Honour Forgotten

Giving Honour, which I have looked at in some recent posts, is a matter of the heart. We are commanded to give honour, not as an outward form but as a heart choice. The problem in our society is that we have lost the notion of honour and only the form remains.

In bygone eras the giving of honour was a matter of character training. Children and youth learned to hold people in a place of honour. From that heart to give honour the child would happily do the things that expressed the honour in their heart.

When I was a child, and that wasn’t so long ago in historical terms, children still called adults by a title, such as Mr Jones or Mrs Smith. We were taught to respect our elders. Adults could not be spoken to the way we would speak to another child in the school yard. We had to say, “Excuse me”, when we wanted their attention. We had to wait for them to give us their attention before speaking. And so it went.

In a generation before mine it was customary for children to remain silent in the company of adults. At the dinner table, for example, children were to sit quietly and not speak unless spoken to. This behaviour pattern expressed honour to the adults and humility and self-control on the part of the children.

In the middle of last century it was still considered reasonable for a wife to serve her husband. She might prepare a hot drink for him and fetch his slippers to make him comfortable.

When travelling in a bus or train children were to give up their seat to an adult and everyone would give up their seat for an elderly person.

Honour was given to adults, the aged, those who were in positions of responsibility, those needing care, and so on. However, many people only learned the form, and not the heart attitude of honour that went with it.

In a previous post I pointed out that honour is a visible process. I’m going to almost contradict myself here, by noting that it is possible to go through the external motions, but not actually have the right heart attitude.

What happened historically was that children were taught to do the right thing, but not to feel the right heart attitude. Giving up their seat to an adult was seen as a duty, like a chore, but not as an expression of honour for that person.

Wives were told to please their husband, but as a matter of duty, not as an expression of the honour that was to come from their heart.

Children were told to be silent but did not understand why. So they demanded to be heard and no-one knew how to deal with that.

The actions have all but disappeared, because the people trying to teach them only held them as duties and appearances that had to be kept up. When the actions were challenged or disobeyed the teachers could not come up with a compelling reason to reinstate the lost practices. The problem? The practices had become a hollow and empty form of the process that was remembered. The action prevailed for a season, without the true heart basis upon which the actions were built.

We need to rediscover ‘honour’ and that will be reflected in actions that express honour to others. But it starts in the heart. If a child despises their parent then forced acts of honour are vain. If a child has no heart for the elderly then they will resent having to give up their seat for those people.

Honour has been forgotten and needs to be rediscovered. I pray that the Lord give us grace to make that discovery and to change the way people behave because we are able to transform their hearts first.

Peddling Poison

How many times have you been poisoned? Have you always recovered or have you suffered permanent loss?

Those are silly questions, aren’t they? Poisoning is something we read about in books, from olden days and far-off lands. We laugh at the idea.

“The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, while the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!” (Poisoning featured several times in the 1956 Danny Kaye movie, The Court Jester).

It’s ludicrous to think you’ve ever been poisoned, isn’t it? Surely you’d know if someone tried to poison you, wouldn’t you? Maybe not, if you’ve not been attentive.

The most common poison people use on each other today, in homes, schools, offices, the media and society at large, has doubtless been tasted by everyone, young and old. I dare say there is hardly a person on the planet who has not been poisoned in some way or other in the past year. We have all drunk from the “vessel with the pestle” that has the “pellet with the poison”.

The toxic substance that is doing all the damage is easy to consume. It is often drunk down willingly and passed on to others with hardly a thought. While its effects on the body are minimal and not fatal, the effect on people’s lives, often for as long as they live, are deadly and pervasive. Whole villages, organisations and communities have been poisoned by this stuff.

What is it called? I was hoping you’d ask. See if you can work it out in the following example.

A new person enters one of your social circles. He or she may meet you at work, school, church, social functions or some other place. You find them friendly and likable. You enjoy their company and welcome them into your circle of associates. You may even plan to get to know them better and maybe invite them to social events you organise.

Then someone come along and whispers information to you that you were not previously aware of. You may find out, for example, that the newcomer is under suspicion for theft, or some other crime. Possibly you find out that they recently abandoned their family for nothing but selfish reasons. It may be that they support some horrible cause. I’m not talking about gossip or lies here. Let us assume that there is ample proof for the claims being made. Someone is simply passing on the information without malice or evil intent. However, whatever the information may be, it causes you to feel sore on the inside.

That sore feeling is the poison taking effect. You are hurt by the news.

So now, what happens next time you meet that person? How do you feel toward them now? Do you continue to welcome them into your circle or do you find it hard to be warm and open to them?

The universal experience is to feel a strong desire to cut that person off. The universal experience is that the budding friendship and the respect and warmth that existed is now poisoned off!

It’s based on feelings of offence that cause you to resent the other person. The poison is the resentment which is passed on, penetrating your heart and mind and killing off something in your attitudes and lifestyle. It’s a toxic poison that has killed off millions of things each year, right around the world.

Before you dismiss this as something of little consequence, let me show you how it works on the grander scale. The poison of resentment has powerful social impact.

At one time in our history it was normal for a woman to enjoy her home-maker role and her domestic responsibilities with the children. At that time women found fulfilment and delight in what is now considered an old-fashioned social order.

Then along came various voices which sowed resentment. Examples were touted of women who were oppressed by domesticity. The case was presented that every woman should be allowed to openly compete with her husband and completely reverse the domestic order if possible. In all the to and fro of the agitation and feminist action many offences were sown and resentments formed.

Now many women in domestic roles, looking after children and out of the workforce, feel resentment toward their situation. They feel as if they are being looked down on. They feel put-down and needing to justify their predicament. The domestic situation which is still able to be enjoyed by women is not enjoyed any more. The roles which their grandmothers found fulfilment in are now not suitable.

Why? Because a poison has been spread through society. It is the poison of ‘resentment’. Things that are noble and worthy have been made to seem offensive. Attitudes of resentment have been spawned toward those things.

Millions of people have been impacted by this kind of toxic attitude, causing the whole society to go through upheaval. While some people demand the right to make their own choice, they resent certain options and those who make them. Many women who intend to enjoy their domestic, stay-at-home role as a wife and mother come under the pressure of resentment from other women who feel duty-bound to rail on them

As another example, is it possible that your attitudes toward rich or successful people have been poisoned off in some way? Have you heard talk that the only way to become really rich is to take advantage of others? Do you tend to feel that super rich people are worthy of resentment?

And what about cultural resentments? Do you have toxic thoughts about people from America, Asia, third-world countries, jungle villages, extremist groups or high society? I guarantee that at least some of those attitudes are anchored in resentment which came from your reaction to information you heard about them. For example, there is a cultural hatred of Americans which is being propagated in many places today, with ugly consequences.

Whole cultures have been sprayed with poison, through popular media and social attitudes. Millions of possibilities lie dead on the ground, because resentment-based attitudes prevail, killing off any chance of change for the better.

Let me take you back to my starting questions. Have a look at them again and see if you might have a different answer now.

How many times have you been poisoned? Have you always recovered or have you suffered permanent loss?

It’s time you became aware of the poison you are being fed. It’s time to do something about it. Don’t you think your life could be different if you could take the antidote to those toxins?

Hmmmmm…..

Choosing a Source

In previous discussions I raised the issue of who we look to as our source. I can’t get past how important this issue is so my mind has thrown up various illustrations to tease it out. What else should I do with something like that, but to Blog It! So now I can foist it onto you. I pray these thought bring truth alive in your own experience.

I once read of a thriving Christian ministry which relied on hundreds of faithful back office people to process mail, take bookings and so on. A large team of ladies came in each day, often having to work back very late, struggling to get things processed, especially before a big event.

Because these were volunteers they were never remunerated or rewarded for their dedicated service. It was their choice to become servants of the ministry, whatever their personal motivation may have been. Some adored the main ministry people. Others believed that God wanted them to give their time and talents to serve that ministry. Some others were pressed by the need itself to come in and tackle the overwhelming mountain of paperwork, etc.

Now, in the case I am thinking of, the ministry came to an end, with the death of one of the leaders. Sadly the assets of the ministry were grabbed by some people who came on the scene at a late hour. Those new controllers of the ministry used the assets for their own benefit. The hundreds of faithful helpers were given nothing, despite their years of sacrificial investment into making the ministry successful.

But for the purpose of my illustration, let’s imagine that some of the ladies were kept on for another year, maybe because computerisation made it possible to function with less staff. Then, as the ministry closed, the small group who were retained were given a parting gift, say $1,000 each, for helping the ministry.

What we have now is a perfect environment for people’s hearts to be sorely tested. A sense of injustice is created. Some people will quickly become offended and resentful, even on behalf of others when they were not personally involved themselves.

Now, I’m getting close to my starting point – so stay with me. Imagine two ladies who worked together over the years and both made huge personal sacrifices to support the ministry through its most needy seasons. They are sent off with many others as the ministry is winding down. Then, a year later they both learn that the few who were kept on have just been paid several thousand dollars for their voluntary services. How do these two ladies react?

One is upset and joins with others who voice complaint to the ministry. They demand that they, too, be given something for their sacrificial input over the years. When nothing is given them, the lady becomes bitter and resentful. She stops going to her church, because her minister fails to understand her right to be upset. For the rest of her life she never again makes any contribution to a Christian ministry. She brings up her offence everywhere she goes, even to people for whom the whole thing means nothing.

The other lady quietly gets on with her life. She turns down her friend’s persistent calls to join in legal action against the ministry. She never speaks about the compensation issue, but does often speak about what a joy it has been to serve the ministry. She occasionally meets people who were touched by the ministry and she always enjoys those encounters.

When she is asked to explain why she is not bitter like many others she worked with, she simply explains that her service was for the Lord. He is her master. She never expected any reward and that gave her the joy of giving up hours and even years of her life as a gift to Him. If she were to now seek compensation she would lose the joy of having given herself to God in loving service. She would also be putting a cheap dollar value on her life and her time. She explains that she would much rather receive eternal rewards of immeasurable worth, than a few measly dollars here on earth.

By that heart attitude this woman is choosing her source to be God. Her friend chose human institutions as her source. When we look to man to meet our needs, to compensate us or to give us value, we miss the wonderful delight of being given value by God, Himself.

I am endorsed by God. I am His servant. He pays my bills. He provides my right to minister. If He needs me to minister into some context where I do not have the privilege of entry, then that is His problem. If He wants me to get a certain qualification or endorsement, then I will do it as an act of worship to Him.

Every time you are tempted to complain that man has not done for you what you hoped or expected them to do, take a moment to consider whether you are not selling yourself short and making man your highest reference point. If you choose to trust yourself to God, instead, then you can receive from God things that no man will ever be able to give you.

Choose Your Own Zone

Being “in the zone” is a powerful tool for optimising our performance and life experience. But did you know you can choose your own zone?

It makes sense, really. If we have any ability at all to get into the zone – to keep focus, maintain confidence, access our best skills, push past our distractions and discouragements – and I have shown that people can do those things, we effectively choose our zone.

Consider the tennis player who is about to be beaten. They face the next point with leaden feet, heavy heart and weary limbs, already facing the emotion of their ultimate defeat. Imagine that just at that moment they think of something encouraging. They see their opponent looking unsteady on their feet, or the opponent serves two double faults. Or possibly they remember another occasion where they were in this situation and came up to win. Whatever happens, imagine that they start to access the thoughts and feelings of confidence. What happens to their play, their attitude, their emotions and mental focus? They have effectively chosen to be in a different internal zone than they were in previously.

That’s what I mean by “choose your own zone”. Any one of us at just about any time can change our zone. You don’t have to be in the mental frame of mind you are currently in. You don’t have to be in the performance mode you are currently in.

Employees struggling through their last hour at work, unmotivated, discouraged and focused on what is waiting for them after work, can change their zone and become highly effective, motivated and excited staff. It’s a matter of which zone they choose to be in.

We each have multiple zones we can choose to access at any time. For example, if I were to share with you a bunch of tragic stories I could move you toward a sorrowful mood and possibly get you to become totally absorbed by the emotions that evokes. Alternatively I could tell you jokes and get you laughing, lifting you into a different zone altogether. I could talk with you about how valuable your contribution is, building up your self-esteem and giving you warm fuzzy feelings. I could confront you with a difficult challenge which I assure you and convince you that you are specially capable of championing. I could also make you feel guilty about your inefficiency or other failings. Or I could stir up one or other of your personal skills – be it creativity, organisation, industry, analysis, communication, relating, or whatever.

All of those various zones are accessible from where you are right now. So you have multiple doorways leading out of your present state. And you have a large degree of control over which of those doorways you will go through.

Even if you don’t personally have the ability to push through some of those doors you may well know how to get through them. I recall female friends at high school who told me about the different songs they would play to move their mood. I have taught study skills, including how to set up an environment that is ideally conducive to diligent and focused study. I have listened to sermons which I knew would build my faith, including listening to sermons I have preached myself! A sleazy chap once boasted of how he took his girlfriend to a particular movie which got her in the mood for his immoral advances. So, we can all access external tools which help us change our internal gear, open an internal doorway and access different zones to the ones we are habitually drawn to.

And, believe it or not, that’s what people in the Bible actually did. So this whole rave about the ‘zone’ isn’t a motivational, success oriented study. It’s about helping you access some amazing spiritual realities which you probably miss much of the time. And, trust me, we’re getting there, one step at a time. So keep a watch for my next chance to rave about this important theme.