Tag Archives: Discipleship

The process of taking hold of all that Christ embodies and offers through salvation into eternal life, sanctification into abundant life and the empowerment to share with others the ability to have the riches of both through a personal relationship with God.

HUMAN RATIONALIZATION and SPIRITUAL MALPRACTICE©

P.E.A.R.s™ Periodic Encouragement And Reminders

Human Rationalization and Spiritual Malpractice©

by

Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Have you ever worked yourself into a tizzy over some little thing, or perhaps gone the other way and convinced yourself that whatever you were doing or not doing was acceptable conduct?

I know for me personally, my emotions or desires will frequently lead my mind in either of those directions if I don’t filter the process through a litmus test of God’s Reality or carefully compare the tint and color to His Palette of Truth.

This is very important, because the rationalization capabilities of the human mind (if left to its own devices and not Spiritually guided) will all too often produce color blind results.

Most all of us have heard and/or used the following rationalizations:

“Everybody’s doing it.”  (The “Aw, gee, Mom!” argument that somehow large numbers of participation (whether real or perceived) make it right.

“No harm, no foul.”  (Well, God didn’t strike me dead, so what I did must not have been too bad.)

“Live and let live.”  (He doesn’t bother me; I won’t bother him.)

“It’s not my place to say anything.”  (It’s not in my job description.)

Recently, I listened to a dialog of pros and cons between members of a professional listserv to which I belong through my estate planning law practice.  The question raised by one member was whether or not there could be legal consequences (maybe even criminal charges) brought against a client who married a third party just to obtain social security benefits as a “surviving spouse” when that party dies.  This marriage of convenience was being considered, because the inquiring member’s client and the client’s real “spouse” were homosexual and not entitled to social security surviving spouse benefits from one another.

Within a short time, the dialog grew into a discussion with several members participating and quickly became an argument as to the “rights” of homosexuals with one side of the argument being that since 4-10% of the population (the accuracy of those numbers was also debated) is now homosexual, they should be recognized and given the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples.  If that were to occur, the argument went, there would be no need to fabricate a marriage of convenience to obtain social security surviving “spouse” benefits.

One of the elements of that argument was the human rationalization that:  “Everybody’s doing it, so we should accept it and change our laws to accommodate it.”  (It’s the “Aw, gee, Mom, all my friends are doing it, so that makes it an okay thing to do” argument.)

Though as humans we may want to rationalize in that direction and reach out to others in love as a commendable action, we have to remember that God is the One who provides the rules for living.  For Him, the argument that “everyone’s doing it” or that the percentages of participation have increased will not cause Him to alter His holy ways.

Perhaps the two best known examples of this in the Bible are:  “Noah and the Ark” and “Sodom and Gomorrah” found in Genesis chapters 6 and 19, respectively.  Though virtually “everyone was doing it” (living a life style contrary to God’s teachings), the known world, except for Noah and his family, was destroyed in the first instance, and in the second, the entire population of two cities and the surrounding valleys, except for Lot’s family, were destroyed because of their iniquities.

In the latter, even Abraham used human rationalization during his conversation with God seeking to save those cities if just a few righteous men could be found (beginning with fifty and moving down to ten).  Though God said he would spare the cities under those circumstances, it was not for the sake of the multitudes violating His laws, but for a few who might be found striving to live as God required.

A few years back (possibly even ten or more), I read an article in the Los Angeles Times arguing that the Bible needed to be re-written in order to be more tolerant of mankind’s society and culture.  The writer’s position was actually one step past rationalization.  Knowing that the Bible could not in any way be reasoned or interpreted as approval or acceptance of what the world has become, his solution was for mankind to write their own rules.  

In other words, if the Creator and Ruler of the universe doesn’t suit your fancy, then declare and reason that you have the right and ability to be the creator and rule maker yourself.   Such is perhaps man’s most egregious rationalization.

The second rationalization phrase set forth early in this P.E.A.R. is closely related to the first and need not be addressed separately.  However, the third and fourth present a slightly different twist to the human mind’s rationalization process – somewhat like the flip side of the same coin.  They’re similar, yet different from the first two.

“Live and let live.”  (He doesn’t bother me; I won’t bother him.)

“It’s not my place to say anything.”  (It’s not in my job description.)

The reasoning of the mind on these is basically this:  if we can’t change something into what we want it to be, just ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.  Don’t get involved.

When it comes to the Bible and God’s teachings, this is what I call Spiritual Malpractice.

Ken Sande in his book “The Peace Maker” puts it this way.

Any doctor who diagnoses cancer but fails to report it to a patient would be guilty of malpractice.  After all, a patient can be properly treated only after the disease has been identified.  Sin [all disobedience of God] works in the same way; left undiagnosed and untreated, it causes grief and spiritual deterioration – leading ultimately to death [eternal separation from God].

Every believer and follower of Christ is charged or entrusted (somewhat like a doctor) with a biblical Hippocratic oath of ethical conduct to save as many in the world from the disease of sin as they possibly can.  It is part of their Christian job description whether they want to admit it or not.  If they remain silent, they commit Spiritual malpractice and will be held accountable for their inaction on judgment day.

* * * * *

Avoiding the errors of human rationalization (trying to make Reality into something we’re willing to accept) rather than honoring God’s Word, or stepping forward to be ambassadors of Christ and proclaimers of His Kingdom are not easy to do.  Both will bring consternation from the world and charges of being intolerant, judgmental and self righteous.

So, what’s the answer?

Do it anyway, because that’s what God commands.  Believers are to be watchmen and to warn those who are dying and if the believer fails to do so, the blood of those who could have been saved but were not will be on that believer’s hands.  (Ezekiel 3:16-21). 

Even exposing the darkness (speaking against conduct occurring contrary to the light of God’s Word) is an affirmative requirement.  If action is not taken, a tacit acceptance or approval may be inferred.  (Eph. 5:7-16)

Always speak the truth in love, however, with the goal of salvation not condemnation.  Those who hear what you say may still take offense, and you may even feel that you bumbled the opportunity.  Yet, the Holy Spirit will use it for good and perhaps be the beginning of a seed that leads to Life.

The bottom line is this: Whatever you do, don’t engage in human rationalization or Spiritual malpractice when it comes to God’s Word and commandments.  Be the messenger and take the ridicule just as Christ did as that is your purpose on this earth.

Have a great week!  (and to my family, love Dad)

Bob Alderman

083105 – updated 8/26/08

We are to be Actively-Passive©

To go with God, we have to leave our hammocks.

P.E.A.R.sPeriodic Encouragement And Reminders
We are to be Actively-Passive©
by
Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

(After reading this post, please take the sequence challenge in the P.S.)

The subject I want to address this week is not exactly heavy on my heart, but it does involve an issue with which I seem to have a constant struggle.  Basically, it comes down to this: how much of my growth and walk with God depends on me and how much depends on Him?

Perhaps you’re facing the same quandary.  If so, I hope the thinking-out-loud I am about to engage in will give you some thoughts to consider as you try to find God’s purpose and fulfillment in your own life.

It’s quite clear from the Bible that our salvation and adoption into God’s family, through which we will inherit the glorious riches of His eternal kingdom, are gifts of grace from Him and not something we can earn on our own.  Nevertheless, we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  [Philippians 2:12]  The next verse reads: “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” [Philippians 2:13]

We also find: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.”  [Jeremiah 33:3]  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” [Jeremiah 29:13]  “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  [Hebrews 11:6]

When Charles Swindoll in his book “The Mystery of God’s Will” briefly mentions Philippians 2:12, he says, “…, be discerning, think it through, use your head, pay attention, get serious about your Christian walk.”  What he means is that even after we believe in Christ and are saved by His grace, there’s still more for us to understand; more growth for us to achieve, and more service and purpose for us to fulfill in God’s plan here on earth.

Are we left to struggle with this on our own?  Absolutely not!  For we will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon us. [Acts 1:8]  “I will ask the Father”, said Jesus, “and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world [those who reject Christ] can not receive because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” [John 14:18]

Still, there is initiative for us to take.  If we want to learn great and mighty things, we must “call” on God.  To find Him [to learn from Him and grow in Him], we have to “seek” Him diligently and seriously “with all of our hearts”.  And…we have to have faith that He is the great I AM, Almighty God with the desire, ability and irrevocable commitment to provide the rewards He has promised.

Dallas Willard in “The Divine Conspiracy – rediscovering our hidden life in God” puts it this way:

When we receive God’s gift of life by relying on Christ, we find that God comes to act with us.  However unlikely it may seem from our current viewpoint, God equipped us for the task by framing our nature to function in a conscious, personal relationship of interactive responsibility with him.  If we are faithful to him, we learn his cooperative faithfulness to us in turn.  When we submit what we are to God and where we are to God, our rule or dominion then increases.  He constantly invites us into an ever larger share in what he is doing.

Where the problem with this paradox often exists is that we sit like a lump of coal waiting for God to provide the flame and also stoke the fire.  He will provide everything we need to fulfill our part of the partnership (there is no doubt about that), but He does not force it on us.

Does this mean we are to step out on our own and then wait for Him to catch-up and provide us with what we want?  No, it doesn’t mean that either.  Confusing, isn’t it?

Doing the will of God is rarely easy and uncomplicated.  Instead, it is often difficult and convoluted.  Or, back to my preferred term, it is mysterious.  Yet, God’s will is not passive, it isn’t a matter of just lying back and waiting for him to move us from Plan A to Plan B. (Charles Swindoll, ibid.)

Many of the authors I’ve read speak to this dilemma.  “God is not going to help you set goals and then be uncommitted to and uninvolved in their attainment.  The Holy Spirit has been imported to you to give you a built-in divine ability to help you succeed.” (“Success God’s Way” by Charles Stanley)

Also, J.I. Packer in “Knowing God”:

Even with right ideas and guidance in general, however, it is still easy to go wrong.  The Spirit can be quenched, and we can all too easily behave in a way which stops this guidance from getting through.  Moreover, it does not follow that right guidance will be vindicated as such by a trouble-free course thereafter.

Here is another cause of deep perplexity for Christian people.  They have sought guidance and believe it has been given.  They have set off along the road which God seemed to indicate.  And now, as a direct result, they have run into a crop of new problems which otherwise would not have arisen – isolation, criticism, abandonment by their friends, practical frustrations of all sorts.

Trouble, however, is not necessarily a sign of being off-track at all.  [Twice, Jesus’ disciples were caught by night in bad weather on the Sea of Galilee and both times, the reason they were there was the command of Jesus himself.]

* * * * *
The thing to remember about all of this is that we are never going to be privy to the entire travel itinerary.  God will definitely light our way, but it generally will be only enough light to take the next step or two – not to map out the entire trip and all the detours to be encountered during the journey.

Where the phrase “actively-passive” fits into the process can, to a certain extent, be simply stated as this: God is not generally inclined to do for us that which we can do for ourselves.

The process will certainly require effort, faith, diligence, perseverance, and sometimes struggle on our part but, in a “actively-passive” form – meaning the results and benefits remain under God’s control. When good works are begun in us, God will be faithful to complete them.  [Philippians 1:6]

My final thoughts come from Charles Stanley, “Success God’s Way” and one of my favorite Bible verses on this subject:

God never asks any of us to sit down and wait idly for Him to vault us into success.  He asks us to trust and obey Him day by day, day in and day out, by doing the things He entrusted us to do.  He asks us to learn the lessons that He set before us – some of which may be painful, some of which may be difficult, and many of which may seem unimportant.  Often we cannot see that God is building a strong pattern of experience, skill, trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, and character into us, so that when the time comes for us to be in a position of authority or influence, we will be ready.

2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” – Hmmmm, sounds to me like partnering in an actively-passive way with God!

Have a great week!  (and to my family, love Dad)

Bob Alderman

P.S. Sequence challenge: Every time I review or share this subject, I wonder which of the two  elements (activity or passivity) should be stated first in the title. E.g.: Actively-Passive or  Passively-Active.  Although the distinction doesn’t make any real difference since in either order the prompter and the doer is the Holy Spirit, I am still curious to know in what order each reader would express those elements. Thus, please share with me in the comment box at the end of this page how you approach them – and why.  Thank you.

Original Publication 101205 – revised 2017.01.31

PERMISSIONS:  You are permitted to reproduce and distribute electronic or hardcopies of this article in its entirety provided you do not alter it in any way, do not charge a fee to others to receive it beyond your cost of reproduction, and do not make more than fifty physical copies without prior written permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr.  All republications of the article in full or in part, whether in a hardcopy or electronic format, must include this statement:  Reproduced with permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr., 661.904.7751, thegreatestlaw@gmail.com,  www.BobsPEARS.com

The Wisdom of the Old Woodchopper © – Prov. 3:5-6

P.E.A.R.s  Periodic Encouragement And Reminders
The Wisdom of the Old Woodchopper ©
– Proverbs 3:5-6 –
by:
Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Having the patience to wait for God’s timing and the benefits He intends for my life is not one of my strong points – even though I can remember situation after situation in which positive results rose from what I initially thought were disasters.

Thus, I constantly have to remind myself: Be cool, Bob. God’s in charge and He knows what He’s doing.

My favorite Bible verses in which proper perspective, correct practice and final providence are laid out in simple to understand one-two-three-four order are Proverbs 3:5-6.  The best teaching of this truth, however, is shared by Max Lucado in a story about an old woodchopper and a wild stallion I found in one of his books many years ago.

This is that story:

*** Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village.  Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse.  Even the king coveted his treasure.  A horse like this had never been seen before – such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused.  “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them.  “It is a person.  How could you sell a person?  He is a friend, not a possession.  How could you sell a friend?”  The man was poor and the temptation was great.  But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable.  All the village came to see him.  “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse.  We warned you that you would be robbed.  You are so poor.  How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal?  It would have been better to have sold him.  You could have gotten whatever price you wanted.  No amount would have been too high.  Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly.  Say only that the horse is not in the stable.  That is all we know; the rest is judgment.  If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know?  How can you judge?

The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools!  We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed.  The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.

The old man spoke again.  “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone.  The rest I don’t know.  Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say.  All we can see is a fragment.  Who can say what will come next?

The people of the village laughed.  They thought that the man was crazy.  They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money.  But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it.  He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty.  No, he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned.  He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest.  Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him.  Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke.  “Old man, you were right and we were wrong.  What we thought was a curse was a blessing.  Please forgive us.”

The man responded, “Once again, you go too far.  Say only that the horse is back.  State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge.  How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment.  Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge?  You read only one page of a book.  Can you judge the whole book?  You read only one word of a phrase.  Can you understand the entire phrase?”

Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word.  All you have is a fragment!  Don’t say that this is a blessing.  No one knows.  I am content with what I know.  I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”

“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another.  So they said little.  But down deep, they knew he was wrong.  They knew it was a blessing.  Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse.  With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, an only son.  The young man began to break the wild horses.  After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs.  Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.

You were right,” they said.  “You proved you were right.  The dozen horses were not a blessing.  They were a curse.  Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you.  Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man spoke again.  “You people are obsessed with judging.  Don’t go so far.  Say only that my son broke his legs.  Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse?  No one knows.  We only have a fragment.  Life comes in fragments.

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country.  All the young men of the village were required to join the army.  Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured.  Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken.  There was little chance that they would return.  The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle.  They would never see their sons again.

You were right, old man,” they wept.  “God knows you were right.  This proves it.  Your son’s accident was a blessing.  His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you.  Our sons are gone forever.

The old man spoke again.  “It is impossible to talk with you.  You always draw conclusions.  No one knows.  Say only this:  Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not.  No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse.  No one is wise enough to know.  Only God knows.

* * * * *
The old man was right.  We only have a fragment.  Life’s mishaps and challenges are only a page out of a grand book.  We must be slow about drawing conclusions.  We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story.

I don’t know where the woodcutter learned his patience.  Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee.  For it was the Carpenter who said it best:

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (See all of Matt 6:25-34)

He should know.  He is the Author of our story.  He has already written the final chapter. And, therein lies our hope and the reason we can and should live the way of the Old Chopper’s wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-6.

Have a great week!

Bob Alderman – (and to my family, Love Dad)

Original publication 4/19/2004 – modified 1/17/2017

PERMISSIONS:  You are permitted to reproduce and distribute electronic or hardcopies of this article in its entirety provided you do not alter it in any way, do not charge a fee to others to receive it beyond your cost of reproduction, and do not make more than fifty physical copies without prior written permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr..  All republications of the article in full or in part, whether in a hardcopy or electronic format, must include this statement:  Reproduced with permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr., 661.904.7751, thegreatestlaw@gmail.com,  www.BobsPEARS.com

The Reason for P.E.A.R.s ©

P.E.A.R.s™ Periodic Encouragement And Reminders

The Reason for P.E.A.R.S ©
by
Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Every week as I put together a P.E.A.R., it is my hope that someone, somewhere, somehow will be motivated, encouraged or reminded by its words of the special place and service intended for them in God’s plan for this world and eternity.

I never know how that might happen or what the exact results or cause and effect might be. I leave that up to God and just try to share as best I can the extraordinary, amazing, often unbelievable and incomprehensible reality of the purpose and fulfillment God offers to each of us – if we become willing to seek and grow closer to Him.

If you’ve never (or perhaps at least not for a long time) paused to consider your relationship with God and why you’re here, the comments from several authors may provide a wonderful insight for you. But before sharing their thoughts, there are three questions I would like you to consider:

1. Do you know how truly unique and important you are to God?

2. Have you ever wondered what He intended for your life?

3. Would you like to become more fulfilled in whatever days or years you have left?

As you reflect on those questions (not just now, but repeatedly in the coming days), the following words may become especially meaningful to you:

“The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren:

We don’t realize how truly unique each of us is. DNA molecules can unite in an infinite number of ways. The number is 10 to the 2,400,000,000th power. That number is the likelihood that you’d ever find anyone just like you. If you were to write that number with each zero being one inch wide, you’d need a sheet of paper 37,000 miles long.

“The On Purpose Business” by Kevin W. McCarthy:

Our “spiritual DNA” [if you will] provides the “purpose…from which our vision and missions sprout. From a divine perspective, purpose is God’s will for your life. Purpose is infinite and eternal.

“The Dream Giver” by Bruce Wilkinson:

Like the generic code that describes your unique passions and abilities, your Big Dream has been woven into your being from birth.

“Half Time – from success to significance” by Bob Buford:

I believe God created us the way we are and enabled us to live the way we do for a purpose.

“Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge

God set the heart within every man and in doing so offers him an invitation: come and live out what I meant you to be.

There is no one who can replace you in your life, in the arena you’ve been called to. If you leave your place in the line, it will remain empty. No one else can be who you were meant to be.

Don’t ask how. How is never the right question. How is a faithless question. How is God’s department. He is asking you what. What is written on your heart? What makes you come alive?

“Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper

What Christ offers: doubly belonging to God, and being able to do what you were made for.

Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Don’t coast through life without a passion.

Whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts.

“Success God’s Way” by Charles Stanley

You were no less chosen for the plans and purposes He has for your life than Moses and Joseph were chosen by God. God did not create you and then scratch His head and say, now I wonder what I can do with this person. No, He created you to be and to do very specific things in your life.

“Disciples are made not born” by Walter A. Henrichsen

Are you laboring to build the Kingdom of God or are you building your own little kingdom?

At your death will you be able to say to God that you did the work he had for you to do?

* * * *

The last two authors (Stanley and Henrichsen) provide, I believe, a good summary of these excerpts when they say:

Encourage others to find and pursue their specific calling” – “…for you’ve not done anything until you’ve changed the lives of men.

I want to close with one of my favorite verses from the Bible as I believe it summarizes God’s perspective and desire as expressed by the above authors:

For the eyes of the Lord search back and forth throughout the whole earth, looking for people whose hearts are perfect toward Him, so that He can show His great power in helping them.”      2 Chron. 16:9 – Living Bible

May that become a realization to you personally and a goal to which you will dedicate your life.

Have a great week!

Bob Alderman – (and to my family, Love Dad)

PERMISSIONS:  You are permitted to reproduce and distribute electronic or hardcopies of this article in its entirety provided you do not alter it in any way, do not charge a fee to others to receive it beyond your cost of reproduction, and do not make more than fifty physical copies without prior written permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr..  All republications of the article in full or in part, whether in a hardcopy or electronic format, must include this statement:  Reproduced with permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr., 661.904.7751, thegreatestlaw@gmail.com,  www.BobsPEARS.com