Worthy – a reblog from Join the Movement blog

CCF%2520Logo%2520%25282%2529During Tim’s talk last Thursday, one of his main points was that Jesus doesn’t give up on anyone, and he used Paul as a great example of this truth.  As he made this very important point, he talked about how Satan tries to make us think less of ourselves, how Satan tries to convince us that we have been given up on – by people, Jesus, ourselves, whoever.  Tim summed this idea up by saying, “Satan plants seeds of unworthiness”    This is so, so true.  Satan absolutely loves making us think that we are unworthy of so many things and in so many ways.

I think a man named Aeneas who we meet near the end of Acts 9 understood what it was like to feel unworthy.  We are told that Aeneas had been “bedridden for eight years” because he was paralyzed.  This is a man who had to question his worth.  He had not been paralyzed his entire life, so I would think knowing what his life was like before the paralysis made it that much more difficult for him to handle being bedridden.  Add to that the common belief in his day that physical ailments were a punishment from God, and we have a powerful combination of factors that contributed to this man questioning his worth.

Then he meets Peter.  We read about their brief encounter in Acts 9:34, “And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose.”  For the first time in 8 years (for perspective, think about where you were 8 years ago), Aeneas stood up and walked.

This is a big deal.  Obviously, the man is physically healed and that’s important.  But there is so much more going on.  First of all, Peter called Aeneas by name.  Don’t miss that.  He called him by name.  Chances are that Aeneas didn’t hear his name called very often, and that is dehumanizing.  He no doubt questioned his worth as a person.  Peter gives that back to him simply by calling him by name.  (This is a huge point.  Advocates for people who are journeying through homelessness frequently talk about the importance of asking someone’s name when you give them some money or food.  That way they’re not a cause; they’re a person.  Remember Joe?)

Satan had been planting seeds of unworthiness in Aeneas’ life for at least 8 years, but in one moment Jesus through Peter weeded out anything that had grown from those seeds.  He helped Aeneas see his worth.

So often our worth is tied up in our identity.  This is so dangerous.  If your identity is being a good student and you have a rough semester, then you begin to question your worth.  If your identity is being wealthy and you lose your money, then you question your worth.  So to keep this from happening to keep from questioning our worth, you have to find your identity in something that won’t leave you.

That’s Jesus, and Jesus alone.  He’s not going anywhere.  He loves you no matter who you are and what you’ve done.  Find your identity in being someone that Jesus loves and you will never have to question your worth.

Feeling Alone

Have you ever felt that God wasn’t listening anymore?  I hope you never have, but the fact is, if you haven’t, you will.  There will be times in your life when God seems to be far away, and intimacy with Him seems like nothing more than a fading memory, or a distant dream.  When that happens, you have the opportunity to become closer to God than ever before, because this is a time in your life when you can learn to walk by faith, not by feelings.

I have been reading Psalm 13, which is what I do when God seems far away.  David wrote this psalm when he was going through an emotional valley; yet he continued to find strength and direction in his faith in God.  David shows  our faith can overcome our feelings when God seems far away.

 Ps 13:5 “But I trust in your unfailing love.”

When I read this I hear David saying: “I won’t let despair get the best of me. I will just assume you are with me…watching over me…taking care of me…leading me along the way, regardless of how I feel about it.”

I have a friend who works for a company that is struggling to stay afloat. There have been some rumors that he might be transferred, or even laid off. This has put him in a state of limbo. He doesn’t know if he is staying or going, or if he’ll have a job next month. When he goes to the office he isn’t sure what he should do from day to day. As a result, he’s been afraid to begin any long-term projects and has found himself floundering — at a time when he can least afford to flounder. He finally said to me, “Since I really didn’t know what was going to happen back when I started this job I’ve decided that the only thing that has changed is that back then I expected the best and now I’m expecting the worst.  So I’m just going to trust God that everything will work out for the best, whether the company succeeds or fails, and keep doing my job the way it’s supposed to be done.”  His situation hasn’t changed but he has because of where he placed his trust in God.

What I’m saying is this: regardless of how you feel, assume God’s presence in your life and do what you know you should be doing.  Assume God’s presence.  Assume God’s love.  Assume God’s mercy.  Assume God’s guidance.  Assume God’s protection. Even though you don’t feel His presence, love, mercy, guidance or protection — trust that God is there by faith. This is how we, in David’s words, “Trust in God’s unfailing love.”

This means we continue spending time alone with God whether we feel like it or not.  We go to church each week whether we feel like it or not.  We serve whether we feel like it or not.  We include God in our daily life whether we feel like it or not.  We return to him again and again throughout the day whether we feel like it or not.

Even when you don’t feel God’s presence in your life, he is there.  Cling to God’s presence and act the same as if you felt His presence.  This is how you put your trust in his unfailing love.  It’s a matter of saying, “God, regardless of how I feel, I’m going to keep on doing what I know I should be doing, because by faith I trust that you are right here with me.”

Cling to God’s presence: trust God not your emotions.

Ps 13:5,6 “My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

 When God seems far away, cling to what you know is true. Remind yourself of the things God has done for you, and rejoice in them.

 I try to think of all the things I know to be true, and offer them up to God. “Lord, you’ve made such a difference in my life. You’ve given me joy. You’ve provided for me. You’ve forgiven my sins. You’ve given me eternal life. You’ve answered my prayers.” [Here’s where keeping a prayer journal pays off!] As I remind myself of these things, and as I offer them up to God in prayer, I find myself strengthened in Him.

I’m not saying pretend to feel something that you don’t really feel.  I’m saying that God knows how we feel; so we might as well be honest with Him.  I search your heart for those things I know to be true, and, by faith rejoice in them.  I cling to them.

 When I feel like God is far away I sometimes think about where my life would be if I had never become a Christian.  What would my life have been like if it had followed its logical progression?  What kind of career would I have pursued?  What kind of person would I have married?  What kind of father would I have become? Every time I think these things through, I am overcome with gratitude for God’s sovereign mercy in my life.  Even when he seems far away, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has made an incredible difference in my life, and I cling to that.  And I thank him for it.

Cling to God’s truth: rejoice in what God has done, not your emotions.

God loves you whether you feel it or not!  Cling to that truth.

Sing when your heart is breaking

As I said yesterday I am struggling with feeling close to God right now. God seems far away from me.  When God seems far away, I go to the Psalms because the Psalmist struggled mightily with the same feelings.  The way he handled his struggle becomes my guide to handling my own.  For example read Psalm 13:5,6: “My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

These words were penned at a time when David felt more like crying and singing.  As I look at the context of these few words and meditate on them I began to “get” David.  He was clinging to what he knew to be true and acting on it rather than clinging to what he felt to be true and acting on that.  I have learned that this really works!  I have learned that clinging to what I know to be true despite my feelings to the contrary is an incredible spiritual discipline.  So when I am feeling alienated from God I remind myself of the things God has done for me, and rejoice in them rather than give in to my feelings.

I think of all the things I know to be true acts of God in my life, and offer them up to God. I pray prayers like, “Lord, You’ve made such a difference in my life. You’ve given me joy.  You’ve provided for me and my family.  You’ve forgiven my sins. You’ve given me eternal life.  You’ve answered my prayers.”  I name as many specific answers to prayer that I can think of!   As I remind myself of the things Jesus has done for me, and as I offer them up to God in prayer, I  find myself strengthened in Him in spite of myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I pretend to feel something that I don’t really feel.  God knows how I feel; if I can’t be honest with him or He is not much of a god.  What I am saying is that I search my heart for those things I know to be true acts of God in my life and, by faith, I rejoice in them.  I cling to them by faith.  I refuse to be ruled by these false feelings of alienation from my Father.

When I feel like God is far away I sometimes think about where my life would be if I had never become a Christian.  Based on where I was before I met Jesus, what would my life have been like if it had followed its logical progression?  What kind of career would I have pursued?  What kind of person would I have married?  What kind of father would I have become? What kind of grandfather would I be?   Every time I think these things through, I am overcome with gratitude for God’s sovereign mercy in my life.  Even when he seems far away, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has made an incredible difference in my life, and I cling to that.  And I thank him for it.

I believe that love isn’t a feeling, it’s something you do.  What I sometimes forget, though, is that praise (or worship) isn’t a feeling either; it’s something you do.

Praise is often an emotional experience.  Sometimes when your heart is “bubbling” you overflow with praise, and you can’t help but sing to God what you’re feeling in your heart.  When that happens, it’s wonderful.

However, even during those times when our heart isn’t “bubbling,” we should continue to worship God.  Even when David’s heart felt like it was breaking, he lifted up his heart to God.  Even when God seemed far away, he continued to sing his praise to Him.

David begins this Psalm by admitting that God seems very far away. And he ends it by saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

David isn’t saying this because he suddenly experienced an emotional turn-around (in the time it took him to write these six verses!) and was suddenly back on top of the mountain. He’s saying it because he understands that praise is an act of faith, not of feelings. He’s saying, “I will sing to the Lord, regardless of how I feel.”

Some people say, “Isn’t it hypocritical to sing praise when you don’t feel close to God?”  I guess it is hypocritical if you believe you’re supposed to praise God only when you feel good.  But that’s not what the Bible teaches. We are to praise him all during the day, regardless of how we feel.  Our feelings will come and go; our praise to him should be consistent.

I’ll take it a step further.  God knows how we really feel, and I think he is more pleased when we praise him during those times we don’t feel all bubbly inside.

Think of it this way. Back when my daughters were teenagers they often wanted to borrow my car(and I often said no!), so when I let them drive they were overcome with joy, and would say something along the lines of “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love you, I love you, I love you!” And, no doubt, the words were sincere. But suppose right after I had made one of them mow our lawn, and in the midst of the sullen grumpiness that teenagers develop to the point of an art form, she suddenly said to me, “You know, Dad, I love you. And I want you to know that I am glad you are my dad.” Wouldn’t those words, spoken in those circumstances, carry more weight than the others?

It’s easy to praise God when we’re feeling warm and fuzzy, but if we continue to praise Him even when He seems far away, He is especially pleased.  I believe we often worship our emotions more than we worship God.  To worship God instead of our emotions means that our worship of God is independent of our feelings at any given moment.

Whatever we put first is what we worship.  David shows us the path of true worship by writing “I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” when he felt distant from God.  If we do what our feelings tell us to do rather than what God tells us to do, which are we worshipping?

I would love to hear your comments.

Trust in God’s unfailing love

I am going through one of those times  when God feels far away.  I take solace during times like this that I am in good company: David was the poster child for feeling distant from God.  That is why I go to the Psalms to see what David did during those times himself.  The reality that sustains me whenever I feel deserted by God, a reality that doesn’t change regardless of how I feel, is that God is always with me.  I live in his presence 24 hours a day, seven days week, 52 weeks a year.  God’s presence is not a feeling to be felt  it is a faith to be lived.

This is the reality that sustained King David. He went through times when he didn’t feel God’s presence.  During one such time he wrote a poem that is we know as Psalm 13:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?  How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”

Have you ever felt like that?  I have and if you haven’t, well, God bless you and hang on to your salad days because you will go through times in your life when God seems to be far away, and His presence seems like nothing more than a fading memory, or a distant dream.


David wrote Psalm 13 when he was going through an emotional valley; yet he continued to find strength and direction in his faith in God.  David is a great example of what to do to overcome our feelings when God seems far away.

When David says in Ps 13:5 “But I trust in your unfailing love” he is saying: “I won’t let despair get the best of me. I will just assume God is with me…watching over me…taking care of me…loving me, regardless of how I feel.”

I have a friend who works for a company that is struggling to stay afloat. There have been some rumors that he might be transferred, or even laid off. This has put him in a state of limbo. He doesn’t know if he is staying or going, or if he’ll have a job next month. When he goes to the office he isn’t sure what he should do from day to day. As a result, he’s been afraid to begin any long-term projects and has found himself floundering — at a time when he can least afford to flounder. He told me, “Since I really didn’t know what was going to happen back when I started this job I’ve decided that the only thing that has changed is that back then I expected the best and now I’m expecting the worst.  So I’m just going to trust God that everything will work out for the best, whether the company succeeds or fails, and keep doing my job the way it’s supposed to be done.”  His situation hasn’t changed but he has because of where he placed his trust in God not his circumstance.

We have a new President.  President O’bama’s election was historic, especially for those my age who lived through the tumultous civil rights movement.  But talk about being elected at a bad time!  The country fragmented over an unpopular war, the greedy side of capitalism rearing its ugly head, banks on the verge of collapse, automakers facing bankruptcy and everyone wanting him to solve all our woes in his first year in office!  It must be a temptation to give in to the feeling of despair and just do nothing.  But instead his attitude is “I’m going to assume that the American people elected me for a reason and I’m going to do the job I have been elected to do.”  Even though he had no way of telling how all of this would pan out, the worst mistake Barack O’bama could make is to do nothing until he felt like it and letting  the financial mess we are in just get worse and worse.

What I’m saying is when God feels distant ignore the feeling and “Trust in God’s unfailing love”.  Assume God’s presence regardless of your feeling and get on with doing what you know you should be doing.  Assume God’s presence.  Assume God’s love.  Assume God’s mercy.  Assume God’s guidance.  Assume God’s protection. Even though you don’t feel His presence, love, mercy, guidance or protection — trust that God is there by faith. “Trust in God’s unfailing love.”

This means continuing to spend time alone with God whether we feel like it or not.  It means loving whether we feel like it or not.  It means serving whether we feel like it or not.  It means including God in our daily routines whether we feel like it or not.  David’s example and what I am trying to do is to choose faith over feeling.  I believe the tyranny of feeling over faith is often at the root of our sense of alienation from God.

If you are feeling distant from God and you don’t feel God’s presence in your life you have the opportunity to choose faith and assume He is there.   Choose faith and assume God’s presence and act the same as if you felt His presence.  This is how we “Trust in God’s unfailing love.” Trust says, “God, regardless of how I feel, I’m going to keep on doing what I know I should be doing, because by faith I trust that You are right here with me.”   This isn’t easy, but it is Biblical and it works!