Faith/Feelings

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April 29

Monday, April 29th, 2024

Peace…in spite of.

Have you ever wondered what makes some people be as “calm as a cucumber” while others are frazzled to the bone with the same situation?

How can some be relaxed while others can’t stop wringing their hands?

How come the first move of some is to run to the doctor for a med at the first sign of stress while for others the first response is to drop to their knees in prayer? (Please don’t take that as me saying I’m against meds that serve a purpose).

Much has been made of the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is dependent on circumstances; joy is in spite of the circumstances.

Peace is the same. There is a settledness, a peace that some people have in spite of their circumstances. There is a well-told story about a lawyer named Horatio Spafford. He, his wife, and four children had booked a passage to Europe for a much-needed vacation, but at the last minute something came up that required his immediate attention. He sent his family ahead with the intention of joining them as soon as possible. The ship collided with another and sunk and only his wife survived. She sent a wire to him: “Saved alone.” In his grief, he booked the next passage to meet up with his wife. When they came to the spot of the shipwreck, the captain pointed it out to him. Mr. Spafford penned these words: “When peace like a river attendeth my way/When sorrows like sea billows roll/Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say/’It is well. It is well with my soul.'”

What kind of peace could lead Mr. Spafford to pen those words when his heart is breaking? A peace that is not dependent on circumstances. That kind of peace comes from the ONE who is bigger than the circumstances. Jesus once said, “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” That’s the kind of peace I want. How about you?

April 18

Thursday, April 18th, 2024

Popular today among many is what I will call (and possibly other have already done so) the “positive thought/confession” movement. Long story that strain of thought says “whatever you think or feel, whatever your heart says to do, speak it out loud and then go, follow your heart.

I know people who believed this so much that they stopped taking their meds because they “thought themselves” healthy. I’m not saying we are not sometimes over-medicated. Not at all. But there are some meds you just can’t quit cold turkey.

I’ve known people who refused medical treatment because some huckster or some “speak positive thoughts” guru told them to speak themselves well and to not act accordingly was a “an act of unbelief.”

Granted, these are some extreme examples. There are those who need to stop feeding negative images into their brain after they look into the mirror. The “I’m ugly” or “I’m fat” or “I’m worthless” comments need to go.  But frankly, there is a lot more money made in cosmetology and plastic surgery for unnecessary procedures than there should be.

What does all this have to do with being a Christ-follower? Many try to apply self-help gobbledygook to lifelong and lasting change. Victory over an addiction or a traumatic event in the past (or the present) will not be overcome by “I think I can, I think I can.” That only works with trains trying to climb mountains. The real transforming approach is this: “You were dead because of  your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross.”  (Col. 2:13-15 NLT)

Real change, real transformation, does not come from thinking positive. Real change comes from allowing God’s Spirit to do His work in you. He makes permanent change. He disarms the enemy.

And I’m positive He will win the battle.

March 20

Wednesday, March 20th, 2024

Have you ever played the “what if?” game? You know how it works. You might make a statement and say, “What if I hadn’t…?” Or you might look back on something you have done, slapped your forehead and said, “I could have had a V-8.” Just kidding. 🙂 You might, however, say, “What if I had or had not done…?”

As an athlete (in my younger, former days) there have been times I was tempted to quit, to give up. to say the pain to continue was too great. I now look back and see that extra practice effort; that extra game effort; that push to get that rebound was worth it. I would have missed out on the prize-whatever it was. What if I had quit a tad bit earlier?

There’s an interesting story in the OT which has always captured my fancy. You can find it in 2 Kings 5. It’s the story of Naaman, the leprous, Gentile, military leader. He had a little Jewish girl as a servant who recommended he go see the prophet Elisha to be healed of his leprosy. Long story short: Naaman gets a letter from his king requesting safe passage for Naaman and an audience with Elisha. Elisha sends his servant to tell Naaman to wash 7 times in the Jordan River. He protests because the Jordan is muddy and, he thinks, inferior to the rivers in his home land. His soldiers basically tell him, “What could it hurt to do what the prophet says?” So he does. Seven times and he comes up clean! No more leprosy!!

Here is your list of “what ifs?”

  • What if he had refused to dip in the Jordan?
  • What if he had stopped at #6 out of frustration or disbelief?
  • What if he had thought this was effort in futility?
  • What if he had blown off the servant girl’s suggestion? You know…kids don’t know squat.

We are often hamstrung by the “what ifs” in our life, missing out on blessings God wants to give us by being paralyzed by the “what ifs.” So we short-change ourselves.

Take it from Naaman. The what ifs can be crippling. Break through them and see what God has on the other side.

March 18

Monday, March 18th, 2024

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that just won’t go away? That has been me the past week to two weeks.

First, a little backstory. For over 30 years I have had a friendship that started out with riding bikes together at least once a week. Over the 30+ years countless miles have gone under our bicycle tires and plenty of meals have been eaten. Not even distance could put a damper on our friendship. His prostate cancer changed all that.

Another man was one of the leaders in the church. When I was threatened and encouraged with termination he stood in front of me. When the church was embezzled, he stood strong. But diabetes and a downturn physically hit him hard. So did some lies that caused a rift between us. But being bed-bound gave me the opportunity to visit him almost weekly, take communion, and repair the tear in our relationship.

My cyclist friend has been told he has 3-6 months to live. That was over a month ago. His cancer is everywhere, in spite of every effort with chemo and experimental stuff. When Jo and I got back from AZ on the 27th I went to visit my former leader on Thursday at the rehab center. He died that Saturday. The following week I went to visit my cycling friend and that visit hit me hard. There are also some other daily issues that are weighing on me.

The song that has been my go-to, the one that has not left my mind, my bulwark, the one that has pointed me to the ONE has been Morning by Morning by Pat Barrett. You can listen to it here. With lyrics like “Morning by morning great is your faithfulness to me,” I am reminded I’m not in this alone.  Psalm 62:6-7 says, “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor comes from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”  Psalm 63 follows it up with the following: “Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (verse 7-8).

I’m not alone. Neither are you. You can put a nail through that promise.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

January 23

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024

“Why?” “Why me?”

Those just may be two of the most asked questions in human conversation. I won’t lie. I’ve said them or some variation of them. We usually say them or hear them during a particularly tough time we or someone we know is going through.

I very, very seldom ask that question any more. In fact, as long as I can remember, I stopped asking it years ago. Why? Because there is no answer to it. I mean, how can you or I honestly know why we are going through this rough patch? We can pile on the shame or the guilt or the “I deserve this” or “God’s getting even with me,” but that won’t answer it.

The real reason I stopped asking that question though is because I started asking another one: “Now that this is happening to me God, how do you want me to act?” How does God want me to respond to this trial?

I just finished reading Country Music star, Granger Smith’s book, Like a River. {Spoiler alert: I am not a CM fan} {Spoiler alert #2: Look for a review of Granger’s book on my other site, Cycleguy’s Spin, soon}. Granger and his wife, Amber, lost their son, River, in a tragic drowning accident in their home pool. This book is his story. There was a lot of good teaching that came through his book, but one that struck a chord was after he tells about speaking at a men’s breakfast conference at the church they were attending. It was exactly one year since he had walked into that same church building for Riv’s funeral. When he was done, he wrote that he wasn’t sure if any of those men benefited from what he said, but he did.  He learned that by sharing his story of pain and redemption God was answering his question. Not the one he asked why. “The one that asked God, ‘What are you trying to show me through this heartache?'” (p.178)  He then wrote that God responded with Isaiah 41:10-“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  He goes on to comment: “God was reminding me to depend on Him. He would be there to pick me up and push me forward from the bottom of the river’s waterfall.” (Ibid).

The question to ask is not “Why? Why me?” The real question to ask is “What now? God, how do you want me to respond? What do you want me to learn?”

Sure changes the perspective doesn’t it?

January 3

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024

I mentioned in yesterday’s devotion under Goal #2 that I read recently read how Eve diminished God’s Word; she added to God’s Word; and she softened God’s Word. I’d like to elaborate on that very briefly in this devotion.

First, those thoughts came from Daily Strength-A Devotional for Men published by Crossway and compiled by various writers. These thoughts are from the January 2nd devotion and the writer is R. Kent Hughes.  The main thoughts are his. Much of the supporting material is mine. Now to the thoughts:

1. Eve diminished God’s Word. In Gen. 3:2 she tells the serpent: “Of course, we may eat from the trees in the garden.” She diminished God’s Word by leaving out the word “every” as in “every tree.” Her shrunken rendition left out God’s generosity.

2. Eve added to God’s Word. In 2:17 they are told not to eat the fruit, but in 3:3 she adds that touching the tree was also forbidden. Seems like a small thing but by adding the word “touch” she magnified God’s harshness.

3. Eve softened God’s Word. She left out the word “surely” in 3:3 that we find stated by God in 2:17. Her omission removed the certainty of death which the serpent exploited in 3:4.

So…here is what I see as it applies to today. God’s Word is often diminished as we see feelings and “follow your heart” become the mantra and take precedence over “What does God’s Word really say?”  Second, people are constantly adding to God’s Word to make it say what they want it to say. Add a little here; add a little there. What’s the harm? Third, we see God’s Word softened often. “Hell? There’s no hell, no eternal punishment for sin. Speaking of sin. What’s that?” Or we will hear “Everyone makes their own path to God. God doesn’t care.”

One more thing (and I’m grateful to John Eldredge from Wild at Heart for pointing this out years ago): The whole time Eve was having this exchange with the serpent, Adam was standing right there. (See Gen. 3:6b). Yep, good old Adam. Standing idly by. He sinned with his eyes wide open, watching the exchange. He never stepped in. He never put a hold or a stop to the conversation.

Perhaps the best way to conclude is a word from Mr. Hughes: “Eve followed the snake, Adam followed Eve, no one followed God.”  Jesus once said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Mt. 4:4) Let’s allow His Word to guide us.

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Please let me remind you again about my review of Martha Orlando’s The Glade Series I posted at Cycleguy’s Spin. You can access that here.

October 3

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023

I was watching a video yesterday at the request of someone and the man the video was about was asked by a reporter (as they were riding in his horse-drawn carriage. And no, he is not Amish), how he hears the voice of God.  That was an interesting question, one I’m sure the non-believing reporter was sincerely curious about.

I’ve given some thought to that same question. Here are some common, and I’m sure, not all the answers:

“I follow my heart.” That is a very familiar one today. I could give you the name of a very well known movie and entertainment company whom I think has sort of adopted that moniker as their modus operandi. I’m going to be very open and honest here: I am really, really tired of hearing this same old drivel time after time.  But it also is not new. I can remember a song back in the ’70s with the lyrics: “It can’t be so wrong; it feels so right.”

“I hear His voice.” Now…hearing His voice has a connotation that I’m uneasy with. If speaking about hearing His voice audibly, I have a real problem with since I don’t believe God speaks through a burning bush type of approach today.  Many are waiting to “hear from on high” and for God to speak out loud before they make a decision or move ahead.  Why do I have problems with this?

“He speaks through His Word.”  God’s Word, the Bible, is His voice today. The psalmist says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and light for my path.” 

Granted there are other answers to this question people give. We have to be careful what voice we listen to. Our culture will tell us that what used to be wrong is no longer wrong but acceptable. The Bible is out-dated and old school. Or possibly even worse, people will make outright attempts to reinterpret Scripture to make it mean what they want it to mean.  They deny what is clearly defined as wrong and will either hedge on it or completely misfire because it doesn’t fit their narrative.  That is why “follow your heart” is so troublesome. The Bible says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NASB2020)  Long story short: our heart cannot be counted on to make or decide the right thing to do. Emotions enter the picture and convince us of what is not the truth or changes our view.

Don’t follow your heart; follow the Bible. Don’t allow our culture to convince you that the Bible is old and dusty and out of tune with today’s world. The Bible is the truth and it still stands. Jesus once said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words will never pass away.”  I’ll stake my claim on His words and His Word.

August 8

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023

One of the greatest tragedies of our culture today is thinking we can find the answer by “following our heart.” We think we can pursue the wisdom of men and “light within us” and find meaning and purpose.

Alan Noble in his book On Getting Out of Bed put it this way:

Whatever challenges we face can be solved. That’s society’s promise. Whatever problem you have, someone has developed a method for overcoming it. A pill. A treatment. A mindset. Which means if you don’t overcome your problems, it’s your own fault. You really should have tried harder. You should have shown more initiative. You should have chosen the right technique. Because the normal life is a pleasant life for those who merit it. (p.8)

Alan goes on to say he believed all that and he/it was wrong.

Strangely enough, the Bible speaks of that, and in of all books, Revelation. Revelation 8:12 speaks of light becoming dark- a third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars. Taken in context that verse is speaking of the futility and emptiness of man’s wisdom and “spirituality” to enlighten as an utter failure. We foolishly think pursuing more of man’s wisdom; more of man’s ways; more of man’s insights will lead us to enlightenment. It is a picture of people going about living their lives in darkness without the ability to see what is true and right and good. You know…follow your heart.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news: it is an empty and dead end road.

But I do like to be the bearer of GOOD NEWS! Proverbs 8:34-36 tells us to pursue God’s wisdom not the world’s. The one who pursues His wisdom finds life.  Instead of “follow your heart” it should be “pursue God’s heart.” He won’t steer you wrong.

May 24

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

There is no question we all do things that are “off the wall.” Some might call them stupid. We are surprised, not just by our own actions, but also by those of others. We roll our eyes at what some people do or say, or we can’t believe what we do or say!

I recently read about a lady who went to see a doctor with two severely burnt ears. The doctor said, “In all of my years of practice, I have never seen anything quite like this. How did you burn your ears?”

“Well,” she said, “I was ironing and watching TV. Suddenly, the phone rang. I answered the iron instead of the phone and burned my ear.”

“That’s horrible!” the doctor said. “But how did you burn your other ear?”

“Can you believe it?” she said. “The idiot called back!”

Okay…so other than the groan that just escaped our lips and the chuckle that maybe became more than just a chuckle, what did you think?

Roll your eyes?  Shake your heard in disbelief? Did you groan and chuckle some more? Did you comment about the sheer stupidity of some people? Or maybe all the above?

I’d say the woman was a little flaky. Okay, more than just a little. But even more, I’d say she was a bit preoccupied. I mean, how do you? Never mind.

Preoccupation is dangerous. Preoccupied driving, for example, is really dangerous. How often do we hear about not texting and driving? Trying to have a serious conversation with a preoccupied person is a lost cause. It’s like talking to a brick wall. Preoccupied people have skewed priorities. We lose sight of what is in the moment, what is right in front of us.

Jesus once said, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” The “these things” refers to the daily necessities of life.

He has promised; He will deliver…and you can’t burn your ears worrying (being preoccupied) about it.

April 12

Wednesday, April 12th, 2023

In my study recently, I have been reading a lot on fear and anxiety in preparation for a sermon series that will start on May 7th (Lord willing). I had planned on returning to my series on Revelation after a short side road on To and From the Cross (in honor of the death and resurrection of Jesus), but God had other plans.

Something happened along the way and I felt a deep need to delay Revelation and do a short series on fear and anxiety. WOW! Little did I know 1) what I was getting into; and 2) how much it is needed. I’ve had so many express they struggle with it and how they are looking forward to the help they need. I only hope, of course, I am “up to” the challenge.

I’ll probably say more about that as it gets closer, but in the last couple of days I’ve been able to share something with several people that I have learned from my study. I would like to pass it on to you this morning. It is simple but far more complex than I am able to develop here, and at this moment. (Again, maybe in the future I can “flesh it out” more for you).  I found snippets of this scattered in my reading, but one put it succinctly:

  • You are not crazy.
  • You are not alone.
  • This will end.

Mental illness, mental struggles, and all the branches of that is not something to shrug off, pretend it doesn’t exist (especially if it is you or someone you know who is struggling), or (horror of horrors), criticize. There are millions of people affected E.V.E.R.Y. D.A.Y.  Each one of those three bullet points is an essential to getting a grip on depression, fear, anxiety, panic attacks, breakdowns, etc.

At the risk of sound simplistic, put-off-ish, or calloused, due to time and space constriction,  I want to close this devotion with the following promises:

“My peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives you. Do not let your heart be troubled nor let it be afraid.” Jesus in John 14:27

“I will not leave you as orphans.” Jesus in John 14:18

Walk with Him. His hand is motioning for you to come. You can even find it at His side simply waiting for you to slip your hand into His. Go ahead. Start with that and start healing.