Our Pastors have been leading us on Wednesday nights to consider Scripture as the Authority for our lives. It is becoming more difficult in our culture not to invest our feelings — especially if we are not in the Scriptures, with the final authority for life. We plod along counseling with ourselves making decisions based on how we feel about this or that outcome. I find when I counsel with myself the questions I ask are aimed at what is the easiest, most convenient, most comfortable, least demanding course to take.
Beyond that, the trouble with relying on my feelings as the anchor for my life is that they do not hold steady! They are fickle and change in a moment without good reason — or any reason! I can “feel” disciplined and self-controlled in the morning and decide that it is right to make healthy eating choices as a way to honor the temple of the Holy Spirit. That feeling can sustain me for awhile and then come the afternoon hours and my mind begins to bring me new counsel! I begin to “feel” different than I did during the morning. Now, I think it is time to reward myself and indulge my desire for junk food. That “feels right and true” because the decision is based on the change that has occurred from morning to afternoon.
The path of following feelings is like being lost on the back roads of West Virginia–you wind and wind and get nowhere. Counseling with my thoughts and feelings is disappointing because they are not unchanging absolutes as we find in Scripture. The unchanging, sufficient Word of God is authoritative! Soaking and submitting to God’s thoughts make for a straighter more direct path through life.
I was reminded of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ warning regarding making your feelings your god.
“Avoid the mistake of concentrating overmuch upon your feelings. Above all, avoid the terrible error of making them central…for you will be doomed to be unhappy. What we have in the Bible is Truth; it is not an emotional stimulus…and it is as we apprehend and submit ourselves to the truth that the feelings follow. I must never ask myself in the first instance: What do I feel about this? The first question is, Do I believe it?” ((D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965, reprinted 2001), 20.))
May today be the day when rather than asking myself what I feel about this or that–I ask, “Lord, based on your Word–the anchor for my life, what must I believe about this?”
“Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” Acts 6:8
“One of the advantages of the grace of God is that it makes a man a gentleman without the aid of a dancing master.” (John Wesley)
Paul S. Rees, Man of Action in the Book of Acts (Westwood, NJ: Revell, 1966), 32
Yesterday, I launched a 12 week fall Bible study at my church. About 20 women gathered and there was much excitement as we opened chapter 1 and began to unearth the gems contained there. I am glad to be studying with these women and eager to consider the essential role of the Holy Spirit in spreading the good news about Jesus. Luke is so precise–such a researcher–and committed historian. He records the events that allow us to observe people being changed from the inside out! When thinking about that change I remembered these thoughtful words:
“Is it really possible to change?…The word “really” is the issue. In many people’s minds, change must be nearly complete–at least dramatic–or it doesn’t count…If efforts to restore a drab marriage lead only to a flicker of warmth, then perhaps it hasn’t really changed…Evangelicals sometimes expect too much or, to put it more precisely, we look for a kind of change that God hasn’t promised…We manage to interpret biblical teaching to support our longing for perfection.
As a result, we measure our progress by standards we will never meet until heaven…We therefore claim God’s power as the guarantee of total change from pressure to peace, from disappointment to joy–and then live with an intolerable burden that either crushes us with despair or requires us to pretend we are better than we are. The idea that peace and joy might merely support us during times of struggle and sorrow rather than eliminate those times is not appealing.
We want to do away with the necessary pain of living in a disappointing world as imperfect people. We insist on experiencing neither pain nor failure, so when the inevitable happens, it becomes reason for discouragement. But there are unnecessary problems that develop when we insist that necessary pain be eliminated…If we were convinced that the trauma of learning to trust God would really change us, we might be willing to endure it. But real change is available now; it’s just not the kind of change we want. We insist that the real change that heaven will bring (an end to all pain) be ours today. That insistence is the problem that we must overcome if real change that’s possible now is to occur.” ((Larry Crabb, Inside Out, NavPress, 1988, 203-205))
O Father, you are the Potter; I am the clay–it has never occurred to me before that my desire to change–my hopes for moral renovation might be rushing your timetable–or that it springs from a root of pride that wants to look better in other’s eyes right now! I sense, that through Acts you will teach me to want the change you want to do in me! What an adventure it is to live under the molding influence of your Spirit. Amen
Sunday, March 28, 2004
I took cottage #2 to church this morning and then made some cookies and cleaned the house. It is Mike’s birthday and we decided to celebrate by having the children come for a visit. We thought it would be fun to let them try ice cream for the first time. The ice cream here is somewhere between ice milk and Italian ice–not very creamy but it replicates the delight pretty well. Chloe seemed to enjoy the treat but the others were not all that impressed. They found the sensation of cold too intense and they were not fond of the sweetness either! One man’s treasure is surely another man’s trash! It was fun seeing them all dressed up and ready for a party. Earlier in the day, Mike went with the Enis’ into Kampala to go to New City Bible Church. He had just changed clothes when one of the aunties came frantically knocking at the door. She was very agitated because she had seen a snake under the plants that surround Mama Teopista’s cottage. Mike wasted no time and followed her back to the site. I didn’t think much about it–in fact I thought the snake would be long gone before anyone could hunt it. Imagine my surprise when Mike came back with a dead green mamba! He and Mike Enis tried several scary maneuvers to kill this menace–it was after it was dead that I found out it was a green mamba–it is a very poisonous snake here in Uganda. I should have known that the auntie would not have been that upset for the safety of the children unless there was real danger. Thank goodness they were successful and the snake was not! Having the children over for a party just added more excitement to this already exciting birthday.
P.S. This day reminded me of the Acts 28 story, “As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, fastened itself onto his hand. The people of the island saw it hanging there and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.”