Tag Archive for maturity

DN=: Part 5–Discrimination

 

 

Discernment is the divine enablement to distinguish between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong.  A person with this gift can differentiate pure from impure motives, identify deception in others, determine authenticity of messages from God, recognize false teaching and sense the presence of evil.  (Paraphrased from “Network” by Bruce Bugbee and Don Cousins.)

 

In other words, discernment is God’s B.S. detector.

 

Have you ever known someone who saw something fake or sinister in a person’s character before anyone else did, and was later proven right?  Have you ever had a friend who told you what you were thinking when you couldn’t even explain it yourself?  This is discernment at work.

(Remember back at the beginning of this series when I talked about people talking in code?  I didn’t forget about that.  From here on out, we’re going to defuse political correctness one code-bomb at a time.)

 

Another word with a meaning similar to discernment, in the literal sense of having the ability to distinguish differences, is discrimination.

 

While discernment is a spiritual gift, given by God to whomever He chooses, discrimination is a natural skill that can be learned and developed by anybody through careful observation and judicious contemplation.

 

It would seem, then, that discrimination should actually be a positive thing, since being UN-able to recognize differences would be a sign of a lack of intelligence or observance.

 

Nevertheless, this word has gradually become associated with “bigotry,” even though those two words really aren’t connected.

 

 DISCRIMINATION DN= BIGOTRY

 

There’s a big difference between distinguishing the differences in people and treating people differently.  Paul wrote:

 

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28 The Message)

 

And also:


[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [nor difference between nations whether alien] barbarians or Scythians [who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all, everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person]. (Colossians 3:11 Amplified)

 

In making these statements, Paul is instructing these early churches that although the Church is made up of all kinds of different people from different backgrounds, it is much more significant that Christ is our common ground.  Being the original Truthseeker, Paul discriminates by noting the differences, but does not show favoritism, because Christ does not show favoritism.

 

Looking at it this way, we can clearly see that bigotry is defined by emphasizing differences with the motive of boosting one’s own status over that of another based solely upon those differences.  Bigotry may START with discrimination, but it ends somewhere else entirely.

 

So how do you know when you’ve crossed the line?  In a word—labels.

 

Whenever you refer to another person with a label instead of their name, that’s a pretty clear sign that you are crossing over to the dark side of discrimination, because you are now seeing that person not as an individual, but as part of a subset of humanity, most likely one to which you do not belong yourself.

 

Once you have identified the difference and affixed a label to it, the emphasis of that difference comes naturally.  From there, it’s a very short walk to bigotry, simply because our human nature is to justify ourselves, and the easiest way to do that is to lower our view of others.  Labels just streamline that process.

 

So how does discernment fit into this?

 

From the definitions we have already discussed, discernment is essentially God-level discrimination.  But since we have already seen that God sees all of His followers as equal in Christ, then it should be obvious that the purpose of discernment is not to enable bigotry by labeling humans and dividing them into groups.

 

Discernment is not about judging character or outward appearances, but rather motives and the behavior that arises from them.  Which leads me to my next DN=.

 

(After vacation, I will return with Part 6–Judgment)

 

Doubt: Part 10–Faith Without Deeds

 

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?   Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.  (James 2:14-19, 26 NIV)

 

Even though I believed in God on that day in 1989, I had programmed myself for too long to be independent.  It was all I knew how to do.  The feeling of God’s peace, love, warmth and comfort only lasted a minute that day.  Obviously, I have never forgotten it, but a seed planted takes time to grow, longer if you don’t water it.  I didn’t.

 

Instead, I pushed forward, finished college, and entered the work force.  Full steam ahead, stick to the script.  Living the American Dream by golly!

 

Except my American Dream was a nightmare.  After failing at my first three jobs, I tried to start my own business instead, because obviously, the problem was them not me.

 

Then an interesting thing happened.

 

 

Many of my business contacts were Christians.  Not the robotic, going-through-the-motions churchgoers that I had observed growing up—these people lived differently, and they were like that all the time.

 

They reminded me that I really needed my Daddy, the one that my second-grade Sunday school teacher had tried so clumsily to tell me about.  Except this time, it felt genuine.

 

I heard miraculous testimonies and saw people living lives that I could not explain, except by one thing—remembering that October afternoon at the cemetery.  I had already been forced to acknowledge that God was real, but this was something new.

 

God was Abba, my Daddy, and he actually cared about me.  He wanted to protect me from harm, and he wanted me to lead my family.  And my spiritual maturity took a big leap forward.  But this is still not the happy ending.

 

You see, at this point I am in my mid-20s physically, but still a child spiritually.  I am cracking a Bible for the first time.  The only thing I know about salvation is that it’s Jesus’ job.  I am going to church with my family now, and have us all baptized into the same religion, but I am still running the program of everything-depends-on-me.  I know there is a God and I know that He cares, and I am grateful for this, but I have still not acknowledged my dependence.

 

Sometimes when we won’t let go of our pride, God will use circumstances to knock us down to the point where the only place to look and move is upward.

 

Eight years later, my marriage failed.  I was going to church every week and was active in music ministry, but it was still just religion.

 

And all religion is is a churched-up way of repeating the same old pattern of trying to meet our own needs through our own efforts.

 

Sure, we wrap it all up in God-speak, but Jesus already called our bluff 2,000 years ago when He said to the Pharisees:

 “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”  Mark 7:6-7, (quoting Isaiah 29:13) NIV

 

(To be concluded in Part 11–The Death of Doubt)

 

Doubt: Part 9–Skepticism

 

Although I have made it quite clear on this blog that I am a Christian, it might surprise you to learn that I am also a natural skeptic.  To get an idea of how that all started for me, let me take you back to the second grade.

 

So there I was in Sunday school at St. Mary’s at the age of seven.  I still believed in Mommy and Daddy, but had learned enough about the world to know that not everything people told you was true.

 

So then, the teacher gives the first lesson about God, the Daddy who was actually all knowing, all seeing and all-powerful.  The vocabulary word for that day was “omnipotent,” with which my seven-year-old tongue was having some difficulties.

 

Now wait a minute, I thought.  Not only are you going to tell me that there’s this God I can’t even see, but you are also going to tell me that he’s stronger than my parents are?  Not only that, but he’s stronger than Batman, Superman and the whole Justice League of America and the Avengers COMBINED?

 

There in that classroom, I had my first I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it moment, the first step of my intellectual maturity moving ahead of my spiritual maturity.  So I asked a question as intellectually mature as my 2nd-grade mind could muster.

 

“If God’s so strong that he can do anything, can he knock that clock off the wall?”

 

Now imagine the possibilities here.  I’m in SUNDAY SCHOOL!  In the presence of a TEACHER!  Who better to give me the spiritual knowledge, direction and guidance I needed to keep my spiritual maturity in step with my intellectual maturity?  It wouldn’t take long to explain at a seven-year-old’s level the difference between God’s power and God’s will.  Heck, I would have been happy with a simple yes or no!

 

But it didn’t happen that way.

 

Instead, I got the scowl of ultimate shame and a note home to my parents for my impertinence.

 

And no answer to my question.

 

Which made me wonder what other questions didn’t have answers.

 

And a skeptic was born.

 

Fast-forward 13 years.  That’s how long I had been feeding the skepticism.  If you do that long enough, you lose the distinction between doubt and belief, and doubt becomes your belief. 

 

So I didn’t believe in anything beyond what I could see or what I could do.  I allowed myself to believe the worldly lie that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.  In my first two years of college, the strategy of a skeptic appeared to be working for me.

 

But then in October 1989, I found myself in that cemetery, watching my last shred of what I thought I knew about life wither and blow away.

 

Then the sun came out from behind a cloud, and I believed in God for the first time.

 

But this isn’t the happy ending.

 

(For what happened next, come back for Part 10–Religion)

 

Doubt: Part 8–Healthy Doubt

 

The world is well equipped to fulfill our desires, but when it comes to our true needs– not so much.

 

We can have everything we’ve ever wanted, but it will never be all that we need.  All of our stuff can fail or vanish in an instant.  Most of us don’t find ourselves in that situation, but any of us could.

 

Therefore, we need to be aware that what we really need is what is provided for us, not what we can create ourselves.  For everything we create was created out of something that was already created.  We cannot create something from nothing.

 

That awareness is the key to the beginning of spiritual maturity.

 

You have to be aware of what you need.  You have to be aware of how you are unable to create anything that meets your true needs.  Finally, you have to have an awareness of who provides the means for your needs to be met.

 

Again, once you have reached this point, you have a choice.

 

 

Do you acknowledge your dependence and admit that you are a spiritual infant and that you really need your Daddy to come and make everything better?  Or do you reject that notion and try even harder to fix it yourself, blindly ignoring the reality that you are only repeating the same process that got you to the needy state you’re currently in?  That is the road that pride will lead you down every time.

 

We are left then with the inescapable conclusion that the only way to have our needs truly met is to surrender our pride and admit our dependence.

 

In other words, we have to use our doubt in a healthy way that leads us to the truth instead of away from it.

 

I am not saying that we should never doubt, because doubt will show up uninvited. There is nothing to be done about that.  What I am saying is that instead of letting doubt and skepticism rule our thinking, we should take our doubts captive and use them to eliminate everything on the “not real”  list.

 

Then we must make the final step of acknowledging that whatever is left over is real.

 

Not all of you reading this will believe it just because I said so (nor should you).  But I can tell you that whenever you use your doubt to find what is real, God will always end up on your “real” list.  You can’t escape that, no matter how hard you might try.

 

(For a personal story of how I tried anyway, come back for Part 9–Skepticism)

 

Doubt: Part 6–ABBA (Father)

Really?

That’s better.

 

If you intentionally focus on the things in your life that don’t move, the chaos will settle (in your mind at least) and eventually fade into the background along with your doubt.  However, this technique will only be as effective as your knowledge of what it is that doesn’t move.

 

If you are already at a place in your life where you have allowed doubt and skepticism to reign over all of your thinking, then you may have reached the point where you doubt truth itself or maybe even the existence of anything permanent.

 

This brings me back to the concept of spiritual maturity being separate from intellectual maturity.

 

It’s fairly easy to admit that you don’t know something factual and even easier to Google it and find out the answer.  However, growing spiritually is more difficult because it first requires that you admit you are a spiritual infant.  And pride has an issue with that notion.

 

Your level of doubt and skepticism is directly proportionate to your level of pride. The higher your pride level, the less likely you are to admit your vulnerabilities.

 

The reality is that your soul is still crying out like a baby.

 

You need your Daddy, but not the one who came home drunk and beat your mother while you watched, cowering in a corner.  Not the one who yelled and swore at you and told you you’d never amount to anything.  Not the one who was cold and distant and never did anything to make you feel loved or accepted.

 

You need the Daddy you should have had.  You need the one who always has the answers, always knows the right thing to do or say, the one who never fails.  The one you want to be just like when you grow up.  The one who accepts you as you are so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life trying in vain to prove that he was wrong about you.

 

You need that Daddy.

 

You want that Daddy.

 

No matter how much you’ve tried to make a life for yourself apart from that, you will always have a hole in your soul that no amount of worldly success or knowledge can fill.

 

Only your Daddy can do that.  You were designed this way, to recognize that you can’t meet all of your own needs and to admit your dependence.

 

(Dependence on what? Come back for Part 7 to find out!)

 

Doubt: Part 4–Faith

 

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  (Mark 10:15 NIV)

 

Responding to God requires seeing things as they really are, even the part you can’t see (especially the part you can’t see), the way children do.

 

A child doesn’t worry about the same things an adult does.  Children trust that their parents are all knowing, all seeing and all-powerful.  Even though that isn’t really true, they believe.  In that belief, they feel safe and comforted.  This is what “faith like a child” means.

 

Now some might call this “blind faith,” since the children are believing something without questioning it and accepting as real something that isn’t.  However, nobody condemns children for believing in their parents.  Indeed, if children see a parent fail at too early an age, it can be devastating to their emotional health. This is because they are not yet intellectually developed enough to understand their own limitations.

 

Therefore, it never occurs to them that their parents might be finite, that their knowledge might be incomplete, that they can be taken by surprise, that they might fail, that they might just. . .not. . .know.

 

No, nobody would condemn that child for believing in Mommy and Daddy.  After all, they are children and do not know any better.  As they grow, their understanding of the world around them grows. Eventually, they figure out that Mommy and Daddy are people just like them.  And later, when they become the Mommy or Daddy, they really figure out how much their parents didn’t know.

 

 

So why are people condemned for responding to God with the faith of a child, when that is exactly how Jesus said to do it?

Well for starters, people who don’t know the Bible don’t know that’s how it is supposed to be done, and you can’t condemn them for simply not knowing.

 

More significantly, these people don’t know that your spirit does not necessarily grow at the same rate that your body and mind do.  In other words, that faith like a child does not mean intellect like a child.

 

Different ways of growing up

 

Children are going to grow older and taller without any effort on their part.  Physical maturity just happens (at least, to whatever extent anything just happens).

 

Mental maturity requires some input, however.  Children kept locked in a closet all their lives will still grow physically, but they won’t learn much.  To learn, you have to be exposed to knowledge.  As you get older and start thinking for yourself more, you become more skeptical of “knowledge.” You may doubt some things just because they “don’t sound right.”

 

Spiritual maturity, on the other hand, is a major workout.  Absolutely nothing will happen to your spiritual maturity unless you make it happen.  If you don’t, then even as your body grows, and your mind expands, you will still remain a spiritual infant.

 

(So how do you start on the path to spiritual maturity?  Come back for Part 5–Real/Not Real.)