What you hear

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 

Mark 4:24

Jesus had just gotten accused of being possessed by a demon by the Pharisees. He was casting out demons everywhere He went, and they didn’t want to admit that this was from God. So their assumption was that Jesus’s power was coming from a demonic spirit rather than the Holy Spirit.

When His own family members saw the large crowds following Jesus, even they said, “He is out of His mind!”(Mark 3:21) They still saw Jesus as their brother, a carpenter from a small town, and struggled to understand what was happening with so many people getting healed of disease and delivered from demons.

After telling the Parable of the Sower, Jesus then says, “Consider carefully what you hear.” We might expect Him to say instead, “Be careful what you say.” But He doesn’t say that. He wants people to guard what they hear. He wants them to know what they consume, with their ears and eyes, will affect them.

Based on the follow-up statement about measuring others, Jesus is saying there is a direct connection between what we listen to and how we will judge others. If we listen to gossip, we will measure people incorrectly, just as the Pharisees and Jesus’s own family did with Him. If we listen to bad news all the time, we will measure the world incorrectly. What we allow in our ears matters.

One of the strategies of the enemy is to manipulate what we hear. He is a master linguist who loves to manipulate language. He’s a master at propaganda and slogans that change the meaning of words to fit his evil schemes. We see this characteristic reveal itself in political powers that have committed genocide and horrible atrocities throughout history. One thing that is true of almost all of them is that they were good at manipulating people through propaganda, slogans, and the redefinition of words.

It’s happening now in our own culture over the definition of love. The enemy is trying to get our entire society to embrace a selfish kind of “love” focused on self-fulfillment rather than the self-sacrificing kind of agape love of scripture.

I saw the same thing happen in the church as this slogan became popular, “It’s okay to have doubts.” This was a reaction against fundamentalism’s obsession with certainty. And, originally, “doubt” meant “uncertainty.” So, originally, the idea was that it is okay to be uncertain about things. Being uncertain about some things is not contrary to a life of faith. I agree with this whole-heartedly.

However, what started to happen was a slight-of-hand with the definition of “doubt.” Soon, doubt no loner meant “uncertainty” and started to mean “unbelief.” Yet, people used the same slogan, “It’s okay to have doubts.” But now this slogan meant that it was okay to embrace unbelief. I couldn’t disagree more. Unbelief is antithetical to a life of faith. Unbelief became welcomed and accepted in the church through the Trojan-horse word “doubt” all by simply manipulating its definition.

Can you see how it works? Can you see the enemy’s scheme with language and definitions? Can you see why Jesus said, “Consider carefully what you hear.

The same kind of manipulation of language is happening now around discussions of gender identity and racism. Words that used to mean one thing now mean another. Old definitions are thrown out and manipulative new definitions are added.

We saw the same thing happen in the abortion debate. The murder of children became “a woman’s choice.” Who in their right mind would be against something labeled simply as a “choice.” And who in their right mind would be against “re-education” if we label it correctly. Again, you can see the enemy’s schemes clearly once they are exposed.

Language matters. Correct definitions matter. Truth matters. What we actually allow ourselves to listen to, what we allow our children to listen to, matters. We need the Holy Spirit to give us discernment to see through the nonsense that is out there in our culture right now.

Consider carefully what you hear.

Holy Fear

“Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? 

1 Samuel 6:20

This was the response of some of the people of Israel after encountering the awesome presence of God.

The Philistines had captured the ark of the Lord, and it had been in Philistine territory for seven months. In that time the presence of the Lord, which stayed in proximity of the ark, had toppled pagan gods and created quite a stir among the Philistine people. Disease had broken out in judgment against the Philistines who were attempting to subdue the God of Israel. It wasn’t working.

So the Philistines sent the ark back to Israel, and it ends up in the area of Beth Shemesh. The people of Beth Shemesh were so excited about this that they offered sacrifices to the Lord and had a huge celebration. Yet, even then, some Israelites were too flippant with the presence of the Lord. Some of them dropped dead “because they looked into the ark of the Lord“(1 Samuel 6:19).

Before we start picturing the final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, let’s look again at what the people of Beth Shemesh said. What caused the fear of the Lord to fall on the people was not God’s omnipotence or judgment. What caused an absolute fear to fall on the people was God’s holiness.

Throughout scripture we learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; it’s a fountain of life and a blessing to all who fear God. The fear of the Lord in this context is not about being afraid of God but instead about honoring God with our lives. It’s about being in awe of God with a holy reverence. This kind of “fear of the Lord” is something we can mature and grow in as we mature in Christ.

Yet, there is another kind of “fear of the Lord” that can happen when we encounter the raw presence of God. Throughout scripture those who encounter the presence of God (or an angel who is saturated in the presence of God) usually end up dropping to the ground in fear. This happens not because God is terrifying but because He is completely holy.

I have tried to live with the first kind of fear of the Lord (respect, honor, reverence) for most of my life. Yet, I encountered the second kind of fear of the Lord for the first time a few months ago. I had an encounter with God where the power of God was running through my body like 220 volts of electricity. This went on for many minutes, to the point where all the muscles in my body involuntarily contracted (picture someone getting tased and you’re getting close to what the experience was like). It was beautiful and painful!

After the power of God subsided, and I was able to get off the ground, I began to walk around to try to recover from what just happened. While I was walking, suddenly and without warning, the overwhelming sense of how close the raw presence of God came to me hit me like a ton of bricks. This was not something I was aware of naturally. It was something the Holy Spirit suddenly revealed to me in that moment.

As soon as it dawned on me how close I was to the raw presence of God, the holy fear of the Lord hit me. I’ve never felt anything like it. All I could do was sit down and weep. The holy fear that hit me was tangible. I couldn’t pray anything intelligible. The only thing coming out of my mouth was, “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” That’s all I could pray for about 10 minutes. I was enveloped in a holy fear.

The holiness of God is absolutely terrifying. And I’m sure I only tasted a sliver of it. If you think standing before this holy God during judgment is going to be all love and rainbows, think again. Yes, God is love. His love is overwhelming and unconditional. God is also holy. And His holiness will drop us to our knees in absolute fear. For all the universalists out there who think God is like Santa Claus, think again. Those who face the holiness of God naked–not clothed in the righteousness of Christ–will not find the proximity of the Lord something to be desired. Even those of us clothed in Christ will be overwhelmed.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to surrender your life to Jesus. You’re not promised tomorrow! You don’t know when you will be standing before this holy God, but you will want to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ (rather than your own) when you do.

The Power of Words

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit…For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:33-37

Our language reveals our heart. If we continue to lie, there is deception in our hearts. If we continue to speak words that are harsh and condemning, there is anger (and maybe rage and hate) in our hearts. If we continue to push people away with our words, there is rejection in our hearts (because we always feel rejected regardless if that is the truth or not). We will have to give an account of every empty word that we’ve spoken. We will have no defense except the blood of Jesus.

There are many people whose words that they speak are ruining their life. Words have the power to bring life or death to the people around us. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit“(Proverbs 18:21). Matthew 12 mentions fruit as well. We will eat the fruit of our own words. If our words bring life, we will experienced life all around us. If our words criticize, cut people down, judge, mock, condemn, and punish then we will experience death all around us. That will be the fruit we eat!

Another way to understand this truth is that our critical and harsh words not only bring death to the people around us (and subsequently becomes the bad fruit that we eat) but there is also a boomerang effect to our words. The measure we use will be used against us.

If our measurement tool is full of forgiveness, grace and love, that is the tool that will measure our own life. The enemy will have no place to attack us. But if our measurement tool is full of judgement, anger, resentment, criticism, and perfectionism then that is also the tool that will measure our own life. The enemy will launch attack after attack on our life because we’ve given him a standard of measurement that leaves us completely open to attack. Our life could never hold up to the standard to which we hold others.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38

Your words were meant to bring life to the people around you. Your words were meant to bring life to you! “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt...”(Colossians 4:6). We need to examine our heart to see what is coming out of it in the form of words. If toxic words are coming out, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to clean out the deep places of our wounded heart. We need to take off the old self, put it to death, and put on the new self which is being renewed day by day to look more like Jesus.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Colossians 3:7-10

Take inventory of your words and it will reveal the condition and contents of your heart.

What kind of words have you been speaking lately? Have they brought life or death? Have you felt their boomerang effect?

Still Did Not Repent

The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Revelation 9:20-21

In the midst of recording all of the horrible things that come upon the earth, John notes that there are still many who will not repent. I find it interesting, out of all the things that could be listed as the main sins of humanity, John sees these five things in his vision.

First, the sin of worshiping false idols is at the top of the list. The idols themselves can’t see, hear or walk. They are just statues made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood. They are nothing in and of themselves. But worshiping them is worshiping demons. Why? Because demonic entities always stand behind false idols.

The apostle Paul makes this same point to the Corinthians when he said, “Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons”(1 Corinthians 10:19-20).

The bottom line is that any religion that worships anything but Jesus as God in the flesh, Son of God and Savior of the world, is worshiping a false idol. Standing behind their false religion is the worship of a demonic principality.

Next, John lists four more sins that humanity is steeped in that, while he expected humanity to repent from, they continue in without hesitation: 1)murder, 2)magic arts (occult practices), 3)sexual immorality, and 4) theft (greed). Look at any major American city that is being eroded from the inside out, and you will find these four sins rampant within its boundaries.

Where you find one if these in abundance you will also find the others in abundance. Murder rates soar; sexual immorality is the norm; people seek out psychics, palm readers, seances, reiki healing, and mediums instead of the Lord; corruption and greed define the economic climate of our day.

God’s patience and kindness with our sin is meant to lead us to repentance. The call to repentance is an invitation into freedom, freedom from all of these dark chains that can bind our life. Yet, one day will be the last day. One day God will set everything right in the world. One day He will bring judgment on the world. One day evil will be finally and ultimately dealt with. Until that day, we are called to live a lifestyle of repentance and work toward a world that looks more like the Kingdom of God and less like the kingdom of darkness.