Itching Ears, Misplaced Devotion

Carol and I know many people who are dis-satisfied with church-life. They want to go deeper into the Word of God. They want to get into the mind of Christ so that they can know God’s thoughts on every issue, but they think of church services as on the level of kindergarten. They place themselves on a higher plane than the Church and look down on others.

However, when I look at their lives, I find many of them to be spiritually arrogant. Many of them do weird things – in the name of Christ, of course. I am reminded of Second Timothy 4:3-4 that says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

One Sunday evening, I watched Pastor Frank tell a parishioner, “If you believe and stick your head out the church window and yell ‘Jesus’ three times as loud as you can, you will be healed.” The woman obeyed and Frank victoriously pronounced her healed. When she died a month later, Pastor Frank merely intoned, “She didn’t have faith.”

I watched Pastor Carey announce to his congregation, “If you believe, and sign the book of life in the back of the church, you’ll never die. No matter how long Jesus delays His return, you’ll live until He comes back.” With people lining up to sign his book, I asked my father, “When Brother Carey dies, that will disprove his theory, won’t it?” Dad responded, “No, son. His followers will just think the pastor didn’t have faith.” Brother Carey died in 1993 and people continue to propagate his fables.

One day while praying, Jack had an experience with the Lord that could have changed his life. Jack was excited and wrote down every detail so he would never forget it; and every time visitors came, Jack excitedly read the experience to them. One day a minister he hadn’t seen for some years came to visit, and Jack went to his room to get the document. The visiting minister wondered what happened when he heard Jack yell, “Oh no! The rats ate my experience!”

Yes, the rodents found their way into the desk and destroyed the document. However, Jack had lost the reality of his experience to spiritual rats long before. Why? He placed his affection on an experience rather than on the Lord of the experience.

Let’s back up for a minute. I am from a Pentecostal background and have been affiliated with various denominations. I’ve also been dis-satisfied with church at times. I always want to go deeper into the Word of God, and I want to know God’s thoughts on every issue. So, what’s the difference?

Many of the folks to whom I referred place their faith in spiritual experiences, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual gifts; but that emphasis tends to overshadow Jesus. Scripture tells us to exalt Jesus, the resurrected Christ, the Giver of the experiences, knowledge, and gifts. That’s where I am. There is a world of difference here. If we are devoted to or focused on Jesus as we study the Bible, He will help us gain the knowledge, experiences, and gifts as He sees appropriate. But our priorities will be correct.

Some friends remind me that First Corinthians 12:31 says “Earnestly desire the best gifts.” They think that’s an exhortation to go after gifts that appeals to them. But I respond, “You are seeking the gifts while side-stepping the Giver of the gifts. That’s backwards. Instead, that verse encourages us to utilize the gift that is most appropriate for the situation, for there is NO spiritual gift that is more important than any other. And if we seek God’s input, He will grant us the wisdom we need as we respond to any and every situation.”

I’ve seen people healed of terminal diseases and seen other miracles take place. But I understand the purpose of miracles and spiritual experiences. Yes, they benefit man, but they are supposed to help us focus our attention on the Lord, to honor and bring glory to God.

First Corinthians 2:16b tells us, “We have the mind of Christ.” That is, Jesus will reveal His thoughts as we remain true to Scripture and turn away from those who exalt either themselves or their ideas.

“Itching ears” generates misplaced devotion and causes us to put our faith in miracles or in experiences. Instead, we should put our faith in the Scripture and on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lessons from the Flock – Vision

“You’re a bird-brain!”

Did you ever hear that? It’s a derogatory statement and meant to degrade someone. But I identify with it because I am learning a lot from my fowl friends – my five chickens.

I’ve noticed that the birds often gather at the fence and look in the direction of the kitchen window. When I move around in the room, their heads follow my movements and they seem to be waiting for me to come out. But when they are standing in bright daylight, how can they see me through a window in a room with subdued lighting?

It was research time.

Of the many documents on the internet, I found an article by Cynthia Berger published on July 19, 2012 titled “True Colors: How Birds See the World.” That was an eye-opener. Using a device called a spectrophotometer (it measures light that is reflected from a surface), researchers found colors in the UV range that most birds can see.

Quoting from her second paragraph, “…systematic testing of bird vision revealed something unexpected: many bird species can see UV light. Scientists also have learned that many birds have plumage that reflects UV light.”

I had never thought about chickens being able to see differently from humans. Oh, I know chickens have enhanced hearing and smelling, but enhanced sight? Amazing.

I’ve always wondered how a bird can distinguish a male from a female, but now I know. Both males and females of barn swallows, mockingbirds, western meadowlarks (and many others) look remarkably alike to humans. But viewing them through the spectrophotometer we find they look totally different from each other. They, of course, have the same shape but different coloring. Another example: To humans, the blue tit male looks identical to the female. But looking at the UV reflection, we find a bright spot on the males’ head. The female spots that immediately and says “That’s my man!”

Female birds know which eggs are hers because various eggs reflect UV light differently. Choosing to raise her own offspring, some females either break or eject foreign eggs from her nest.

Birds will more readily eat food that reflects greater amounts of UV light. That explains another question I had: why do my chickens go for corn more than wheat? Corn reflects more UV. Also, insects reflect a higher amount of UV than green grass. Watch out, moths and bugs; my chickens are loose in the yard and you are doomed!

Speaking of moths, it’s fun to watch a hen run at full speed then half jump and half fly with neck fully extended to grab a moth or other flying insect out the air.

But all that helps to explain why the birds are at the fence looking in my direction: some of my clothing is reflecting UV light. They see me through the window, and they assume that I’ll bring food out to them. Sorry, chicks. I’ll feed you later.

When I think of birds’ ability to see what humans cannot see, it reminds me of spiritual sight. In Ephesians 1:18, the Apostle Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope to which God has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

“Eyes of your heart”? Sounds strange because blood-pumping hearts don’t have eyes. What Paul means is we have inner understanding, insight, the discernment or comprehension of spiritual reality as it pertains to Almighty God, and verified in the Holy Bible. I am not referring to Hinduism, Buddhism, spiritism, spiritualism, other religions, or any New Age idea. I am not talking about mindless concepts that exalt man, nature, familiar spirits, or demons.

An example of a mindless statement – proclaimed to be spiritual insight by Matshona Dhliwayo – is: “The Universe is one body; love is its heartbeat.” Not understanding either the universe or love, Dhliwayo is wrong on both counts.

True spiritual insight comes from God, and enables us to understand real life – both temporal and eternal – from God’s perspective. Second Corinthians 2:16 informs us that we can “have the mind of Christ”; that is, receive His thoughts. This requires us to stop being self-centered, and to become God-centered or Christ-centered.

As birds can see some of what humans cannot see, we can ask God to grant us wisdom and insight which would enable us to understand what we normally cannot “see”. That’s not being a bird-brain; it’s being in tune with God.