Feelings and facts – right ordering

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A new friend from our new church gave me a journal for my birthday.  She didn’t know, but gifts are my love language:) Really!

This morning, I inaugurated this beautifully-bound book with its inviting lined pages of such a quality that they will absorb the black ink of my favorite pen. Since it was Sunday, I had plenty of time early this morning.  I’m reading a book about Martyn Lloyd-Jones about how and why he taught doctrine as essential fuel for living the Christian life.  In a paragraph that grabbed my attention, he explained that if we want to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, we don’t focus on this third member of the Trinity.  Instead we look to Jesus and what He has done.  The more we study and meditate on our Savior, the more power we will experience.  Here is the money sentence:

  • The joy of the Spirit is the joy we FEEL from the promises of Christ.

That thought resonated deeply with me, so I decided to use my new journal to write down one promise at a time and then analyze it, suck on it, pull it apart, think about it to get as much as I can out of it.

The one I chose had nothing to do with today’s reading in the plan we follow (Nahum 1-3) but I think from now on, I’ll keep an eye out for promises in each day’s reading.  I didn’t go back to scan Nahum because a promise popped into my mind. It was Jesus’ last words to his disciples (and hence to us)

  • ….and surely I am with you always to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

I looked at each word in this verse and thought, pulling out a few implications, such as:

  • He IS with me now, not he will be with me
  • No need to doubt to his intention to keep his promise: “most assuredly/for sure”
  • Never is there a time when he is not with me in this life/age
  • Jesus announced this FACT after giving his disciples and me an ‘impossible mission’
  • True – he is not physically present with me so I can touch him or hear his voice through sound waves, but scripture affirms that he is with me via his Spirit. (John 16:7 ……it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.)
  • From the previous fact, his presence through the Helper implies that he knows what I am going through and he won’t stand by idly. Why else would he be called the helper?

The last take-away or derivative benefit from Jesus’ presence that I jotted down is:

  • the more I talk with him and think about him the more I’ll be like him.  For we become like whom we hang around, for better or for worse.

After this leisurely time in my new journal, I pondered the relationship between feelings and facts, gospel facts.

With those thoughts swirling in my mind we headed off to church where our senior pastor, Joe, taught, explained and exhorted from Colossians 2:13-15.  Communion followed the sermon and somewhere in his instructions and encouragement Joe mentioned that we can’t use our feelings to determine facts.  We need to put Gospel facts at the top, first and foremost and THEN draw out conclusions and inferences from Truth.  He mentioned that we often (or for some of us all the time) DON’T feel saved, DON’T feel forgiven, or at peace with the Father, and probably not at all cherished by him.  Joe explained that this was an easy pit to fall into. Furthermore, since it was Communion Sunday, he also cautioned us NOT to expect to feel different when partaking in the elements. That was REALLY helpful to hear from a pastor!

But where do feelings fit in?  After all, the Martyn Lloyd-Jones quote at the top of this post said that we will FEEL joy as we think about Jesus’ promises.

There’s the key, the way to order feelings and facts/promises.  Feelings ARE important.  (Think about all the times we are told: Be glad!  Rejoice! Exult in! Have compassion for! Be tender-hearted!)

Here is the key:  If we are saved and are one of God’s children, then ALL the promises of God belong to us in Jesus.  Feelings flow from what we believe to be true.  The Word of God IS true!  So if we reason from Gospel fact, we can trust our feelings.

  • 2 Cor 1:20 For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him, our “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God. (Berean Study Bible)

The big ‘IF’ is, are we saved?  Just what is the grounds for being one of God’s kids?  Simply this: IF we have believed that Jesus lived and died in our place, with all our sins transferred to him and his righteous deeds accounted to us, and that we bring NOTHING, NADA, RIEN, ZIP to the judicial trial before God, then we are forgiven, loved, restored to a right relationship with the Father forever. We need to ACCEPT these truths as fact, as accomplished.

Meditating on those truths – who God is and what he and the other members of the Trinity have done on our behalf WILL produce correct feelings we can trust. They in turn will rightly, naturally motivate and fuel our deeds, the good works God has planned for us.

Yet, you and I know that we have an enemy.  We need to arm ourselves with truth to block his lies. Although thoroughly defeated and ‘pulverized’ as Joe said today in his sermon, Satan will STILL speak and breathe noxious, vile lies to us to discourage and destroy us.  His words, if we believe them, can cause us to FEEL guilty, FEEL burdened, heavy hearted, troubled, fearful, ashamed, etc.

So, how do we order feelings and facts?  They are both important. God created us in his image with a mind, a heart and a will.  Living whole-heartedly in union with Christ is our mandate and our privilege.  Our hearts are entitled to peace and joy and relief and rest.  But this kind of glad happiness has to be based on gospel facts.

What’s going to be YOUR promise to feed on this day?  Start with one.  Chew on it, share it with others, write it to a friend, look it up in another language you know or a different English translation.  Work it deep into your tissues. And let THAT be the medicine you take this and every day.

 

Meditating on half a verse is enough

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Proverbs 30:8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me

Just that a portion of this verse was enough to teach and encourage me!

Mike and I read through the Bible each year, following a chronological plan.  That means sometimes we are reading 3-5 chapters at a time.  We gain so much by studying and discussing God’s storyline year after year.  More sinks in through the repetition.  But it is also good to slow down and meditate on just a small portion of God’s Word. I did that this morning from our assigned chapters, Proverbs 30 and 31.

Here are some riches I gathered from 10 minutes max of thinking and checking the Hebrew of the highlighted snippet above:

  1. Feed me: The writer understands that we are incapable of feeding ourselves in the spiritual sense.  He asks God to nourish him.  The Hebrew word for ‘feed’ means a tearing into little pieces.  I pictured an animal momma preparing bite-sized morsels for her young.  I need to remember, that daily, even hourly dependence on God is how I am to live.
  2. with the food: I can think of all the wrong kinds of ‘food’ I am apt to grab.  Others’ life’s circumstances that look ‘happier’ and travel photos that I wish were mine, to name two.  Neither promote contentment nor rest and trust in Jesus.
  3. that is needful: Again, another corrective: I’m not wise enough to know what is needful, what is good.  But God is! The Hebrew for ‘needful’ has the sense of: proscribed, appointed, assigned.  Reminds me of the psalmist’s assertion about pleasantly placed boundary lines in Psalm 16: 6
  4. for me: Ah, the individual love that our Father gives us.  What I need is different from what you need.  Sure, we all need God’s rescue, His heart surgery, and sustaining grace. But because He fashioned me and placed me, an individual, in THIS epoch, in THIS geographical area, in THIS family, in THIS physical body, He knows precisely what I require to grow more holy, like Jesus. His purposeful arrangement of circumstances and events are what He calls GOOD for me.  Remembering this fact, I let out a breath, and settle down into His care.

What was my overall take-away from meditating on just this partial verse?  That I can unreservedly submit to God, that He knows just what I need, at every moment, and that He gives me the perfect quantity of chosen circumstantial ‘necessaries’.  All to the end of preparing me to share in the happy glory of His forever Kingdom.

The few minutes of this kind of deeper engagement with a small portion of text makes me more apt to recall His sustaining Word throughout the hours of this day.

 

 

Stressed out and exhausted?

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What if I could offer you a guaranteed cure for stress and anxiety;

a sure-fire way to enjoy harmonious, happy relationships with family members; a formula for a satisfying marriage; a method for navigating the frustrations of modern life; a technique for stretching your time each day, would you be interested?

And how much would you be willing to pay for any of those ‘tools’?

We have just moved to the Asheville, NC area.  Often called the Seattle of the East, Asheville is a magnet not only for hippies, liberals,

artists and foodies but also for the spiritual seekers.

People pay beaucoup bucks attending Deepak Chopra seminars, buying the latest book recommended by experts Dr. Oz or Oprah or learning new meditative routines. 

Consider an alternative:

Jesus offers a counter-intuitive/ outside.the.box solution to all of our problems and it’s free.

Hey there!  All who are thirsty, come to the water!  Are you penniless?  Come anyway – buy and eat!  Come buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.  Buy without money – everything’s free!  Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?  Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest.  (Isaiah 55: 1-5)

How do you like the offer FIRST of wine and THEN of milk?  Celebration first and nourishment second – that’s the way things work in the upside.down.kingdom.

The membership offer, to be part of God’s family, entails NO cost to us.  And once we are connected in the permanent way, (well as you’ve heard it quipped by that giant credit card, ‘Membership has its privileges”,)   we are the happy recipients of many riches, as described by God in his promises.

One major privilege for Christians is the promise of transformation.  Without having to work for it, once inhabited by the supernatural Spirit at our new birth, we are gradually infused with new qualities.  These are the ones that 21st century humans are running around trying to buy or work for:

  • Inner peace that comes from being reconciled with the Creator and Judge of creation
  • Patience with ourselves and with others
  • Joy and contentment with the permanent things of life
  • Love of a different kind – feeling it and being able to act in a way that others feel it too
  • A gentle nature that understands the wounded nature of others and gives them space to ‘spaz’
  • A trusting attitude that even when things go wrong, God is still in control
  • A kindly disposed response-mechanism to angry and biting fellow humans
  • A good heart that desires to copy his or her heavenly Father
  • A mind trained to be reasonable and thoughtful in all situations

You probably recognize the list – yes, these are the 9 fruits of the spirit that are our new birth-right.

But you quip, you still lack them?  Or you live with a ‘so-called-Christian’ who doesn’t exhibit many of them?

Hmm…sounds like you or your companion need to imbibe some more of that holy wine and holy milk (aka Scripture).  Paul reminds us of the FACT that we DO become different as we reflect and rejoice in the facts of our adoption.  That is what he means by, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind!”

Now doesn’t that sound like an offer too good to pass up?  Drink up (soak in the Bible’s content)  and invite your friends to the party. (you can invest your money in something more lasting than quackery!)

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