Another aspect of the ear and eye gates is the imagination. What we hear and/or see can lead us into imagined conversations, interactions or even imagined relationships that are unholy. They can lead us into gossip, judging other people and misjudging ourselves. The fascination that so much of society has with celebrities' lives, their clothing and housing may lead into a fantasy life and to dissatisfaction with our own life, spouse, children, or home.
We may find ourselves following certain famous people on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. If nothing else, we have wasted that time on social media which we could have spent with loved ones, reading a good book, exercising or praying.
For Reflection: God gave us our bodies, our hearing, our eyesight to use for his glory. Have I neglected my family or my prayer time, yet found time to spend on TV or social media? Have I developed an improper fantasy life with a celebrity? Do I find my real life to be lacking and humdrum when compared with my imagination or the lives of others? Has this led me to depression and dissatisfaction with what God has given me?
Let us pray. Father, I don't need to be rich or famous. I appreciate all that you have given me in the way of family and home. I don't need to store up riches. I don't need the latest electronics, the most expensive car and homes around the world. I don't want to seek after a fantasy life. I want to seek after you and after your kingdom and trust that you will provide for my needs (Luke 12:14-31). I repent of all the time and imagination I have wasted and I ask you to forgive me.
Another gate into our lives is our eyes (for context see the previous two posts). This gate may be even more under attack than our ears. Images abound in our society. From TV, to YouTube, to movies, to billboards, to Facebook and Instagram, to everything and everyone we see in a day or a night, our eyes are constantly bombarded with pictures good and bad. Are not most of the reality TV shows nothing more than voyeurism? Once seen, an image cannot be unseen, so we need to guard this opening into our lives very carefully.
For Reflection: We can train ourselves to avert our eyes and even avoid the temptation altogether. If we think a TV show or movie is going to be excessively violent or sexually suggestive, we can avoid it. TV and movies now warn of sexual and violent content. Do we pay attention to the ratings or disregard them? Now that pornography is readily available over the internet, have we succumbed to watching it? When did voyeurism become acceptable in our lives? Have we been flooding our eye gate with harmful images?
Let us pray. Jesus, first I repent for looking at images I should not have. I ask you to forgive me for not being more careful with the eyes that you entrusted to me. Second, I ask you to remove from my memory the images that don't belong there, that tear people down, that tear me down, rather than lifting people up. I ask you to remove all images that don't give glory to you in some way. Help me to close my eyes to people and things around me that are not good for me to see and to concentrate on those images that are uplifting. Help me to see all people as you made them to be, in your image.
The wall around Jerusalem had 12 gates. Although the number 12 may remind us of the 12 tribes of Israel, it was also a fact that Jerusalem was a hub of travel and commerce. Many roads converged at Jerusalem, so a number of gates were necessary. Walls were thickest around the gate areas because those would be the logical places of attack. Walls were built of stone while gates were constructed of wood. More watchmen were placed above and to the side of gates for extra vigilance and protection.
We've spoken before of the need for "walls" for our own lives (see the discussion on Ephesians 6 in July 2014), but our entire life, our entire being cannot be a wall. We must also have gates, and those gates will have to be guarded. So what gates do we have? Obviously we have ears, eyes and a mouth as openings in our own lives.
We must be careful what we listen to with our ears. Who and what are we letting into our mind through our ears? Are we listening to gossip? Perhaps we've gotten used to hearing foul language from friends or in movies. We might have developed a taste for music with racist or sexist lyrics. Whatever the source, the ear gate, if not guarded constantly, can allow in many things which pollute our mind and spirit. If we listen to enough of these expressions they become a part of us and a part of our thinking. Before long we begin saying them aloud ourselves.
For Reflection: Let us examine our listening habits. Have we become immune to foul or crude language so much so that we don't even notice it when we hear it? Have we listened to gossip at work or at church? Do we spend more time putting people down than building them up. Do we need to clean out our ears and close up the gates?
Let us pray. Father, I ask you to help me clean out my ears and hear anew the language around me. Help me to identify and remove from my life language that is harmful to me. Give me a greater love of reading and listening to your words.
Over the last week or so, I've been reading the book of Nehemiah. Yes, it is ancient history and has long lists of who and how many did what. But I've been intrigued by the necessity of building a wall of protection around the city.
The setting is Jerusalem during the time of the exiles returning from Babylon in the mid-400s B.C. (The Babylonians had completely flattened the city while taking all but a few of the Israelites captive.) Ezra, the priest, has been leading the returnees in rebuilding the Temple and restoring worship. People also had to start their lives over. Housing, farms and flocks had to be re-established. In the middle of all this, Nehemiah, a wine steward to the Persian king (the Persians had conquered the Babylonians), asked to be allowed to return to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city. He even gets supplies, particularly timber, to erect a new city wall. Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem, rallies the people and builds a new city wall, gates included, in only 52 days. Even their enemies recognize that such a feat is only possible with God's assistance.
This story got me thinking about walls and what wall of protection we might need in our own lives as Christians. Do we need such a wall of protection? If so, do we have one? If not, how do we get one?
Stay tuned. We'll have more on this in the coming days.
There is a famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke. The prison warden is speaking to the prisoner, Luke, trying to teach him that resistance will only get him in trouble. The warden recognizes that Luke is obviously going to be a stubborn prisoner who refuses to give up, and says to him, "What we've got here is failure to communicate."
In some ways it seems to me that is where we are in the United States between various groups. We could cite Democrats and Republicans, pro-life and pro-choice, in favor of gay marriage and against gay marriage, pro- and anti-Confederate flag wavers, climate changers and deniers, and even Texans vs. the U.S. military. The issues are many and complicated. We not only don't communicate well, we also don't believe the other side has good intentions or is telling the truth. So it is not just a failure to communicate but a failure to trust.
It is a sad state to be in because open, honest, and trusting dialog is important in society. However, it is not a new problem in the U.S. or elsewhere. If it were we would never have had all the wars we have had.
Paul had a bit of the same problem in Corinth. He recognized that people didn't always understand him even though he made the effort to speak clearly. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 he explains that he didn't speak to them with great eloquence or wisdom, but he came in the power of the Spirit so that the truth of his message did not rest on his powers of persuasion but on the power of God. Spiritual truths need to be expressed with the power of the Spirit and with spiritual words. Otherwise, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). Perhaps what we need now in public discourse is a prophet who can speak the truths of God with the power of the Spirit so that the world can understand.
Let us pray. Come, Lord Jesus, send out your Spirit. Renew the face of the earth. Send prophets today like the prophets of old. But let us not have hardened hearts and closed minds. Help us to hear your truth and walk in it.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.