Which governs your walk with Christ – knowledge or feelings?

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Patrick’s definition of Biblical wisdom in today’s sermon stopped me cold.  Our pastor has begun preaching through the book of James in view of the many trials to befall our church family in recent months.  He has sensed, rightly so, a need for us to know HOW to think properly about what God has sent.

I’ve always joked about being a member of the ‘pure joy club’ as in:

  • Consider/Count it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds...James 1:2

But when you are suffering, it’s nothing to laugh about. No matter the flavor or extent of pain and difficulty, we all require good teaching and counsel in how to deal with the trials. James’ instruction, therefore, directing his listeners to ask God for wisdom in the suffering makes sense.

But here’s the new wrinkle:  I had always thought that praying for wisdom meant asking for guidance in what TO DO!  Today, Patrick took a different angle.  He explained that the kind of wisdom we need is help in thinking correctly/truthfully about the trial.  If we can’t imagine how to view this current suffering as falling into the category of ‘complete joy,’ then we are to pray for the ability to take what we know about God and his Word and apply both to our circumstances.

In essence we are begging God:

  • Father, help me to understand and trust that you are working in this awful circumstance!  Help me TO THINK correctly!

From THAT new definition of Biblical wisdom, it occurred to me that Knowing WHAT TO THINK is more important than knowing WHAT TO DO. And since our actions or lack of actions affect our emotional state, right knowledge must rule our feelings.  

So here’s a question?  In your life is your  knowledge more important than your feelings?

God, speaking through the prophet Hosea, says: My people perish for lack of knowledge -Hosea 4:6

and in Isaiah 5:13, God warns: Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; those of high rank will die of hunger and the common people will be parched with thirst.

And in this teaching from Philippians 2:5, Paul counsels – Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.

What he means is THINK, or DIRECT YOUR MIND…about a certain topic.

A recent conversation with a close friend provides an appropriate illustration of the importance of correct thinking.  This dear gal has been suffering from what I call:

ADHD – Anxiety, Despair, Hopelessness and Depression

Like all of us, she is pulled in many directions as a mom of 2 under the age of five as well as being pregnant with her third child.  Her self-chosen priorities feel like burdens because of some INCORRECT thinking.

Here is one example of the unintended consequences of false ideas. Her life presupposition has been:

  • I am what I do.  Therefore, if I’m not doing, then I don’t exist.

In her case she has chosen to define herself as the kind of mom who:

  • cooks healthy meals for her kids
  • spends time reading to them and homeschooling the eldest
  • exercises every day
  • keeps an organized house

So when circumstances (aka God’s providence) interfere and block her ‘doing’, then she has felt herself coming undone, like she doesn’t exist.

She has been living off of, feeding on her emotions with NO input from God’s word.  She truly is perishing for lack of true knowledge.

Truth will set you free

The only solution is to throw herself onto God’s mercy and ask Him for wisdom in how to think correctly, that is Biblically about her circumstances, given accurate knowledge of God’s character, ways, past rescues and promises of future grace.  The right kind of knowledge trumps feelings.

Here’s one final bit of evidence that our God considers true knowledge vital.

The apostle John comforts us in the most important knowledge or reality that any Christian wants – assurance of one’s salvation.  The good news is that our feelings do not enter into the facts.  Listen to his words in 1 John 5:13

  • These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

We all know the source of this life-giving knowledge – God’s written Word.  Don’t starve! “Mangia! Mangia!” as all good Italian moms exhort!   Let us taste and see that the Lord IS good.  Why do you think I named this blog, “Feed on Him”?

 

 

Being more kind than we think necessary

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Kindness is more than they deserve

It wasn’t until I got married that I learned of my poor sense of  judgment.

What I mean, is that I invariably pull out a container far too small to hold dinner’s leftovers.  Mike chalks it up to a false sense of economy.  He has me nailed correctly.  For this is how my flawed thinking goes:  “If all this will fit into a smaller pot/bowl/storage unit, then there will be LESS to clean (I’m lazy!)

I have learned, over the years, NOT to trust my judgment, but to automatically select a receptacle LARGER than I think necessary.  I’m sure you can point to similar circumstances where you have learned not to trust your intuition, but to go with your training.  Pilots routinely navigate this way.

Picture an airplane that has to crab into the wind, in order to fly straight.  This means that the pilot POINTS the nose off-center (not in the direction she wants to go), so that the body of the plane will actually TRACK in the intended direction.

crabbing into the wind

So it was with a sense of recognition for this principle of purposeful über- sizing that I read the following quote:

In this world, you must be a bit too kind to be kind enough.

Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux, dramatist and novelist (1688-1763)

I suppose we should not be surprised.  It’s like when you SMILE for a photo, and you think you have pasted on a cheesy monkeyish grin.  But in seeing the picture, you just look…well..happy!  I don’t think we are very good judges of what IS enough!  After all, ‘they’ say it takes 10 deposits into a student’s ‘LOVE BANK’ to balance out 1 correction.

Compliments are hard to come by

And the Bible affirms that what draws ANYONE to us is not how smart we are, how together we look, how neat our homes are, how successful we are in business, school or raising kids.  What attracts others to you is your kindness:

Prov 19:22  – What is desirable in a man is his kindness.

Wow!  God through Solomon,  the King who was known for his wisdom, is instructing us about the most desirable character trait.  This kindness or ‘chesed’ is also translated as MERCY.   Mercy is when you don’t give someone what they deserve; instead you give them something they don’t deserve, like grace.  And in order to do that, it’s going to cost YOU a lot. For God to give us mercy when we deserved punishment, He submitted His Son to our sentence.

The price you and I are going to have to pay to be kind enough and merciful enough is far more than we think we should or even for which we can SEE we have the resources. (But God is more than happy to supply us!) And just like in my silly but frequent misjudging of the large-enough storage container, we will have to be MORE kind than we think necessary.

What a thought: that the only thing someone will really remember about me, if they remember me at all, is that I was kind to them.  And for them to notice kindness, it’s going to have to be MORE than I think I should have to GIVE.

Kindess is wisdom

What were the circumstances of someone’s extravagant  kindness to you?

Wrong kind of guilt

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Romans 12:6-8   We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Familiar scenario – compare yourself to someone else and……voilà!

I was feeling guilty again, like I SHOULD be doing what this other sister-in-Christ ENERGETICALLY and capably does with her über-confidence.  She had laid out a convincing argument that you could not consider yourself a Christian UNLESS you showed your love for God by seeking out ‘neighbors’ whom you could bless with a type of pay-it-forward gift.  I was feeling convicted and selfish and burdened all at the same time.  I saved her blog post and her ‘modus operandi/ MO’ for this kind of gifting so that I could reflect prayerfully about what she had written before adding it to my TO DO list.

I’m glad I did.

What bubbled up to the surface of my conscious mind over the next 2 days was this:

  • Doing kind things intentionally for the poor does not excite me
  • Big hospitality as outreach isn’t something I find joy in doing
  • I enjoy & seek openings to bring up Jesus and eternal matters with everyone I meet
  • I read and study to understand doctrine and reasons why Christianity is true and credible
  • I find pleasure in articulating and honing  what  I learn with like-minded Christians
  • I like praying for others
  • God calls us with very general commands to love Him and our neighbor
  • God calls us with very specific commands to care for the widow/orphan in the body, to pray and encourage each other in the body, to share the gospel and disciple nations, to give financially for the support of the Church and to have an answer ready to explain the reason for our faith when asked (to name just a few)
  • Christians are blessed with at least one specific gift to support the body of Christ

So I concluded:

  • I do NOT need to add more to my To-Do list by seeking out strangers to bless
  • However, when I encounter anyone in my path whom I can help, I should
  • I have God’s blessing to exercise my gifts in HIS power and grace with joy and thanksgiving

Finally, here is the subtler lesson I gleaned – it is wrong for me to look down on a sister or brother who doesn’t share the same passion/gifting that I do.  Likewise, I need to remember that what ‘comes naturally to me is actually from God, to be used faithfully and gratefully for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom. There is no reason to boast or to criticize.

Thank you, Father, for loving me with patience!

Information Overload v. Applied Knowledge

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But we have this treasure, in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not ourselves. (2 Cor 4:7)

I am overwhelmed by information.  Because of the űber-abundance of blog-posts… you-tube videos…. search engines…. people’s opinions ad infinitum (et ad nauseum) I find myself unable to keep up.  Of course I am the one who has defined what comes into my backyard.  I am the gatekeeper.  Yet even knowing that I myself have chosen certain podcasts, blogs, correspondances, magazines, and papers, their presence in my world have become a burden.  Who or what will rescue me from this increasing feeling of lack of time?

Merci au Seigneur – thank the Lord.  His word has clarified the distinction between information and knowledge.  And THAT has helped me re-think the situation.  There will always be more information than I can take in.  But information is of no use until it becomes meaningful to me in the form of knowledge.  I see knowledge as information that I have chewed and processed and lodged on my treed, my framework of thinking.   When that ‘knowledge-byte’ is accessible and useful, and grounded in Biblical truth, it can serve to guide me in life choices.

I am struck by how often the word knows/knowledge is used in Scripture.  Consider how it is used in the 2 Corinthians passage in Chapter 4 –

6 For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts so as to givethe light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  7 But we have this treasure injars of clay,to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

I think that ‘treasure ‘is this knowledge of the ‘god-ness’ or glory of Jesus and the fact that we KNOW that He is in us via the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday I was reading a devotion written by J.I. Packer and found myself SO relieved by how he interpreted verse 5 in the Romans 5 passage where Paul assures us that “… hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

This verse has always felt like an indictment of my lack of Christian love because I don’t FEEL that love in my heart.  But Packer described it as the KNOWLEDGE of God’s love.  Now THAT I can relate to, for I’m reminded that,

God demonstrates and clearly proves his love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”?  (Rom 5:8)

I see that knowing, i.e. remembering truths about God is what I called wisdom when applied to one’s life.

We come full circle.  Part of that wisdom is the ability to set limits.  And God actually helps.  Part of my frustration with the abundance of information out there originates in the 24 hour day.  God has set up boundaries.  I bump up or crash into them, but they are there for my own good.  They force me to assess, to make choices.  I want to be able to say with the Psalmist, ‘the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.  I have a good & beautiful heritage.’ (Ps 16)

An Experience in Sharing the Gospel

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Colossians 4:5-6 Be wise in the way you act with outsiders, make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone.

I clobbered my mother-in-law with doctrine.  I wrote her a letter outlining my concerns about her spiritual life.  I shared some basics about sin, repentance, the Good News of what Jesus has done for us and how to grow in the love & knowledge of God.  But I overwhelmed her with my intensity. And I have irrevocably moved our relationship into a new territory where neither of us knows how to maneuver.  All of this – 2 weeks before our youngest son’s wedding when family will gather.

My mother-in-law is 81.  She grew up in the Catholic Church, switched to the Episcopal Church in college, met & married a seminarian and shared the life of an Episcopal priest & bishop for almost 59 years.   Thus has the Episcopal Church been the center of her life.

My concerns for the state of her soul were cumulative over many years as my husband and I were graciously drawn out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of light.  Looking back on our past, Mike & I recall how we truly THOUGHT we were Christians all the years we were faithful church-goers and served in different ministries.  Indignation and denial most likely would have been our reaction had someone confronted us with the state of our souls.  So I understand how it must seem puzzling to someone living a ‘religious’ life, that it might be possible not even to belong to Christ.  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”  Matt 7:21

As we discovered truth and life, we wanted to share this joy and the assurance of salvation with those closest to us.  My mother was a believer, yet died before I was regenerated.  I failed to share the Gospel with my father.  I tried, but was not equipped and backed off many times when he didn’t want to talk.  Out of that experience, my husband and I approached his parents.  Our concerns for their spiritual well-being intensified over the past months as my father-in-law was dying.  We prayed for opportunities to have authentic discussions about the reality of Christian hope.  But we could do no more than skirt the periphery of religiosity.

I don’t understand people’s boundaries.  To my discredit, it is very difficult to imagine or empathize, and therefore yield to limits and walls friends and family erect to protect emotions or comfortable routines of looking at life.  (Why wouldn’t you want to talk about the most important topic in life? – your future after you die?  Don’t you want to know if what you have staked your life on is valid?  Don’t you want to even know WHAT it is you believe?) My grown children and husband consider me intense.  But I can’t see that:  I am what I am.  Is a fish aware that he breathes in through gills?

So returning from my father-in-law’s funeral I wrote my mother-in-law THE letter and launched her on a roller-coaster of emotions of anger, shame, indignation and horror.

Here is what I have learned from this experience:

(1)   – Patience is not something I practice naturally, so just as a pilot must intentionally crab into a wind to keep her flight path straight, so must I wait longer than I think is necessary.  I composed THE letter on a Friday and sent it to two people whose opinion I value.  I received a green light from one, but did not wait long enough to hear back from the other person before mailing it off.  She replied 3 ½ days later and suggested restraint.  But I had already mailed off the letter. To my ‘partial credit’ I had slept on it and prayerfully revised it over a 3-day period.  Yet I should have waited for this second person’s wisdom, since I had explicitly asked for it.

(2)   Offhand remarks I wrote that were not even my main point were received poorly.  This really surprised me.  I should have considered every sentence.  When I closed the letter to my dear mother-in-law with the reassurance that her grandsons would be praying along with me for her, I thought that would encourage her.  Instead she was horrified that I had shared something ‘negative’ and had ‘misrepresented her’ to the boys.  I never would have anticipated that reaction.

(3)   Less is more.  I dumped TOO much on her (14 pagesL).  The quantity had two negative effects: a) she missed some important parts because it was too much to take in all at once and b) she felt bludgeoned by the sheer amount of what I wrote.

I failed to SEASON my written conversation with her; I just dumped out the whole blue container of Morton’s iodized salt.

So, I am trusting God now to work my blundering efforts for her good and for mine.  I am praying that we can sort out a way of relating that is safe and comfortable for her when she arrives next week for the wedding.  I am sorry that she will feel self-conscious around her grandsons and us.  That was not my intention.  But I don’t regret that I initiated the discussion.  I could never have said some of what I wrote face to face.  I will continue to share the Gospel with others when appropriate and will trust the Holy Spirit to let me know His timing and the proper words.

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