Instant Gratification vs. Eternal Satisfaction

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?” “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” – Prince Caspian (C.S. Lewis)

So often (sadly) we fail to see the big picture. Why? The simple answer is because we rely and look to our human instincts and ergo, we’re limited. Think of it this way: Ninety percent of a glacier is underwater. That’s a TON of ice you can’t see. Is it there even though you can’t see the full glacier? Absolutely.

Even in reading through Scripture we can view Bible stories and characters as individual happenings. We fail to see the overarching theme that weaves them all together and how God is continually pointing to His glory and the gospel (the cross of Christ and the coming of His eternal kingdom). We can never be guilty of giving God too much glory, but the old man in us is fighting to make God small and to fit him in a box where we can bring him down to our level of understanding.

Because we fail to acutely feel the weight of how we grieve Christ and the eternal implications of our actions, we aim for instant gratification, much like Esau who sold his birthright to Jacob to fill his belly or like the prodigal son who didn’t want to wait for his inheritance. We look at them, but do we see them in our own hearts in how we act or think? Sure, what they did seems big to our minds if we compare them to us and we might even be tempted to think, “Ha, how stupid was Esau. Seriously? I’d never do something that foolish.” In reality, your “little” failings are no less sinful than what Esau did.

That’s why I love the analogy Paul gives of the athlete. Who’s excited about the Olympics? It is right around the corner and it only happens every four years. These men and women have trained rigorously and sacrificed so much. They have a goal. “I press on toward the goal for the upward prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (Phil. 3: 14-15). There’s a lot of discipline involved. If you workout, bike, run, etc. — you have to eat a certain way to get certain results, you have to push your body and there are times where you want to quit or just rest or do anything but.

So, how do we see the big picture, have the eyes of our hearts opened and grow so that Christ becomes bigger and we become smaller? The direct answer: Faith. Faith IS seeing. How do we get more faith? I’d encourage you and myself to continue to pray for more of the Holy Spirit, diligently reading His Word, hiding it in our hearts, disciplining (“beating our bodies black and blue,” as Paul the apostle says) our hearts and minds. Old habits die hard and new habits are even harder to form. Prayer, a spiritual mentor/friend and diving into the Bible are so vital in making our hearts more aware of our secret sins.

I love what Matt Chandler, head pastor at the Village Church says in his recent book on the gospel:

The gospel of Jesus is epic. When Jesus says he saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky, he is saying that the gospel is about the overthrow of evil itself, not just about our sinful behavior. When Jesus casts out demons, he is saying that the gospel is about his authority and God’s sovereignty. When Jesus heals the sick and the lame, he is saying that the gospel is about the eradication of physical brokenness. When Jesus feeds the five thousand, he is saying that the gospel is about God’s abundant provision through Christ to a world of hunger. When Jesus walks on water or calms the storm, he is saying that the gospel is about his lordship over the chaos of fallen creation. When Jesus confounds the religious leaders, overturns table, tells rich people it will be hard for them, renders unto Caesar, enters the city on a jackass, predicts the temple’s destruction, and stands silent before the political rulers, he is saying the gospel has profound effects on our systems. When Jesus forgives sin and raises the dead, he is saying the gospel is about individuals being born again, but he’s also saying that the gospel is about his conquest of sin and death.

– Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

Do we see the bigger overarching theme? As Chandler pointed out, there’s a deeper more poignant theme running through what often we treat as individual stories or messages. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re powerful and God-glorifying in themselves, but how much more so when we realize what they all point to and are about: the cross and his kingdom. In both the chaos and tragedy, the victories and laughter, he is in and glorified through it all. As John Piper says, God is not an ambulance. Nothing takes him by surprise. The shooting in Aurora, Colorado didn’t. Was he grieved? Absolutely. Was he glorified? Absolutely. You might have this question at the back of your head: Why does God allow bad things to happen? (click the hyperlink to go to my blog on this topic). Tim Keller also has a fabulous sermon on that very question: Suffering: If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world?

Let me end with these closing questions. Which perspective do you look at your circumstances and base your decisions? Temporal or eternal? Which do you find infinitely more gratifying and full of hope and peace?

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

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Remembering the Reason

“The worst crimes are the crimes of the heart.” – Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey)

As I sit in bed my thoughts are all in a tangle and I won’t attempt to unravel them because 1) I might bore you 2) I might lose you 3) I don’t think I could explain if I tried. Wow, where to begin? This was definitely not a planned blog post. I think I’ll just get to the meat of it; what all my thoughts sort of beautifully accumulated to. Bear with me, as it may take me a bit to get to it because I always feel I need to lay out some groundwork and background to how I came to my revelation.

So I’ve been diagnosed, as of this afternoon at 2:30, with an upper respiratory infection. Exactly. Merry Christmas. Ah, it could be worse and I’m thankful for meds and wonderful, concerned family and friends. Ok, trying not to yak on here…..

That being said, it’s Christmas “Adam,” as some call it. Most of my Christmases have been full of cheer but this one seems to have a lot of soberness and sadness in it. Or perhaps I’ve just been more aware and sensitive to it. Seriously NOT having a pity party here for me or anyone else. In fact, it’s caused me to ask some good questions of myself and be more in prayer. On the other hand I can feel sadness and shame trying to take ahold of me and plant despair and doubts in my head.

I took a hot shower before slipping into my pjs and under my covers. I started reading Psalms; I randomly picked 57 and 10. So I had David’s despair and his words of praise AND Christmas in my head. Then I thought of that old hymn, “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day.” This was my first pastor’s (Bill Billingsley of Sheradon Hills Baptist Church, Hollywood, Fla.) favorite Christmas carol. It was in remembering this song I felt compelled to write this post. I was immediately eager to share with you the lyrics so you could soak them up, roll them around in your mind and bask in the glory of them:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867)

Then I chided myself for making Christmas about me and my feelings, when Christ is THE point, purpose, REASON and greatest gift of the season. I don’t and even still don’t think I feel the weight and joy of that enough! Marvelous grace…..the gift of Christ, our HOPE, ASSURANCE, SAVIOR, LOVER and our SALVATION.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. IN LOVE he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his GLORIOUS GRACE, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” – Ephesians 1:3-6

Much love, shalom and a Merry Christmas to all,

Rachel B. Duke

Summing Up Your Identity

“Symbolism exists precisely for the purpose of conveying to the imagination what the intellect is not ready for.” – C.S. Lewis

What would you say if asked by a new Christian or an unbeliever, “What is the Christian life?” and you didn’t have time to give them a mini series or several sit-down sessions; yet you wanted to give them a solid definition for them to think about? I challenge you to think about what you’d say. Hey now, I saw you look down….don’t do it. ::raising eyebrows playfully::

Recently I was presented with a very helpful definition of the Christian life. It’s not original with that person but I do think it worth memorizing and mediating on. As all good definitions, it focuses, clarifies, sharpens and aids good thinking. While it’s hardly exhaustive, I can tell you it’s accurate.

The Christian life is the life of Christ reproduced in believers by the power of the Holy Spirit as they strive to obey the word of God.

I can honestly say that I didn’t have a one sentence answer nearly as good as this one. It will undoubtedly provoke further discussion (i.e. “What does the life of Christ look like?”, “I don’t understand what the Holy Spirit is or how He impacts my life….”, etc.) but I also wanted to share this with you all because most importantly it will help you. I also encourage you to comment on this post and share a one sentence definition you’ve used in the past or one you’ve come up with after reflecting on this one.

The best sermon and definition of the Holy Spirit was by JR Vassar: Experiencing the Holy Spirit. Great listen. I learned so much and my heart was blessed and convicted.

Here’s a short video clip of JR Vassar speaking on the Holy Spirit:

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?

“They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” – C.S. Lewis

I’ve had several people (even those claiming faith in Christ) in my lifetime confront me with a quandary, which keeps them in doubt. They hold onto this one question/thought as their seeming life-line for justifying their disbelief: Why does God allow bad/evil things to happen? How can he be God (good)? It’s unjust and wrong.”

I have three sort of “knee jerk” reactions, two of which are manifested inwardly: My heart aches, I ask them (sometimes aloud and other times in my head: “Well, ‘unjust’ according to who? You?”, and I start off by pointing them gently to Romans 9. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit. I find that people feel if they can’t or aren’t allowed to understand it in their human wisdom then it’s invalid or we are idiots.

I came across this blog post on Desiring God’s website, titled, Seven Things the Bible Says About Evil, which I found offered some great insight and lets Scripture speak for itself. The author does a great job of stating it simply. This is a matter that is infinitely simple yet infinitely complex at the same time:

How can we reconcile God’s sweeping control over creation with the existence of such horrors as cancer, famine, genocide, sexual abuse, tsunamis, and terrorism? Voltaire sums up the issue nicely in his “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster,” written after the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755:

“Ill could not from a perfect being spring,
Nor from another, since God’s sovereign king.”

His point is that since God is good, he can’t properly be the source of evil. Likewise, if God is all-powerful, no one else can thwart his intentions. So we’re stuck, it seems. Who’s to blame for the suffering we experience? Though we lack the space here for an extended discussion, let’s consider seven biblical affirmations.

1. Evil is real.

That is to say, we distort the Bible and do ourselves a profound disservice by minimizing the existence of suffering. God invites us to acknowledge our pain. The Psalmist wrote, “I believed, even when I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted'” (Psalm 116:10).

2. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

In some ways, talking about a “problem of evil” is a false start. A better quandary to start with would be the problem of sin. How quickly we rush to raise a self-righteous fist while our other hand digs in the cookie jar. “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?” (Ezekiel 18:25).

3. God is good.

Whatever we say about God’s sovereignty over evil (and say we will; see below), we must never imply that God is corrupt, that he somehow nurses a dark side. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).

4. God ordains all things that come to pass, including evil.

God does whatever he pleases (Psalm 135:6). To be sure, this means he clothes lilies and feeds birds (Matthew 6:2628). But he also makes lightning (Psalm 135:7). He strikes down firstborn children and kills mighty kings (Psalm 135:8). Our God holds sway over the good, the bad, and the ugly. “I form light and create darkness,” he says. “I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

5. Man is responsible for his actions.

Lest we fall into fatalism, we should remember that God’s sovereignty never excuses wrongdoing. When a man commits murder, the blood is on his hands. “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22).

6. God did not spare his own Son.

The cross speaks to our theology of suffering in at least two ways. First, it shows us that God can will something to happen that he opposes. Proverbs 6:16-17 tells us that God hates “hands that shed innocent blood.” And yet he sent his Son to suffer precisely that fate. Is this a mystery? Absolutely. But it is not nonsense. We can look at evil and with no contradiction say, “This is wrong, and God has willed that it take place.” Listen to how Peter describes the crucifixion: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23, emphasis mine).

Second, the cross demonstrates that God regards our affliction not as something strange to the palette, but as a cup he has drunk to the dregs. By giving up his own Son, God entered into our pain. He knows what it’s like to suffer loss. But he also did more. By putting his Son to grief, God turned grief on its head. “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This brings us to the final point.

7. Heaven works backwards.

C. S. Lewis writes in The Great Divorce, “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

Lewis is not being novel here. He is simply restating what Christians have hoped in for centuries, the promise that gives all our suffering purpose: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Johnathon Bowers is Instructor of Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, MN.

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

His Love: Worth Waiting For

“I will no longer date, socialize and communicate with carbon copies of You to appease my boredom or to quench my thirstiness I have for attention to store up compliments from kinda sortas. You know, he’s kinda sorta right but kinda sorta wrong. His first name Luke, his last name Warm.” – Janette

Watch this amazing poem about Christ’s infinite love and her journey in and through it! It’s wonderfully moving yet entertaining at the same time! I promise it’s one of the best uses of 7 minutes out of your day:

The Action of Waiting

“Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.” – Psalm 25:3

I can’t claim to possess a Type A personality (Sometimes I wish it were so because then I’d get way more done and be WAY more organized ::heavy sigh::) BUT I always like to be productive in some way; working my way towards a goal no matter how it might change along with way. At times I have to sit back and reassess and refocus on what goals I’m going after and why.

There are times where Christ is telling me to wait. It’s so agonizing to do because there I times I want lash out and leap, giving in to (what I think are) are rational desires. To my human mind: waiting = inaction. Then someone brought it all to a head for me when they remarked regarding a person, “Their decision not to make a decision IS their/a decision.” So I thought, “Huh, so waiting IS an action. That’s your move. Just like undercover cops (or in my case I think of NCIS agents, DiNozzo, David, and MacGee) who sit in cars, at a distance, and at night, just lying in wait observing their target.”

My desire is to learn to rest in the wait; to wait rightly. I came across this blog post by Dr. Paul Tripp on “waiting” and how to do so with a godly, biblical perspective:

Remind Yourself You Are Not Alone

As you wait, tell yourself again and again that you have not been singled out. Remind yourself that you are part of a vast company of people who are being called to wait. Reflect on the biblical story. Abraham waited many years for his promised son. Israel waited 420 years for deliverance from Egypt, then another 40 years before they could enter the land God had promised them. God’s people waited generation after generation for the Messiah, and the church now waits for his return. The whole world groans as it waits for the final renewal of all things that God has promised. In ministry, it is vital to understand that waiting is not an interruption of God’s plan. It is his plan. And you can know this as well: the Lord who has called you to wait is with you in your wait. He hasn’t gone off to do something else, like the doctor you’re waiting to see. No, God is near, and he provides for you all that you need to be able to wait.

Realize That Waiting Is Active

Usually our view of waiting is the doctor’s office. We see it as a meaningless waste of time, like a man stuck in the reception area until he has nothing left to do but scan recipes in a two-year-old copy of Ladies’ Home Journal.

Our waiting on God must not be understood this way. The sort of waiting to which we are called is not inactivity. It is very positive, purposeful, and spiritual. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of remembering: remembering who I am and who God is. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of worship: worshiping God for his presence, wisdom, power, love, and grace. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of serving: looking for ways to lovingly assist and encourage others who are also being called to wait. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of praying: confessing the struggles of my heart and seeking the grace of the God who has called me to wait. We must rethink waiting and remind ourselves that waiting is itself a call to action.

Celebrate How Little Control You Have

Because the constant striving in ministry to be a little god over some corner of creation is draining and futile, waiting should actually be a relief. It’s a reminder that I don’t have as much power and control as I thought I had. When I am required to wait I realize again that I do not have to load my church onto my shoulders. I may have God-given responsibilities in a number of areas, but that is vastly different from pretending I have sovereignty in any area.

The church is being carried on the capable shoulders of the Savior Shepherd, King of kings. All I am responsible for is the job description of character and behavior that this King has called me to in his Word. The remainder I am free to entrust to him, and for that I am very, very thankful! He really does have the whole world in his hands.

Celebrate God’s Commitment to His Work of Grace

As you are waiting, reflect on how deeply broken the world that you live in actually is. Reflect on how pervasive your own struggle with sin really is. Then celebrate the fact that God is committed to the countless ways, large and small, in which his grace is at work to accomplish his purposes in you and in those to whom you minister.

When it comes to the ongoing work of grace, he is a dissatisfied Redeemer. He will not forsake the work of his hands until all has been fully restored. He will exercise his power in whatever way is necessary so that we can finally be fully redeemed from this broken world and delivered from the sin that has held us fast. Celebrate the fact that God will not forsake that process of grace in your life and ministry in order to deliver to you the momentary comfort, pleasure, and ease that you would rather have in your time of exhaustion, discouragement, and weakness. He simply loves you too much to exchange temporary gratification for eternal glory!

Let Your Waiting Strengthen Your Faith

As I think about waiting, I often remember what is said of Abraham in Romans 4:18-21. The passage tells us that as he waited, Abraham was strengthened in his faith. That’s not what we would expect, is it? We tend to think that, having been given a promise from God, a person might well begin to wait with vibrant faith. But as the wait drags on it seems like that faith would gradually weaken. So why did Abraham’s faith on the whole grow stronger and stronger? Because of what he did as he waited. During his wait, Abraham became a student of the character and power of God, and the more he saw God for who he is, the stronger his faith became. He meditated on the glory of God, not on the difficulty of his situation.

There are three ways in which, like Abraham, you can let your waiting strengthen your faith. You can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know God better through spending time in his Word, thus developing a deeper sense of his character, wisdom, power, and plan. Second, you can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know yourself better. As you wait, and as your heart is revealed, you have the precious opportunity to become a student of your own heart. What sins, weaknesses, and struggles has God revealed during the wait? Where has waiting exposed the lies and false gods that make waiting difficult? And third, you can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know others better, as their hearts are similarly revealed. This can offer you precious opportunities for even more effective ministry to those in your care.

Determine to grow stronger, more effective, and more full of faith as you wait. It is, after all, a key part of God’s intention.

Count Your Blessings

Vital to productive waiting is a commitment to resist the grumbling and complaining that often kidnap us all. To fight this tendency, learn to number your blessings as you wait. (Rachel’s addition: ‎”Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7)

I once heard a missionary leader tell a story of how he was dreading an extremely long road trip. Then the thought came to him that this time of being imprisoned behind the wheel of his car was in fact an opportunity. He decided that as he drove he would thank God for every little detail of blessing and grace he could recall, beginning with his earliest memory. As he drove hour after hour, he recounted to God year after year and decade after decade of blessing upon blessing. By the end of his journey, he still had not come up to the present day. As a result, rather than ending his trip exhausted and bored, he ended it excited and changed. He saw his life through new eyes, with the presence and provision of God in his life taking on a clarity and comprehensiveness he had never before glimpsed.

By contrast, waiting often becomes for us an exercise in reminding ourselves of what we don’t have. How much better, how much more fruitful, how much more joyful, to take waiting as an opportunity to recount the many, many good things in our lives that we have been given—things we could have never earned, achieved, or deserved.

Long for Eternity

There is one other thing waiting is meant to do: God intends that waiting would make me long for home. When I consider this, I am often reminded of camping. I suspect the whole purpose of camping is to make you thankful for home. When you camp, everything is more difficult than it would be at home. In the beginning, that can be fun. But three or four days in, you begin to get tired of having to make a fire, having to hunt for drinkable water, and having to fish for supper. You quietly (or not so quietly) begin to long for home.

Waiting is meant to remind you that you live “between the already and the not yet.” Yes, there are many, many things for which to be thankful in this life, but this place is not your final home. You are in a temporary dwelling in a temporary location. In the life and ministry you experience here, there is one aspect or another that can remind you this is not home. The hardships of your present life and ministry speak clearly: this is not the final destination. Waiting is meant to produce in you a God-honoring dissatisfaction with the status quo. Waiting is meant to make you hungry, to produce in you a longing. For what? To be home—home with your Lord forever, home where sin is no more, home in a world that has been made completely new. As you wait, keep telling yourself, This is not my final destination.

Right now, right here, in your personal life or ministry, there is some way, perhaps many ways, in which God is calling you to wait. How well are you waiting? Has your waiting produced in you a faith that is stronger? Or weaker? Has the manner of your waiting drawn you closer to God? Or further away? Has your approach to waiting helped remind you of all the blessings you have been showered with? Or has it tempted you to continually rehearse your list of unmet wants? Has your waiting served to teach you truths about yourself? Or has it only made you more blind about yourself and angry about your circumstances? Has the way you wait enabled you to reach out and minister to others better, or has it simply drawn you deeper into the claustrophobic drama of your own waiting?

In each case, it’s your choice. Take hold of the grace that God makes available. All of these outcomes are contingent on whether you choose God or self, fruitfulness or futility, his powerful grace or your own feeble will. Always remember that God is never separate from your wait. He is the Lord of waiting. He is the liberal giver of grace for the wait. Because your wait is not outside of his plan, but a vital and necessary part of it, he is with you in your wait. And remember God is not so much after the success of your ministry, he’s after you. So as you wait, tell yourself again and again: Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.

How do you wait? What are you going to let that waiting make you? It’s your choice. A heart that is humble, rests in His promises, allowing Him to shape and refine you in this season? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) OR a heart that is bitter, doubtful, angry, resentful…fueling pride and a hard heart? Be careful; Romans 2:5 says: “…because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.” Oh, and it happens all so subtly, which is why David in Psalm 51:10 prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

Yesterdays

“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love means slowly losing your mind.” – Kevin Doyle (27 Dresses)

Hard decisions. Right decisions. Wrong choices. Worldly wishes. Godly desires. Hopes. Doubts: the “what if?” or “if only” moments. Passion. Anger. Disgust. Pride. Trust. Broken promises. Integrity. Shame. Joy. “On top of your game” days. Days that feel you’re going to shatter.

No, I’m not trying to write a “dark” version of a Dr. Seuss book. ::smiling in amusement::

So, this pattern above, sound familiar? Well duh! Everyone experiences all these broad range of emotions/attitudes – sometimes all in one day. Oh, emotions. What a beautiful thing that can so easily twist into something sinfully sinister. It’s so easy to say or write something in the heat of the moment. It’s natural. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been there too many times. Emotions stem from what is in your heart. Numbing them is not the solution because you haven’t dealt with the root issue: your heart. “…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34b). If you want to rule your emotions you must learn to rule your heart first; and golly, that takes a lifetime. I believe it’s called sanctification. Christ had emotions. In Matthew 5 he has compassion on the crowds. Shortest verse in the Bible: Jesus wept. He turned over the tax collectors’ tables.

It is a daily, moment by moment battle for me to fight to have godly emotions, a heart that desires the things of Christ and that portrays the fruits of the Spirit: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). How cool is that?! There is no law against those things. No limitations. You can’t do those things too much nor can you ever try too hard. Overwhelming those around you with those “fruits” is no crime, however they may despise, not understand them or even accept them.

On my 4 mile run the other night, while enjoying the feel of the cool autumn breeze caressing my skin, I succumbed to a 10 second pity party (well I’d been brooding for awhile actually), which I always try to correct with a self “pep” talk that sometimes doesn’t start off right. But I wanted to shut my mind up and said vindictively to myself, “I wish I could throw yesterday (meaning parts of my past) away.” I almost broke my pace in shock at my heart in that moment. Then I heard a soft tug and a voice in my soul saying, “Ah, dearest, precious daughter in whom I delight. Think about what you just said. Those “yesterdays” have shaped you and brought you to where you are today. Look at where you are. Take heart. Give thanks.” I nearly wept as I felt this release from this smothering burden of doubts, despair, anxiety slip away and replaced with such tenderness, hope, and peace, as if I’d been engulfed with a warm hug against the cool night air. I thought of 2 Corinthian 4: 6-7 (I dare you to look it up….and….GO). Then, of course, I sort of rebuked myself and said, “Rachel, you should know this. You were a history minor for crying out loud. You tell people all the time the importance of studying it because it has made us what we are today.” But that’s beside the point.

Before my parents left for Canada last Wednesday, my dad placed his copy of Knowing God by J.I. Packer on my little black desk. I picked it up on Thursday. The timing was perfect. I don’t know why I’m always delightfully surprised by that. God knew my soul needed to be both rebuked and encouraged; like a father who talks to his child before spanking them, tells them what they did wrong and why, and saying, “I love you and this is why I’m disciplining you.” Discipline versus wrath.

Here’s an excerpt from the book that stood out to me and prompted this blog post. I hope you are enriched by it:

Many of us would never naturally say that in the light of the knowledge of God, which we have come to enjoy, past disappointments and present heartbreaks, as the world counts heartbreaks, don’t matter. For the plain fact is that to most of us they do matter. We live with them as our “crosses” (so we call them). Constantly we find ourselves slipping into bitterness and apathy and gloom as we reflect on them, which we frequently do. The attitude we show to the world is a sort of dried-up stoicism, miles removed from the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” which Peter took for granted that his readers were displaying (1 Peter 1:8). “Poor souls,” our friends say of us, “how they’ve suffered.” And that is just what we feel about ourselves!

But these private mock heroics have no place at all in the minds of those who really know God. They never brood on might-have-beens; they never think of the things they have missed, only of what they have gained (Phil. 3:7-10).

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke