Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Normalcy Bias

Normal is good enough for most people. No surprises. No sudden impact changes to the world round about them. No deviations.

They are comfortable with the routine and have little tolerance for anything to take place out of the ordinary. They are stuck in a rut which is a grave with both ends busted out.

We have a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign hanging around our neck, and any WAKE UP calls are ignored. That’s what Peter was writing about in II Peter 3:3-4. People were comfortable for things to continue “as they were from the beginning.”

The possibility and probability of the return of Christ was absurd. They had heard He would come back, but it had never happened. Skepticism was the result. In sociology, it is referred to as one disbelieving one’s situation when faced with a grave or even imminent danger or unsettling circumstance. It can best be seen in recent years in what happened when Hurricane Katrina struck with vengeance on New Orleans. They had never seen the dykes break before and never expected it to happen as it did. They assumed that everything would be alright because it had always been before and refused to evacuate. When faced with alternatives, they chose the normal and stayed behind many losing their lives. The normalcy bias took its toll.

In 1945 Admiral Leahy predicted that the atomic bomb would never be detonated. Why? It seemed impossible and had never happened before. But ask Japan, and they will unveil the wreckage and ravage of reality of the bomb that Mr. Leahy said would never happen. Normalcy bias backfired in his face and left a permanent scare on the face of mother earth.

Normalcy is numbing.

It

  • desensitizes us to disturbing prophecies;
  • makes us indifferent to the need for an intimate relationship with God;
  • apathetic to lack of signs and wonders in the church
  • lethargic to the need for prayer and fasting
  • satisfied with the hum-ho routine of preaching, programs and perfunctory rituals at church

Believers need to break out of the normal and with great excitement and anticipation look forward to the return of our Lord. It will put the spark back in singing, power back in preaching, passion in praying, the WOW back in worship and fervency back in fellowship.

Skepticism will never mute the voice of Scripture. Jesus is coming. It is not a matter of if but when. Believers are destined to rule and reign with Christ. The shadows of night are going to fade in the light of the eternal dawn.

Expect God to break through the normal and routine to do the unusual. I pray that we will be challenged by the words of Phillips Brooks who challenged his Boston audience with these words. “It is time for Boston to get out of the peck measure into the bushel measure.”

Don’t cower before critics and be dismayed by disgruntles. They are normal bias nuisances, but LOOK UP our Redeemer draws nigh. The natural and normal will be swallowed up by the manifestation of the Supernatural. GOD WILL BREAK THE SILENCE WITH THE TRUMPET BLAST AND THE TRIUMPHANT SHOUT OF AN ARCHANGEL and OUR LORD WILL BE STANDING ON THE CIRCLE OF ETERNITY BIDDING US TO COME HOME. (I Thessalonians 4:16)

  • It will happen suddenly. I Corinthians 15:52 describes the event dramatically in these graphic words. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
  • It will happen unexpectedly. Jesus explained how unexpected it would be in Matthew 24:44 in these riveting words. “Therefore be you also ready for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man cometh.”
  • It will be like surreal. It’s unimaginable. It will be like a bad dream for those who are not prepared to meet the Lord, but it will not be a dream. It will be real. His predictions will be validated. His presence will be convincing. His power will be compelling. He’s coming. I know He will because He said so!
  • It will be ultimate Supernatural invading the natural and normal. He came the first time to ultimately be killed as the Savior of the world. He will come the second time to be crowned King of Kings and Lord of lords.

Don’t get caught in the trap of normalcy bias. Apply this simple formula to your life, and you can avoid it and its consequences.

Number 1: LOOK for His coming. Most don’t. It seems bizarre and to far out for them to accept, but the Bible tells us that Jesus is coming back for the ones who are sincerely looking for and expecting Him to return. (Hebrews 9:28, Titus 2:13))

Number 2: LOVE the thought of His coming. The Bible explicitly addresses this issue in II Timothy 4:8. There are those who will literally love the anticipation of His coming back again while others abhor or ignore it. Love means to have passion for, intense emotional excitement and craving. May the anticipation for the coming of Jesus be like fire shut up in our bones that all the normalcy bias pessimism can not put out.

Number 3: And finally, LONG for the return of Jesus. John closes out the Book of Revelation with an expression of His longing. He said, “EVEN SO, COME, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) Amen and Amen!

Refusing To Be Normal!

Pastor Jimmy & Bob

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Did Anyone Fix the Hole in the Fence?

The best time to stop a problem is before it becomes one. To put it another way, we need to see a problem and deal with it effectively before it becomes an emergency.

Kids have an incredible way of getting to the bottom line without even trying. One little guy sat in his daddy’s lap listening intently to the story that Dr. Luke recorded about the one lost sheep. Dad embellished the story a little bit but the little lad was caught up in the drama. Dad explained that one sheep found a hole in the fence that had been undetected by the shepherd and slipped away from the safety of the corral. He had tons of fun frolicking in freedom until the big, bad wolf set out to catch him and have the sheep for a delicious lunch. As he ran as fast as he could to escape the sharp fangs of the wolf and was sure that he was losing the race, suddenly the shepherd showed up and rescued him from certain death and took him back into the corral.

What a happy ending, dad assumed. But his son was not quiet ready to go off to bed. He had trouble closing his eyes to sleep until he settled a very important question. “Did anyone nail up the hole in the fence?”

Amazing. He had never attended class on “Problem Solving 101”at the local university, but he recognized that this process of losing sheep was an unending problem unless someone fixed the fence.

Ben Franklin said it like this many years ago. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The implications are clear. In the medical profession, doctors would call it preventative medicine. You know, a stitch in time saves nine. An apple a day keeps the doctors away.

A ship with a hole in it must have it repaired or the ship, crew and passengers will sink the next time it goes to sea. A dyke with a hole in it must have it plugged up or a city such as New Orleans will be wiped out when the next flood strikes.

Neglect is not an answer. Ignoring holes will not cause them to go away or seal themselves. We must admit that holes exist and do something about it.

Isaiah coined a phrase which describes the people who fix the holes. He said, “They shall be called, the repairer of the breach…” (Isaiah 58:12) They are recognized as people who fix fractured faith, plug up holes of fading hope, and cover up cracks of character weaknesses.

We stop Satan before he sneaks an attack. We thwart the thief before he breaks in to steal, and we avert the avenger before he can set up shop in our homes. In football, coaches call it preventative defense.

Repairers refuse to tolerate the tormentors’ trash talk, permit pillage to take place among believers and allow the adversary to come in like a lamb and leave with a trail of heart ache behind.

Repairers must step up and plug some gaping holes through which all sorts of unwanted and uninvited saboteurs enter. You don’t need a magnifying glass to find the holes. Just examine statistics.

  • 43.7% of custodial mothers and 56.2% of custodial fathers are either separated or divorced.
  • The United Nations reports that there are an estimated 50,000,000 worldwide who use heroin, cocaine and other synthetic drugs.
  • One out of every two marriages fails.
  • In a recent statistic in the USA, 32,600 committed suicide in one year.
  • Church attendance goes down and crime goes up.

The day for repairers has arrived. Fix some fences. Ephesians 4 will give us direction for fixing 4 gaping holes that may be prevalent in our heart and home.

#1: Passivity.

(Ephesians 4:27 – “Neither give place to the devil.”)

Satan wins some battles because we never put up a fight. We lose by default. Edmund Burke declared, “It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph.” You give the devil and inch and he will take a mile. Patrick Henry included this comment in his address before the second Virginia Convention of Delegates on March 23, 1775. “We must fight. I repeat it, sir, we must fight….we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us…Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty , or give me death.” Don’t give place to the devil. Passivity has failed. Fighting prevails. Fight for your children. Fight for your marriage. Fight for your financial success.

#2: Mistrust.

(Ephesians 4:28 – “Let him that stole steal no more…”)

Thieves can not be trusted. They force us to put locks on our doors. The much beloved deceased president of the United States made this powerful statement about mistrust. “Nations do not mistrust each other because they are armed; they are armed because they mistrust each other.” I will also add. The same is true of people. We must become repairers and mend the fence of mistrust. It all starts with me.

#3: Misuse of power.

(Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth…”)

Put a muzzle on your mouth. It has ripped more holes in fences than we can ever imagine. James puts it in perspective in chapter 3:4-6. “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything---or destroy it…by our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke … from the pit of hell.”(The Message) Use the words from your lips to inspire not incite wrath, to comfort not to crush, to affirm not to arraign, to unite not to divide and to help not to hurt. To do otherwise is a misuse of power.

#4: Toxic emotions.

(Ephesians 4: 31 – “Let all bitterness…be put away from you…”)

It only takes a crack for the toxic emotion of bitterness to seep in, but it soon poisons everything it touches. It soils the soul, messes with the mind, hijacks happiness and it jettisons joy. No, it’s not the experiences of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday. William Arthur Ward prescribed an answer. He said, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”

Fix the fence of bitterness today or it will taint all of your tomorrows.

In The Journey Together!

Pastor Jimmy & Bob