Walk By Faith Not By Feelings

I have some encouragement for you. If you are getting beat up either by your own introspection and/or the enemy condemning you, I am here to tell you put it in it’s place and say, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.

I quite often get in a battle through my own introspection and the enemy sees this weakness and tries to sabotage me. I get thoughts like, “you just need to shut up!” Look at you, you are so unholy, you don’t have any business preaching and teaching. Look at all this stuff you need to clean up? You’d be better off keeping your mouth shut and working on getting your life together. You think God is proud of you? HAHA!” These thoughts are an outright assault.

My dad and I had a wonderful talk this morning about walking in faith and not your feelings. I was so greatly encouraged. My word of encouragment is don’t wait for the feelings, just act. The Christian life is not about cleaning yourself up and waiting for the right feelings. It is about stepping out in faith in spite of the feelings.

Oswald Chambers said, “To be surrendered to God is of more value than our personal holiness. Concern over our personal holiness causes us to focus our eyes on ourselves, and we become overly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, out of fear of offending God, but perfect love cast out fear, once we surrendered to God. We should quit asking ourselves, “Am I any use?” and accept the truth that we really are not much use to Him. The issue is never of being of use, but being of value to God Himself. Once we surrender to God, He will work through us all the time.”

CS Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

We can’t have courage without a fear of something. Having courage requires stepping out in faith despite the feelings. We will find that acting in faith, the feelings of fear will disappear and will be replaced with love. The Ten Booms were most certainly facing great feelings of fear in hiding the Jews during the Holocaust but they were courageous and acted despite the feelings. They acted out of love.

Jesus said love the Lord your God and love your neighbor, don’t wait for the feeling, just act. If the thought occurs to you to do something kind for your neighbor, do it. Don’t analyze it. Just do it. If the thought occurs to you that you should show a kind turn to someone that maybe was not so kind to you, then do it. Don’t wait for the feeing, don’t say, well I need to wait for the right motivation. Just do it! All we have is right now. Tomorrow is not promised.

Let’s help each other live a bold and courageous life in Christ, walking by faith.

SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS OR THE GOSPEL? YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO.

If I was sick with rare disease and I needed help…and there was a very qualified surgeon with excellent credentials that was willing to help me, would I turn him down if he was extremely arrogant, full of himself, and a host of all kinds of moral flaws? I don’t believe I would turn him down. First, my trust would be in God and that He would protect and guide, and if God allowed this immoral surgeon to help me, then I will trust the Lord to allow what needs to be done and the hands that are operating.

Have you thought about this? We can be just as arrogant, and prideful with character flaws as Trump or Biden. If we are able to restrain ourselves from external unrighteous character, this is not extra brownie points. We still experience it in our hearts. We can be just as self important, self righteous, and egotistical.

And you say, “well I control myself better, I don’t say it out loud that makes me better.”

And the Bible says, “whatever a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Do we believe in the gospel or do we believe in self righteousness?

These two are contradictory.

Do we see ourselves as better than the next person?

Maybe what is really being exposed in all of the division is the fact that we have to look in the mirror and see ourselves for who we really are.

We are sinners in need of a savior. “There is no one good no not one!”

We have two choices: We can look in the mirror and lie and say, “I am so much better than the next person. I’m so glad I’m not like him.” Or we will look in the mirror and say “Woe is me..for I am a man of unclean lips. You alone are holy.”

Just because someone has external righteousness does not make them righteous.

I struggle with pride, and my ego and my motivations are less than honorable much of the time.

What are we telling the world about Christianity with this confusion and division in the church?

Christianity is not about squeaky clean, polished people, that have it together. Christianity is about sinners like me who deserve punishment, but because of the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross I have been given freedom and life, because I saw in myself the beast that I am and that I need a savior.

Christianity is about unconditional love. Jesus loves me in all my prideful ways, my arrogance, my selfishness, my ego. And He has redeemed me.

I have walked with Jesus for a long time, but oh how I have messed up. And I still do. He has never stopped loving me and lavishing his grace on me. He has lavished his grace on all of us. He is slow to anger. He is so very patient with us and wants to see people come to Him and place their trust in Him alone. Deny yourself and take up your cross. Lay down your self righteousness. We have no righteousness on our own. Our righteousness is through the blood of Jesus.

Lets tell the world, what the real gospel is. What real Christianity is all about.

Take the log out of your own eye and start loving your neighbors and loving your enemies.

Remember we were all enemies of God and He loved us enough to die for us to bring us back into a right relationship with Him. We are no longer enemies but friends of God. All you have to do is confess your sinfulness and trust in Him as your savior.

Under Scrutiny

I have been watching the hearings for the Supreme Court Justice seat, and I couldn’t help but think about how grueling it is to go through that; where you are publicly being questioned about who you are, what you’ve done and what you believe, and yet the strength it takes to go through that process is the strength that is needed to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. She is faced with personal questions that might be embarrassing. She is confronted with questions with an air of trying to undermine her character and credibility.

I had to testify in court when I was 16, and although it was a completely different reason, I am sympathetic to the public scrutiny that one has to go through. I was in front of a court room of people, and when I was on the stand to testify, that was one of the most exposed, raw and vulnerable times I have ever been through. I remember the defense attorney trying to make me look like a liar and and discrediting my character. I felt the attack. It was painful. I felt a strong need to defend myself. I was prepped on what I would be asked and that I would just be required to answer truthfully. I remember breaking down and crying at one point when asked to give certain details that were extremely difficult to do, not to mention adding the stress and trauma of the defendant being right in front of me.

It doesn’t have to be in a court room to have these same experiences of feeling like you are put on trial, exposed, vulnerable, maybe discredited. it might be an experience at work, or maybe it’s an experience with family or friends, maybe it’s in school. It is natural to feel the pain and the need to defend yourself. Being put under any scrutiny is not a place anyone wants to be under, and yet we will all face it to one degree or another from time to time in different circumstances.

I remember, in my court-room experience, the love and support of my family and most importantly prayer and leaning on Jesus. was the beacon that carried me through. The night before I had to testify, I had an extreme case of anxiety, I remember my mom just holding me real tight as we laid in my bed, trying to calm me down. I remember having my mom and dad right there at my side supporting and fighting for me. A lot of the experience is a bit of blur, but those are the things that I remember with clarity. I knew I had the support of my family and Jesus was taking care of me. God has used that experience in my life to strengthen me and depend on Him and He has shown me the appropriate response when I face other kinds of scrutiny.

Whatever experiences of scrutiny, critical examinations you might be experiencing or have experienced, I am here to say it’s not meaningless, and there is something good that can come out of it. Focus on Jesus. He knows exactly how you feel, he was scrutinized to the point of death. There may be weeping in the night, but joy will come in the morning. Tell the truth in love. and be who God created you to be, rely on Him and He will give you the strength to face whatever you need to face. Ask for His wisdom and wait on Him.

“Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:-6.

The Good Ol Days

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It’s been a long time since I heard this song. How much do we feel this longing?

I was singing that line..”Tell me about the good ol days” and had to go listen to the words again. It really is a good song that seems to bring attention to a desire we all have.

It got me thinking about our heart and that longing(one of my favorite things to talk about) that is within us. We long for things to be set right for goodness and love, but what are we looking to for satisfaction in that longing?

One of my favorite quotes by CS Lewis speaks of this longing and desire. When I first read “The Weight of Glory” it resonated so deep, I cried like a baby. Here is a quote from it:

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Blind Spots

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One thing I must keep in check as I get older is that my age doesn’t deem me unteachable. The longer we live in our own skin the more comfortable we get. A few things that I’ve been thinking about are, no humility and all conviction is prideful because it tends to be a self-righteous conviction that can become harsh and without empathy for the other people. No convictions and all humility is prideful still, this is sort of an inverted self-righteousness, because there is no real stand for anything, there is no courage or self-sacrifice. This person is essentially still thinking of themselves too, so it only leaves a prideful person with a costume of humility.

Everyone has blind spots. These are spots in our thinking where we are blinded; these form over time through our environment and personalities.

You know those blind spots when you are driving, you are driving along, you look in both side mirrors before you change lanes, and someone lays on the horn! You swerve over back in your lane, and say to yourself, “where did that car come from? I didn’t see it!” You almost collided with it, but thankfully the horn woke you up! You didn’t see the car, but the truth is the car was there.

The enemy knows about our blind spots. He does not want us to be aware of these, and will do all he can to distract us from seeing the reality. He’d rather we have a collision because he cares nothing about you or the others involved, he is for ultimate destruction.

If you are a follower of Jesus, there is good news, we have a shepherd to help guide us. He knows our blind spots too, and he is watching over us. When we are about to swerve into chaos, God will lay on the horn. We need to be listening for the horn.

Now we won’t be able to hear the horn if we have a whole bunch of distractions. You are driving along and your music is up real loud, jammin’ the tunes, talking and texting on the phone; you know you aren’t suppose to text and drive. 🙂 Or just your head in the clouds.

You have all these distractions and you are about to change lanes and the horn is honking but you don’t hear it.

The Lord is leading us even in our blind spots, but we have to be alert and ready to hear his horn to get us back in line, so we can avoid destruction. We have to be aware of distractions that might steer us off.

Our conviction and humility goes hand in hand. The Lord is your shepherd and He is guiding you and you are trusting him to take the wheel, to keep you from harm, to protect you. You trust Him, that he knows what’s best for you and He sees all. This takes strong belief(conviction) to act courageously and it takes humility because it is admitting your weakness, and you are placing your dependence on Him.

I have asked the Lord to forgive me for taking the wheel of self righteousness, and I am admitting my blind spots and my need for an all seeing shepherd to guide me.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

We see because Jesus gave us sight! He is our sight. May our eyes be open. May our ears be attentive to His leading, warning and correction. The Holy Spirit who dwells in you will guide you into all truth. Are you listening?

The Echo of A Tune

A beautiful, ebony grand piano sits in a room fashioned for the grandeur of the magnificent instrument. You have known and heard what beautiful music could come from it. You could sit and look at it for hours, but in any one of those hours gazing at it, would you gain any knowledge or understating about the music that can come from it? The instrument itself can’t teach anything. You could buy a house full of pianos and could stare at them. You could even sit on the bench and play the keys, and you would never know one thing of the beauty of a Bach Prelude, or a Beethoven Sonata. I’m sure you can see where I am gong with this. To understand, to gain knowledge we have to be taught by a teacher, not the piano. The piano is just the instrument, in and of itself its just wood, plastic and strings.

One piece by Mozart moved me so profoundly, when I heard it, and played it, I had this thought of the weight of pain and suffering we sometimes endure in this life, and then at the end of the piece Mozart transitioned to a major key and the piece just ended glorious and that part made me think of our restoration that is found in Jesus. Now, I could not have been taught that from the piece alone. It just came through the piece. The piece did nothing to teach me that there is restoration and redemption through Jesus. I’m quite sure Mozart wasn’t thinking that when he composed it, but for me the music was.a perfect backdrop for the truth that had already been illuminated to me.

CS Lewis said, “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

What are we seeking to try to get to God? What path are we taking? No amount of nature walking, mountain climbing, book reading, degree earning, charity giving, will bring us to a greater knowledge of God. Jesus said, “I am the way” If we want to understand and know God, read the Bible, pray regularly, and worship and serve with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Any other path will get choked. Anything can become a religion, a set of beliefs and worship, but is that getting you any closer to God?

I don’t want the counterfeit that will just break my heart. I want the tune in my heart that sings of His praises and for His glory. We have beautiful echos here that God has given us, nature, music, literature, family, but these things are echos of the glory that awaits. May those things point us to the source of the beauty.

And The Answer Is………???

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How do Christians respond in such a polarized society?

What side do Christians take with sensitivities running high? 

The message is……….it’s the same as it’s always been! The answer is Jesus! The answer is the gospel. Forget trying to argue about which lives matter, whether or not white supremacy exists. If we stick to the message of the gospel and live our lives filled with the Holy Spirit, this is the main thing that will transform and produce change! 

No other message has the power like the gospel! 

Even Christians are dividing because we are getting off the main thing, the gospel. Is the gospel and the Word of God enough or not?

Who are we trying to please first? The world? Or God? 

Jesus said, “If the wold hates you, remember it hated me first.” John 15:18

The closer we get to the Lord and the more we preach Him, you can guarantee more backlash and heat coming up against you. It will make you question whether you are doing the right thing, with so many people coming up against you. We better keep our barometer in check. How are we measuring our actions…..by the way the world reacts, or buy His Word?

I don’t want to be rejected, I don’t want to be unliked, but the bottom line is, the more we stand up for Jesus the more enemies we will find. So then what? We love them! We keep speaking the truth in love. We show genuine kindness and care, because God loved me in all my sin and brokenness. In our love to God, we treat all with love and respect regardless of how they treat us. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and the only way is through his Spirit helping us in our weakness. 

Jesus was rejected, Jesus had many enemies and what did he do? Did he try to argue the latest political argument? No, He cut straight to the point. Just to name a few:

He said, “I am the way the truth and the Life no one comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:6

He said, “Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.” John 8:11

He said, “Father Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

He said, “Come unto me, all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

He said, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

He said, Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

Jesus preached love, but he preached about sin and repentance. 

Kindness and love, everyone can agree with you on that..but when you start talking about sin, and that all of us are sinners, in need of saving, then the offense comes. The good news doesn’t have much value to us if we don’t first deal with the bad news.

If we approach all the problems in the world with the presupposition that everyone is basically good, then quickly everything falls like a house of cards. No one likes to admit that they are the problem, but it is indeed where the problem is. 

I am the problem, I’m a sinner, and I need Him every minute of day. He is the only one that is good and He is the answer to all our problems. He is the solution. but it starts by looking in the mirror and crying out to God as the Psalmist says, ” Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

Now this is where I get to preaching! Whoops! Sorry! Not sorry! ( I get it honest, preacher’s kid here)

Let us step down off our moral high horses and elevate the One who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He is our answer! He is the only answer to peace and love. He is the definition of love and peace, all other is a fake. The answer is Jesus! The answer is, He saved me, He rescued me from the pit of despair. I was lost, without hope and He found me, and I am here to tell you about Him. He is inviting you too. There is reconciliation and it is through Jesus. There is healing and it is through the name above all names! To Him be honor and glory both now and forever. Amen!

Take hold of That For Which Christ Jesus Took Hold of Me

All have fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) This is the first step to progress. We can’t know the depths of forgiveness until we know the depths of sin. The reality of forgiveness will come when we face the reality of sin. Stare down sin in all of its fulness so you can know forgiveness in all of its fullness. We are full of sin. We are wretched. This is where the truth starts. The truth doesn’t start with forgiveness. What’s the value of forgiveness if there is no price for sin? We have to stare it down. Search my heart, Lord!

In Psalm 51, the Psalmist is staring down his sin. “For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

When we have stared sin down in its face, it’s time to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. What is “that”? It says take hold of “that” The “that” is the gospel. The “that” is that I am a wretched sinner that was lost, but because of his death on the cross that paid my penalty and the power of this resurrection, I am raised with Him a new creation, no longer held by the chains of my sin. I am free in Christ! This is the “that” for which I am to take hold of.

Our progress has only one source and activator and it’s Jesus. Apart from him we can do nothing.  We, on our own, can’t produce and progress. 

When we lay hold to the Truth, that’s when progress is happening.  Psalm 51: 6 says, “Delight in the truth in the inward being.” The Truth is Jesus! If we are attached to the Root,  we will bear fruit.  If we aren’t attached to the Root, we will wither and dry up. 

Lord I thank you that you have washed me clean and brought me to life!

Difficult People

Run, run far away! Isn’t that what we want to do?  When we are dealing with difficult people, and situations, let’s just say, we’d rather not, but we can run, hide and avoid every time, and in a minute we are faced with another one. 

First, we are all fallible humans, with personality quirks, difficult pasts, stories and hurts. We also can be pretty selfish. We instinctively think of our selves first, our feelings, our hurts, our loves, and when one or all of these things gets infringed upon or we are put in an uncomfortable situation, we want to flee, do we not? Or we want to fight, but neither of these are the best answer.

Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

He didn’t say, love only the neighbors that are easy to get along with.

“Jesus, you can’t really mean I need to love that person that is difficult?”

Yes he said, “love your neighbor as yourself”, and he said, “love your enemy.” Jesus must have got that one wrong, right? He must have meant, fight your enemy!

It’s a tall order, and no one does this instinctively, so how in the world are we able to?

He gives us the power to do it through His spirit. He is helping us in our weakness. The apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The key words are, “through Christ”

Try and do it on your own power, it’s too much! We can’t carry that. Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”

He will carry it and give us the grace to follow through. 

Try it! 

The next time you are approached by a difficult person, and it will be soon, pray, Lord help me in my weakness, give me grace to handle this person with love and care. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. You may not get a fuzzy feeling; most likely you won’t. Love is not a feeling it’s an action. Go against your own feelings, and act in the way you know is right.

God will bless it and work in it and through it. This is how walls of hostility are torn down. 

Second, I have been the “difficult person” in someone’s life, I can actually think of a several times right now. We’ve all been the difficult person.

When I am pointing the finger, I try to remember to look at myself first. That’s not easy though.

How are we difficult sometimes? It’s good to look at our own flaws and short comings. 

The good news is, God loves us in our messy difficulties. He loves us in our moaning and complaining. He loves us in our grumpiness. He is patient with us. God knows we are not capable of living this out perfectly, but if we will come to Him and let Him work in us, He will help us and give us the grace we need, but we must call upon Him. He won’t force His way. 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13