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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Public Speaking vs Acting

Below is a speech that I delivered numerous times in Toastmasters. Its intent is to encourage and motivate new members to embrace with positive anticipation the prospects of public speaking.

Introduction

By show of hands, how many of us do not get nervous when we speak in public?  (Anticipate that no one will raise their hand). So now that we've established that nervousness is common, we can ask “How do we get from cramps to composure?”

Really, it boils down to mindset.  Think about it: Does confidence and poise come from the food we eat? No, nervous people eat the same food as those displaying confidence.  Well, how about from the clothes we wear? Well, the activist college student in jeans is just as confident as the Board of Directors are in their 3-piece suits.  So it can’t be that. Really then, that brings us back to mindset.

So what can we do to affect our mindset? We will discuss three things, our viewpoint of our audience, our viewpoint of ourselves and our viewpoint of making mistakes and accepting critiques.

Speaking With Your Friends

So what I’d like you to do is this: First, forget this concept of speaking to an audience.  We’re going to take one step back from that.  Instead, imagine the most comfortable setting you can in a group of people.  What would that be for you?  Is it a party, a small gathering for a meal, friends on a camping trip around a campfire?   Lets say we’re at a campfire right now. Imagine we are under the starry sky. Can you hear the crickets? They’re all around.  What I enjoy about campfires is roasting marshmallows. Look here’s the crackling fire in the middle of the room. Here’s my trusty twig. (Marshmallow catches fire, blow it out and eat it.) Boy that sure brings back memories.

Now, imagine yourself relating, sharing with your friends and fellow campers something you take great pleasure and joy in: fishing, mountain climbing, dirt biking, skiing, whatever you really like talking about and doing.

You can not make a mistake telling of those things because they come from your heart.  In fact, you know what happens in that setting if you do make a mistake? You’ll immediately say, “Oh, no wait, that’s not what happened. Here’s how it went.” And you’ll all laugh and carry on like it was no big deal.  When in front of the club (or formal speech setting) imagine yourself speaking to them in that most friendly setting instead.  Then the fears will be reduced because you are speaking from the heart to friends that want to hear you, instead of from the head to a club in a formal setting.  Yes, enjoy the SHARING process, and the speaking/teaching process will come naturally.  Really, a good teacher is one who knows how to share and makes learning fun.  But what of us who are quiet even among friends? Well, you may have to start out by acting.  Herein is the viewpoint of self.

Acting

“TO BE; or, not to be.” 
Have you ever thought you’d like to be an actor?  Well, every time we get up here, we have a chance to act.  Though we may be scared out of our wits, we can act confident.  Though we may feel sheepish, we can act like a lion. 

Really, we are all actors.  We all act (conduct ourselves) the way that has come to feel natural to us.  So as speakers, we are challenged just like actors to carry ourselves in a way that for the present seems unnatural.

In movies, I think a villain is the best example of this.  If we leave the theater hating the guts of the actor that played the bad guy, that actor deserves an award.  The same with us, when we get up here, no one needs to know that we have butterflies.  Before we leave this “stage,” we will have them convinced that we have been doing this for years. 

Passionate actors do two important things.  First, they study their role.  If modeled after a real-life person, they study their model. We likewise can study those we admire as model speakers.  Second, they practice.  Some actors have been known to practice their roles to an extreme, trying to become that person during every waking hour, even off camera.  We likewise can practice confidence and poise in our daily life, business dealings and in meeting new friends who never need to know how we were before we took on this act of confidence. In fact, that would be a great exercise for shy ones--with each new person you meet, ACT like the friendly, sincerely outgoing, person you want to be. Since they have never met you before, they'll never know you were any different. In time, the act will become part of your real personality.

Mistakes & Critiques

“But what if I make a mistake.” 
Don't you find that the more you worry about making mistakes the more you actually tend to make them, and the less joy have in speaking?  To handle the nervousness caused by fear of making a mistake, we need to reverse the 'more worry, less joy' syndrome.  This means being filled with joy and desisting from all self-defeating fears. Don't concentrate on the possibility of erring.  Concentrate on the material you researched and diligently prepared.  Concentrate on enjoying the sharing process. When you do make a mistake, and we all do, move on past it. Don’t try to dwell there while continuing you speech. That’s like trying to keep one foot firmly planted in one place while expecting the other foot to take you down a path.  Its physically impossible. The same goes for our mind. It can’t stay fussing over a mistake and keep focused on the progress of your train of thought. Just move on--just like you do when sharing a story around a campfire.

Your choice of words and the manner in which you present them, whether in private conversations or in public speeches will always be critiqued and that is actually good.  Proverbs 27:17 indicates: "By iron, iron itself is sharpened.  So one man sharpens the face of another."  Sometimes that sharpening can cut, but if we take this in a good-natured fashion, it can heal into a scar of a uniquely strong character.  Don't be afraid of the critiques.  Instead, look forward to it like shoes look forward to a good polishing -- it can only help you look better the next time. Again, we are all here because we chose to be.  Since we want to be here, lets enjoy every facet of the experience including the brief, silly little embarrassments called mistakes.

Conclusion

Let’s wrap this all up now and review the three major points: Talk WITH your audience as if you are sharing with a group of friends.  Since you are already acting to begin with, choose to ACT CONFIDENT, composed and experienced.  And finally, CONCENTRATE ON THE ENJOYMENT of your presentation instead of the possibility of making mistakes or wondering what your audience thinks of you.

After-Thoughts
I've heard some suggest that you imagine your audience naked. I've heard others say to imagine yourself as being a giant in a room of tiny people. Both those conceptualizations demean your audience. They are neither better nor worse than you. They are your peers that have come to hear you. That is why I recommend the campfire scenario because it encourages viewing the audience as supportive and compassionate friends.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Asus ZenWatch

It has been a while since I've written about something other than scripture commentary. I came across a product that really excites me....

Geeks don’t have to necessarily be nerds. I know several people who, although they love technical toys (the main qualification for being a geek), they are not necessarily disheveled, socially awkward people (the typical definition of a nerd). In my lifetime, I’ve got to admit I have been called both a nerd and a geek. I finally learned social skills, so I don’t get called nerd anymore.

But it seems now-a-days, being a geek is actually a good thing. Others come up to you looking for advice about consumer electronics and software. Most recently, I’ve had a few ask me about smart watches. I’ve told them that those devices still seem to be in their infancy. I didn’t like the bulkiness of the watches, their function and software seemed awkward to navigate, and the displays left a lot to be desired.


But all that changed (for me) recently with Asus’ introduction of the ZenWatch. I’ve watched a number of videos on the product using Youtube. It is stylish enough that I can see it crossing the boundary of “for geeks only” into the much vaster audience of mainstream consumer products. That the watch is thin is mostly what appeals to me. It is just a tad thicker than my current watch, the Skagen Titanium Multifunction 809XLTBN. One reason I am thinking of leaving the Skagen behind is because the dials have gotten too small for my aging eyes to decipher. I wanted a day and date watch but I can no longer read those indicators. (Another reason is that when a month has less than 31 days, you manually have to correct the date. If you cross the IDL, then you have other things to adjust as well.)

The ZenWatch, on the other hand, seems very easy to read and has a number of optional clock faces to choose from. Since it is a digital electronic, the time, day, date, etc are all automatically adjusted. The added benefits of syncing to my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy Note3) make the ZenWatch even more desirable. Admittedly, it runs Android Wear the same as other brands do and has other hardware features similar to the competition. I have no problem with using this software. It is still maturing but I can live with that. 

Why not choose a Samsung smartwatch seeing as I’m using a Samsung phone? Good question. The answer is that I don’t like any of their designs. All their watches are fat (thick). Then there is the whole thing about them threatening to use Tizen as their OS. (Thanks Samsung, but no thanks. I have a laptop on Windows, a phone on Android, and I don’t want yet another OS on another device.)

As of this writing, (Nov.20, 2014) I am only able to find the ZenWatch on Google Play and at Best Buy

(Before the 2014 watch releases, the industry reminded me of small children--cute, maybe a bit pudgy and socially awkward, but lovable because they're young. The ZenWatch and maybe one or two others remind me of teenage years--while losing the "baby fat" and gaining more experience, they are still not truly adults. In the coming years, I expect that smartwatches will enter their young adulthood (20-somethings to 30's) and, just like their analog ancestors, divide into two camps of round and square faces. With further miniaturization, I anticipate the casing can and will take any form the maker wants and not have to worry about the constraints of technology. For those that prefer slim, trim forms with robust innards (muscle machines), that will be possible. For those that prefer more ornate casings, they will be able to have that too.)

Update: 11/22/2014: I went to my local Best Buy, intent on purchasing the ZenWatch. They don't have any. The closest store (with a stock of just one) is 3 hours away. Asus really needs to get its act together. This is ridiculous. They knew their own release date probably well in advance of the announcement. Yet they have no appreciable stock of the item.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Colossians 2:8 Taken As Spoil

I had always thought that the word "spoil" as used in the KJV meant that we would become like spoiled food--unusable. The KJV phrased the first part of verse 8 as: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy...." But other translations render this as "take captive." That is when it dawned on me that this is the other meaning of spoil. This is more serious than becoming like spoiled food and worse than being taken as prisoner. Being taken as spoil indicates the reward of a pillager. Since pillaging is associated "especially with wartime efforts" (per the dictionary), that increases the gravity of the loss. Now, what has been taken captive, what has been taken as spoil, is not only our own loss of faith, but also refers to a loss that God and the congregation endure--losing a beloved fellow believer. The main pillager is Satan. He considers captive ones a war trophy and he doesn't hide the fact. In fact, he is boastful and arrogant, taunting Jehovah "Look what I got."

But how can philosophy take a person captive? During wartime, it has been documented that enemy propaganda was used to discourage POWs and others that were behind enemy lines. The propaganda was designed both to promote defection from the opposing side and to crush the hope that some had in their country's ability to liberate them. Likewise, Satan's philosophies are designed to promote defection from serving Jehovah and crush our hope that there really is a God that cares for mankind and wants to save us from Satan's dominion.

Yes, we are in a war and cannot afford to lose any of our dear friends. We each need to be on the lookout for the other's welfare, especially while on this battlefield.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adam and Eve: Justifiable Disobedience?

A young man about 12 years old really impressed me with a question that had him baffled. It demonstrated what a deep thinker he is. He asked, "If Adam and Eve were perfect, wouldn't their perfect sense of justice prevent them from disobeying their Creator?"

Going to the source material is always the best solution in these matters . Genesis 3:4-5 explains why justice got skewed in Eve's mind. She was told by “the serpent” that God had been unjust by preventing her from reaching her full potential. The serpent (a guise of Satan) had Eve so cunningly and thoroughly deceived that she may have even thought to herself that even if she asked God whether the charges are true or not, she wouldn't be able to trust the answer. In her mind, God's truthfulness and justice were in question. Therefore, being disloyal to a God that wasn't truthful to her was no longer an issue. In other words, since God was unjust in preventing her from achieving her potential, then she didn't feel she owed justice and loyalty to God.

Compounding the issue, after Eve ate the fruit she didn’t die on the spot, so when she gave it Adam, she may have said (although there is no record of it in scripture), “Hey, I ate it and I’m still alive.” Sadly, she was blatantly lied to by Satan and then she allowed personal (selfish) desire to enter the picture.After their eviction from paradise, they were treated just as a parent who rejects a wayward child, “You are dead to me.” Indeed, Jehovah God treated them both as dead, never again speaking to Adam like he did in the garden.

In reality, there were things Eve could have done to verify any doubt she had. But the account is quite plain as to what the real reason was for her disobedience: Eve “saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something desirable to the eyes, yes, the tree was pleasing to look at. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it.” (Genesis 3:6)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Curiosity

With every printed ad, attractive people (some say “sexy” people) promote everything from trash bags to the latest electronic gear. Underwear ads are getting obscenely revealing. (Back in the 1960s when I was a teen, my father took me to work with him. His boss, the owner, had Playboy centerfolds plastered all over the walls of his office. Those centerfolds were considerably more modest than today’s underwear ads are.)


With increasing frequency, TV shows are promoting the “gay” lifestyle as normal and mainstream. (I for the life of me can’t figure out why, with increasing frequency, even within cooking competition shows such as Chopped, the one thing competitors feel compelled to reveal about themselves is that they are homosexual. You never hear heterosexuals make their sexual orientation their main achievement to feature about their lives. In fact, in that gays say they "were born that way," indicates it was not an achievement at all. However, the reason is more than accidental. It is because of the agenda of the LGBT lobbyists. But I digress.)


Comedians today think sex jokes are the only jokes worth repeating. Personally, I have heard people laugh much louder and heartily at old “I Love Lucy” and Carol Burnett TV episodes. Music videos are becoming so risque that it is sickening. Video games now have ratings on them due to “adult content.”


My Point
Maybe 10 or more years ago I would have concluded that it is “nearly impossible to avoid seeing and hearing these things.” However, today I would remove the word “nearly.” It now IS impossible to avoid those things. With all the onslaught of immoral propaganda, the ease of finding such on the internet (even when you aren’t even looking for it!) can raise curiosity for those who have not built up their spiritual armor. Still, scriptures encourage true Christians to brace up their minds (determined conviction) to remain UN-curious.

To be clear: The only action I recommend is one of self-defensive "bracing our minds" to reject any of this world's loose immoral behavior. I am not advocating taking an offensive stance toward those that live those lifestyles. While Christians judge the conduct as unacceptable and falling very short of what God approves, it is God who judges individuals.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved

Those promoting the idea of “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) claim very strongly that the belief is firmly rooted in Scripture. Based on the passages used by one such group, here is an examination of their claims:

John 3:15-18. The phrase the OSAS fixate on is that merely believing in Jesus is sufficient. You only need to declare Jesus as Lord in your heart, they claim. The apostle Paul made a similar declaration at Acts 16:31 to a prison guard that was awestruck by the circumstances surrounding Paul’s miraculous release from prison. But what is involved in believing in Jesus? Commenting on this, the publisher’s foreword to the 1965 edition of the Amplified Bible wrote: 
“Webster defines it: ‘to place credence…apart from personal knowledge; to expect or hope…to be more or less firmly persuaded of the truth of anything, to think or suppose.’” The Foreword then continued: “In this sense, most people believe in Christ—that He lived; that He was a perfect Man Who sincerely believed Himself to be the Son of God, and that He died … to save sinners. But this is by no means the meaning of the Greek word which twenty-two New Testament versions out of twenty-four consulted render ‘believe.’ They do so because there is no one English word that adequately conveys the intended meaning. Actually, the Greek word used here for believe is ‘pisteuo.’ It means ‘to adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on.’ Consequently, the words, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…’ really mean to have an absolute personal reliance upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
Yes, believing, as taught in the Bible is much deeper than most realize. It goes beyond a mere mental acknowledgement of Christ, it reaches deeper than the emotional outbursts that some make. It is an informed decision of commitment and dedication. Really, examining the context of scripture it is easy to see that is so. For example, Acts 16:32 states that Paul went on to relate “the word of the Lord” or, as some translations render it (more accurately) “the word of Jehovah.” In other words, there was more that Paul related to that man than is detailed in Acts 16. (Paul was not known for brevity.) Really, reflect on the bulk of writing in the Greek scriptures (aka New Testament)—If merely believing was all that was necessary, why would there be so much written (four gospels, a detailed record of post–resurrection activity known as the Book of Acts, 21 letters on Christian belief and conduct and one far-reaching prophetic book known as Revelation)? Obviously, God wanted us to know much more than who Jesus was and what he did for us.

One website promoting OSAS claimed that Hebrews 6:4-6 supports the OSAS belief. I could not help but chuckle when I read the heading from the link they provided to that scripture because the heading plainly says “Warning Against Apostasy.” They actually went out of their way to completely convolute the plain teaching that salvation CAN be lost for those disowning their belief. Instead, they try to make the scripture sound as if it is saying it is impossible for someone to renounce their faith. Is that so? Is there any example in scripture that would demonstrate that one way or the other? 

Yes, there are at least three. The first is the case of Ananias and his wife Sopphria. Their devious action resulted in direct condemnation and their immediate death from the very hand of God. Next is the case of Dimas. At first, Paul gives this man a compliment, referring to him as a “fellow worker.” But later sadly observes that Dimas left off serving God because he preferred what the world alienated from God had to offer. The third example is found at 1 Timothy 1:18-20. There, Paul cites two former believers that disregarded their conscience and, as a result, suffered "shipwreck of their faith." (See also 2 Timothy 1:15; 2:15-18)


Really, those claiming that it is impossible to become "unsaved" are arguing against logic—why? Because God gave mankind free will. To say that once we become believers, we forfeit free will is simply not true. Think about Adam and Eve. Before they sinned, they were perfect yet they expressed their free will, lost their lives and will never live again. Are those purporting OSAS saying that we imperfect offspring of Adam are not allowed to have free will after we accept Jesus? The two accounts cited prove that is untrue.


One more thought about Acts 16:31. As noted in this link, the greater number of translations all use the phrase "will be" (not "are"). "Will be" denotes future tense, not present tense. Indeed, this is in full agreement with the first scripture listed below at Matthew 24:13. So considering one's self to be saved at the moment of belief or baptism is not in line with what scripture states.

What other scriptural evidence is there that OSAS is wrong? Consider this list:
Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus indicates that merely claiming to be his follower is not enough. Give this scripture serious thought. If the ones mentioned here were truly expending themselves in doing acts that Jesus himself did (prophesying in Jesus' name, expelling demons, and other powerful works) and yet Jesus rejected them, how can one who merely claims to be saved expect Jesus' approval?

Matthew 24:13 Jesus pointedly states “he that endures the end is one that will be saved.” Now ask yourself. If we are "saved" upon becoming believers, then why would Jesus say we wouldn't be saved until "the end"? (Supporting this, Romans 8:17,23 Paul indicates that suffering for the sake of the Christ and leaving behind our mortal bodies (death) must take place before we are truly adopted (saved) as sons.)

Romans 10:9,10; Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 John 2:4. These three passages, taken together, help us appreciate that “exercising” faith through active obedience and proclamation of our convictions, is what saves. Faith is much more than a mere belief. Just claiming to know that God is real does not get his approval.  (See also James 2:19)

Romans 11:20-22 Just as the nation of Israel was lopped off the main tree (losing their approved state with God and hence reaping not a reward to everlasting life) so those becoming individual believers could be cut off if they proved disloyal/unworthy.

Galatians 4:11 Why would Paul fear for those in Galatia if they were saved for all time? Obviously, they must not yet be saved eternally, otherwise Paul would not have been concerned.

Galatians 6:7-9 “Mocking” God by expecting that he will tolerate any conduct on our part is merely self deception. Paul concludes that whatever a man is sowing is what he will reap. Yes, action ("sowing") is what is looked for, not merely saying we believe and then doing whatever we want.

Philippians 3:12-14 If Paul believed in once-saved-always-saved, he would not have written these words.

Hebrews 10:26,27 Paul makes it very clear that willful disobedience means losing the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice.

Hebrews 12:7-11 Herein Paul explains that if we are without discipline we are illegitimate children of God. (Some OSAS proponents claim that after accepting Jesus, they can commit whatever sin they want and God will overlook it. Paul helps us understand that not even human parents would put up with such conduct, how much less would God who time and again has demonstrated he will not tolerate flagrant disobedience.)

2 Peter 2:20-22 Here, Peter makes it quite plain that those not remaining active and firm in the faith have a worse outcome than those who had never known.

Jude 3. Jude writes that he felt urged to write fellow Christians to put up a hard fight. Why would he write that if merely initially believing was all that was required? Evidently, constant and consistent effort is needed.

Revelation 2:2-5 Here, Jesus counseled a congregation that at first was very zealous but then got complacent that if they didn't repent of this complacency they would have their lampstand removed, in other words, they would be rejected. (See also Revelation 3:16)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Not Mere Hearers

There is not a business or field of activity that I can think of where merely listening, even eagerly and attentively, is enough to curry the favor of those promoting the activity. Everything from little league to salesmen to corporate leaders are required to act on what they hear. Consider the salesman that gets very excited about the product when he hears the features of the product, the easy sales pitch, the support system, and the money he will make. But then, immediately after leaving the meeting, does nothing with that. If he were to expect any compensation for producing nothing, generating no sales, would the company show him anything but “the front door” (firing him)?


That is thrust of Jesus words at Luke 13:26,27. By illustration, Jesus said that people would feel they should be rewarded for merely listening to Jesus. In our time, what sort of people are these? One group that comes to mind are those stating that they “go to church.” Even if they listen attentively, is that all that is expected? The blunt answer is found at James 1:22-25.


What then is expected; what is does it mean to be “a doer”? Read these citations and see if you can get the sense of what a true Christian should do.


Mark 5:18-20. In this account, it was a man Jesus cured that turned around and started to declare his faith--he was not a trained preacher. Is this not the way each of us should feel about publically declaring our faith?


Luke 9:60. Consider: The ones spoken to here were those being invited to follow Jesus. These were not one of the twelve apostles.


Acts 8:4. In the surrounding verses, it is mentioned that a persecution arose against the congregation. It was the members of the congregation that were scattered. All of them were declaring the Good News.


Romans 10:9,10. Consider: Is this only directed to preachers, ordained ministers, priests?


It is my conclusion that each of us are required to declare our faith. What is your conclusion?


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