One of the best books I have ever read, and I have read it multiple times over the years, is Dr. Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If you have never read it, you could probably buy it now for a few dollars, since it was originally published in 2004. Seriously, I am encouraging you to read it. One of my favorite stories from the book, deals with a paradigm shift Dr. Covey had that drives one of his main points home. What is a paradigm shift? It is essentially an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about someone or something is replaced, based upon more complete evidence or facts. Dr. Covey tells the following story: “I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed. The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt like was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more.” The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to do, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.” Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.” I was in my twenties. A young fiery evangelist. I had just finished preaching in a service and had given the invitation. A young woman came forward and knelt at the altar. Tears were pouring from her eyes. She was praying intently. It was clear she was deeply burdened. I waited for a moment for some of the ladies in the church to come pray with her. I found out later she had a checkered past. But that was of little consequence to me. No one came to pray with her. So I knelt beside her, put my arm around her tightly and began to pray with her and for her. After several minutes she told me that she had felt a great burden lifted from her as she had released her guilt and pain to the Lord and had accepted His grace and forgiveness. After the service concluded I was told that the reason the church ladies had not prayed with her was because of her reputation and they were shocked that I would not only kneel beside her, but I would embrace her so tightly. Some had laughed under their breath thinking that I was somehow being drawn into her web. None of those thoughts had entered my mind. I was only thinking of a burdened soul who had come forward to make a change in her life. Naturally, when I found out the attitude that existed in some of the congregation, I was angry, and told the pastor that the church needed to repent as a whole for their attitudes. Why do we look upon certain people or certain situations with the perspective we have? 2 Samuel 22:26 and 27 (NKJV), “With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.” Our perception and interpretation of the way others are, or the way situations are, is dependent upon how we think, and how we perceive others to be, based on our mindset. The issue is not how others actually are, but what our prejudicial views are. To me, my arm around a repentant woman, is ministering God’s love and grace. To the base mind of another, the act has some sort of lust-filled implication. During Easter, we observed the love and devotion Mary Magdalene had for the Lord. Her love and devotion was based on His deliverance of her from darkness. Yet, many times on various television channels there have been programs, hosted by those who claimed to be theologians, suggesting there was some sort of romantic relationship between the two. Some liberal theologians even suggesting they had children together. This interpretation could not be farther from the truth. Yet if a person is a hammer, everyone they see is a nail. Why is it that some Christian leaders said Hurricane Katrina was God punishing New Orleans for their sinful lifestyle? And others, myself included, simply conclude that it was a storm, common to the earth during hurricane season. And we have all heard some Christian leaders say that COVID was judgment from God; and the vaccine was the Mark of the Beast. And yet COVID, it seems, was a virus that had been created in a foreign lab and escaped to infect the world’s population. The vaccine and the subsequent boosters are merely a medical response to the virus—nothing more than that; just like any other vaccine that has been developed over the years to combat disease. A person is injured severely, or becomes ill severely. Immediately some Christians who have a hard, legalistic mindset determine that the injury or illness is God’s way of punishing them to bring them to repentance. When, in fact, Romans 2:4 (NKJV) is clear: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Why do we have such differing views on the nature and character of God? I suggest to you that the way we are in our hearts determines the way we perceive God to be. It is not God who needs to change; for Micah 3:6 says, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Look at that. His very nature is one that demonstrates mercy and grace. Yet why do we continually indict Him as a cruel despot? Matthew 6:23 (NKJV), “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” As Dr. Covey did on the subway, we must have a paradigm shift. The facts he encountered did not change. The truth was that the man on the subway was numb and oblivious to the behavior of his children. The truth was the children were unruly. We are never suggesting we change the truth. God’s Word is truth. But when Dr. Covey received additional information about the situation, his perspective changed. The truth did not change. Dr. Covey’s perception about the man changed. It changed because he moved from having incomplete information about the man to having more complete information about the man. The change Dr. Covey experienced was in his heart and in his mind. His shift went from one of criticism to one of love and compassion. If I go through life with a critical and judgmental spirit, how then will I interpret the way God is to others? If I harbor lust in my heart, how then will I interpret the preacher who puts his arms around a repentant soul at the altar? If I go through life with a prejudicial and condescending attitude, then I will always look to magnify someone’s weaknesses and flaws. But if I have been filled with the love and mercy and grace of my heavenly Father, then my outlook on others, and on trying and difficult circumstances, will be one that paints my heavenly Father as one who is a present help in time of trouble, and stands ready to minister to the broken and the fallen with the same love and mercy and grace with which He has filled me.
To establish the people of Central Appalachia in the principles of the Kingdom of God, and thereby releasing them to rise above all cultural, historical, economic, and generational limitations so they may live abundantly within their privileges and covenant as sons and daughters of God.
Copyright © 2022 Big Creek Church - All Rights Reserved.