Faith/Feelings

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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.

April 11

Tuesday, April 11th, 2023

If someone were to ask me what I believe is the #1 issue facing the majority of people today, I would not say: the economy, the inflation rate, the price of gas, the price of food, the fentanyl crisis, the border crisis, the breakdown of the family unit, or a hundred other answers.

My answer? Fear and anxiety and often the resulting depression and despair which comes as a “fruit” of the fear and anxiety.

I honestly believe we struggle with the results of that fear or the realization of what the difficulties imply, or lead us to rather than the “cause” itself. The fear and anxiety from the triggers play havoc on our lives more than than the triggers.

Fear and anxiety is very real, but it is also nothing new. David is proof positive in Psalm 13. The first two verses of that psalm are a heart cry of desperation and anguish. But if you keep reading, verses 5-6 are an answer to that anguish. Please give me a moment to show you:

  • If God truly forgot David as he says in verse 1a, how did God truly love David unceasingly as David says in verse 5a?
  • In verse 1b David also says God hid His face from him and yet in verse 6b David says God was good to him.
  • In verse 2a David wrestled with many thoughts and had sorrow in his heart every day, but in verse 6a says he sang with joy at the same time.
  • In verse 2b David says his enemy was triumphing over him, but in verse 5b David says God was delivering him from his enemy. 

Do you see the discrepancy? It’s the discrepancy of feelings versus belief. David felt like God had forgotten him, but he believed God was somehow good to him behind the scenes.

The discrepancy was between feelings and fact, between what he felt vs what he knew to be true.

Followers of Jesus do not need to despair or to live in fear. Feelings vs facts. We may not feel God cares, but the truth is that He does, in spite of our feelings.

Stand on facts not your feelings.

{Note: I owe a debt of gratitude to Randall Arthur and his book, Wisdom Hunter, for laying the groundwork for these thoughts. Hint: you might want to check out that book! You will be glad you did.}

March 7

Tuesday, March 7th, 2023

I’ve written often about feelings and how they play an important part of our Christian walk…both good and bad.

It is good, and it is necessary, to have emotions. After all, happy, sad, laughter, tears, anger, and others are part of our DNA. To deny them is not honesty. An emotionless person is a…well…a sad person. That’s not an emotional sad, but a person devoid of emotion is more like a robot.

On the other hand, some people are way too emotional.  It’s like they are on the edge of reality, seemingly losing control at the drop of a hat.

Neither one is good. Nor is it good to have your emotions run your Christian walk. Do you remember the lyrics to the song “You Light Up My Life” from the 70s (1977 to be exact) sung by Debby Boone?  Part of the lyrics were “It can’t be wrong; it feels so right.”  Put that in scenarios. “It can’t be wrong to have this illicit relationship because it feels so right.” “It can’t be wrong to take this drug because it makes me feel so good.” You can figure there is more.

Feelings can be, and mostly are, deceptive. Subjectivism is dangerous. People who rely on the “reality” of subjectivism forget the objectivism of faith. The truth of the Bible takes a back seat to our feelings. “Hell can’t be real because God is love and wouldn’t condemn anyone,” for example. “Surely this relationship can’t be wrong since it makes me feel good and God would not want anything less for me.” Truth takes a back seat. I heard a good quote the other day on a podcast. I was unable to catch who it is attributed to, but it came from a book called Mama Bear Apologetics:

Feelings are a good check engine light but a terrible GPS.

Don’t allow subjective feelings to override the truth of God’s Word. Feelings are good, a must to have. But to be directed and led by them is dangerous. Feelings will lead us down the wrong path; only truth will set us free.

March 6

Monday, March 6th, 2023

This past Saturday afternoon Jo and I went with some friends to see Jesus Revolution. It has surprised many pundits at the box office, taking in more than they ever predicted or maybe even dreamed of. My purpose here is not to give a review but to make a point about one of the characters.

The movie is about the early “story” of Pastor Greg Laurie’s search for meaning and hope in a world gone mad (some things never change do they?). It was a lesson though that Pastor Greg learned many years later-far removed from those Jesus Movement days-that  sticks with me. On July 25, 2008, Greg’s son, Christopher, died in a car accident he was responsible for. As you can imagine, Greg was devastated beyond words. I have 2 daughters and I simply cannot imagine the grief and pain I would feel if they were taken from this life.

But through his pain, Greg received some great words of wisdom from his mentor, Pastor Chuck Smith. Smith said,

“Don’t ever trade what you know for what you don’t know.”

With that in mind, what do I know?

  • I know that God loves me.
  • I know that God wants what is best for me (even though I can’t see it).
  • I know God has a plan for my life and knows the end of my days.
  • I know God has promised to never leave me or forsake me.
  • I also know God doesn’t always give me what I want and sometimes I have to wait for His answer.

Sometimes God doesn’t answer prayers as quickly as I want or would like Him to. But He will not let me down. Delays are not necessarily denials.  Sometimes we have those dark nights of the soul.

So…the next time you or I feel abandoned; the next time you or I feel alone; the next time you or I feel God is not listening “Don’t ever trade what you know for what you don’t know.” 

I heard it said recently: “Feelings are a great check engine light, but a terrible GPS.” Don’t trust your feelings. Trust the ONE whom you know.

 

January 24

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

I may be wrong in my assessment (I have been known to be wrong a time or two) 🙂 , but I think one of the hardest parts of the Christian walk is practicing the Scripture which says, “Be thankful in all things.” (I Thess. 5:18)

“In everything give thanks.” Seriously? Does the Bible really say that? Does it really say to give thanks when my heart has been torn apart by a wayward child? By a health crisis? By a domestic crisis? By a financial crisis?

The short answer is Yes. Notice it does not say “Give thanks for the event/crisis.” But it does say, “Give thanks in the crisis.” Let’s substitute during for in. While the crisis is happening, or even after it, I am to give thanks.

I can remember a story from Corrie Ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. She and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp and her sister told her they needed to give thanks for the fleas-the fleas that were in their hair, their clothes, their bedding. Sounded strange to Corrie until they came to realize the guards left them alone because of the fleas. They were free to have Bible studies and talk to other prisoners about Jesus because of the fleas and without fear of the guards.

Giving thanks in the situation NOT for the fleas. We are not asked to go all stoic as though nothing is bothering us. No, we are being told by Paul that while we are in the crisis, an attitude of gratitude and faith can change our perspective.

We can also see God working…even though we don’t understand. I don’t have to say, “Father, thank You for this cancer” (or whatever the crisis is), but I can pray, “Father, I thank You for Your presence and peace that is within me in spite of this crisis.”

Be thankful in all things.