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Category Archives: Encouragement

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).

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way: Grief, Sorrow, and Anguish: How Do I Handle Difficult Situations? Matthew 26:36-46, Psalm 42


One of Philip Bliss’s beautiful hymns contains the words,

Man of sorrows, what a name, For the Son of God who came, Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

The hymn writer borrowed his description of Christ from Isaiah, who predicted that the Messiah would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).

There is no record in Scripture of Jesus’ laughing, but there are numerous accounts of His grieving, His sadness, and even His weeping:

  • He wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35)
  • He wept over Jerusalem at the time of His triumphal entry (Luke 19:41).

    Matthew 26:36-46 reveals three aspects of Jesus’ striving in the garden: His sorrow, His supplication, and His strength. And in clear contrast to their Lord’s unremitting struggle we see also the disciples’ indifferent lethargy

Sorrow

36  Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
37  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
38  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 “Jesus had often met there with His disciples,” and it was that fact that enabled Judas to find Him so easily later that night (John 18:2).

Luke 22:42-71 (NIV) 42  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

 2 Corinthians 5: 21 (NIV)  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hebrews 5:7 (NIV)  During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

 Supplication

39  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.
41  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
42  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.
44  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?

 “I lay down My life that I may take it again,” He explained to the unbelieving Pharisees “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18).

As always with Jesus, the determining consideration was God’s will. “I did not speak on My own initiative,” He declared, “but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49; cf. 14:31; 17:8).

The need for spiritual vigilance is not occasional but constant. Jesus was warning His disciples to be discerning enough to know they were in spiritual warfare and to be prepared by God to resist the adversary. He was warning them of the danger of self-confidence, which produces spiritual drowsiness.

 Strength

Matthew 26:45-46 (NIV) Mt 45 (NIV)  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46  Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

With the courage of invincibility, Jesus had made the ultimate and final act of commitment to His heavenly Father, who He knew would raise Him from the dead on the third day. As He moved toward the crowd who came to arrest Him, He also resolutely moved toward the cross. “For the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2).

Matthew 26:36-46 gives the pattern and sequence of spiritual tragedy, which may be summarized in the words: confidence, sleep, temptation, sin, and disaster.

  • Self-confidence always opens the door to temptation. The first step of a believer’s falling into sin is false confidence that he is able to be faithful to the Lord in his own power. Like the disciples on the Mount of Olives, he is certain he would never forsake Christ or compromise His Word.
  • Following self-confidence comes sleep, representing indifference to evil and lack of moral and spiritual vigilance. The sleeping believer has little concern for what he reads or listens to, even when it is clearly unchristian and debasing.
  • The third step is temptation, which Satan’s system is constantly ready to place in the way of God’s people. As with Jesus, the temptation appeals to one’s personal rights and calls for rebellion against God.
  • The fourth step is sin, because a believer who is spiritually self-confident, who is indifferent to sin, and who does not turn to the Lord for help will inevitably fall into sin. No person, not even a Christian, has the capacity within himself to withstand Satan and avoid sin.
  • The fifth and final stage in the sequence is disaster. Just as temptation that is not resisted in God’s power always leads to sin, sin that is not confessed and cleansed leads to spiritual tragedy.

But this passage also contains the pattern for spiritual victory, manifested and exemplified by Jesus. The way of victory rather than tragic defeat:

  • confidence in God rather than self
  • moral and spiritual vigilance rather than indifference
  • resisting temptation in God’s power rather than in our own
  • and holding to obedience rather than to the rebellion of sin. 
 
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Posted by on June 25, 2018 in Encouragement

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way: Worry/Fretting…What Does The Future Hold? Matthew 6:25-34, Psalm 37


 

Worry has become an obsession in our modern world. A look at the self-help section in any bookstore will reveal its prevalence. Hospitals and waiting rooms are filled with people who have physical problems caused by overwhelming anxiety. In addition, there are many people whose lives are disrupted or made unenjoyable because of paralyzing fear.

Christians like to hide their worry by labeling it Christian concern. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is intensely practical. He deals with this practical problem of anxiety. If he taught about it, that means he cares about it.

The Jews themselves were very familiar with this attitude to life. It was the teaching of the great Rabbis that a man ought to meet life with a combination of prudence and serenity. They insisted, for instance, that every man must teach his son a trade, for, they said, not to teach him a trade was to teach him to steal. That is to say, they believed in taking all the necessary steps for the prudent handling of life. But at the same time, they said, “He who has a loaf in his basket, and who says, ‘What will I eat tomorrow?’ is a man of little faith.”

Jesus said that worry is sinful. We may dignify worry by calling it by some other name—concern, burden, a cross to bear—but the results are still the same. Instead of helping us live longer, anxiety only makes life shorter (Matt. 6:27). The Greek word translated take no thought literally means “to be drawn in different directions.” Worry pulls us apart. Until man interferes, everything in nature works together, because all of nature trusts God. Man, however, is pulled apart because he tries to live his own life by depending on material wealth.

God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies. He will feed and clothe us. It is our “little faith” that hinders Him from working as He would. He has great blessings for us if only we will yield to Him and live for the riches that last forever.

Mt 25 (NIV)  “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?

There is plenty to worry about (v. 25).

There is no shortage of potential items to worry about. Jesus mentions several matters of common concern.

  1. Life 2. Health 3. Possessions

We could add our own list of concerns.

  1. Accidents 2. Aging 3. Weather    4. Criticism

In these ten verses Jesus sets out seven different arguments and defenses against worry.

  • He begins by pointing out (verse 25) that God gave us life….surely we can trust him for the lesser things.
  • Jesus goes on to speak about the birds (verse 26). 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 
  • There is no worry in their lives, no attempt to pile up goods for an unforeseen and unforeseeable future; and yet their lives go on. The point that Jesus is making is not that the birds do not work; it has been said that no one works harder than the average sparrow to make a living; the point that he is making is that they do not worry.
  • 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? In verse 27, Jesus goes on to prove that worry is in any event is useless…no man by worrying can add the shortest space to his life; and that meaning is more likely.
  • 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Jesus goes on to speak about the flowers (verses 28-30), and he speaks about them as one who loved them. If God gives such beauty to a short-lived flower, how much more will he care for man?
  • 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
  • Jesus goes on to advance a very fundamental argument against worry. Worry, he says, is characteristic of a heathen, and not of one who knows what God is like (verse 32). Worry is essentially distrust of God.
  • Jesus goes on to advance two ways in which to defeat worry. The first is to seek first, to concentrate upon, the Kingdom of God. Worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.
  • Jesus says that worry can be defeated when we acquire the art of living one day at a time (verse 34).
  • 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
  • We worry over things we cannot control…usually do not happen…cause us to lose joy of the day…act as if we do not know God.

    Worry is a futile thing It’s something like a rocking chair, It will keep you occupied But it won’t get you anywhere.

    It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains. Alice Caldwell Rice

    It is distrust of God to be troubled about what is to come; impatience against God to be troubled with what is present; and anger at God to be troubled for what is past. Simon Patrick (1625–1707)

    Read from Psalm 37:1-40 (NIV) …note the word ‘fret’ and apply to the verses

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in 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

 

Working for worth…“Life is a series of inspired follies.”


A mother overheard her son’s little six-year-old friend ask why babies are spanked when they are born. The youngster replied, “To get them 1526556_807300415953891_297388138_nused to it.”

From the human point of view, life appears futile; and it is easy for us to get pessimistic. The Jewish writer Sholom Aleichem once described life as “a blister on top of a tumor, and a boil on top of that.” You can almost feel that definition!

The American poet Carl Sandburg compared life to “an onion—you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” And British playwright George Bernard Shaw said that life was “a series of inspired follies.”

What a relief to turn from these pessimistic views and hear Jesus Christ say, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Or to read Paul’s majestic declaration, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Do you have a dream? You need one. Dreams give hope. They display a powerful image of what life can be. Has your dream been shattered? Worse yet, has your dream turned into a nightmare and come true? For all of us dreamers, there is hope.

We need to find meaning and purpose! It gives us daily direction. It gives us worth.

Life is “not in vain” if it is lived according to the will of God! This mind-set makes all the difference! It gives us a focus as we wake each morning and begin pondering the new day. It makes calculation easier when we wonder what lies ahead – and helps erase those things past, over which we no longer have control.

A little girl was working very hard and could not be induced to stop and rest. This was before the day of electric lights. When asked, “Why do you not stop and rest?” she replied, “I have just one little candle, and it will soon be burned out. I wish to do what I can while the candle burns.” So it is with us. Our little day will soon be gone. May we do what we can while the candle burns.

Henri J. Nouwen is credited with a profound statement: Sometimes I think of life as a big wagon wheel with many spokes. In the middle is the hub. Often in ministry, it looks like we are running around
the rim trying to reach everybody. But God says, “Start in the hub; live in the hub. Then you will be connected with all the spokes, and you won’t have to run so fast.”
I want to accept the challenge offered by Mark Twain: “Let us so live that when we die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

If we make that choice, we might prefer to adopt the positive lifestyle of Jeanne Hendricks, who said that “Living is not a spectator sport.  No one, at any price, is privileged to sit in the stands and watch the action from a distance.  Being born means being a participant in the arena of life, where opposition is fierce and winning comes only to those who exert every ounce of energy. “

Or perhaps we like the Yiddish Proverb: “Life is the biggest bargain.  We get it for nothing.”

Abraham Lincoln had ten guidelines by which he lived and governed his life. He followed these guidelines until the day he died:

 1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

 2. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.

 3. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

 4. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

 5. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.

 6. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.

 7. You cannot further the brotherhood of men by inciting class hatred.

 8. You cannot establish security on borrowed money.

 9. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.

 10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Encouragement

 

Hindrances to Loving Others


There are many “one another” statements in the Bible, but in the ‘negative commands’ we find hindrances to loving one another and hindrances to fellowship. These negative injunc­tions stress and point to what we natu­rally tend to do without the exchanged life of Christ, without the life-changing power of the Lord, the ministry of the Spirit, and daily renewal in the Word.

Do Not Judge One Another

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a bro­ther’s way” (Rom 14:13).

Do Not have Lawsuits With One Another

“Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one anoth­er. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7)

Do Not Bite and Devour One Another

“But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:15).

Do Not Challenge and Envy One Another

“Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:26).

Do Not Speak Evil or Complain Against One Another

“Do not speak against one anoth­er, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it” (James 4:11).

 “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9).

Do Not Seek Glory from One Another

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44).

While this command was addressed to the unbelieving religious leaders in Israel, there is a principle here that obviously applies to us all, and is tremendously important to the entire process of our ability to love one another.

In John 5:37-40 these Jews were studious and knew the Old Testament Scriptures, but they had missed the purpose of Scripture and had become self-righteous and proud of their knowledge. Failing to see their sinfulness they were self-confident externalists who sought acceptance with God and the praise of men by their legalistic obedience to the Law. They failed to see their need of the cross and a suffering Savior.

Because they failed to see their sinfulness and weak­ness, they saw no need for faith in Christ. There was also no genuine love for God in them because of their pride and self-love (John 5:42). What they did religious­ly, they did for their own glory and admiration from men as chapters 6 and 23 of Matthew make perfectly clear.

John 5:44 points us to the heart of the problem. John writes: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”

They were seeking glory from men or from one another. Without awareness and recognition of our sinfulness and need, without faith in God’s Son and the cross, without truly resting in who we are in Christ and His acceptance of us, we are left to justify ourselves and find our sense of security and significance from people. When we seek glory from one another, we are unable to love one another in the biblical sense according to the character of the Word. Rather, we become engrossed with such things as

Performance: How do I do?

Appearance: How do I look?

Status: How important am I?

The religious leaders did not approve of Christ’s act of love when he healed the sick man on the Sabbath. Rather, they were infuriated because Christ had broken the Sabbath. They failed to see that the Sabbath according to God’s purpose as a blessing for man (Mark 2:27). Their self-righteousness had blinded them to the ultimate goal of Scripture—love for God and love for man.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2018 in Encouragement

 
 
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