The Filter of Virtue

 

filter“Delightfully loved friends, don’t trust every spirit, but carefully examine what they say[a] to determine if they are of God, because many false prophets have mingled into the world”

(1 John 4:1 TPT The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC)

I wonder over the years just how many lies and half-truths we have believed about other people just because rumors got started…or news stories got published/aired…or how many times a tale got repeated with a little “yeast” added to it in increments? How many people have had a stain permanently grafted onto their reputations because of spoken/written words which weren’t true but just a matter of conjecture? We put so much stock in what we hear or read because we put stock in what we perceive to be “reliable sources.” Unfortunately, perception, even false perception, becomes the reality to whoever buys into it. We would all do well to ask ourselves more often, when exposed to information, “But what if it isn’t…true?”

We are bombarded on all sides with too much information. It’s yet another reason why I’m spending less time around social media. I don’t want to hear the dirt on people or situations. I don’t want to have to decide, in situations which aren’t my business, whether what I hear is fact or fiction; and truthfully, fact or fiction, some things I just don’t need to know! I don’t want to hear things that violate the peace in my spirit, or invite unnecessary drama into my life–or even open doors for the enemy of my soul to have legal access. Not everything passes through the filter of Philippians 4:8: things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.

I’m trying to be more mindful of this. I have gotten swept into believing certain things before, just because I put confidence in “they” when I heard that “they” said or say. As I gasp at how easily people buy into believing horrible things and how anger and outrage and hatred explode, I’m reminded of times when I too have believed reports that weren’t true. It’s a time to pray daily for revelation and discernment so we won’t be deceived; and it is a time to pray daily for fortitude when we could find ourselves in the crosshairs of the accuser.

Persecution and opposition will come, believers…we haven’t had to see much of it here in this country, but we need to brace ourselves for the idea of being hated for what (and Whom) we believe…and a lot of it will come through people who believe lies. Be quick to repent, and be quick to forgive. Remember that the Word says to be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…and it also says not to believe every spirit but to try the spirits to see if they be of God; but to try the spirits, because there are many false messengers in the world.

Lord, help me not to be deceived even in seemingly inconsequential things, because it never is inconsequential. Help me to shut down what I allow into the gateways to my soul–my eyes and ears. Help me to be courageous enough to tell people, “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to know,” instead of having to try to cleanse my spirit of what I’ve allowed in. Help us not to be deceived by false messengers, and help us not to be guilty of being a relay runner of false messages by passing on what is not true.  Keep me pure in heart, in motives, in intentions, and in truth always!  In Jesus’ name…

 

Optical Illusions

Illusion.png

The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes. So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is clouded or evil, then your body will be filled with evil and dark clouds. And the darkness that takes over the body of a child of God who has gone astray—that is the deepest, darkest darkness there is. (Matthew 6:22-23)  The Voice (VOICE)

 

Most of the strife we encounter between ourselves and others can be traced back to #perceptions instead of reality. It’s said that perception IS that person’s reality; and while that may be the basis on which people make their decisions and speak their life-and-death-in-the-tongue words, perception is not necessarily #truth. Learning the difference is vital to your survival if you don’t want to walk around miserable and vexed in your soul all the time, always in drama and conflict with other people.

The devil knows how to use “optical illusions” to trip you up and keep you upset, angry, unforgiving, paranoid, suspicious, offended, and biased toward other people. He counts on you being driven by your emotions, because it’s when your emotions are all over the place that you have distorted perception. When you see that person whose presence makes you uneasy, the first thing the devil does is whisper in your ear. “That person hates you.” “You can’t trust him/her.” “They’re jealous of you.” “That group over there? Crooks. Dirty. They’ll cut your throat the first chance they get.” “She is out to get you.” “He thinks you’re ugly/fat/stupid.” “Her political views make her your enemy.” “He thinks you’re nothing because of the color of your skin and he’ll treat you unfairly.” And friends, when we lend him our ears and eyes, then the other person’s facial expression, tone, body language, quietness, nervousness, etc., will almost certain be interpreted incorrectly or in a way that creates further tension and distance.

We are so quick to assume that people feel negative thoughts toward us, when in fact much of the time, people don’t have an opinion about us one way or another. We are all so inundated with information coming from all sides that we are apt to misspeak or to act in haste or to have a “look” that others can read into incorrectly–at any given time. You can hurt someone unknowingly, definitely unintentionally, just by being lost in thought. And so can I. So, shouldn’t we cut one another just a little slack? Shouldn’t we remind ourselves that the Word tells us our fight is not against flesh and blood? When you know this to be true, and remind yourself of it, you’re less likely to be moved by that initial reaction to what you’re observing. And pertaining to that flesh-and-blood Scripture, while it’s sometimes true that the devil is manipulating that other person’s ACTIONS–at other times it’s forces of darkness at work manipulating our PERCEPTIONS.

Yeah, it’s possible that certain people don’t like us. And if they do…so what? Really? We can’t control their decisions or their opinions, BUT we can choose to love them and to take the high road anyway. And, consider this: what if that other person is acting odd because the devil’s whispering that same lie about you that he whispers to you about the other person? What if you both think the other is a hater, when neither really is? And the real culprit sits and laughs from the sidelines because of the trainwreck of relationships…based on…perception. I had that happen once in a very memorable way. I went through several years of believing a certain person had a strong dislike of me…and because it made me act standoffish, that person in turn thought the very same thing about me. The Lord arranged a very timely, honest discussion about it, which healed a friendship and eventually led to some great conversations about faith and eternity. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this person didn’t have long to live. What if that wall had remained up?

Lord, anoint our eyes with eyesalve! With our prayers and affection toward You, we chase after truth even in the little things. We don’t want broken or strained relationships. We don’t want the enemy sowing discord. We don’t want to step out on the premise of an optical illusion to find that we are falling from the ledge of a carefully-crafted deceit. Sharpen our perception, Holy Spirit, so that we can tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not. As long as there is disunity so thick in the air we could cut it with a knife, we will never be able to operate as one Body. With skewed vision, we will always stand in opposition to, or at the very least, in distrust of, one another.

Yes, we will have to apologize to one another sometimes. Sometimes You’ll lead us to apologize or be the icebreaker even when we don’t feel like we are the party who’s in the wrong (smile). But we pray for godly love to overtake us, so that there’s clear communication and no room for wrong perception. Father, in times where someone truly has something against us, help us to navigate with wisdom and to handle the situation the way Jesus would. In this world, and sometimes even within the Body of Christ, there are at times people whose personality clashes with our own–nothing personal, just two personalities that don’t naturally meld. We can recognize that and garrison up our minds not to go at war with the other person who rubs us the wrong way. Sometimes if we take time to learn that person’s history, it can even help us understand why he or she behaves that way–whether or not it excuses bad behavior. Some of the people we butt heads with the hardest in this season may potentially become our biggest defenders when a crisis hits.

Help us to seek to please You, because when we are truly out to please You first, we will have a bent toward humility and right heart attitudes. May we be led by Your Spirit to sense times in which we need to behave better or to be more respectful or considerate of other people. May we live in such a way that if others do say bad things about us or treat us unfairly, they will feel convicted. Don’t let other people be deceived about us, and don’t let us be deceived about other people. We want love–YOUR love–to reign supreme in our lives, that love which is longsuffering, believes the best in other people, and is driven by great hope. We ask in Jesus’ name, as we receive eyes that see and ears that hear the TRUTH.

 

The Spirit’s Eye

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“No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it.  No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.  But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.”  (I Cor. 2:9-10 NCV)

Years ago, my now brother-in-law Tommy had a poster on his office wall that, at first glance, just appeared to be a nice purple-and-blue pattern.  I thought it was pretty but really didn’t see anything outstanding there.  Eventually one day, I heard some of the others talking about the picture-inside-the-picture…and I was intrigued enough to press in closer.  I saw nothing.  It was one of those times where you wonder, “Should I be like the people in the Emperor’s New Clothes story, and pretend I see what isn’t there…or do I just admit that I don’t get it?”

Well, I ‘fessed up…I really didn’t get it.  So Tommy said, “You’re trying too hard.  You have to just relax and let your vision blur a little.  When you stop trying to SEE it, you’ll see it!”  And he was right.  After a couple of tries, it was as if the hidden images materialized out of nowhere.  Now, the theme of that particular poster turned out to be Star Trek…but after I discovered the whole “Mind’s Eye” picture series, I just became an instant fan.  I sought out other similar pictures to peer into and enjoy.

As believers in Christ, many (probably most) of us breeze, at least in our fledgling years, right past situations that appear one way but have hidden spiritual undertones.  It’s not a sin to be unable to read those signs; yet, we can miss some really important, even critical, messages God is trying to show us in the spirit realm.  We can live a very superficial Christian life, saved as can be, but still not have a depth of understanding that will mature us and make our walk effective.

Now, to become spiritually-minded, we don’t have to become hermits, shave our heads, or adopt bizarre behaviors!  However, our affections and appetites change as we draw closer to God.  As we begin to savor the deep things in the Word, and as we spend time in prayer and just fellowship with our Father, a side to us is opened up which we didn’t know we had.  Carnal mindsets start dying off, and we begin to understand a greater scope of what’s going on around us.

I’ll give you a little example, because becoming spiritually-minded has been and is an ongoing process with me, too.  At one time, I might have looked at face values of situations which need changing, and might have only seen the visible problem instead of the hidden cause of it.  The Lord has enabled me, over time, to become aware of the “picture-within-the-picture.”   Rather than just seeing a geographical area full of drug-addicted people, and shaking my head at the astounding statistics, now I realize that there are territorial strongholds which exist on a different plane: addictive spirits which acquire dominance in a particular place…strongholds which can only be broken through prayer, through fasting, and through persistence.  The problems we “see” in the natural realm are pretty much just the results, and not heart of those problems at all!  So when we try to attack that growth from the stem up, it keeps coming back.  We cannot do war against a spiritual entity by fighting against flesh and blood opponents!  Try to rid your lawn of the clover and dandelions by mowing, and see how long they stay gone!

Now, there will always be a need for support groups,positive changes in the natural, etc., but until we see beyond the visible to the root of the problem, and begin to conduct warfare on the root-end of the situation, we will be at best just maintaining.  We can clean out corruption by calling in the authorities, but unless there is spiritual deliverance—unless ground is taken by righteousness where once was wickedness—we will see different faces but the same problem, stemming from that original root.

There is a bit of a price to pay for becoming spiritually-minded.  It comes right back around to time spent in God’s presence.  You cannot think like God thinks if you aren’t willing to hang out with Him and let the mind of Christ rub off on you!  Having His mind won’t make you weird, cultic, eccentric, or “out there;” although, folks may just not get you when you make observations from a perspective they can’t see.  Being occasionally misunderstood is a very small investment, when going deeper into your relationship with God empowers you to pray and to see in a much greater way than before.

God doesn’t give us this ability just so we can feel “enlightened” above other people.  No, that’s where we could dance a fine line of hypocrisy.  It doesn’t make us superior to the average believer, so there’s absolutely no room to gloat in one’s spirituality.  God gives us that deeper vision so that we can see as He sees–to respond as He responds,  and so that we will be proactive to promote His righteous will on earth.  To merely SEE on a deeper level would only drive us to despair, without God’s Word and without His instructions on what we are to do with the revelation He’s given us.  Remember, the devil has his own counterfeit spirituality too, and some may confuse being psychic with the kind of spiritual sight I’m talking about.  When Satan approached Eve in the garden, he said that God didn’t want them to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because God didn’t want their eyes to be opened to see what He sees.  Why, that made the fruit even more delectable…to think, that she could become privy to something God was concealing from her; something with which she might then have a right to disagree!  Therein lies the difference.  When God reveals a matter to us, it’s to bring us into alignment with His will—not to consume our knowledge on our own greed, or form our own carnal opinions about it.  Satan’s intent behind luring people into pseudo-spirituality is to cause them to think independently of God’s will.  Eve managed to be duped into thinking that God was keeping her from something good.   What she, and so many others have failed to understand over the years (to their destruction), is that outside of God’s will, nothing good exists in the first place.

With more understanding comes more responsibility.  God doesn’t grant you the gift of discernment, for instance, so that you can peek into other people’s secret faults and frailties and use those weaknesses to harm them.  It’s not given with the purpose of advancing you AT ALL.  As a matter of fact, a person with special discernment may very well have to gird himself/herself up in the area of having judgmental tendencies.  A person of discernment must also learn to be silent about what God does not choose to reveal to others.  We must NOT reveal what God has confided in us, and certainly not with the motive of making ourselves look more spiritual to other people!  There’s absolutely no room for a gossiping spirit or a manipulative spirit in the life of a Believer who walks on this level.  Conversely, as our awareness of spirit realm is heightened, we must choose to become more humble, more consecrated, more surrendered to God.  Our carnal nature, if not put under submission, will only make a mess out of what God’s wanting to give us for His good purposes.  We cannot afford to try to use our gifts outside the realm of His Word and His will.  We are called to prayer, and on one’s knees is the best place to remain when humility is paramount.  Trust me…if you walk closely to God, there may be times when you discern things about other people which are going to disturb you, grieve you.  You may enter places and sense the presence of a particular controlling spirit.  Without holiness in your life, there are things you can’t bear!  With holiness and a totally submitted-to-God’s-authority frame of mind, you’ll not only be able to bear these things, you can pray the prayer of faith against the influence of the enemy in the lives of people and over localities.  We are not given the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound, calm, well-balanced mind!  Any time God reveals hidden things to you, it’s always either with yours or someone else’s protection in mind, or for you to know what type of prayer must be prayed to bring situations in line with His Kingdom and His will.  And it’s not always about identifying the negative!  God can use our sensitivity to His Spirit to reveal good, wholesome, encouraging, holy truths.  Just as important as not walking through wrong doors is the discernment to walk through the right ones!

God will even test us early on to prove whether we are trustworthy to walk on another plane.  He may instruct us to speak out over something we don’t want to address; or He may order us to keep silent about a matter even though we feel we have the “low down” on the situation.  In these times, it may be very tempting to try to make ourselves look good in front of others.  If we disobey His instructions, we disqualify ourselves from certain realms of spiritual authority.  Just as you love some people you wouldn’t trust for a minute, God loves us even when He can’t trust us…but He’d rather be able to trust us!  He wants to love you, to bless you, to promote you to do great and mighty things, but much of that depends on your obedience factor.  Remember, no matter what kind of pretty pattern we display on the outside, God uniquely sees beyond the window dressing and straight into our hearts.  May He be pleased with what He sees…

Pray with me today:  “Heavenly Father, I desire to be closer to You, and to want those things which You desire.  I have some carnal affections I’m already aware of, and some I may not be aware of.  Prune me of those tendencies toward unrighteousness.  Mature me in the things of God!  Help me to have healthy appetites and goals, and help me to have a pure heart with right motives.  There is another level I’ve not attained in my walk with You, and that level is where You will for me to come up to.  You created me for purpose, and oh, how I want to fulfill Your will in my life.  I want to be a vessel You can TRUST.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit; baptize me through and through, and give me power for service.  Help me not to see the world around me through the eyes of the flesh.  If I walk after the flesh, I’ll only fulfill the works of the flesh.  I ask You to enable me to walk after the Spirit!  When I’m confronted with the sin and the despair around me, help me to see through Your eyes.  Help me see people, even the most difficult ones, through Your eyes.  Prompt me to pray and to intercede for the lost, for the bound, and for the hopeless.  I want to be transformed today.  Help me renew my mind to Your Word, and help me to bear You much good fruit in this lifetime You’ve appointed me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”