars tied with a Bat Rope and tagged with a note to the light post at 34th and Archer, then that rope and note are a witness to the crime busting activities of the Dark Knight.

And this is exactly how the term is used in the Bible. For instance, Deuteronomy 17:6 commands how witnesses are used in a death penalty proceeding. In Isaiah 30:8, the famous prophet is commanded to write down the ways of rebellious Israel, so that there is a permanent written witness to their condition.

The Bible is serious about witnesses. So serious, in fact, that it forbids false witnesses. It prohibits witnessing about something that isn’t true (Exodus 20:16). And it describes such behavior as murderously harmful (Proverbs 25:18). It pulls no punches when it lists a false witness with murder, adultery, slander, stealing and sexual immorality (Matthew 25:19). God seriously hates it (Proverbs 6:16-19).

God directs his people to serve as a witness to his grace, mercy, power, and commands (Matthew 28:19-20). And it is his expectation that his direction be carried out far and wide (Acts 1:8).
So ask yourself this question: “What is my life witnessing to the world?” Then examine your life to see what it is witnessing. Do your behaviors, your allegiances, your friendships, and your words witness to the truths of the one good King of all? Or do they bear a false witness about the ways of the world?

What Does Your Mirror Reflect?

Psychologists have noticed for a long time that human beings tend to emulate one another. For instance, if someone smiles at you, you are likely to smile back. If you are at a public event and everyone claps, then you likely will feel some compulsion to clap along. If you are with a group of people who are eating together, you will likely stop eating when the group stops eating, or if the group continues to eat, you also will likely continue to eat. If your group is happy, you will tend to be happy. If your group has experienced a loss, you will tend to reflect(and even experience) their emotional pain. This is a social aspect of our biology. You have almost no control over it. When it happens, it happens at a level that you are usually not aware of. It wasn’t until the 1990s that psychologists discovered that we have whole circuits in our brains made up of mirror neurons that actuate these behaviors. These mirror neurons cause us to “mirror” the other humans around us. Their existence explains things like public clapping, laughter, and other group behaviors.

This physiological discovery has many social implications. But the biggest implication it might have has already been touched on in the bible. Consider Proverbs 13:20 where we read that whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but whoever walks with fools suffers harm. The reason for this is that we tend to emulate those that we are around. If you live among wise people, you are going to learn their ways. Of course, they will teach you things. And of course, you will consciously observe and learn from their modeling. But amazingly, you will also unconsciously begin to mirror their wisdom. Almost as if by some magical psychological osmosis, you will begin to absorb their wise qualities. Doing so is hardwired into your biology. On the other hand, if you hang out with people who live recklessly, without considering consequences or costs, your biology will cause you to mirror their bad traits. Because you will be following their lead, you will make their same bad decisions. And you will likely experience the same misery that stupid decisions usually bring. It’s true. Life is hard, but it’s harder if your stupid (or foolish).

So if you want to build habits that compel you up the hill, rather than habits that cause you to fall down the hill, then consider the company you keep, and the kind of reflection that you shine. Surround yourself with people who are better than you, and shape your habits accordingly.

Are You Aligned With Your Purpose?

Purpose is a word used to label our reason for existence. Everything has a purpose — or a reason for existence. The computer I’m typing on at this moment has the purpose of providing me a tool by which I can communicate with you. Most things have many purposes. My hands, for instance, have the purposes of grasping objects, helping me to count, bringing food to my mouth, sensing elements of my world with touch, or manipulating my environment. And while my hands have many purposes, those purposes are unified by a single general reason for the existence of my hands. That single reason is to serve me for my best benefit. That’s why my hands exist. When they feed me, they are doing it so that I can survive and thrive. When they sense the world with their touch, they are doing it so that I can explore and expand my horizons and my understanding. When they assist me in counting, they do so to help me keep track of things. But if I use my hands in ways that are not aligned with that single purpose of serving me for my best benefit, then my hands become a hindrance to me. If I use my hands to feed myself poisonous drugs, then my hands are not aligned with their purpose. If I use my hands solely to feed myself, then my hands are not aligned with my purpose, and I will suffer from that misalignment.

In a larger sense, our whole lives have purpose. If our lives get out of line with that purpose then we suffer, the people around us suffer, and our purpose is not met. I can remember coming across a couple of fellow hikers on the Appalachian Trail a number of years back. Just a few short miles into my hike, I noticed an iron skillet, and a loaded laundry bag, and canned dog food strewn every hundred meters down the trail. Then, as I was descending into a gap between two mountains I came across the folks who had been leaving their stuff behind. A young couple and their dog. They were exhausted. Their dog, with long thick hair ill suited for the Georgia climate, and panting heavily, sprawled himself out before them, clearly as exhausted as they were — if not more so. Spread around were pieces of gear that betrayed their poor alignment – a heavy pole tent, large thick foam pads, more canned food, and kitchen pots. Their hike was out of alignment with their purpose of making it to the first suitable campsite. They’d never make it to their destination carrying all of that stuff, and they’d have to return to start.

You have a purpose. It is a purpose ordained by God. That general purpose is to serve him by serving others. Is your life aligned with that purpose? If it is not, consider getting rid of all the baggage that gets in the way of that purpose (Hebrews 12:1).

If You Lie with Dogs, Then You’ll Get Fleas

In a number of different ways, the bible teaches with relative clarity that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). In other words, the process that the Holy Spirit uses to make us into new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), is to shape the way we think. The reason for this is easy to understand. What we think determines what we do. It also determines how we feel (Philippians 4:8). It is one of the reasons that faith is so important to God (Hebrews 11:6), because what we believe determines what we think. Therefore, what we believe, ultimately produces behavioral results. If you think about bad things, you’ll be tempted to do bad things. If you believe bad things are good, you’ll behave in ways that are bad. Your feelings will follow suit! If you believe that God has saved you from a terrible state of sin, than you’ll love God, and you’ll avoid paths of sin.

So how do you renew your mind? There are many ways. The bible talks about prayer, which is a focused and sustained mental effort of communicating with God, and meditating on his ways and laws. It also talks about the importance of having God’s word in your heart (Hebrews 4:12Acts 17:11Proverbs 3:1-2Psalm 119:11).

But I think one of the best ways to renew your mind is to stretch your thoughts and challenge yourself by being around other people in your faith community (Hebrews 10:24-25James 5:16, and Colossians 3:16). I particularly like that Colossians verse. It commands us to teach and admonish each other in all wisdom. When we do this, we grow in both the renewal of our minds, and in the renewal of our behaviors. Goodness can’t help but be reinforced when we spend our time and efforts in a faith community that is intent on loving us and helping us grow. There is an old cliche that is full of truth: “if you lie with dogs you’ll get fleas.” If you lie with the world, then your mind will be infested with the fleas of the world. They’ll bite and you’ll scratch. It’s a miserable existence. But if you spend your time with people who are dedicated to God, you’ll get peace, wisdom, and maturity as they help you to continually improve your thought life by strengthening your faith, and ultimately changing your behaviors. It quite literally changes you from one kind of person to another. You may go from being a liar and a fool to a prophet and a sage, or from a sinner to a saint.

Please Excuse my Dear Aunt Sally!

One of the first algebraic concepts I learned in school was called the Order of Operations. If you don’t know this concept, then you cannot do simple algebra. I was taught a simple memory device so that I would never forget the order of operations, and I still use that device to this day, some 40 years later. That device was “Please Excuse MDear Aunt Sally.” Today, students simply refer to it as PEMDAS. It stands for Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. If you try to solve any mathematical equation without going through that order you will get the answer completely wrong. If you try to subtract before you add, or you try to multiply before dealing with the exponent values, or before solving the stuff inside the parenthesis, then you will end up with a mangle jangle mess of an answer. Your building won’t stand up. Your Investment projections will fail. And you won’t understand the statistical garbage with which a bad insurance salesman, or a fraudulent expert tries to persuade you.

You will find the order of operations in many forms and in many places in life. For instance, try getting a good job as a surgeon before getting a medical degree. If you do, it won’t be long before you’re talking to someone with a law degree. Sometimes, people engage in intimate behaviors with the opposite sex before a marriage commitment. Far too often, this disregard for the order of operations leads to a mangle jangle mess of a life with someone that they must learn to love instead of lust after. Or consider expecting a child to follow your written chore list before he or she has learned to read. It simply won’t work.

The most important element in all of the orders of operation is to put God first. When you put God first, the rest of your life falls into place. It saves you heartache, it gives you purpose, and it keeps you in right standing with the one who provides all good things. This concept is found throughout the bible. It’s implied in places like Deuteronomy 6:5 where we’re told to love God with everything, or in places like Romans 12:2, where Paul tells us to be transformed by putting the will of God as a prime measuring stick for life. Jesus puts it more directly in Matthew 6:25-33 when he instructs us to seek the Kingdom of God first, and God will make sure that our lesser needs are met. So take an inventory of your world, and see if you have been correctly applying the order of operations in all the equations that make up your life.

The Importance of Evangelism

Evangelism has a bad rap. In secular culture, it means a T.V. preacher stealing people’s money to grow a very unholy kingdom under the guise of holiness. To some in the political arena, it means conservative Republicans who want to beat their morality into a secular culture by force of law. To some in Church World, it means getting out of your comfort zone and having people think of you as weird because of you’re going to try to sell them some Jesus — or some Jaayzusss. But it is none of those things.

Okay, okay, okay . . . you might have to get out of your comfort zone a bit, but it isn’t selling Jesus.

An evangelist is simply a bringer of good tidings. That’s it. He or she is someone who delivers the good news. In regards to Christianity, the good news is that Jesus saves people from a whole host of uglies. Uglies like sin, hell, and worldly chains. He rescues marriages, and careers, and families.

Evangelism doesn’t mean persuading someone to believe that stuff. It doesn’t mean convincing someone that they’re wrong. It doesn’t mean showing them that you’re right. Those certainly can be part of the evangelism process, but they’re not necessary for it. All that is necessary is to share the good news. The best way to share that good news is to tell others what God has done for you. After that, the Holy Spirit does the rest.

And the rest that he does is an incredible amount. Benefits to evangelism are significant, numerous, and huge. It deepens our faith by putting us close to the action so that we can see the supernatural power of God as he rescues people from despair. It sharpens our knowledge so that if someone asks us a question we have a good answer. It causes us to work in familial concert with our fellow Christians so that we can encourage one another in the work that God has given us. And it does so much more than I can write in this short blog. But one of the biggest benefits is how it impacts your church, or your local faith community. Listen to what Paul tells the church at Colossae (Colossians 1:5-6). He reminds them of how the good news changed their lives, made them into a church, and is now producing fruit wherever it is heard! The gospel, or the good news, grows churches! If you want your church to grow, then be sure to evangelize. If you want the kingdom of God to spread in this dark world, then evangelize. And all that means is telling people about what God has done for you!

Why I Don’t Think John 3:16 is the Most Important Verse in the Bible

If you ask any evangelical Christian what the most important verse in the bible is, you are likely to be met with an enthusiastic reply of, “John 3:16.” — For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son . . . This verse is so important to Christians that almost every person in Church World has memorized it. Famous football players paint it on their faces. Conservative, dedicated, bible thumping preachers put it in their tracts. Seminaries devote classes to it. Sunday School teachers make sure that the little ones in their charge not only learn it, but that they understand it. We are reminded of its gravity in bloody reenactments of the crucifixion.

It is, indeed, a very important verse. But I don’t think it is the most important verse. I have long taught that the most important verse is Hebrews 11:6. It teaches that without faith it is impossible to please God. It goes on to explain why. A person must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. A person who doesn’t believe such things won’t draw near to him. This is a simple truth, really. If you don’t trust that your company is going to keep paying you, then you won’t go to work. If the treasure hunter doesn’t believe there’s a chest at the bottom of the ocean, he won’t go on hunting. If a pastor no longer believes in his calling, he will no longer shepherd.

Some believers have glimpsed the importance of this verse, but have applied it improperly. They tend to focus on the rewards portion of the verse, and then apply that to earthly benefits. If you have faith, they argue, then you will be blessed with money, or health, or a spouse, or some worldly pleasure. Of course, it is true that God provides those things on earth. But he isn’t primarily interested in those things for your life. In fact, his greatest followers often suffered without earthly pleasures. Our greatest example was a suffering servant (Isaiah 53, 1 Peter 2:21-25). Notice that Hebrews 11:6 is nested squarely in the middle of a passage about how some of the bible’s greatest heroes obeyed God because of what they believed, and not about how they were rewarded. In fact, Hebrews 11:13points out that all of them died without receiving what was promised. Their reward was in heaven, and that reward is far, far greater than any prize they could enjoy on earth.

Read Hebrews 11:6 again. It is impossible to please God without faith. The verse is about pleasing God – not receiving rewards. If you don’t believe that God exists, then you won’t believe it when he tells you that you need a savior. You won’t believe his love for you, and John 3:16 will be meaningless. You certainly won’t love him back. Most importantly, if you don’t believe and trust God, then you won’t obey him when he tells you to do something in the service of his will.

An Apple Can’t Confess. But You Can.

I love apples. I especially love those that have been bred to be particularly sweet. They look so wonderful and appetizing on the outside. In fact, I eat one every day for lunch. The other day I took a big bite out of one. There was that initial sweet and crisp rush as my teeth broke it’s skin. But then there followed a bitterness, and a terrible aftertaste that lingered far longer than I liked. When I looked at my apple, I noticed that its meat was brown and mushy in spots instead of it’s normal white firmness. Although it looked perfectly fine on the outside, it was rotting on the inside. At some point in it’s development a fungus had gotten into the apple, and as the apple grew, so did the fungus in it’s core. It wasn’t detectable from the outside at all.

So much of your life can be just like that apple. Sin, shortcomings, and hurt invade your life, and if you don’t deal with them, then you begin to rot from the inside out. You may have a smile and a shiny glow, but your heart is slowly suffering, and dying — your spirit failing into mushy brown spots. And when it is time for you to serve God and your fellow man, you risk leaving everyone with a bad aftertaste. You may be reading this right now, knowing full well the danger that your heart and spirit are in.

This rot in the human heart affects the most those who never confess their sins or their problems. Consider the wisdom of the Psalmist who cried out that when he kept silent, his bones wasted away inside of him (Psalm 32:1-3). He realized that he, too, was just like that apple. But there’s good news. He also recognized that God can and does take care of the rot whenever we confess it (Psalm 32:5). Even more interesting is that when we confess our sins and problems to trusted fellow Christians there is healing power (James 5:16a)! James argues that we should confess our problems so that we can be healed. Healed from what? The rot that our hurts, sins, and earthly problems cause us. The truth is that you can’t fix a problem until you acknowledge it. And one way that you can acknowledge it is to share it with God, and with one of his children with whom you’ve built trust.

An apple doesn’t have the ability to ask someone to remove it’s rot. But you do! So take the opportunity to get it out of you before it hurts your heart any further.

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