The Communication Breakdown

We are all aware of our need to communicate—it starts early in life. In order for a baby to communicate that he needs something, he will cry. It is amazing how effective a baby can be at communicating without words. After a while, we learn our first word, and then it isn’t long before we are talking a blue-streak.

One would think that by the time we reach our adult years we would be good at communication. However, communication is more than just speaking words. Communication is also listening to what others are saying. Isn’t it amazing that many times our preconceived ideas can play into what we think someone is saying rather than what they are really saying?

I often think about how men and women communicate. Years ago, I heard Dr. Johnny Pope make the statement: “Men communicate in headlines and women in fine print!” Here is how that goes. A man comes home from work, and his wife asks, “How was your day?” He replies, “Fine!” She wants to know what happened at the office or the shop, but he just generalizes and says it was fine. A woman will ask her husband, “How does my hair look?” He will reply, “It is nice!” He thinks he is paying her a compliment, but she replies, “Oh, you don’t like it!” because he didn’t say, “I really love it,” or “It is the best hairdo ever.” In her mind he is just making a statement.

This isn’t the only way we see a breakdown of communication. Sometimes, we totally misunderstand a situation, and based on the way we think things are or perceive that they are, we respond to them. I recently preached from II Kings 5 where we find the story of Naaman, the captain of the host of the king of Syria. The Bible says he was a leper, and the little Hebrew maid spoke about the man of God, the prophet Elisha, that could heal the leprosy.

When the king got word that the prophet in Israel could heal leprosy, he sent a letter to the king of Israel saying that he was sending his captain for the king to heal. The king of Israel thought the king of Syria was picking a fight with him. What the king of Israel didn’t consider was that there was a man of God, a prophet named Elisha, that could help. Elisha sent word that the king should direct the captain to his home. More misunderstanding happens when the captain shows up. Elisha doesn’t come out himself; there is no fanfare, just a messenger. A servant of Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River in order to be healed. The Bible tells us that Naaman was in a rage. Why was he so angry? Because he thought that the man of God would come out personally to meet with such an important person as himself. He thought he was worthy of that kind of treatment. After all, he was in charge of the king of Syria’s army. He was also put off by the dirty Jordan River. In his mind, the rivers in Damascus were better than the dirty Jordan River.

God was communicating to the captain, and God used those that accompanied the captain to further His communication. They reasoned with him saying that if Elisha had given him some difficult thing to do, he would have done it—why not try this simple thing? He humbled himself and did what he was told, and God healed him.

It is often our human pride that gets in the way of our communication. Pride breaks down our ability to hear properly. Many times our hearts are hardened by sin and that keeps us from hearing and communicating properly.

Truthfully, the greatest element in communication is not our mouth, our brain, our lips or our tongue—it is our heart. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 15:8, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” Matthew 15:11, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

 

Here are a few ideas to keep our communication from breaking down:

 

  1. Listen more than you speak. Really listen to what is being said. Let a person explain what he is seeing, feeling and hearing.
  2. Ask God for wisdom in response to critical times of communication. As a preacher, it is imperative that I communicate properly, effectively and powerfully. I can’t do that without the help of the Lord. If you are a teacher, parent, spouse, employee, or employer, we must communicate well. Ask God for His help.
  3. When you have made a communication mistake, whether it is what you have said or in misunderstanding what you have heard, take responsibility. Don’t act as if it isn’t important. Make sure that you are able to communicate with those people you deal with on a regular basis.
  4. Saturate your heart with the Word of God and fellowship with the Lord. That will do more to keep your heart right and help you with good and sound speech than anything else.

The Culture and the Christian

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court, in a five – four decision, rendered a verdict that same-sex marriage was to be the law of the land. These five unelected justices told all fifty states that they were overturning 239 years of our Judeo-Christian definition of marriage. Now any two adults that want to be married—regardless of their gender—are able to be recognized as a legal, society-sanctioned marriage.

Regardless of what these five justices have decided, God hasn’t changed His mind on the matter. No matter how much our society accepts this as the normal evolution of our morals, God isn’t swayed. God doesn’t put morality up for a vote; He isn’t putting His finger up to the wind to see which way He should go; His morality doesn’t change regardless of the changes found within a culture.

Our world is rapidly moving away from God. It isn’t just our nation but all the nations of the world. It reminds me of Psalm 2:1-5, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”

The picture in this Psalm is quite humorous. Do you think that God—the God of all eternity and the God who made us—is sitting in Heaven the least bit concerned about humanity’s rebellion against His laws? Our nation may think that they are going to throw off the restrictions and laws of God, but God in Heaven shall laugh. The Lord shall have them in derision. He is our maker, and He has stated how things will end.

It would seem that we have lost our sanity in our nation. We have become so politically correct that we have lost our common sense. We put men in the military and send them across the oceans to defend us with powerful weapons, but we won’t allow those in active service stationed on bases in the U.S. to carry weapons to protect and defend themselves. Thus, we have situations like the one that recently took place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the two recruiting stations.

We allow illegal aliens to cross our borders and give them immediate access to healthcare and education, but many of our veterans are languishing with substandard healthcare and have to wait days, or even months, to see doctors.

The culture has given applause to the LGBT community with all their strange behavior, and the people of faith are told to keep their faith inside their church buildings. We, the people of faith, are treated with distain simply because we believe in biblical morality. A classic illustration of this insanity is Tim Tebow, a vocal Christian who is unashamed of his faith. He has been treated as if he has a disease and barely gets a second look from the football world, but we parade Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner before the world and give her an ESPY award for courage.

So what should we do? How should we behave in such a culture and world?

We need to live like the first century Christians—with boldness, walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t the time to retreat to our buildings and keep silent in our world. It is time to speak up and let God’s Word be our guide. We aren’t to be ugly or harsh, but we are to speak the truth in love! We are to tell the truth and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let me encourage you, as believers, to remember that your church and its meetings are vital in these days in which we live. It is a time when we need the encouragement we get from meeting with our church family and what we hear from the Word. Let’s make sure that, as God’s people, we are right with God and living right in the world. We have nothing to fear; we have a certain hope looking for our coming Saviour! We can, and will, make a difference regardless of what is happening in the culture. We are on the winning side!

Facing Adversity in Your Life

When we deal with adversity, we have a tendency to think that we are an isolated case; however, everyone faces difficulty at various times in life. We aren’t the only ones dealing with trouble. Our problems may seem overwhelming, but the truth is, with God’s help, we can face our problems and go on!

As I travel through the pages of Scripture, I see story after story of men and women who faced trouble in their lives, but God used those troubles to mold them and accomplish His purpose.

I think about a man by the name of Joseph. Joseph knew more than his share of adversity. His would be an extremely sad story unless we knew that there was a God in heaven that was using the struggles to do a work. Joseph had to understand this truth at some point in his life, for he told his brothers: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

God used the adversity of not being able to have children in Hannah’s life. I Samuel 1 tells us that her inability caused her to plead with God. If He would allow her to conceive and have a son, she told Him that she would be willing to give him back to Him. God responded and gave her a son, Samuel, who was mightily used of God to accomplish His purpose. His life and ministry arose out of his mother’s adversity.

I don’t know if you are facing adversity or affliction today. If you aren’t, that is good; there is a good chance that, eventually, you will be dealing with one. When adversity comes, how do we deal with it?

First, we need to understand that God has a purpose in our trials—a purpose for everything that touches the life of the believer. We need to be extremely careful that we don’t waste something that God has designed to strengthen and build us. If you are saved, God has a purpose for everything that touches us. Romans 8:28-29 speaks of this truth. It is important that we understand that it doesn’t say that everything is good that touches us. It does say, however, that everything that touches the believer can work together for good. With that thought in mind, we need to ask God to show us that purpose. If God chooses not to show us, we must be content to believe that it is true, even if we can’t see it.

Second, we need to understand that God will give the grace and strength needed to deal with the matter. No matter what it is, no matter how difficult, we must believe what God has promised. I Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Hebrews 4:14-16 speaks of this truth too! God will give grace to help in the time of need as we face temptations and trials.

Third, we must understand the way to deal with a trial is to turn to God and seek Him. Psalms 13 is a brief Psalm, just six verses. It speaks of the Psalmist David going through a trial. He begins the first three verses distraught. He is struggling to figure out where God is. Those verses speak of his intense struggle and how difficult it was. By the time we get to the final three verses, something changed in the life of the Psalmist. It isn’t clear if the circumstances changed, but for sure, David’s attitude changed. He ends the Psalm singing praises to God. The Bible plainly states that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble is the person that realizes that his problems are too big and runs to the Lord with those problems. God will give grace and special attention to that man. The truth is the physical problem may go on for a while, but with God’s added grace and strength, you can deal with the problem.

You will face trouble and adversity in your life, but there is a God in Heaven that is there to help you! Turn to Him and grow in grace during the struggle. The day will come when the fog will lift, and you will be much stronger because of what God has brought you through.

Troublesome Days

II Timothy 3:1 states “in the last days perilous times shall come.” The word “perilous” means difficult to deal with. Interestingly, the next verse shows that the troubling days come because of narcissism. The Bible plainly states that “men shall be lovers of their own selves” and then begins to list issues that happen because of this self-love.

From my perspective, the things that are listed in this passage are things that are now at play in our world and are things that trouble us.

The current amoral culture in America causes me to be agitated and troubled. The fact that so many people have moved to a post-modern mindset ultimately affects how they live. Post-modernism has taught people to think that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and there are no fixed points of morality. Ultimately, it teaches that there is no God! It reminds me of what is stated in Romans 1:28—that men don’t “like to retain God in their knowledge.”

I am troubled by the seeming lawlessness of many people in our society. I am troubled by the way that our police and other law enforcement individuals have been demonized. Although there are some bad police officers, the vast majority of them are exceptional citizens who get up and go to work every day and put their lives on the line to protect us. They are good, brave men and women that have a job to do. The last thing they want to deal with is a mob mentality where people get stirred up, protest, plunder and pillage, stealing and destroying property. A lot of the issues that people are upset about when it comes to the police could have been completely averted had people just done what they were told to do when confronted by the police.

We can be troubled about the economy and how we might be affected going forward. We can be troubled by the lack of leadership among our governmental leaders.

We can be troubled about the state of affairs in our world. The instability in the Middle East greatly troubles many people in this world. It would seem that our world is on the brink of World War Three. The radical element of Islam is bent on jihad and the establishment of a caliphate. Like our Jewish friends in Israel, we are greatly concerned about what could happen should Iran develop nuclear weapons.

How do we respond to these troubling days? Let me share a few thoughts.

  1. We must understand that this trouble means that we are drawing close to the end of this age. For that reason, our hearts should have hope. Jesus promised that He would return, and when we read the passages in I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4, we realize we will soon be changed and removed from this planet.
  2. We should understand that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7). Therefore, our hope isn’t in the things of man or even the issues at play in our world but in Christ alone. We are reminded in Hebrews 12 that our eyes are to remain fixed on our Saviour.
  3. We are called to be witnesses for Christ, regardless of what is going on in our world. We are like the stewards in the Lord’s parable that were entrusted with his talents. We are to take the truths of the gospel and share them with folks along life’s way. Winning people to Christ and helping them develop in the faith is the greatest and most important thing we can do in these troubling times.
  4. We need to pray for our government. You and I may not agree with the direction of those that lead us, but we are commanded to pray for them (I Timothy 2), and we are to obey them (Romans 13) until they command us to do something that violates God’s truths. I think we all know that our President and Congressional leaders, as well as the justices on the Supreme Court, need to be supported through our prayers.
  5. The final thing we can do is obey Philippians 4:4-9. We are to think on the right things. We are to be “careful,” but we are to pray and think on the right things; then as verse nine states, the God of peace will be with us.

Don’t Quit

On January 4, I preached my first messages from the pulpit of Cleveland Baptist Church for 2015. In my study leading up to that first Sunday, I was directed by the Holy Spirit to Galatians 6:7-9. In that passage, Paul talks about the law of sowing and reaping and gives us both the negative side of that law (“he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption”) and the positive side (“he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting”).

Interestingly, the word “corruption” in this text speaks of rotting garbage. When we allow our flesh to dictate our life and allow sinful aspects to overrun us—mark it down—it is like stinking up a life, and nothing stinks worse than rotting garbage. The garbage dump is definitely not a place where I want to live. However, too many people have sown to the flesh and find that they are living on the garbage dump. What sounded so attractive and seemed so inviting has turned ugly and has brought a terrible stench.

The last several years I have read the book of Proverbs through once every month. In that book, sin is dressed up like a provocative woman. She is called a strange woman; she is decadent and appeals to the eye. She is inviting, offering herself and a good time to those that will respond to her. However, as Proverbs 5:4-5 points out, “But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.”

The other admonition that Paul gives us is that sowing to the Spirit is profitable—a person that sows to the Spirit will reap life everlasting. The problem is that our flesh doesn’t like the Spirit; it resists and rebels against spiritual things. That is why Paul makes the statement in I Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

Galatians 6:9 is basically an admonition not to quit in the matter of sowing the right kind of seed. Because there is a period of time between sowing and reaping and there isn’t instant gratification in the realm of the Spirit, it is easy to get discouraged and weary in well doing. Yet we are told to keep on because we will reap if we faint not.

Let me give you a few reasons not to quit sowing the right kind of seed!

  1. I think I shouldn’t quit because of where I want to be in my life. I need to look at the end of the road! Where does the path I want to travel take me? Things that are inviting up front can end up bringing corruption to a life. Things that are less attractive to the flesh but are promoted by the Spirit, bring joy and gladness when we obey. The end of that path is life eternal. The Bible never speaks of the flesh in good terms; however, the Spirit is always spoken of in positive ways.
  2. I ought not to quit because of the promise of reaping what I sow! There is the promise of reaping the benefit of what you sow. The law of sowing and reaping is an inevitable law; it cannot be altered—whatever you plant you will eventually reap.
  3. I shouldn’t quit because of those that are coming behind me. I have too many eyes looking at me. I need to live in such a way that my testimony is clear and I don’t cause others to stumble because of what they see or don’t see.
  4. I shouldn’t quit because Jesus didn’t quit! He finished His course and despised the shame, but He purchased salvation for us. He now says to run your race and don’t quit!

It is obvious that God is faithful, and He will reward those who are faithful too! I want to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” As you go through 2015, keep in mind that you are sowing every day. Make sure you are sowing the right things in your life!