If we think getting a physical examination is a smart thing to do, we will have little fear of getting one. However, if we view it as a means to discover something seriously wrong and suspect there may be, we can become terrified. The same situation can generate peace or fear depending on how we think about it.

However, to be focused on our thinking without paying attention to our feelings is to risk having a distorted view of reality. God uses both to communicate with us. Ignoring either one can get us into trouble because our thoughts influence our feelings and vi-se-versa.

In decision-making, both should be used. I use rational thinking to help determine the right way, but I also use my emotions to discern God’s path. “All his paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17), meaning I will feel peace as I head in God’s direction.

We may choose to ignore our feelings because they are sometimes unreliable in telling us the truth about life. But they do tell us about ourselves and what we truly believe in our hearts. We miss knowing our hearts when we ignore our feelings and then fail to “watch over our hearts with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

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Knowing Scripture is a good first step in living in the reality of God’s peace and strength. However, we don’t always believe the Scripture we know. Our feelings often reflect this. We can use our feelings to exam what we are believing in our hearts and work with God in changing them if they need it.

Our fears often show we don’t trust God is the Good Shepherd in guiding, comforting, and protecting us. We can be terrified as we face the day. We think we are alone with many challenges and potentials to be hurt.

Yet, God is always there. He is quietly watching to give us strength to get through each day. But our feelings sometimes drag down our beliefs about God because we let our fears dictate our thinking this is a dangerous world without help.

Some of the thoughts in our hearts have been put there by Satan. As Jesus used memorized Scripture to beat Satan, we must do the same in fighting back against the lies within us (Matthew 4:1-10).

I spent many years ignoring my feelings. In my childhood home, I was afraid to experience them because I could lose control and risk physical and emotional abuse. In engineering school, I was also taught to ignore feelings because they could cloud my objectivity.

Only in recent years have I realized feelings are important. They reveal my heart which is necessary to draw closer to God. We need to acknowledge feelings so they can be processed which reduces their intensity. To ignore them can create physical and emotional damage.

May we learn feeling at peace requires positive thinking. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise… Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, NLT).

Feelings are important. They are a gift from God. May we learn to experience God through them.

 

 

 

 

 

How we view a problem determines what we feel about it. For example, if we think an eye discomfort is a serious problem that will only get worse, we feel fearful. However, if we view it as a “nothing burger,” a minor nuisance that most people learn to live with without complaint, we feel peace. This is the same problem with two dramatically different emotional reactions to it based on how we perceive the problem. So, how do we think positive and accurately about our problems? Or how can we look at our problems with God’s perspective?

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We need to be intentional in gaining God’s perspective on our problems. For example, God’s perspective on a difficult time is for us to respond with rejoicing. Why?  Because the trial is intended to help us grow spiritually (James 1:2-4).

Is that your perspective on hard times? It’s not mine either. I want the problem to go away before rejoicing. A practical exercise I have done for years is to apply memorized verses to various situations throughout the day. It’s amazing how this helps me to think more positive. I say to myself, What is God saying to me in this moment through this verse? Life seems more positive after doing this.

We often have negative thinking already programmed in our minds, such as expecting worst-case scenarios. In addition, Satan can bombard us with lies that are designed to keep us from thinking positive. We need to tune into our thoughts to determine if this is happening. This can help us insure our thoughts are true, right and admirable (Philippians 4:8).

For me, this requires a couple of 15-minute breaks a day to connect to God and my thoughts and feelings. If they aren’t from God’s perspective, I experience the negative feelings, release them, and exam the thoughts driving those feelings. I then ask God to help me to dwell on his perspective and reject the negative thinking.

We think about what we focus on. If we focus on five hours of TV a day, and work 60 hours a week it will be hard to see life from God’s perspective. Without reading, mediating, hearing and applying the Bible to get the Word into our hearts, we will not think positive because we live in a negative world.

We can also ask God to guard our thoughts and minds from negative thoughts (Philippians 4:6-7). We can daily ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any hurtful thoughts we have (Psalm 139:23-24). And when we discover them, claim the Holy Spirit’s power to replace them with God’s truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Finally, remembering who we are to God helps us to think positive. He is always with us and promises to help us through every situation. He is the Good Shepherd and is always watching out for us. He also loves us enough to have died for us. We never need to prove anything to him because He already loves, values, and accepts us completely. Nothing will ever change that.

I hope practicing some of these actions will enable you to think more positive. Remember, my friend, “these sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Look at life from this perspective and think positive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Still

I felt stressed experiencing the ravages of a bad cold and the discomfort of an eye affliction. My heart was not still. I wanted to get out of my suffering as quickly as possible, but wasn’t sure it would happen soon. This upset me.

Then, God spoke to me through Psalm 37:7. He said, “Stop stressing about your health. Rest in Me. I am healing you, but it will take some time. Meanwhile, I want you to wait patiently for Me.”

I then realized how unstill I was, being anxious and worried about so much. God reminded me I wasn’t alone in seeking deliverance. He was also involved working a healing.

He made good on his promise by healing my cold within two days. I can’t recall ever healing that fast from a bad cold. My eye has gotten better but am still waiting patiently for further healing. His healing may be total, partial, or strengthening me to endure it better.

I typically don’t stay in touch with my emotions. I can be upset and feeling despair and ignore it. However, the other night alarming thoughts lodged in my mind and heart. At the first chance, I tried to identify what thoughts had caused me not to be still. As I tuned into my self-talk, this is what I heard,” Your eye affliction is never going to go away and it will make your life miserable”.

I then challenged the thoughts by countering with the truth. My self-talk included, “This discomfort is not going to kill me. I have had chronic pain many times before and God has always delivered. Why wouldn’t he this time? “I (God) am with you and will help and strengthen you.” I (God) will sustain you and make you a stronger Christian through this trial.” After a few minutes of this kind of self-talk my soul returned to a state of stillness. It helped me to accept the reality of God’s presence and protection and helped clear away unbelief that blocked relying on him.

Being still is a matter of rising above circumstances. Jesus challenged the disciples to be still when the storm screamed at them they were going to die. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm.  Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:24-25, NLT).

Jesus also tells his disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT). We don’t overcome by having controllable circumstances, but through Jesus’ powerful interventions as we trust in his presence and help.

May we learn to be still and rest in his care and protection. May God increase our faith as we are “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and … taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NAS). May we tune into our self-talk and capture the lies that upset us so much and replace them with God’s peace-generating truths.

Be still my friend. You are safe.

I was scared as I opened the letter from the doctor’s office. I thought I was getting the results of my CT Scan that would show if I had developed any new aneurisms in the past year. I was scared for it could involve more surgery or worse.

I had just read that day the way to overcome the “What ifs?” is to replace them with “So, whats?” The belief behind this statement is God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28-29). As I nervously tore open the letter, I kept repeating “So what, So what?”. I was hoping my anxiety level would be no higher than level 3, but it was closer to a 7 out of 10. It turned out not to be the report on the scan results but a change of appointment. I felt both relief and disappointment.

I spent a few minutes pondering what had just happened. I concluded I believed hearing the scan results merited a mild anxious reaction. However, my heart believed this event was a clear and present danger. My head believed if the results were bad and I would die I will go to heaven and it would be wonderful forever. I also believed if I had to go through another operation, God would give me the strength to endure.

However, my belief in my heart was different. If I were to die, it would be bad. Why? Perhaps it was a belief from childhood that death is the end of all pleasure. I also feared the possible pain would be overwhelming and my life would be miserable. No wonder I was so scared. I told the Lord we had some work to do to bring my heart beliefs into alignment with my head.

What we deeply believe largely influences our feelings- and our feelings influence our beliefs. We can’t ignore either one. We often downplay the feeling side of faith. We focus on right beliefs and don’t pay much attention to what our hearts depends on. This frequently comes to us through our screaming emotions.

So, if very afraid, we need to look at our beliefs.

  • If afraid of losing our jobs, perhaps we believe we are the provider and not God.
  • If fearful of displeasing a leader, maybe we believe our security and worth are determined by what the boss thinks and not by God.
  • If afraid of the future, we may be trusting in controlling the future and not in God doing it.

We change our feelings by changing what we trust in. Do we rely on lies or truth? We need God’s help to detect and let go of the lies many of us have clung to since childhood and embrace God’s loving presence that gives us peace and security (Psalm 139:23-24).

What is one thing you are fearing today? Ask God to help you discern what you are believing that is driving your anxiety. If it’s a lie, then ask him to help you rely on the truth. Even if it is the truth, claim his promise to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NAS).

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our greatest needs is to be accepted by others. Starting with our parents and then by others we have sought approval. In many cases, this is good. For example, how can we keep our jobs unless we please our boss. But this can be bad when we place too much importance on it.

Growing up, I allowed others to shape my importance by how they treated me. Their approval defined who I was. This was not healthy. I pretended to be who others wanted me to be and lost track of my true identity.

For many years, the fear of being disapproved of by certain people controlled me. I allowed one boss in particular to define my worth. However, after years of hiding my thoughts and feelings, I grew confident in what God thought of me, which was a much better human being than my boss thought. I depended on God’s approval and not the boss’. Although I was fired, I went somewhere else that was a much better fit. And there they approved of the true version of me!

Why We Seek Others Approval

We seek the approval of others because we are not seeking God’s. We make an idol out of pleasing and impressing others. “They loved the approval of men, rather than the approval of God” (John 12:43, NLT). This was God’s disapproval of the Jews who sought the rewards of acceptance instead of pleasing him. A big price to pay for the approval of people.

When we crave attention, reputation, and acceptance, we will be conformed to the ungodly world around us and fail to be transformed (Romans 12:2, NLT). Often people’s approval seems to be more real than pleasing God. But it’s not. Several years ago, I made a decision to please God by doing the right thing instead of hiding what I thought and retain the perks of conformity. I chose to be true to who I was in God’s eyes and suffered the painful rejection of the board. But I never regretted that decision for the growth and peace that it brought to me.

How We Can Choose God’s Approval

We must be transformed to choose God’s approval. We need to allow God to “take captive every thought to be obedient to Christ: (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV). This will enable us to see beyond the “smoke and mirrors” of this world and picture and hear God tell us, “Well done My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23, NLT).

This picture helps us remember that he will hold us accountable for everything we think and do in this life. But it’s to reward us. There will be no punishment. We will receive rewards for pleasing God (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Moses looked beyond the fame and fortune of this life to gain a heavenly reward. “He valued disgrace for Christ above the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:26, BER).

May we realize that when we choose God’s approval we are resting in the truth that God already approves of us. We don’t need to please others to be accepted. It’s a waste of time. “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28, NLT). Pleasing God is far more important than impressing any other.

Rest in the reality that God approves of you because you are his child.

 

 

 

 

 

A common question we ask is, “What is God’s will for me?”  But before we pursue the answer to this question we need to ask, “Do I want to know it?”  We may be surprised to find out we only want to know what God wants us to do if we agree with it. He may not reveal his direction because we are not open to go wherever he leads.

Some may believe God doesn’t have a will? We think he doesn’t care what our careers are or who we marry as long as they meet some minimum standard. I disagree with this belief. God is interested in every detail of our lives and has a plan for our careers and who we marry. Paul says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT). Who we marry and what jobs he wants for us are part of the good things he has planned.

If we genuinely want to know God’s will, even if it may not be what we want it to be, how do we find out what it is?

First, we grow in following God by knowing him. As we grow closer to him we become more like him in making choices. We instinctively know which direction pleases him. That’s why knowing the Bible is important in knowing God and his will. His life and ways are described in the Bible. His plans for us never violate Biblical truth.

The Holy Spirit uses the Bible to speak to us about who to be and what to do. God says in Proverbs 6:22-23 (NLT):

“When you walk, their counsel will lead you.
When you sleep, they will protect you.
When you wake up, they will advise you.
 For their command is a lamp
and their instruction a light;
their corrective discipline
is the way to life.”

Another way we can know what God’s guidance is through our feelings. God says we experience peace when we are going his way (Proverbs 3:17). But when we feel in turmoil, God may be guiding a different direction than we are contemplating.

For big decisions, I have often used pros and cons lists. When I proposed to my wife I had a huge list of the pros of why I thought God wanted us to be married. I honestly don’t remember if I had any cons. There were many “common-sense” reasons for why I thought God wanted us together, but the main pro was God speaking to me through a couple of versus that he wanted me to marry her and now was the time to ask.

There are many other ways we can know his direction but probably the most important is through prayer. We can receive his guidance not only in the big decisions, like who to marry or what career would be best, but also in the little ones. For example, each day I ask God who he wants me to pray for and what to pray for them. I trust the thoughts that come from these prayers as his will.

God wants us to know his plans more than we can imagine. Jesus promises to reveal his desires if we persevere in prayer, as he says in Matthew 7:7 (NLT), “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

May we not be deceived into thinking God doesn’t care what we do. He cares and has many wonderful plans for our lives. May we not act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants us to do (Ephesians 5:17).

 

I have been surprised by how many Christians don’t realize how richly God rewards our godliness and faithful service. Not just by letting us into heaven, but rewarding us with privileges and blessings here and in heaven.

Generally, I have been unimpressed by how much God is transforming and using me in his worldwide ministry. I also believe others are not impressed. Does this mean my life doesn’t count? No!

I used to measure how useful my life was by results. How many people showed up for the meeting? Do the people in the group seem to be growing? How many people read my blog this month?

What do the answers to these questions need to be for my life to count?

What I’m learning matters is just doing what Jesus leads me to do. I probably have no idea how God is using my acts of obedience anyway. Therefore, I try to focus on discerning what he wants done and depending on the Holy Spirit working through me to do it.

Sometimes the results are encouraging. Other times they aren’t. But it does not matter. I live by faith God is pleased by just doing what he says. He asks us, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?”’ (Luke 6:46, NLT). Our lives count when we do what he desires.

The Judgement all of us believers will face is described in 1 Corinthians 10:12-14 (NLT):

“Anyone who builds on that foundation (Jesus) may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw.  But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.  If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.”

It’s hard to believe much of our work can be a waste of time. We seem to be doing so much for God. People are being helped and we are solving so many problems. But are we doing God’s works? We need to remember we are not our own. We are “God’s very own possession” (1 Peter 2:9, NLT) and need to live according to his desires. “No longer living for the lusts of men but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2, NAS). When we don’t focus on being and doing what he wants, we can miss making our life count. And God has specific tasks for us to do.

One important thing that can help us be useful to God is to grow in humility. God doesn’t need us. He gives us the privilege to serve alongside him in meeting the needs of the world. And whatever gifts and abilities we have come from him. “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift? (1 Corinthians 4:7, NLT).

We can also ask the Holy Spirit to help us detect our strong desires to serve him in our way and change them to what God wants.  He designed us to partner and live in reliance on him throughout the day (John 15:5). Only when we submit to being and doing what God wants will our efforts count.