Saturday, October 17, 2009

The words you may not want to hear

They say that philosophy teaches us and confronts us with what we already know. It brings subconscious knowledge to the conscious level. “Self knowledge is like a lost innocence, however unsettling, it can never be un-thought or unknown.” Michael Sandel, Professor at Harvard University. Simply put, once we become aware of the truths that are deep inside us, in our moral compass given by God, we are confronted with the truth at a conscious level. We can’t go back, once we know, we know. This is my warning to you today before we proceed. If you choose to read on there is no going back. It will force you to confront some difficult truths.

What goes into a decision or choices we make? There are different internal forces that pull at us aren’t there?

In one corner we have our emotions: anger, sadness, happiness, excitement, etc. How well do our emotions serve us? When we are angry, for example, and we allow our anger to direct our actions…do we feel good about those actions when we self judge ourselves after the fact? If we were honest we’d have to say usually not.

What about when something “forbidden” comes along and it makes us feel so good, it makes us happy…are our emotions leading us in the right direction? The Bible tells us that “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.” Jeremiah 17:9 NLT

How many times have we heard or said something along these lines:

“If it makes you happy (or insert feel good)”
“Go and find happiness”
“I feel at peace with my decision”
“I feel like it is the right thing to do if…(or it’s best if...)”

These common statements seem to indicate that if we simply follow our emotions we are in good shape, but the Bible indicates otherwise. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 NASB Where you read the word “flesh” you can plug in the words “desires” or “human nature”…i.e. emotions, feelings or wantings. There are times when it might feel really right and still be so really wrong. Where does that come from? “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” 2 Corinthians 11:14 NASB He is the greatest deceiver is he not?

Logic & common knowledge
So if our emotions tend to lead us down the wrong path, then what? Logic, common knowledge…that must be the answer! Statistics are easy to get or hear from someone as to what happens in most circumstances, how people react or feel about any situation; the final outcome. The stats are supposed to indicate “normal” or “common” behaviors in our society; what most people do. They tell us what to expect and therefore we should act accordingly.

This goes right along with “just part of life” arguments that should go down like a spoon full of medicine that makes it all o.k. Have you heard this one, “it’s only natural to…” Fill in the blank. The word natural comes from the word nature, remember, meaning flesh. (see above) Chalk one statement of common knowledge up to being derived directly from our emotions. Brilliant. This is where our logic stems from.

There is a double standard for us adults isn’t there? We tell it to our children like this, “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right” or “if everyone jumps off a bridge does that mean you should?” Perhaps this is one of the reasons Jesus tells us to be like children. We’re just too grown up for our own good; can’t even make out simple black and white truth. We try to complicate it, justify our ways and make it NOT apply to us somehow.

So where does this leave us then? What is left to help us make good, intelligible decisions that are in our best interest? The kind of decisions that see past our own short sightedness; the tough ones that are good for us in the long run. Turn not to our emotions or our faulty logic, turn instead to spiritual truth. It is timeless, perfect in all matters of the heart, unfailing to steer us in the right direction AND it always has our best interest in mind.

Spiritual Truth
The more we read and learn spiritual truth from the Bible, the easier it is to apply in our lives cutting through the clutter of opinion, emotion and dangerous statistics that are only heading us toward the cliff. I’m frankly tired of being told the “odds” of things going a certain way or how things “most likely” turn out usually so as to influence my decisions and behavior. Listening to such nonsense only leads to my own destruction. Destruction of hope, destruction of my faith, destruction of my resolve in Christ and in character, destruction of ministry, destruction of opportunities to let God show me His plan and watch it carried out. That is a lot of bad stuff! I feel sorry for the ones who speak in such terms because I know they have already been defeated, surrendered, given up.

I have yet to run into a scenario that I can’t find an answer to in scripture and I don’t expect I will.  It was right in front of me all along! All my life I’ve been told that the Bible is an “instruction” manual for life, but just like any manual for a complex project to assemble; it’s no good, useless actually, if we don’t read it and the result is a messed up, half way assembled something or other. In this case our very lives; mine, yours and all the people we love. So I stopped trying to “assemble” (read-solve problems, find answers, make important decisions) on my own and started to dig in. The results are staggering!

The Harmony of the three
Emotions and logic do serve good purposes. Emotions, for example, are a good early warning system in danger and troubles just for starters. There are also times when the Bible says we can have “righteous anger.” Logic and common knowledge help us to use our God given brains. All of these come from God to work in harmony together. The problem arises when our emotions and knowledge are void of spiritual and scriptural guidance as the foundation for their employment.

Now we have brought to the conscious level what may have been suppressed or hidden in our hearts. I remember that day for myself. A little unsettling isn’t it, to face such stark truth? The question is what to do with it. When we self judge ourselves for our decisions, made in full understanding of the truth, what will our judgment be? You’re in the driver’s seat. Hopefully the answer is that we make better decisions rooted in spiritual truth, which will yield great things for us in our lives. It is a breath of fresh air to refocus our compass and head straight for the narrow gate.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Feel like you're climbing an impossible mountain at times?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me -watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

How many times have you wanted to give up on something? Sometimes it seems the mountain is too high, the task too big, the trouble to great. There is too much history against you. A mounting pile of “evidence and logic” that speaks against your deep heart felt convictions. You know what is right, what is Holy, but it feels hopeless. Other times it even feels impossible, as if there is a great opposition against you. The world and all the people in it tell you that it can’t be done; the statistics are not in your favor. You know what I mean, you’ve been there. What do you do in those times?

When faced with problems, conflict or difficulty we have the urge to cower in fear, to throw up our hands in surrender. Sometimes we seek to build our own consensus of people to side with us; which only leaves us feeling justified perhaps, but very angry and frustrated. So we may talk about it all the time, at an obsessive level…still no resolution. Maybe we just try to forget about it, ignore it…guess what, it keeps coming back. Triggered by words, a song, a picture; it’s fresh again isn’t it? Like a wound that won’t go away; especially if what we’re dealing with includes physical and/or emotional injury.

These options eventually make us bitter, resentful, defeated people. We might strike out and attack in our pride, in our hurt, in our anger or in our bitterness. What becomes of this…more injury…more retaliation. Not resolution and far removed from our original intent that was good, that was righteous, full of grace and mercy; Holy. So how then, how do we proceed? Is there a way to overcome, to climb the mountain, resolve the conflict, make the impossible possible? “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 This is the beginning of finding resolution, the first building block. Gently confronting the issue is the only way.

Choose to persevere, stand alone if we must. “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:3-5 Did you catch that? Perseverance causes a chain reaction that leads to HOPE! Who would have thought? And what… hope does not disappoint us!

Yes, we will stand alone at times “as aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11) but we are not truly alone as we face the mountain before us. Go back to Matthew 11:28-30 and get away with Jesus. Rest in Him, walk with Him and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Keep company with Him and we’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

"…with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
“…everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23
“I can do all things through Christ who give me strength” Philippians 4:13

Do we really, really believe or is it just a warm fuzzy thought? Something to put on the wall that sounds too good to be true. Believe in Him, believe in His promises. Keep them in our hearts. Stand up and climb the mountain with Him at our side.

Have I oversimplified the picture or could it possibly be this simple? Maybe not easy, requires a lot of work…giving up seems a heck of a lot easier. To just give in to the crowd, go quietly in the night. Allow our emotions and passions to rule over us. To become numb inside as we cower in our circumstance. I say no! What are we made of? I’ll tell you what…we’re made by a loving creator, in His image with His Spirit living in us! Stand for what is right and good, what is in the best interest of others instead of self.
Persevere. Hope. Believe.

Please read the lyrics today or listen to the song. Let's stop doubting and listening to the lies. Believe…fully.

Jimmy Needham - Dearly Loved

Please lay down your arrows
For they're sure to pierce the skin
And water from a broken well
Will make you thirst again
When all things you've acquired
Are tested by the flames
And you can see them melting
Then will you call his name

It's worth it brothers
It's worth it friends
To know your maker
To lose your sin

Did you know that you are dearly loved

To the slaughter you are being led
Being told that it's a party
That this God is in your head
And every single lie
Sounds just like the greatest truth
But the one truth you're not hearing
Is that he died for you

No greater joy
No greater peace
No greater love than this

It's worth it brothers
It's worth it friends
To know your maker
To lose your sin

Did you know that you are dearly loved