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Category Archives: counsel

Marks of a Cult


Authoritarian. There is almost always a central, charismatic, living human leader who commands total loyalty and allegiance.

Oppositional. Their beliefs, practices and values are counter to those of the dominant culture.

Exclusivistic. They are the only group that possesses the “truth.”

Legalistic. Rules and regulations abound governing spiritual matters and the details of everyday living.

Subjective. They emphasize the experiential, the feelings and the emotions. This is usually accompanied by an anti-intellectualism.

Persecution-conscious. The groups feel they are being singled out by mainstream Christians, the press, parents, and the government.

Sanction-oriented. They require conformity in practice and belief, and exercise sanctions against the wayward.

Esoteric. They promote a religion of secrecy and concealment. Truth is taught on two levels, inner truth and outer truth.

Anti-sacerdotal. There are no paid clergy or professional religious functionaries.

Signs of a cult

(1) Secrecy is employed; seldom is there full disclosure.

(2) Elite leadership does all the thinking. Others follow.

(3) Followers are the only ones who possess the whole truth.

(4) Scripture is never taken at face value.

(5) Loyalty goes to a leader or a system.

(6) The concepts lack historical roots.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in counsel

 

Follow after things which make for peace – Romans 14:19


Division in religion is rampant in the world! Religious division has been called “The Scandal of Christendom.”

There was a time when men attempted to justify the existence of conflicting religious parties, calling the situation “good,” “healthy,” or “desirable.” Men have even been heard to pray, “Lord, we thank Thee for the many denominations in our country.” But consider the Lord’s prayer for unity: John 17:20-21 (NIV) “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Today, men seldom defend religious division. If they know the Bible, they know that division is sinful. Our plea should be for men to seek unity!

Religious division is most harmful when it exists among those who claim to be the people of God. It has confused more minds, divided more homes, caused more hard feelings among friends, wasted more money, voided more sincere work, and probably caused more souls to be lost than any other single weapon in the devil’s arsenal.

Division is the work of Satan! It cannot be the work of God, for “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV) For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints..”).

But someone says, “Read Christ’s statement in Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

This text simply teaches that the people of Christ’s kingdom will, at times, be at variance with the people of the world. It does not endorse or encourage division within His kingdom!

NOTICE SEVERAL PLAIN PASSAGES FROM GOD’S WORD.

“So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Romans 14:19).

“Let him seek peace, and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11).

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife; but every fool will be quarreling” (Proverbs 20:3).

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

WHAT DESTROYS PEACE?

Contention kills peace.

“As coals are to hot embers, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to inflame strife” (Proverbs 26:21). As wood is to fire a contentious person is to strife. Vengeance destroys peace.

We live in an imperfect world and are part of an imperfect church (from the human side). Sooner or later someone will wrong us, or we will feel as though they have. When such happens, leave retribution to God. Romans 12:19 (NIV) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

A self-willed spirit can bring division. Trouble is bound to come when a person is set on having his way. Many have the philosophy “I will have it my way or else.” This is especially dangerous among the leaders of the church.

Elders must not be self-willed Titus 1:7 (NIV) Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

Elders are not to lord it over God’s people 1 Peter 5:3 (NIV) not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

An unholy ambition for power and preeminence destroys peace. This has led to conflicts of both minor and major proportions, from fisticuffs to world wars. It has led to struggle and strife in the church.

“I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). A church with a modem Diotrephes is sure, in time, to have discord. Bitterness, wrath, and anger rob us of peace.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). These evil traits tend to break the peace of a family, church or community; for they will break forth in word and deed and do injury.

Here are two important verses to consider: Proverbs 29:22 (NIV) An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. 

Proverbs 16:32 (NIV) Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

He who is incapable of controlling himself is unable to handle critical situations because he is incapable of sane decisions.

“Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).

Foolish and ignorant questions cause strife. “But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23).

2 Timothy 2:24 tells us the kind of servants we are to be. Corrupt speech destroys peace. “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29).

What constitutes corrupt speech? Hasty words create strife (James 1:19).

Gossip and talebearing excite strife. “A whisperer separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

“For lack of wood the fire goeth out; and where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth” (Proverbs 26:20).

Clamor is to be put away (Ephesians 4:31). This is outcry or a violent expression of discontent. It not only characterizes a mob, but occasionally describes church meetings. The wrong word can be spoken at a delicate time and the whole assembly becomes inflamed.

Railing is forbidden (1 Timothy 6:4,5). This means to insult, revile, and scoff. It is not Christian.

 WHAT MAKES FOR PEACE?

A recognition of a standard of authority makes for peace. This is true in the realm of times, weights, and measures. This is also true in religion, which has the Scriptures for its standard (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

A woman once told a preacher that she knew a certain thing was so no matter what the Bible said. If each is his own standard of authority, we will be hopelessly divided.

An unselfish spirit creates peace. Consider Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13:7–11).

“Not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).

The practice of the Golden Rule brings peace (Matthew 7:12).

Returning good for evil is one sure way to promote peace. Read Romans 12:20. This is overcoming evil with good. It will bring remorse to a guilty person who has any manhood. A spirit which is easy to be entreated produces peace.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy o be entreated” (James 3:17).

Each Christian should have a yielding disposition, easy to be entreated, in all matters of opinion. In matters of faith we must be uncompromising. A forgiving spirit makes for peace. “If any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13).

Read Matthew 6:12. Some people are so hardened that they will not forgive. This makes it hard on both the offender and the offended.

A longsuffering spirit makes for peace. This means that we are patient when offended. This spirit permits time to mediate. Time is a healing ointment for wounded feelings.

CONCLUSION

“If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). This passage teaches that it is not always possible to be at peace with all men. Peace at any price is a dangerous principle and should not be practiced by Christians. As Christians, we should be willing to sacrifice opinions to be at peace with all men, but we should never compromise truth and duty.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2019 in counsel

 

Do It Anyway…


 

1. People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered. Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds Think big anyway.
7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs Fight for a few underdogs   anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
9. People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you   have anyway.

David Augsberger, When Enough is Enough, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1984), pp. 109-130

 

leaders1Finding Good Leaders

What kind of person is best able to involve others and himself in good decision making? J. Keith Louden lists seven qualities:

1. The ability to look ahead and see what’s coming—foresight.

2. Steadiness, with patience and persistence and courage.

3. A buoyant spirit that in spite of cares generates confidence.

4. Ingeniousness, the ability to solve problems soundly yet creatively.

5. The ability to help others.

6. Righteousness, the willingness to do the right thing and speak the truth.

7. Personal morality of a quality that commands the respect of others.

Charles W.L. Foreman, “Managing a Decision Into Being,” from the Management Course for Presidents, pp. 3-4.

 

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in counsel

 

Spiritual Viruses


Matthew 23:27: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean”

The single most destructive disease, the single most devastating illness, is the sickness within – the sickness in the soul.

There are a number of spiritual viruses that can invade, infect, and poison our souls. Let’s take a closer look at three of the most common spiritual viruses that make us victims of soul sickness.

Describe what a virus is and how it works in the computer world.

PRIDE IS A SICKNESS OF THE SOUL.
Matthew 6:1-2: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets; to he honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Pride manifests itself in a variety of ways, but it can be identified quickly with an excess use of the word “I’ “my” and “mine.” It’s an attitude that acts as if something of God or of a corporate belongs to “ME!”

Every ministry of God is shared by each of us…it is not our personal possession upon which we can draw attention to ourselves.

(Psa 10:4) “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” 

(Psa 31:18) “Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.” (Prov 8:13) “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”

(Prov 11:2) “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

(Prov 13:10) “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

(Prov 16:18) “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

(Prov 29:23) “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”

(Eccl 7:8) “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”

HATRED IS A· SICKNESS OF THE SOUL.
Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you…love your enemies and pray for those
who persecute you.” (Prov 10:12) “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”

(Prov 10:18) “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.” (Prov 15:17) “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a
fattened calf with hatred.”

(Gal 5:20) “idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions”

WORRY IS A SPIRITUAL VIRUS THAT LEADS TO SOUL SICKNESS.
Matthew 6:25, 33-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear….Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.”

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2018 in counsel

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – The Challenge of Disappointment


9780825425424How do Christians deal with disappointment created by other Christians? We live in a society filled with cynicism, ready to criticize anything or anyone. Our society tells us to think the worst and expect it to happen in every situation. A common response: “That is what I expected!” In our democracy, we do not fear finding fault with anyone.

A man or woman assembles with the congregation “every time the door is open.” However, he or she lives a double life–one being quite evil, and one being quite good. The details of the double life become common knowledge. A consequence: we interpret all difficult circumstances in all troubled members’ lives as evidence of double lives.

A Bible teacher yields to temptation. A consequence: we decide all Bible teachers are especially prone to temptation.

A deacon has an affair. A consequence: we think all deacons are looking for opportunities for affairs.

A treasurer financially defrauds a congregation. A consequence: we think a quality of all treasurers is a love for money that is greater than a love for people.

An elder abuses his position for personal benefit. A consequence: we assume all elders are elders for “the wrong reason.”

Thus, many Christians ask, “What is wrong with us? We seem to be like an army who aims its guns on itself. When we have no pressing enemy, we shoot ourselves. We seem well trained to destroy, but have far too little motive to encourage.

Is Christianity by nature destructive? Is it a part of Christianity’s character to find its joy in destroying instead of encouraging?”

There are many reasons for congregations to be internally destructive, not merely one. One of those reasons that cries out for understanding is this: humans are spiritually weak.

Trusting humans commonly will lead to disappointment. Our faith always must be in Jesus Christ (the Savior), not in congregations (the saved).

The New Testament constantly urges people to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

When Peter spoke to the council after his and John’s arrest, he said in Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)
8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11  He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. 12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Only Jesus is:

  • The promised fulfillment of God’s determination to bring salvation to the world.
  • The only one through whom salvation is available.
  • The Son of God.
  • The only one in whom there is no condemnation.
  • The only sacrifice from God for the sins of all.
  • The only one in whom there is no favoritism.
  • The only one who can protect us through the living hope.
  • The only one who can grant us entrance into the eternal kingdom.
  • The real one sent from God to be Savior.
  • The only one who can give us the mercy we must have.
  • The only one who can take us to God.

Humans in Christ never stop being humans in this life.

As humans:

  • We always are able to be tempted.
  • We always have choices we must make.
  • We always are limited in our knowledge.
  • We always are capable of being emotional reactors instead of purposeful decision makers.
  • Humans make mistakes, and being in Christ does not eliminate our ability to make mistakes.

Never give a Christian what belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

  • Never give a human the kind of loyalty that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of devotion that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of appreciation that belongs only to Jesus.

What Isaiah Saw  — Isaiah 6:1-13

Isaiah did not begin his book with an account of his call to ministry. This he gives in chapter 6, where we’ll look today. Instead, he started with a probing examination of Judah’s present situation and gave a passionate plea for God’s people to return to the Lord.

Crisis and change often bring people to times of disappointment, self-examination and reflection and, hopefully, prayer. It was just such a time for young Isaiah when he went to the temple to pray.

King Uzziah’s reign had begun with such promise; for some 52 years he had been guided by God’s will…but unfortunately, pride overtook Uzziah and he presumed to do, in the temple, what was forbidden. He was struck with leprosy and he died, not in the palace, but the leper ward.

Isaiah was in turmoil: what is going to happen to Judah?

Any crisis, even a small one, can be an opportunity for a fresh vision of God. If we consider what Isaiah saw, it might help our spiritual eyesight. Like Isaiah, we can find new inspiration and renewed commitment.

Isaiah saw his Lord (upward look verses 1-4): It was a time of reverence.

He needed to see God. He had placed so much confidence in a visible king that he had previously felt little need to reach out to the invisible king. He saw God in all His majesty; God was “high and exalted.” He saw God in His power: “The train of his robe filled the temple.”

And notice the angels saw “the while earth is full of his glory.” They knew what Isaiah did not feel.

He was made to realize again that God is on His throne. He saw his circumstances from God’s perspective, not his own.

He also saw God in His holiness. The seraphs, covered in humility, sing “Holy, holy, holy.” The seraphs’ song underscores the fact that we have a holy God. In our desire to stress the love of God, we should never rob Him of His awesomeness.

Isaiah saw his sin (inward look verses 5-6): It was a time of repentance.

It should be a natural occurrence that when we see God, we truly see ourselves. This is a natural reaction after coming to terms with the holiness of God. When we capture a vision of God, we must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, even if it grieves us.

It is a refreshing thing to see that Isaiah mentioned his own sin before he mentioned the sin of the people. Isaiah saw his own sin and said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah saw his cleansing (verse 7) It was a time of restoration.

-God did not deny Isaiah’s sinfulness, but he did provide an escape. A seraph took a coal from the altar, where the sacrifice for sin was made, and seared Isaiah’s lips, sterilizing them.  There was no reason for Isaiah to continue to feel unworthy. He had been made pure.

Satan specializes is the game of guilt. He works on our individual desires to move us toward sin…and then points his finger at us and reminds of what we’ve done.

What is offered to us? (Acts 2:38 NIV)  “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

(Heb 10:19-22 NIV)  “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, {20} by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, {21} and since we have a great priest over the house of God, {22} let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Rabbis called this the “13 Attributes” because it spoke so fully of the character of God: (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)  “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, {7} maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.””

Sins of fathers and sons? (Deut. 24:16 NIV)  “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.”

(Ezek 18:20 NIV)  “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.”

One more important point: one of the great tragedies we can present is to speak of God’s throne without the awareness of the altar. God is interested in our life and He has provided what we need.

Isaiah saw the need….his mission (verses 8:13): It was a time of recognition. Verses 9-10 are references 6 times in the New Testament. It reminds us that some will not “hear” or “see” and “believe” no matter what is said or done. Some are very persistent in their unwillingness to believe and eventually live in obedience to God.

I have to be true to my training to have us at least read from John 12:38-41: “This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” {39} For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: {40} “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” {41} Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.”

When God says, “Go!” we go. There is no debating. We don’t say, “There he is, send him.” We don’t worry about how the people will respond. Isaiah was warned ahead of time that the people would not respond as they should.

It doesn’t matter what the people do, we must be faithful. God sent the people a message not because they wanted it, but because they needed it.

The message Isaiah would bring his people was the message he had received. There is forgiveness and purpose with God, if you will just turn our life over to His care and authority.

There is change and chaos in the world, but I say to you, “God is still on the throne.” If you doubt it, just look around. He might be closer than you think. Maybe you can say, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, and that has made all the difference.”

Can this make a difference?

The story has been told of two men who were the sole survivors of a shipwreck. They were afloat on a life raft and after several days had given up any hope of rescue. Finally, one said to the other, “Do you think it would do any good to pray?” The other agreed that nothing could be lost by trying. Neither, however, had ever prayed. Finally, one recalled living next door to a church as a child. He had often heard their mid‑week meetings through an open window. Bowing his head he began to pray, repeating his recollection of the words he had heard uttered in that church so many years ago. His fervent prayer began, “I‑26, B‑15, N‑7. …”

We may smile at this but before we begin to feel too smug there are some who know little when it comes to worship.

I found a statement that seeks to apply the principles we’ve seen today….In the book by Reggie McNeal’s A work of Heart: “God’s Sabbath did not mean a cessation of activity, but a different activity…it is not a day off to pursue whatever fancy is attainable and affordable. Rather, it is a day to restore eternity to our souls….a day of communion and reflection. God established Sabbath to accomplish a re-creation of eternity, a reminder of what is really real….and involves the worship of God and reflection on the work of our hands (what is going on in our lives).

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2018 in counsel, Disciplines, Encouragement

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – Dealing With Emotions


how_do_you_feel_chart-final“So what is your gut reaction? Tell me how you really feel.”

“They are a perfect match—they’re madly in love, and she has nothing but good feelings about him.”

“Let’s go for it! My sense is that we’re doing the right thing.”

These familiar sound bytes indicate that our modern world is deeply sensitive to human emotions. In fact, more often than not, our feelings are our compass, guiding our decision-making process. We call it “following our hearts instead of our heads.”

Of course, we know that emotions are a God-given part of our lives, allowing us to vividly experience the world. But as Christians, we have to ask ourselves if emotional satisfaction should be our primary goal in life.

The answer is clearly no.

The evidence around us suggests that modern emotions are creating subjective standards that aren’t the least bit trustworthy. Broken marriages, abused children, and teenage suicides proclaim out-of-control emotions.

Wants that are falsely identified as needs keep family credit cards maxed out and finances in shambles. And “if it feels good, do it” was a deadly motto for thousands of people now suf­fering from sexually transmitted diseases.

God’s Word provides an objective set of stan­dards for daily living. Naturally, these standards don’t always “feel good” when we first confront them. For example, when God calls upon us to treat others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, personal sacrifice is nec­essary.

When He requires us to obey His commandments, doing so may conflict with our deepest cravings. Most dis­turbing of all, He firmly challenges us to set all else aside when we submit ourselves to His sovereign will.

Why is dealing with our emotions—facing our feelings—so important?

While positive emotions add luster to life, negative emotions can be very damaging.

If we ignore them, become obsessed with them, or refuse to confront them, they will stunt our spiritual growth. The truth is, we cannot be spiritually mature unless we are emotionally mature.

  1. 1. God made us with emotions and has given us many instructions about them.
  2. 2. We have often neglected emotion in Bible study, thinking, discussion, and practice.
  3. 3. Many of us fall short of pleasing God because we have not properly addressed our emotions. We do not respond fully to God because we are deficient in positive emotions, and we also wreak havoc on ourselves and others because we are unduly influenced by negative emotions.

Nurturing Our Spiritual and Emotional Growth

When God created us in His image, that image included our emotions. God gives us all things to enjoy, and healthy emotions bring color and zest to our lives.

1 Timothy 6:17 (ESV) As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  

We’re also told in Scripture to enjoy our work, our mates, our children, our good health, our material blessings, and our God. Without emotions, that would be impossible.

We enjoy God. We enjoy our families and our friends. We enjoy the opportunities God gives us to use our abilities to serve others. Life has purpose and fulfillment. Our spiri­tual life matures and deepens as we appreciate God’s blessings.

When everything is working out—when we move into a new home, when our children finish college and find a good job, when they marry the right woman or man, when we have a good report from the doctor, when we actually have money left over at the end of the month—these occur­rences make us happy. Our emotions respond and react to our physical circumstances.

Our emotions also react to our spiritual circumstances. When a person, overwhelmed with guilt, finds forgiveness by trusting in Jesus Christ, he or she feels cleansed and free.

We often see this happen in women who have carried the guilt and pain of abortion for years; they have found emotional and spiritual healing through Christ’s forgiveness, particularly within the context of a support group for abortion recovery.  (news of Emmanuel’s baptism and 10 baptisms in Kigali, Rwanda at Centre Marembo).

After immorality has destroyed their self-worth, women renounce their unhealthy lifestyles and find joy in obedience to the Lord.

But what if our emotions become a runaway train we can’t control? Perhaps you often feel overwhelmed by your emotions and you see yourself in the following descriptions:

  • Have you experienced rejection or been treated unfairly, or are you struggling with emotional devas­tation from the past—were you molested or neglected?
  • Are you in a marriage that has soured and you feel hopeless?
  • Do others say you seem to “have it all together,” but underneath the surface you are seething with anger and bitterness, unable to forgive things that were done to you?
  • Are you overwhelmed with guilt and regret for things you have done and you just can’t forgive yourself?
  • It is clear to me that people with self-love issues have a hard time with confidence issues.

When we face uncertain, painful, or tragic circumstances in life, we feel sorrow, confusion, anger, and pain. These emotions are also God-given; our Father uses these feelings to push us closer to Him.

Just as physical pain tells us some­thing is wrong with our bodies, so emotional pain may be God’s way of telling us all is not well with our spiritual rela­tionship with Him.[1]

When emotions become destructive, they can make us miserable, ruin our relationships with others, and stunt our spiritual growth. They build a solid wall between us and God, and between us and other people.

In our misery, we can’t help but feel that God is somehow to blame for the tragic events of our past or the unhappiness of our present, and it’s hard for us to trust a God who allows such tragedy to happen to His children.

So we keep our distance from Him. We do just enough to keep our membership in His “club,” but there’s no sense of con­nection, no real enjoyment of God’s presence, and not a lot of honest fellowship with other believers.

These untampered, destructive emotions—selfishness, guilt, fear, worry, inability to forgive, anger, envy, rejection, greed, pride, feelings of inferiority, disappointment, discontentment, grief, and lone­liness—can hinder our spiritual growth and keep us from having a close, trusting relationship with our Creator.

Maybe you’re thinking no one could ever understand the misery your emotions have led you to feel right now. Maybe you secretly think your situation is past healing. If so, please remember what the prophet Jeremiah prayed as he watched his world crumble before his eyes: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17 emphasis mine).

God’s clearly stated purpose for all of His children is that we grow into spiritual maturity. He can take us around, over, or through any obstacle that has retarded our spiritual growth.

Nothing from our past or in our present is too hard for Him to handle. God created our emotions, and He is able to stop their destructive effect on our lives. He can make our emotions work for us, giving us peace and joy as we learn to respond to our relationship with our Lord rather than react to our circumstances.

The task may seem great, but with God’s help it’s really not all that hard.

Myth#1: Christian love is not a feeling but a duty and action.

Truth: Christian love is a feeling that leads to right actions.

Our heavy emphasis on the actions of love has demoted love. Do we really believe God loves us dutifully but not from his heart?

Deuteronomy 7:7 (ESV) It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,

Jeremiah 31:3 (ESV) …the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Philippians 1:8 (ESV) For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Then why would he want us to love that way? Because genuine Christian love will lead to obedience and service.

1 John 3:18 (ESV)  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 5:3 (ESV) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

2 John 1:6 (ESV) And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

Apparently, some people in their day were not expressing love in actions and so needed to hear that emphasis.

Still, God wants us to have his love in our hearts.

John 5:42 (ESV) But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

Many Scriptures show that there is a difference between love (the emotion) and the actions it leads to

1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV) Let all that you do be done in love.

Ephesians 4:2 (ESV) … with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV) So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Hebrews 10:24 (ESV) And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…

1 John 5:2 (ESV) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

This genuine emotion of love will lead us to the right actions

John 14:15 (ESV) 15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

The greatest commandment is to love God with everything

Mark 12:28-34 (ESV) 28  And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

We have rightly emphasized soul, mind, and strength, but we must not neglect the heart.

In the Bible, the heart includes our thoughts, desires, will, and emotions. God wants us to feel love for him.

If you have strong feelings of love for someone, you are much more likely to treat them well. Our commitment to them should lead us to do right by them regardless of what we are feeling at the moment, but a healthy emotion of love is a very powerful motivation for treating them right.

So with God. Heartfelt love for God will lead us not only to obey him but also to extol (praise enthusiastically) him, celebrate with all our might before him, kiss his feet and wash them with our tears, and seek him earnestly

Psalm 34:1-3 (ESV) I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2  My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 3  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Psalm 63:1 (ESV) O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
How different would your relationship with God be if you had a deep, heartfelt, emotional love for him? What difference would heartfelt, passionate love for God make to our vision of Loving Like Jesus? … to our purpose of being Joined Together in Love?

Myth#2: Follow your heart.

Truth: Our hearts can easily lead us astray Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10  “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

If our hearts are pure, they have a valid place in making decisions. Healthy emotion can keep us from making cold, unfeeling, Pharisaical decisions. But the notion of following one’s heart, while paraded as integrity, often means following one’s sinful desires.

If you “have feelings” for someone that you should not be in a love relationship with, do not follow your heart. Instead, put a stop to the thoughts and actions that are generating those feelings.

Will Harley (His Needs/Her Needs) says marital affairs result from creating emotional bonds with someone other than our spouse. Likewise, emotional bonds (love) with money, pleasure, praise, etc. will lead to spiritual affairs against God.

Pathway #1: One pathway to healthier emotions in general and loving God in particular is grasping God’s love more fully. This will help create love in us (1 John 4:19 (ESV) We love because he first loved us…) which will make us healthier emotionally. Having more love will also choke out some of our unhealthy emotions.

Ephesians 3 teaches us that prayer (v. 14), God’s Spirit (v. 16), and other Christians (v. 18) can all help us grasp God’s love more fully. If we can continue to do it mindfully, we should add this to our ongoing prayers

[1] Erwin Lutzer, Managing Your Emotions (Chappaqua, N.Y.: Christian Herald Books, 1981), 17.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in counsel, Encouragement

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – In Search of a Standard


Every morning the man would pause in front of the watchmaker’s shop, gaze at the large clock in the window, set his watch by it and walk on. Every day at noon, the watchmaker would go to the big clock in his window, and set it precisely by the blowing of the noon whistle at the local factory.

After many years had passed, the watchmaker stopped the man one day and complimented him on his faithful commitment to the correct time. “Oh, I have to be correct,” said the man. “You see, I’m the one responsible for blowing the noon whistle at the local factory. Without knowing it, they had both been using the other as the standard.

Do we use the speech of the people around us as the standard for our communication? That can be risky business!

Malcolm Muggeridge asks us to imagine a collection of 21th century videos discovered in a cave somewhere in the centuries ahead…tapes of our TV shows, tapes of our music, our videos, our radio advertisements….what would they make of us? (Does that question depress you as much as it does me?)

Alvin Toffler has written that we are a society with “value vertigo,” morally out of balance. It’s been said that we have lost the noble quality of moral courage. Where do we look for absolutes – values that enable us to distinguish right from wrong?  If we look to one another as the standard, we’re in big trouble! We will almost always compound one another’s errors. Of course…the answer: God’s Word!

Ephesians 5:1-5: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children {2} and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. {3} But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. {4} Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. {5} For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. {2} Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Challenge of Disappointment

How do Christians deal with disappointment created by other Christians? We live in a society filled with cynicism, ready to criticize anything or anyone. Our society tells us to think the worst and expect it to happen in every situation. A common response: “That is what I expected!” In our democracy, we do not fear finding fault with anyone.

A man or woman assembles with the congregation “every time the door is open.” However, he or she lives a double life–one being quite evil, and one being quite good. The details of the double life become common knowledge. A consequence: we interpret all difficult circumstances in all troubled members’ lives as evidence of double lives.

A Bible teacher yields to temptation. A consequence: we decide all Bible teachers are especially prone to temptation.

A deacon has an affair. A consequence: we think all deacons are looking for opportunities for affairs.

A treasurer financially defrauds a congregation. A consequence: we think a quality of all treasurers is a love for money that is greater than a love for people.

An elder abuses his position for personal benefit. A consequence: we assume all elders are elders for “the wrong reason.”

Thus, many Christians ask, “What is wrong with us? We seem to be like an army who aims its guns on itself. When we have no pressing enemy, we shoot ourselves. We seem well trained to destroy, but have far too little motive to encourage.

Is Christianity by nature destructive? Is it a part of Christianity’s character to find its joy in destroying instead of encouraging?”

There are many reasons for congregations to be internally destructive, not merely one. One of those reasons that cries out for understanding is this: humans are spiritually weak.

Trusting humans commonly will lead to disappointment. Our faith always must be in Jesus Christ (the Savior), not in congregations (the saved).

The New Testament constantly urges people to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

The examples are literally too numerous to list.

When Peter spoke to the council after his and John’s arrest, he said in Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)
8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11  He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. 12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

This same man wrote this in Romans 7:24-8:1 (NIV)
24  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. 1  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)
3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, 5  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

The message of Revelation closes with these words in Revelation 22:16-17 (NIV)
16  “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Only Jesus is:

  • The promised fulfillment of God’s determination to bring salvation to the world.
  • The only one through whom salvation is available.
  • The Son of God.
  • The only one in whom there is no condemnation.
  • The only sacrifice from God for the sins of all.
  • The only one in whom there is no favoritism.
  • The only one who can protect us through the living hope.
  • The only one who can grant us entrance into the eternal kingdom.
  • The real one sent from God to be Savior.
  • The only one who can give us the mercy we must have.
  • The only one who can take us to God.

We can be examples and encouragers who influence people to develop and cling to faith in Jesus Christ, but we can never be the Savior. 

Humans in Christ never stop being humans in this life.

As humans:

  • We always are able to be tempted.
  • We always have choices we must make.
  • We always are limited in our knowledge.
  • We always are capable of being emotional reactors instead of purposeful decision makers.
  • Humans make mistakes, and being in Christ does not eliminate our ability to make mistakes.

So we must set boundaries on humans, even humans in Christ.

  • We let humans in Christ encourage us, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ provide us examples, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ lift us up, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ warn us, but we follow Jesus.

Never give a Christian what belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

  • Never give a human the kind of loyalty that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of devotion that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of appreciation that belongs only to Jesus.

We exist as individuals and as congregations to serve Jesus, not to rival Jesus.

Thousands of years ago, God promised to send His Son. (See Genesis 12:3 with Galatians 3:16 and 29.)

  • Abraham’s fear in regard to Sarah did not turn God away.
  • Isaac’s impetuousness as an old man did not turn God away.
  • Jacob’s deceptiveness did not turn God away.
  • The slavery of Israel in Egypt did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The utter faithlessness of the adults who left Egypt did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • Israel’s sins in the period of the Judges did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The evil of the Israelite kings did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • Israel and Judah’s deaf ears in the period of the prophets did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The rejection of Jesus and the death of Jesus did not prevent God from keeping His promise.

What about us?

  • Will we allow any person to be bigger than Jesus and make God’s efforts of no benefit in your life?
  • Will we let the mistakes of any human be bigger than God?
  • Will we let any human blind you to God’s persistence?
  • Will we let the failures of any human be bigger than the mercy and forgiveness of God?

Don’t let anyone outside of God’s will discourage you from doing God’s will.

No matter how hard we try, we will never be more than the saved. No matter what we know, only Jesus will be the Savior.

We must always let Jesus be our Savior as we seek to encourage the saved. Never let the saved appear to us as the one who saves.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2018 in counsel, Encouragement

 
 
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