Archive for November, 2014

Are Feelings Important?

Feelings have often been a mystery to me. What to do with them? How to manage them?

They can brighten my day or make me miserable, and everything in between.

I seemed to have learned at a young age to run away from feelings that didn’t feel good. But the feelings were often still deep inside, along with the thoughts that triggered them.

I later learned in engineering to ignore them because they often got in the way of objective decision-making.

However, I think most of us would agree that our feelings are important, but what are we supposed to do when they don’t feel good?

Why Feelings Are Important

I was taught as a young Christian that feelings were not that important. What was important was what God said in the Bible. It was dangerous to let our feelings guide us through life.

But in recent years I have learned that feelings are very important–for they can tell us the truth about our self, not necessarily the truth about life. For example, if we are afraid of what people think of us, that fear may be lying to us. The fear may be saying to us that what people think of us is who we are.

But the truth is we are what God thinks of us, which is, “We are precious, honored and loved” (Isaiah 43:4, paraphrased). Our feelings are lying to us if we fear rejection; for what God thinks of us is what counts and he will never reject us (Hebrews 13:5).

Yet, our fear of what people think of us tells us a lot about our self. The fear shows that in our heart, we still cling to the lie that we are what people think we are. This awareness is a call from God to be transformed in rejecting the lie and embracing the truth that we will never be rejected. Sure people can reject us, but it means nothing to God, for he never will.

Feelings are also important to us because they can add so much pleasure or cause so much grief in our life. Wouldn’t you like your feelings today to be peaceful, joyous, loving, compassionate, and empathetic? It sure beats feeling hatred, rage, lusts, and dissatisfaction all day. These feelings can help us determine if we are living in God’s power.

Another reason feelings are important is that often God talks to us through our feelings.

He says about our feelings,

“Come to Me in prayer when you are feeling under the pile” (Matthew 11:28, paraphrased).

“Check what you are thinking about if you are full of fears” (Philippians 4:8-10, paraphrased).

“I always give you peace when you go My way” (Proverbs 3:17, paraphrased)

What We Should Do With Them

So, what are we to do about our feelings?

Certainly, we should not stuff them by getting busy, escaping through drugs or alcohol, or trying to ignore them some other way.

Psychologists tell us that not paying attention to painful feelings can cause us a lot of problems. For example, ignoring our anger could cause a root of bitterness to spring up causing us to hurt a lot of people (Ephesians 4:26-27; Hebrews 12:15).

We can also use our feelings for guidance as long as they don’t lead us to violate biblical principles and other forms of God’s guidance. My experience has been that if I genuinely want God’s will, my desires will line up with his direction (Psalm 37:4).

We need to always remember that our feelings flow from a heart that is tricky and impossible to understand (Jeremiah 17:9). Often, we are not experiencing the real feelings when we are feeling anxiety, anger, and confusion. These feelings are intended to “protect us” from our deeper feelings of hurt, grief, fear, and sadness.

So, we need to depend on the Holy Spirit to help us know what our true feelings are so that we can face the false beliefs and dependencies of our heart, and be transformed by God.

We can ask him, “Search me, O 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).

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One of the beliefs in many of our churches today seems to be that all we need to do is know the Bible and we will become spiritually mature.

But God says, “spiritual maturity comes by relying on the Bible to live life” (Hebrews 5:14, paraphrased).

We seem to move heaven and earth to understand the Bible from every angle possible, but seem to think it relatively unimportant to actually live the Bible that we now understand.

Or, we seem to think that maturity just happens when we understand the Bible.

Whatever the reason, we often lack the teaching and support to live the Bible from the heart.

But God warns us not to deceive ourselves by becoming knowers of the Bible only, and not doers as well (James 1:22-23).

I was reading the Bible yesterday in the book of Jeremiah about how God warned Israel time after time that if they did not change their ways that he would punish them. They knew God’s word. But they did not listen to God’s word and change their ways- and God had to punish them.

Living the Bible is what God wants from us, not just knowing it.

Certainly, becoming godly begins by knowing the Bible. But we don’t just park there. We move ahead and learn to rely on the Bible. And that means changing. This is where life can become messy because often we don’t want to change.

I think this is why it is so easy for us to fall for the deception of acquiring more and more knowledge and think we’ll doing great. We don’t take the time “to consider the direction our life, and change our ways to God’s ways” (Psalm 119:59, paraphrased). We can become so distracted by acquiring knowledge that we avoid the awareness of our need to change.

Knowing the Bible was intended to be a living experience where we allow God to work in our hearts. It is to be experiential knowledge, not just head knowledge. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, ……. and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Knowing the Bible was not intended to be only an intellectual experience. Yet, many of us approach reading and studying the Bible as a philosophy or history experience. We substitute Bible knowledge for an intimate relationship with God.

In Psalm 119 God says, “I want you to hope, obey, receive comfort, meditate, and delight in the Bible.” He wants us to respond to what we know in the Bible.

So, knowing the Bible is not enough. We need to also respond to it. May we have the courage to allow God to transform us and lead us according to his Bible.



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I have tended to be pessimistic most of my life. I have often followed Murphy’s Law that if something could go wrong, it probably will. I have frequently concluded that the glass was half empty, rather than half full.

Yet, I know this is wrong.

An example of this happened in the past this week. I received a number of test results regarding my physical condition. It was mostly good news! Yet a couple of results weren’t to my liking. Since then, I have felt upset over those results, even though I seem to be in pretty good shape overall.

I concluded that the glass was half empty.

But was the glass half empty?

Why We Think the Glass is Half Empty

The world we live in teaches us to see life as the glass is half empty. Listen to the nightly news or read a newspaper and compare positive to negative news. It’s overwhelmingly negative.

In addition, many of us were trained in homes that saw life as the glass is half empty. As a result, many of us have been thinking that the glass is half empty for a long time. Today, I tend to focus on what is wrong with my situation, and discount the good about it.

Also, from my earliest years, I have had low expectations for good things to happen in the future. I tend to expect something close to the worst possible outcome, until it happens for the better. It is a habit of thinking that is hard to go away.

How We Can See the Glass as Half Full

First, we need to change our thinking habits. We need to think more like God, who wants us to see that the glass as half full. ”And we know that God causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28).

He wants us to choose to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is admirable” (Philippians 4:8, NIV) about our situation. We tend to think about whatever may not be true, whatever is wrong, and whatever is ugly.

Another way to change our thinking habits and see life more positively is to pray and mediate on the Scriptures, These are God’s thoughts and they help us to gain God’s positive viewpoint on our problems. Such as, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). Instead, we tend to curse the darkness and get upset when we are hit with problems.

A third way we can grow in seeing that the glass as half full is to re-train ourselves. For example, when my book sales are low and few are reading my blog, I am training myself to thank God for the meager results that do not reduce my worth, his love for me, and my acceptance. I am learning to receive God’s gift of being important to him for just being me, and not because I am a superstar who succeeds in everything that I do.

So, let’s develop the habit of seeing the positive in our circumstances and our future. Let’s learn to see our glass as being half full!


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One of the most difficult commands to obey is to give thanks to God for everything (Ephesians 5:20). I sort of obey it, but not completely.

Why should I thank God for being hospitalized five times this year? Why should I thank him for two surgeries, one in which I almost died? Why should I thank God for the hard time that a church I care about is going through?

I don’t have any problem thanking God for the many good things in my life- like three grandchildren, areas of growth in my life, and pretty good health now.

But to thank him for things that hurt, scare, and depress?

Now that Thanksgiving is approaching, I would like to grow in giving thanks for the “bad” things, or throw the command out and accept the fact that God didn’t mean what I thought he meant.

So, should we give thanks for everything?

God says to us, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He also says, “I work all your circumstances for your good” (Romans 8:28), paraphrased).

What he is telling us is that he controls what is happening to us and makes sure that they bend to accomplish his purposes and our good.

But we may say, “How can this cancer be good?” Or, “How can this big failure be good?”

He responds, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces [godliness] for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

How many children really think that being disciplined is good? My kids never believed me when I told them that the spanking I was going to give them would hurt me more than them (I think they knew I was kidding).

But with God it’s true. He says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). He hurts us that he may do good to us. He desires that we become wise, not foolish – so, he disciplines us.

God considers our circumstances to be good if they lead to our godliness, even if they are painful, scary and depressing. He is bending all our circumstances towards helping us to depend on him instead of pleasant circumstances (which don’t always happen).

Not to say that he won’t give us good circumstances, for he promises us many good circumstances because he loves us so much (Psalm 23:6). Nevertheless, he is relentless in developing an intimate love relationship with us and if hard times will help this to happen, he will cause or allow them.

Therefore, it makes sense to give thanks for everything.

So, I challenge you to join me this Thanksgiving season to give thanks for everything. God will use our pesky problems, weaknesses, and failures to transform us into more godly people.

I know it seems insane to give thanks for things that hurt. But he wants us to believe that he is in control and has our best interest at heart in everything that happens to us.

Though we may not understand what the good is in our circumstances, let us trust this Thanksgiving season that God will cause good to come from them. A good that otherwise would never have happened (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Let’s give thanks for everything!

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