Wednesday, October 16

handling emotions

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things Gal. 5:22, 23

I have felt discouraged all day. I tend to be one of those people who do not normally fluctuate between the highs and lows of emotions. While I am grateful that I do not sink into despair, I wonder what it would be like to feel the ‘highs’ more often. Today, as life circumstances combine with the silence of God, I find myself wondering how am I to respond to these emotions. Part of my faith background tells me emotions are synonymous with the fruit of the Spirit; if I feel sad, that is not of the Spirit so I should repent and fight until I feel/experience “joy”. This false equation, between emotion and fruit, has led to much unconscious guilt in my life. More than that, it has led to a negative perception of emotions in general.

I do realize there is a correlation here, meaning if I feel angry all the time or live in a state of sadness that the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit is hindered in some way in my life. That aside, what I am learning is that emotions are natural, they are going to feel good and they are going to feel bad, The real measuring stick of the “fruit” is how I respond to those emotions.

My family has endured some hard circumstances. I do not understand why things are playing out the way they are, if I stepped out of line or not, or what I am to learn from these things. So I wait, I pray, I ask, but God is silent. Still, in all of this I know two things 1. God is and 2. He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). Remembering these two things shifts my perspective to a new question: What does this emotion tell me? Where is it coming from? How do I handle it? How do I take this discouragement, lay it at the feat of Jesus, and ask Him to sift my heart showing me what I cannot see? I must allow myself to feel, while not allowing the feeling to overtake me but rather become the mirror. Yet, if I look into the mirror with my own eyes I will most likely become deceived, so I pray that I would see as God sees, from His perspective.

I do not think this is the right response in all situations. Sometimes we really do need to simply recognize the emotion, recognize the truth, repent, and move on. However, there are other times where we need to allow God to deal with what is really going on. In most cases, or maybe all, the circumstances do not cause the emotion but serve to reveal things that were present all along but we could not see.

Overall, I am thankful that even when God is silent, He is present. He is still unfolding His plan and drawing me closer to His heart along the way.  

Wednesday, October 9

Thoughts on Fearing God

 "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction "

In fearing God we are acknowledging that He is God and that we/I am not. It is repenting and recognizing that I do not know everything and that my way is not perfect but His way is. He is the creator of all that is,  He is almighty God and when I recognize these truths I can submit myself fully to Him, allowing him to teach me, correct me,  bring understanding and enlighten my eyes. It is easy to get offended with God as His ways are not our ways and His plan goes so far beyond any temporary pain we may experience; though He has compassion on our temporal experience...He sees so far beyond that. When we remember this and in awe we fear Him (falling into the hands of the almighty living God)  then we are OPEN to His knowledge and wisdom. Until we reach this point we will exalt our own understanding and as Paul says raise up/exalt strongholds against the knowledge of God and keep his wisdom from reaching us. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

"blessed is he who is not offended because of me" Matthew 11:6

     One way in which this is demonstrated in the Christian life is through the repentance of sins. In repenting of our sins we are in essence recognizing that God is both love and justice, that in Him there is no lie. We are recognizing Him as creator God, who set forth principals for living life as He intended, which considering He is good, is the best possible way to live. We are acknowledging that we have stepped out of bounds with how God created things to function. We acknowledge that we chose to live according to our natural desires of selfishness and admit that there are consequences for wrong doing. We acknowledge we want both the love and justice of God and we accept His forgiveness and any consequences as a result of our stepping out from under the umbrella of His grace. In doing so, in fearing God and repenting, we also open ourself up to receive His grace, His instruction, His wisdom so that we can walk, not according to our flesh but in accordance with His Spirit. We are empowered!  

Wednesday, October 2

Standing up for Truth

*This is not a political post. Read it as an object lesson,
and if you can not… well then stop reading *

The Government has shutdown because people could not agree, compromise, talk civilly (you fill in the adjective). For a moment though, let us forget about the issues leading to the shutdown. What concerns me is the response I heard from all sides. One group stands up for their convictions (remember this is not political… object lesson), the other side tells them to sit down- expected. However, those on the same side tell them to sit down as well, not because they are wrong but because they cannot win. I heard various politicians state that while they agreed, they could not win so they should stop fighting, because the issue was not important, their image was important and losing was not good for the image. 
            Listening to these responses I was reminded of a video I watched concerning what the Church would look like in 100 years… may it was 10,000 years I do not remember. The speaker said the Church could not win on certain issues, so they should give up those issues and move on to protect the image of the Church. One of the issues was abortion, even more he said, it is not about whether we think it is right or wrong or even biblical but that we can’t win the argument… so we should stop now.
            Some believe there is nothing worth fighting for, no inherent value, no ultimate morality, you only take a fight you can win, like a layer only taking cases that are a slam dunk (then boasting about their record). The reality is some things are worth standing up for, even if you are going to loose, even if you are going to be humiliated, even if it will cost you your very life.
Consider the result of a Church that never separates it message from culture’s message. Picture a Church that fails to uphold Biblical truths and principals because they are unpopular to the world. Then, consider a Church that remembers her role is not to convince the world of what is true, not to be held in high esteem as the ‘evolved church’, to be accepted or tolerated by the world. What if the Church remembered she is the Bride of Christ, seeking to glorify the Bridegroom, so that when He arrives He finds a pure and spotless Bride. A Church that is growing because they are holding fast to the pure Gospel message, loving each other with the love of Christ and loving the world enough to holdfast to what is true.
The monologues and dialogues I heard, the vanity, all of it revealed a deeper issue in our society. We no longer care about what is right. Rather we care about how it looks. If it looks good, we talk loudly about it. However, if we cannot win, if it is not appealing, we will remain silent and pray to God that nobody asks us what we think or what God says. Consider this, would you being willing to stand up for what is right even if you knew you could not win, no one would agree with you and you would be humiliated?

"In a time of universal deceit- telling the truth is a revolutionary act"
George Orwell

Wednesday, September 25

Confessions: I'm enticed by the law

Driving home last night following a lecture at a rather liberal institution I discovered, or rather God revealed, that a part of me still desires to live by the law, and is actually enticed by works. Growing up in the Church I know living under and following the law is impossible and leads to death. I know Christ has covered us with grace and given us life. This does not imply there is no law but that through the grace of Christ and the empowerment of the Spirit we are now able to fulfill the law of Christ. We are empowered to manifest the fruits of the Spirit, to love God and love our neighbor.

I know all of this. Nevertheless,  I find that as I read complex books on theology, watch scholarly debates between various views online, and sit in lectures at various places, I feel drawn into the cerebral, drawn into the form, into the idea that knowing is enough. The flesh within is wrestling against the Spirit. I know (to a degree) how my mind works. I am logical in my though process, asking the question of where each thought/belief leads to and the out workings along the way, deciding if I agree with the end result/conclusions and working out any kinks I find along the way. I unconsciously develop a strange loyalty to what I know to be true. However, my desire is to know Christ, not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. This does not negate the mind, but rather I must remember that my mind is not the filter, rather the Holy Spirit of Christ living inside of me is the filter.

Driving home I found myself repenting. Repenting for the part of my flesh that desires the 'form of Godliness' knowing the form is without power. Repenting for desiring the law, works, and natural understanding over the freedom offered through Christ. My prayer is once again that I would intimately know(with a knowing that goes further than mental understanding and ascent) Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, so that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (phil. 3:10). My prayer is that Jesus would not simply be in my heart (from a western understanding) but through His grace I would submit my life to Him and allow the very life of Christ to be made manifest through my life, so that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Christ guiding my mind, my thoughts, my emotions, and the out working of those thoughts/emotions into action, no longer enticed by the law but led by the very Spirit of God. 

Friday, September 6

Confessions (Whatever is not of Faith is sin)

Confessions 9/6/2013

The other day I asked some friends for prayer regarding our housing situation. WE BOUGHT A HOUSE IN THE COUNTRY! But the 60-day closing has turned into 90+ due to a back-log of applications at the main office… blah blah blah. In my request for prayer, I stated I was not worried just in need of wisdom. Later that day however, God revealed my heart- worry and fear were very present. I was not feeling sick-to-my-stomach-what-is-going-to-happen to us fear, oh no, I am far to refined for that, it was more of the logical reasoning type of fear. The reality hit me that we have to sign a document terminating our rental lease before we actually legally have the house and if anything fell through we would be without  a place to live (temporarily). Anyone who has bought a home before has realized this and possibility felt the “uneasiness” as well… at least they seem to on HGTV reality shows.  Nevertheless, God, in His great love for me, used even this realization of fear to bring change to my heart. God reminded me of Proverbs 3:5-7. This passage is somewhat hard for me to forget considering, not to long ago, our church spent almost a year on this passage alone.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths”

I began to wonder if the last line was contingent on the prior encouragements. Meaning, if instead of trusting in the Lord I choose fear and lean on my own understanding and fail to acknowledge Him and His ways in a given situation, would that prohibit God from making my path straight? I realized, yet again, how my fear keeps me from understanding God, trusting God, knowing God, and seeing His direction in my life. This Proverb is closely connected to Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 10: 3-5 in my mind.  Paul tells us to destroy every argument and lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. The reality is that my thoughts were not in obedience to Christ but were focused on the ‘what-if’s’ of the now. In doing so, I was raising up some very false opinions of God. As I prayed I asked God to show me what my “arguments” and “lofty opinions” were in this situation and God in His grace revealed them. The list was humbling. My fear of displacement revealed that on some levels I do not believe in Gods care for me, in His faithfulness, His goodness.

My old man is still alive and well and popping up to say hello during the routine experiences of life!

 However, this time, instead of chalking it up to the normal “home-buying-fears-everyone-has” God called me toward repentance. He reminded me that staying in fear is like raising up a barricade to the knowledge of God that He is desiring to reveal to me. By staying in fear, I rely on my natural faulty understanding to make decisions instead of allowing God to enlighten and straighten my path. So, as I have had to do so many times before and will most likely have to do many times more I repented for fear.

One of the hardest verses for me in scripture is Romans 14:23 “For whatever is not of faith is sin”. We can easily become bogged down by this verse as so much of our humanity is wrapped up in doubt. Or, we can allow the Holy Spirit the rightful place to reveal both our sin and our righteousness (Jn. 16:8-10) and repent when the darkness in us is revealed, and then thank God for the revealing because in doing so we allow His light to shine in the darkness. He brings freedom from the fear and our faith is strengthened. In repentance, fear looses its grip, the knowledge of God can enter; we will be changed!

Wednesday, April 24

Tragedy, Forgiveness, and God

Forgiveness, one of the hardest expressions for us to extend, and yet one of the most necessary for our Spiritual health. Every generation has experienced tragedy and unspeakable evils during their life, moments that cause us to questions the fate of humanity and, at times, even the goodness of God.

Recent events [mass shootings, bombing, attempted assassinations of our leaders, the massive spread of human trafficking leading to slavery and sexual exploitation] seem to catch us off guard each time they are exposed. At times evil feels distant from our daily life, emotions, and experiences, but then, other events take place, which hit us at our core, and wake us up to reality.

This week I watched an interview on CBS this morning (watch here). The topic was religion and hope following the Boston bombing. One host asked the tough question: “how do you forgive the boys…?” (referring to the alleged attackers), and then: “does everybody deserve forgiveness?” I was struck by the Pastor’s response: “Forgiveness, really, this is the truth, is for our self. You’re not forgiving or excusing what they did; you’re releasing yourself from bitterness, releasing yourself from heartache. So I really believe forgiveness is for us, so that we can move on”

My intent is not to criticize or demean but I have two main issues with this response. First, forgiveness is not selfish; actually, it is the opposite, for it is self-less. In forgiveness, we are denying our self the perceived right of revenge, anger, hurt, and judgment. We are also releasing the other person from our retribution, in the process trusting God to deal with the consequences. Forgiveness does not deny consequences; to the contrary, it allows those consequences to come from a place of love and pure justice.

Secondly, I wonder what this definition of forgiveness means when we look at God. Does God forgive purely for selfish reasons? Is God’s forgiveness simply releasing himself from holding onto hurt we have caused Him? I do not believe so. Rather, God forgives because it is His character to do so. The forgiveness of God is a direct result of His promise that all who believe in the one He sent [Jesus] will be saved.

As we seek comfort In the Midst of tragedy, the words we choose to display God and encourage the hurting must be carefully crafted and spoken with prayerfully thought communication. God is the only hope for the nations and diminishing Gods great gift of forgiveness to a selfish endeavor misses the true character of God and leads to false forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a matter of will power and redirection of emotional energy, it is submitting to the grace of God for you and for others.

Tuesday, March 5

mature in surrender

My generation is lost. Following the great enlightenment, of the 17/18th centuries and the cultural enlightenment of the sixties, which our parents grew up under, once having children, they instructed us in their ways. We were told that our personal happiness was the highest goal; and suffering must be avoided at cost (and is never from God!). We were told that if we married and became unhappy, God would not want us to be so, divorce was justified, allowed, even recommended. Sexual pleasures outside of marriage were expected, and then allowed; considered normal and not in conflict with the Faith. All moral boundaries became suspect and left up to a personal consciousness never developed in the first place. The grace of God became a blanket to cover all our actions, Gods forgiveness was always extended (leaving out the ‘go and sin no more’ exhortations!). We were told that God only has good things for us so we should pursue whatever made us happy and fulfilled; that was God’s will. Disciplines were lost, because our own parents could not subject themselves to them, how could they train us to do so? Not only do we now lack discipline but also following the disciplines (prayer, fasting, giving/tithing/silence etc.) is associated with religion, which must be avoided at all costs!

BUT! When I consider the hero’s of the faith, those written about in the Bible and those who have lived through out history, I see men and women who surrendered, or desired to surrender, themselves completely to the will of God regardless of what it meant during this temporal life. These were men and woman who recognized their souls were little more than unruly toddlers crying out for a candy at every turn, toddlers who needed to be trained so they could grow into adults, mature in surrender.

We were taught a false understanding of happiness and peace. In Reality, (useing the capital to designate true Reality from our reality or life as we see it.) true joy and peace come from submitting to the will of the father no matter the cost, knowing that both the happiness and pains of this life are but for a moment while the eternal life of God will never end!

I consider those like Hudson Taylor who, though he could afford more comfortable dwellings and satisfying food, determined to live in his now as if he were already in China. He prepared himself for the sufferings he would surely endure for the sake of the Gospel knowing that by doing so those who lived in darkness would see the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ and become awakened to eternal life! This was his joy and pleasure- to suffer for the sake of Christ.

I consider the missionaries (Ed McCulley, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian) who entered the Amazon jungle in Ecuador to reach out to the most violent tribe believing that their violence sprang from not knowing their creator God and His great love for them. These men who were martyred for the sake of the Gospel, who did not fight back, whose families did not require vengeance (as expected), but instead gave up their life as well to go back to those who had killed their husbands and fathers and love them. The blood of those martyrs called out to the Huaorani (Auca) Indians and the light of the Gospel shone in the jungle as many saw Christ and believed in Him.

I consider men and women willing to live a celibate life if God asked them do, willing to forgo the physical and emotional desires for a spouse for the call of God. Those who cared more for holiness than personal desires, those willing to discipline their bodies, their eyes, their hands, their mouths, all for the sake of Christ. Those who counted all these things a joy realizing that it is not about what one gives up in this life but what one gains from giving of their whole life to the loving creator God.

These heroes of the faith, and many more, knew that suffering was not to be avoided but accepted when it came. They knew suffering could be a gift from God to refine the and train their own soul. They believed that in this life our suffering, with grace and endurance, allows the light of Christ to shine into the darkest places.

Today, I consider Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American citizen; a man working to build an orphanage in Iran, fulfilling the call of the Gospel to care for the orphans, a man arrested for his faith and sent to one of the worst prisons in Iran. Pastor Saeed is tortured, beaten, and mocked through the day, every day. He is now suffering internal bleeding from so much abuse, and yet he still prays daily for the salvation of those who beat him Here is a man who hugged the fellow prisoner who lunged to attack him. A man who bids us to look at all of our circumstances in light of the Gospel of Christ and decide now if we will give all of our life, holding nothing back, knowing that in all things- God is still Good!

These decisions are not ones made when the trials arise but now, in the dailies of our life. When Elizabeth Elliott (wife of Jim Elliott, one of the missionaries to the Ecuadorian Jungle martyred) was asked about her husband dying in the jungle she simply yet emphatically answered that Jim did not die in the Jungle. The reporter, confused because it was very clear, her husband died in the Jungle, asked her again. She responded that Jim did not die in the jungle- he died when he got down on his knees and gave his whole life to Christ!

These were men and women who believed in God- more than yearning for the fleshly desires of this world, yet they experienced greater joys that we could ever imagine. They saw life reborn, they became vessels delivering the miracles of God. These ran not for an earthly crown, which withers away, but for an eternal crown which they will receive as they enter the gates of splendor, cheered by all for the sacrifice of their whole life for the glory of God. They were over-whelmed by the all-consuming love and truth of God and gave their all in return!

These are the lives my generation must meditate on and emulate. The lives we must live in front of our children and talk to them about in the evening. Becoming and raising a generation knowing true happiness, self-sacrifice, and the love of God. A generation fulfilling our call on earth, spreading the light of Christ in the midst of so much darkness. A generation repenting for the ways in which we are sucked in by the world and bewitched by her ways. Surrendering our whole self to the will of God knowing that He is good and He is love!

Imagine a world where believers lived with such self-abandon for the sake of Christ! Imagine a church over-whelmed by the holiness of God and desiring that very same holiness present in their life. A church willing to live so closely to the truth of God, unwilling to waiver, unwilling to submit to culturally relevant demands often contrary to “The Way”. Imagine a Church so in love with God they are not their first priority. Imagine you, me, more in love with God everyday, so much that we desire to train up our own soul as we would a child. Us, willing to give up our favorite television show to pour over the word of God. Us, willing to give up our favorite meals to practice the discipline of fasting- growing closer to God in the process. Us, understanding the Grace of God is not a blanket covering everything we do but the power to live a crucified life, the power to overcome sin and our own selfishness, the power to actually give our lives fully to Him.

“And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives... and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.

Nate Saint
Missionary and Martyr for the
Sake of the Gospel in Ecuador