Faith/Feelings

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April 29

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some sayings that stay with you? Some of them are good; some not so. Some are mere pablum, empty sayings which may sound good but are vacuous. A good one that I have heard off and on through the years but can’t say I have had as a go-to saying is this one:

There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you more; there is nothing you can do to make Him love you less.

That came back to me as I read about Jesus and His dealings with people. I’m preparing a sermon series on Eyes Wide Open by taking a look at how Jesus saw people. He reached out to those the religious people wanted nothing to do with.  But them? They were His biggest critics and His biggest headache. I think some of it was because He didn’t come to impress them or to cower before them. He didn’t praise them for their religiosity.

What we learn from Jesus is the truth of that saying. The simple message He taught was that our best wasn’t and isn’t good enough, and our worst doesn’t disqualify us. Jesus didn’t seek to impress the religious elite; I don’t have to seek to impress Jesus. His love is sure.

“Father, thank You for your acceptance-past, present, and future. Thank you that I’m not weighed on a scale as acceptable/non-acceptable. You see me as I am and love me anyway.”

April 9

Friday, April 9th, 2021

We often hear people say something similar to this: “You need to see that God has something much better for you.”  Even though that is true, sometimes it smacks of insensitivity. It also seems almost meaningless because the person may not be ready to hear that or want to hear it.

I know what a person is saying when they do. We often get so myopic that we fail to see the bigger picture. We see the hear and now. Like a card player who keeps his cards close to this chest, that is all we see. Up close and personal.

When the truth is that God may have a bigger picture for us. If He gave us what we wanted all the time, we would miss that. I was reading Psalm 119 this morning (and yesterday and the day before) :). In Psalm 119:26 it says, “I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me Your decrees. “ It’s like he realizes God has so much more to teach him.

Here’s the reality: I would never have known what God had waiting for me if I had only aimed at my target. God has so much more than my eyes can see. His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine. He wants to give me so much more than my keep-things-close-to-my-chest-vision can see.

It’s good to pray for answers but leave a card or two available for God to show His hand.

“Father, You are good. Kind. Loving. And would NEVER give me bad things or do bad things. Help me to pray but then leave the door open for You to work.”

March 22

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

I’m sure you’ve heard or maybe used the phrase, “You make a molehill into a mountain.” The opposite is what we truly want to happen (and what God often does): “He makes a mountain into a molehill.”

Back to the original statement of “a molehill into a mountain.” Small things loom large. Small holes are made into mountains by worry, fear, and rebellion.

Here is an interesting connection for you. Moses is opposed by two magicians at the start of the plagues in Egypt-the Nile turning to blood, and the frogs taking over. They were able to duplicate the plagues but not remove them. Paul gives us their names in 2 Timothy 3:8-9. Their names were Jannes and Jambres. They opposed the truth, put up counterfeits, and rejected Moses’ warnings. Eventually, they slithered off in disgrace (Ex.9:11) but very possibly convinced Pharaoh to pursue the Israelites and drowned with him and the army.

Application: In our lives-sometimes daily-we have our Jannes and Jambres. Let’s give them different names: fear, anxiety, anger, rebellion, and others opposed to God’s work. Molehills become mountains because we allow the tools of the enemy to take root in our lives. What is interesting is Jannes and Jambres could duplicate the plagues but not get rid of them. That tells us the enemy of our souls can cause havoc but has no power to take it away (not that he would want to). He brings the mountain; God does the removing.

Two statements come to mind. I have a magnet on my file cabinet at the office which I have for more year than I can remember:

The faith to move mountains is the reward of those who have moved little hills.

The other is a Tolkien quote via Gandalf:

The power of Sauron is still less than fear makes it.

Don’t let your molehill become a mountain. Let God take your mountain and make it into a molehill.

“Father, may I give you my complete trust in all my circumstances, especially when the molehill threatens to become a mountain.”

February 11

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Ask people on the streets to define love and one will get a plethora of answers. And let’s not just talk about those on the street. Let’s ask those in the church. I suspect the answers will be almost identical.

But I can almost guarantee-in fact if I was a betting man I’d put a lot of money on the idea that one of the statements made would be “Love is a feeling.” Say what? So is love for my wife or my daughters or grandson the same “feeling” I have for my dog or cat (of which I have neither), ice cream, or how I feel after an invigorating bike ride?

Obviously, most (probably all) would say, “Oh no! It’s a different kind of feeling.” 🙂 So let’s admit that love is somewhat hard to clarify.

What is not in question-at least in my mind- is that love may be hard to pinpoint with a definition, but it is not hard to be seen. Love is more than just a feeling (cue in Boston’s song). If I waited for my feelings to catch up I may never show love. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We can’t wait for all the feelings to catch up to us before we give away extravagant amounts of love. Selfless love is always costly. Fear can’t afford it, pride doesn’t understand it, but friends never forget it.” (#40-p.50)

Love is a decision we make. It is more than a feeling. It is a conscious decision which leads to action.

“Father, help me not to wait of feelings to come. Teach me to love as You loved.”

Note: Goff quote from his book Live in Love-Walk in Grace.

January 18

Monday, January 18th, 2021

L.A.B.E.L.S.

Don’t you just love ’em? Please notice the sarcasm included in that question. Truth be known most of us despise labels. And I am not talking about those identifying what we are buying.

Oh, not that all labels are bad. Calling your son “sport” or “Mr. Baseball Man” is okay. Calling your daughter “the light of your eyes” or “Honey” or “Loved one” is good. But sadly, we seldom hear labels like that.

We more often hear labels like “Ugly” or “Fatso” or “Dork” or “No Good” or “Lazy bum” or some other put down. And man, can it go on and on! As a result, we grow up or see kids (and adults) grow up with ugly labels running through their head and unless someone steps into the gap and tells us we are not stupid or a loser, we will grow up believing the lies. This makes us very vulnerable to other words that tear us down AND ARE LIES!  I used to be called “Highpockets” by my grandfather, whom I loved dearly. He used that term affectionately because I was tall, skinny and had long legs. There is a big difference between that and “stupid” or “No good.” The former was said in jest; the latter is pain.

There is one identity that never goes sour…one label. That label  is “child of God.” “My son or My daughter.” “My beloved.” God would never and will never give us an identity contrary to Him or His Word. We never have to wonder if God thinks we are incorrigible or a loser or a real problem child. Granted, we are all different (that is part of the fun), but God has designed us to be so. He has made us all unique and put His stamp of identity on us:  “Property of God.” Don’t allow names people give you to supersede what He thinks of you: Beloved. Cherished. Uniquely made. Incredibly loved.  MINE.

“Father, Psalm 139 says, ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ You make no mistakes. And you don’t give us negative labels. Help me to remember that today no matter what comes my way.”

December 4

Friday, December 4th, 2020

There are a lot of emotions which people experience during the Christmas season.  There are the devastating ones like loss, loneliness, and lifelessness. They lead to a feeling of why bother? Why not just give up? There are also those emotions which carry a sense of settledness. Joy. Peace. Knowing you are loved.

One that is all too common is one called discouragement. How do I know that? I’m fighting it tooth and nail right now. This has been an unusual year to be sure. The virus lead to decreased attendance until we had to lockdown. Then when we could open again our attendance began to creep back up slowly. And I was okay with that. Then recently the spike has hit and we are back to people staying home. I know this is best, especially for those directly impacted by the threat to their health or those they love. But that still doesn’t ease the angst of one who loves people and feeds off seeing them.  So after an up, then a down, then an up, and now a down,  I have found myself fighting off being discouraged. For the most part I’ve been doing well. My hardest time? This past Sunday when it hit me again.

This all came back to me and I saw it again when I read Paul David Tripp’s Day 30 devotion from 40 Days of Faith. While his devotion focused on how God has each of my days written down even before I was born, it caused me to stop and think about my own heart. I had to remind myself that what happens (has, is and will) does not surprise Him in the slightest. He’s not wearing the suit of the guy with question marks all over Him.

On the contrary, He authored this all with a combination of wisdom and grace. That means He knows my disappointment and discouragement and comes alongside me with an arm around my shoulder and eyes full of understanding saying, “I’m here Bill. Don’t get discouraged. You are going to be surprised when this all shakes out. But you gotta trust Me.”

So I do the only thing I can do. I cry on His shoulder and lean into His chest and resign myself to His warm and steady heart beat.

November 27

Friday, November 27th, 2020

Have you ever noticed how sometimes life just doesn’t make any sense? Seriously, when you think you get it, life throws a curveball. When you think life is smoothing itself out, you hit a bunch of potholes and you find yourself trying to navigate around them. Or you are just enjoying the pleasure of a nice, relaxing drift on a boat in still water when a pop-up storm hits that threatens to capsize you and maybe even your faith.

On Day 22 of his little book 40 Days of Faith, Paul David Tripp writes:

Don’t be discouraged today. You can leave your ‘what-ifs’ and ‘if-onlys’ in the hands of the one who loves you and rules all things. (p.50)

Later he writes even more:

He knows, he understands, he is in control of what appears to be chaos, he is never surprised, he is never confused, he never worries or loses a night’s sleep, he never walks off the job to take a rest, he never gets so busy with one thing that he neglects another, and he never plays favorites. (p.51)

How’s that for reassurance? We certainly live today in a day of insecurity and unrest. What more reassurance do we need than words like these about a God like that? Is life out of whack for you? Screwy? Twisted? Hassled? Unsure? You now know the One who knows all about it.

“Father, thank you for being in control. For not being surprised. For being the calm in the storm. Help me to trust You implicitly.”

November 5

Thursday, November 5th, 2020

As I write this it is the morning after the election. I went to bed earlier than I have lately because I was tired and because I did not want to watch prognostications of early returns. I am here this morning having woke up my normal time and having purposely not looked at election results on my phone.  It is interesting then that I would read the following words in Romans 12: 33-36:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To him be glory forever. Amen.”

I learned a long time, and then read it again recently, that we are all control freaks to some extent. Some more than others, but we all want some control. That goes for all areas of our lives. And yes, our country and its politics.

Power is an ugly thing. The more power we have, the more we want. It is control. I did not watch or get on my phone this morning for a reason: I wanted to keep in mind that God is in control and I do not understand His ways. I do not know the future. What I must do is trust. Trust His plan. Trust His sovereignty. Trust His ways. Trust His purpose. I am not in control; He is. Amen.

October 28

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

As I was reading during my Quiet Time this morning, I ran across a word that appears to be missing in our world, and specifically, in so many lives today.  You can find the word throughout the Bible but hardly a more poignant reminder than Romans 5. Here is what it says: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces HOPE, and HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been give to us.” (vv.3-5)

See the word? H.O.P.E.  How many people do you know today who are without it? Many don’t see hope. They see despair. Cities burning. Protests still going on. People being killed. Crime escalating. Fighting. Division. Injustice. It is easy to give up hope that things will be better.

That would be human nature. It would be easy to feel like Jeremiah, Elijah, Micah and others who, at times, wanted to quit and give up. Habakkuk asked the question many of us ask, “How long, O Lord, how long?” (1:2)

We can choose despair or hope. As a Christ-follower, I have a hope others don’t. It is a hope that does not put us to shame, does not disappoint. We are never left alone. Even in the darkest times, we have a light that shines.

“Father, thank you for hope that shines its light into the darkness of despair. Help me share the hope I have in You with others.”

October 5

Monday, October 5th, 2020

One of the things I have always encouraged in people is to question, i.e. they have the right to question what I say. But when they do, always go to the Word! Two things come into play: 1) The only dumb question is the one not asked; and 2) Ignorance is not bliss. It’s the latter I’m thinking about this morning. Not knowing is okay. But there is also the matter of not knowing because we don’t care. That is ignorance. And that is not bliss.

I agree with Chuck Swindoll (not that he really cares whether I do or not. 🙂 ) when he writes:

“Slice it any way you wish, ignorance is not bliss. Dress it in whatever garb you please, ignorance is not attractive. Neither is it the mark of humility nor the path to spirituality…On the contrary, it is the breeding ground for fear, prejudice, and superstition.” (“Good Morning Lord…Can We Talk? p. 274)

It’s so easy “to plead the fifth” as they often say on TV shows. I’m going to plead ignorance, which in this case, leads to silence. Question: how can that lead to biblical wisdom and knowledge? It can’t. And doesn’t. And therein lies the rub. We have far too many who say they follow Christ who DO NOT KNOW because THEY DO NOT ASK.  Maybe a favorite pastor or radio/TV personality says something and rather than investigate we accept it as “gospel” or we lock step to the party line. That can be-and usually is-very damning. Face value vs faith value. Only trust the Word.

“Father, may I be a student of Your Word. May I find my answers there and not in man. Help me to know and be wise, not live in ignorance.”