Is Perception Really Reality?

We’ve all heard the phrase “perception is reality.” Its a phrase I often use when talking with our volunteer greeters and ushers at church. We want to make sure they are as friendly and welcoming to our guests as possible because “perception is reality:” if your guests perceive that they are welcome,d then they really will feel welcome. Yet, I’ve noticed a growing trend of reversing this phrase. Many people talk about how their perception is reality. I perceive that Bob is a total jerk, so therefore Bob is a total jerk. Somehow we’ve reasoned that if we perceive it then that’s how it is, which can be a dangerous practice. I’ve seen many relationships wrecked, and many ministry opportunities missed, because of this thought process.

When I was in a seminary I had an internship at a church. My first week I was reamed up and down by a church member. This experience devastated me. In my mind I was faced with two possibilities: either this person was a total jerk, or I was already failing at my job. I explained the situation to the Senior Pastor, who alerted me to the reality. This gentleman was a fantastic guy, but he was experiencing a rough patch in life. He worked on Wall Street, and had recently engaged in a common contract negation tactic in which he threatened to quit unless he received a certain raise. His company responded by summarily walking him out the door. He had a family, a mortgage on an expensive home, a car payment, etc., and felt like his world was crumbling. The Pastor explained that his outburst likely had little to do with me, and that I should be patient with the man and add him to my prayers. Sure enough, the man ended up being one of my most adamant supporters, and I came to have a great relationship with him. If I would have simply perceived that this man was a jerk I would have missed out on a great relationship.

Many of the astutely religious folks of Jesus’ day fell into this perception-reality trap. They perceived that since Jesus spent time with notorious sinners that he too must be a notorious sinner. The Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:30-32. They completely missed the reality of who Jesus was. He was spending his time with notorious sinners not because he was one, but because he desired to save them.

What are we missing in our lives by thinking that our perception is reality? Are we hurting our relationships? Are we missing opportunities to serve others? Are we failing to see people the way God created them? Instead of always going with our perception lets approach others with the type of love, patience, and acceptance that Jesus has always shown.

Two of Jesus’ Followers

Luke 24:15New International Version (NIV)

15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;

As I stand back the day after Easter, my heart is still full of knowing our Savior lives! Can you imagine on that day when Jesus left the tomb, that he went out and met with two of his followers.

Obviously in this writing the men had no idea it was him. It says in Luke 24:16 that God kept them from recognizing him. These were two simple followers of Christ, not disciples, yet Jesus met with them.

These men are telling Jesus all what happened to the man from Nazareth. They called him a prophet and mighty teacher. They had not realized that he was the Messiah and the Savior of the world.

Jesus took time for two ordinary men who were called followers. Aren’t you encouraged by that today? Jesus continues to send his voice into our lives through the Holy Spirit. He is no longer limited to certain places. The Spirit is everywhere.

I pray that our lives continue to be impacted by the Risen King! That he still calls on ordinary men. He walks and talks with us no matter what road we are on.

In verse 32, the men say to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road.” Let’s allow our hearts to burn for Jesus. In doing so, we will stay the course of life and be men on fire for God!

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

Vital Ministries News

John 19:42New International Version (NIV)

42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby,they laid Jesus there.

Today is a day of silence in Scripture. After Jesus was crucified, he was laid in a tomb. Only Roman guards stood next to the tomb guarding for supposed grave robbers.

Even though Scripture is quiet, we know that our Lord was at work in Spirit. My mind goes back to that empty tomb I saw at Jerusalem. It was chilling to walk into that place of which they thought Jesus was laid.

Let’s look at today with eyes of over 2000 years ago. Remember what our Lord did as payment for our sins. A solemn thought at best. Yes, tomorrow is Easter, and we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. But today, let’s remember the sacrifice and keep our eyes on the cross.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

He Went

As I prepared to write this week’s commentary, it was not lost on me that it would publish on Good Friday.  I pray that I do some honor to this day for my Lord.

Romans 5:7  (NKJV) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 

As I think on what it was that God did for us through His sacrifice of His only begotten Son, I am humbled.  I’m drawn to a passage in Romans chapter 5 beginning with verse 7.  I think about all the instances in my life, past and present, in which I have withheld forgiveness, grace.  How much bitterness do I hold to for a slight, real or perceived?  I imagine, there is likely not one of you reading, that could not ask him/herself the same and answer zero.  I would like to think that I would, should the occasion arise, be willing to lay down my life in sacrifice for another.  Yet, I read this verse and am ashamed.  Under a load of conviction, I realize that I cannot even bring myself to forgive some for even minor offenses.  I hold grudges, to varying degrees, but hold them all the same.  If my heart is unwilling to let go and forgive another, why should I believe myself capable of laying down my life for another? Why should I believe that I would be capable of the service to others God would see me perform?  What kind of example am I projecting for my Savior?

We’ve all done it, justify to ourselves and others the validity of our withholding.  “If he hadn’t done… if she would have just…why should I…when it was them that…”  As we prepare to celebrate Good Friday and gaze upon the bloodstained cross, ask yourself, did Jesus withhold?  Did Jesus justify to Himself, others and God why He shouldn’t have to go?  He could have.  In fact, He’s the only Man in the history of the world who had that right.  Yet… He didn’t. 

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

He went.  He chose to pay the price, sacrifice Himself, though we did not deserve His grace and were “unworthy” of His love.  He asked nothing of us.  He chose not to wait for us to rectify the situation, clean up our act and prove our worthiness.  He loved us, and He went. He went for all of us, despite the pain and offenses we riddle Him with, He went.  

Romans 5:9-11 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.  

Read through those verses again, please.  Jesus went to the cross for us, the undeserving, the enemy, for love.  Will you go?  For love?  Have a blessed weekend.

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

 

Get Away

If you had a few days without work or any other obligations, what would you do?   If you had a week to go anywhere in the world, where would it be?  Last week, I had a chance to visit with a friend I only see 1-2x each year and we eventually got to what vacations we have taken or plan to take this next year, as we both like to travel.  Another friend who is very busy during tax season also takes a vacation when things have calmed down in late April.  What’s the point of taking vacations?  Is it to brag to your friends about what you have done, to take the family to a new place, to add another thing to the ‘to do’ list, or maybe even to rest?  All of the above?  Everyone is a little different in what they prefer to do on vacation, as some like to relax and others take in as much as possible.  My default is the latter, as I like to see and do as much as able with little chance of overload, especially when far away from home, but I have come to appreciate the opportunity to rest as well.  How often do you take a break from your normal routine?  What’s the point? 

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Genesis 2:2

Have you ever felt isolated from the rest of the world?  Maybe it was when you were far away from home, or on a hike in the wilderness without any one around for miles, but you felt far apart from everyone else.  It may not be as extreme as the Maine Hermit, who went 27 years with only 1 other human encounter, but most of us have taken time to get away from our normal routine.  I recall a mission trip I was on in the Bolivian jungle when we were a 3 hour drive or boat ride from the nearest town of 2,000 people, seemingly far away from civilization.  Just yesterday, I took 15 minutes during a lunch break in Centerville and went for a walk along a trail into the woods along the edge of town.  This gave me a chance to slow down, refocus, reflect with God, and energized me for the rest of my busy day.  Sometimes, just closing the door and turning off the computer is all we need to take a few quiet minutes to do the same.  Do you recognize the need to take a break during a busy season, or even on a hectic day? 

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Luke 5:16

When we don’t have a chance to step away from the work before us, whether that be ministry, our job, taking care of others, or other obligations, we can become burned out.  We can get physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted if we overextend ourselves in a number of ways.  We may not always recognize our own need to take a break before we have overdone it, but others may see it in us.  Look to the example Jesus gave us in his 3 year ministry.  He knew he only had a limited amount of time and ministered to many, but not to everyone.  He often took time and went away by himself to pray and seek direction from his Father.  Should we not do the same? 

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Following time away with God, the response is not more seclusion, but almost always a call to action of some sort, directed by God.  Christ was rested and refocused to continue his mission and ministry.  Remember when Elijah wanted to run away from everyone because life was so overwhelming?  What happened?  He rested and spoke with God, who empowered him to finish his mission instead of giving up.  Every time I go on a 2 day retreat or even take 10 minutes in the middle of my day to pray and wait on the Lord, He calls me to action in some way, and gives me the knowledge and encouragement to go forward.  So, the next time you get to take a vacation, or even just a break from your daily burdens, ask the tough questions of God and let him guide you in your next steps.  When we are in step with his Spirit, the work before us does not seem as daunting and the path ahead is one taken by steps of faith, regardless of where it leads.  Walk with boldness when you are walking with Him!

Strength in Christ,
Clark

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