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Do a New Testament word search on the word “feel” or “feelings”. You will find almost nothing. Actually, in the NIV there are only 3 references to “feel” (and one of those is to “feel shame”) and none for “feelings”. Now do a word search for “believe”, “know”, “understand”, or any other word that suggests fact. There are 326 New Testament references to the word “know” alone. However, attend any typical institutional church or house church and often the emphasis is clearly focused on the way the attendees feel. The music and the message are about leaving the congregants upbeat and positive. Emotionally charged, they leave with little of substance and without motivation to pursue Godliness. As a matter of fact, you are hard pressed to find any systematic teaching today on theology because that’s not “warm and fuzzy”.

Emotions, or feelings, can be a dangerous thing. They often lead us astray and encourage us to rationalize our behavior. There are many instances where I have compromised the truth of God’s word by taking a “if it feels right then do it” attitude. Tragically, some churches seem to be thriving by using a seeker-sensitive approach (interestingly, the Bible says that “no one seeks God” – Romans 3:11) and an obsession with the “felt needs” of people. Unashamedly, they want to make sure that the church experience leaves all “feeling good”. The message is a not-so-subtle “your faith is what you feel – feel good and your faith is good” (this a particular problem with the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement that is so emotion oriented). How frightening!

We have seen much liberalization (materialism, adultery – we now call them “affairs”, pleasure and comfort obsession, gay marriage, abortion rights, the prosperity gospel, etc.) enter into the contemporary church based upon this philosophy. It’s basically, “OK, the Bible probably does condemn these things but I just don’t feel that’s right”. The facts say one thing – it is wrong – but we have accepted these things because “it just feels right to me”. To do this completely undermines the truth of God’s word. This begs the question; what is the ultimate rule of our faith? Is it the clear teaching of scripture or our feelings? If it is our feelings then it’s not Christianity. It’s “Self-ianity”. We have become the final judge and jury over what is right and stolen that authority from almighty God. We then have become out own gods (See Romans 1).

And we do this based upon what? Our emotions – those fleeting sensations that can change almost second by second. So, if that is our methodology, then what else can be “removed” from scripture based upon our own human desires? Should we then remove John 3:16? God forbid! But, this line of reasoning would say, “Let’s keep that part. We like it!” In other words, the Bible’s truth becomes nothing more than the projection of our fleshly desires, futile minds, and untrustworthy feelings. God’s word then becomes not what it is but what we want it to be. That’s humanism. And there is no hope in that.

My contention is that the Bible is unchanging fact. Is it subject to interpretation and has “gray areas” that our finite minds can’t resolve? Yes, but it still should be the rule for our living rather than our emotions. Our belief and obedience has to be firmly rooted in what we know the scriptures say and not on our fallible whims. Why? 99% of it is clear and not really debatable. Also, I believe that it is God’s revealed truth and totally reliable. But do we obey what He says or do we live as if we are supreme and not Him and His word? In other words, I’m convinced we are called to believe and do what His word commands whether we feel like it or not.

I thank God that Jesus acted in obedience and not on His feelings. We see this is His death. Expressing His humanity in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion we read, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Aren’t we eternally grateful that He acted out His perfect sacrifice based upon God’s will and word and not His emotions? As followers of Jesus, shouldn’t we do the same?

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The day I burned all my sermons—hundreds I’d preached and many more I’d planned to —is forever etched in my memory. It happened in a cramped one bedroom apartment, an event commemorating the conclusion of my ministry as a pastor. Divorce had ruined any hope of continuing that path. Though my congregation voted 99% to retain me despite my circumstances, I resigned. I didn’t believe God’s kingdom would be enhanced by a divorced pastor shepherding a demographic of young couples and small children.

I returned to my secular vocation of Human Resources with a broken heart and many cynical questions. For three years I did not allow myself to believe my circumstances were anything more than just a bad dream. I turned my face toward making a new career for myself, attempting to blame God for circumstances that were seemingly beyond my control. Choosing to forget that God is both sovereign and cares for His children, I made a terrible mistake: I turned my back on Him. My inability to understand His purposes caused me to rebel against my Heavenly Father. And although I could not escape Him and He never left me nor deserted me (Hebrews 13:5b), I tried desperately to run from any thought of Him or the work He might have for me. Minimizing human responsibility, I saw Him as the primary culprit. In those days people often quoted Romans 8:28 to me, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” My bitterness caused me to resent this truth as I longed only for answers that I wanted to hear.

Amazingly, the Lord never stopped seeking me through those years when I struggled so much. His Spirit pursued and eventually overtook me. He confronted me with a simple but rich truth: I could not out run and hide from Him any better than the prophet Jonah could (See Jonah 1). Nudging me towards His reality through as series of disappointments, failures, and defeats, He allowed me to flounder in every aspect of my life. As brief moments of false hope were dashed, I had to increasingly face my own purposeless and joyless existence. Only the restoration of my broken relationship with Him could turn the tide.

Over time I conceded that my own poor choices and misguided flight from Him and His purposes was miserable and futile. I finally relented to the Lord’s irresistible wooing and came home. The return did not undo the consequences of my decisions, but it brought me a sense of His grander plan even without all of the details. Even better, it taught me that intimate fellowship with Him was an absolute necessity. In that time God revealed that I hadn’t extinguished His love for me when I burned the sermon notes. Instead, He chose to use that memory to form a new, vibrant, and dynamic communion with Him.

I’ve discovered that God is God and I am not. I’ve developed a much loftier view of our transcendent but loving God. Now I see that everything is really about Him and His glory, not about me or mine. Today I understand that He must be exalted as immeasurably greater than I am. He has a right to do as He wishes with the children that He purchased through the innocent blood of His Son. He’s already given us so much— far more than we deserve.

Today I realize that when I take my spiritual eyes off of God as my ultimate treasure, I will fall. Only by acknowledging the empty and temporal nature of this world do I discover Him as my only true source of joy. He will always hold and keep me.

How could I not serve and glorify the God and Savior who allowed me to see His beauty and so graciously drew me out of the pit into an eternal and abundant life? What should I withhold from my Lord? In Joel 2:25 the Lord promised His people, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.” In short, God promised restoration for His people. In spite of me, God is restoring the years that the locusts have eaten of my life. He promises to do the same for all that cling to Him.

This book reflects some of the lessons that He has taught me. In His restoration of me He clearly compelled me to pursue Him in all things. He convinced me that He is infinitely worthy of that pursuit and the greatest treasure imaginable. I pray that, as you read this book, you will be captivated anew by Him as He restores you to pursue Him in all of His worth, His wisdom, and His ways.


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