The Destructiveness of Sinful Anger

It is helpful to understand that anger is not intrinsically evil. Exodus 34:6 describes God as compassionate and gracious and slow to anger. God abounds in love and he is not quick to wrath, but He does get angry. Jesus is said to have been angry and grieved by hard-hearted religious leaders in Mark 3:5. Anger is an emotion that arises when good is threatened by evil, and for God it is always a righteous emotion. But for us anger can quickly turn sinful. Our fallen human nature distorts why we get angry, how we process that anger, and ultimately how we act out of it.

The human heart tends toward hostility without the ongoing, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. But even those in Christ are not immune from the temptation of sinful anger, which presents itself in various ways. For some, rage is displayed through screaming, grumbling, biting sarcasm, or even violence. But for others, rage is quietly displayed through a sulking that withdraws affection and shuts down from others emotionally. Regardless of how sinful anger presents itself, it ultimately produces works such as envy, gossip, hate, division, and even murder. These works have lasting and deep impact on individuals, families, and churches.

3 Ways Sinful Anger is Harmful

  1. It does harm to our intimacy with God. Jesus teaches that abiding in His love is what produces fruitfulness in the life of His followers; and that the pathway to their abiding is obedience to His commands (John 15). Sinful anger, however, produces much transgression (Proverbs 29:22). So when we constantly give in to anger, it is producing out of us the very works which prevent our abiding with Christ.
  2. It does harm to our personal relationships. By experience we know that sinful anger hurts families, friendships, churches, and workplaces. Volatile people create volatile environments (Proverbs 15:18) which leave lasting wounds.
  3. It does harm to our physical health. The bible teaches that a wholesome or composed heart is good for our health (Proverbs 14:29-30). While science shows prolonged anger can create physical problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, and anxiety issues.

Sinful Anger is Completely Futile

As destructive as our distorted anger can be, it is absolutely useless in helping make right that which is wrong. James 1:20 teaches that the anger (literally violent passions) of man does not produce the righteousness of God (in this context, right behaviors). When faced with injustice, misunderstanding, attacks, or sin – our greatest need is that God will produce his righteous works in the situation. The resolution we need is not the one we can produce, but the one God provides. And no matter how angry we may get, we cannot produce this righteousness. Sinful anger is not helpful. It feeds our flesh momentarily, but then leaves in its wake frustration and bitterness.

James indicates that the opposite of relying on our anger to bring about change, is to humbly receive the words of Christ (1:21). We begin the process of putting away destructive and pointless anger – whether violent rage or silent withdraw – by looking to Jesus. Only He can repair people and restore where life has went wrong. Let us display our trust in Jesus, by asking for His help to avoid sinful anger and obey his helpful commands.

5 Truths About Responding to Betrayal

Betrayal is a dreadful act that can cause profound and lasting damage. It is one thing to suffer harm, but it is quite another to suffer harm from someone you trusted. When we are brought to anguish by those we considered loyal friends, the deep emotional and psychological wounds are often slow to heal.

Jesus Suffered Betrayal

Scripture teaches that Jesus suffered as we do, and so he sympathizes with us in our affliction. Most of us know that before his murder, Jesus was delivered to Jewish officials by one of his own disciples. Judas is a name synonymous with shattered trust. But we may not realize the great affection Jesus had for his wayward follower and the way he agonized over his betrayal. Even though He knew from the beginning what Judas would do (John 6:64), Jesus loved and served him until the very moment that he left. John 13 testifies the betrayal troubled Jesus in His spirit; which in the original language implies: revulsion, horror, and anxiety. Just like us, Jesus felt deep and complex emotions because of the unfaithfulness of his companion.

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
John 13:21 (ESV)

5 Truths About Responding to Betrayal as a Christian

God worked for our good, even as we sinned against Him (Romans 5:10). This is our motivation to care for those who have hurt us. Here are 5 biblical truths to help guide our response to personal betrayal:

  1. You are accountable to God for your response to those who hurt you. You have no control over what others do. But you are liable for your reaction to them. Proverbs 24:17-18 warns that rejoicing over the downfall of an enemy can invite God’s displeasure. He cares greatly about the heart of His people.
  2. God alone has the right to bring justice to sinners. This will help you understand the command of Proverbs 24 better. Practicing forgiveness is not overlooking justice, but rather placing it in God’s hands. Romans 12:18-21 teaches you to entrust vengeance to God and to overcome evil by doing good to your enemies. (We must note Romans 13, which describes civil authorities as God’s instruments of punishment against wrongdoers. Personal forgiveness does not require you to refuse to report heinous crimes).
  3. Blessing your enemy is not a sign of your weakness or of your approval. Rather, it is proof of your heritage as a child of God. Doing good to someone who has harmed you does not mean you are a push-over, nor that you are saying what they did was ok. Rather, Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:43-48 that blessing your enemy shows that you are conducting yourself in the pattern of your Heavenly Father.
  4. Unforgiveness is not protection against further harm. It will result in bitterness that will impact far more people than just your offender. Hebrews 12:14-15 warns that a root of bitterness in your heart will grow and defile many. You may feel that withholding forgiveness protects you from getting hurt again. But in reality it will only bring destruction and difficulty to you and those close to you.
  5. God will equip you to desire that which you would naturally hate and accomplish that which you would naturally find impossible. If you read the first 4 truths and feel overwhelmed, let the Gospel comfort you. Through Christ, God promises to equip you with everything needed to do His will. His Spirit will work in you that which is pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:20-21). Whatever is required by God, is provided in Christ. And that includes the desire and ability to forgive and love your betrayer.

Taking the Next Steps

Working through the pain of betrayal is often a long journey, but one that cannot end until it begins. So let me encourage you with these first steps: Confess to God your current mental and emotional state toward your offender. Agree with God on what His word teaches about where you need to be. Rely on the power of Christ to help you walk out love and forgiveness. And seek counsel from a pastor or wise godly friend who can help you with practical actions toward this end.

What Did Christ Save Us From?

Words matter, especially when it comes to the biblical responsibility of teaching. Those who lead do not have liberty to be careless or vague with their expressions. The word of God understood rightly is life to our soul (Proverbs 3:22), so there is much riding on the faithful exercise of preaching (2 Timothy 2:15).

Those realities have led me to this post. This past Sunday I taught a message from John 13 and used an illustration intended to point listeners to the seriousness of sin and the kindness of God in salvation. And while still agreeing with my premise, I had the overwhelming feeling Sunday evening that I had failed in clarity and precision.

Here is a summary of what I said:

“There is a well-known sign on Interstate 65N in Alabama that says: ‘Go to church or the devil will get you’. The sign indicates the problem is the devil and the solution is go to church. But consider first that you can go to church every single day of your life and still die apart from Christ having never been redeemed. And second, that the biggest threat to your soul is not the devil. Rather the sign should say ‘Flee to Christ or suffer the wrath of God’. What we are being saved from is not the devil. The devil is an enemy – yes. But the cross was to save us from the punishment for our sins. That punishment comes not from the devil, but rather from God. On the cross Jesus became the recipient of God’s wrath against rebellion. God the Father abandoned God the son, as he made him – in that moment – responsible for our sin.” 
– from The Jesus Series #50, Authority to Serve

My main purpose was not to ridicule the sign or those who put it up, but to get us to think about the nature of salvation. Christianity is not best understood through pithy sayings, but by deeply and thoroughly examining eternal truths. The issue is that in my own explanation regarding the work of Christ on the cross, I failed to paint a full picture of what endangers us.

Did Christ Save Us from the Devil?

My statement “What we are being saved from is not the devil” certainly needs further clarification. Indeed, Christ did save us from the work of Satan. Consider these passages: 

  • Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning since the beginning. But the son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 (ESV)
  • Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. – Hebrews 2:14-15 (CSB)

The devil is the author of rebellion against God. In Genesis 3 he incites man to follow his practice of sin, the result of which is death (Romans 6:23). The devil then seeks to exploit the fallen nature of man to bring them to his will rather than God’s so that they are destroyed (2 Timothy 2:26) and thus he holds over them the power of death. But Jesus has come to destroy the devil’s work. Christ shared in our humanity, yet never sinned. While perfect, He submitted to suffering the consequence of our immorality through death on a cross. And He triumphed over the grave in resurrection, demonstrating that He has authority over both sin and its effects. By grace Jesus credits his perfect obedience to those who through faith sincerely seek his saving work. And He has granted us a spirit that loves God and finds joy in being led by him (Romans 8:15). So yes, our hope is the continual power of Christ to save us from the devil (Ephesians 6:11) which is why the kingdom of darkness battles to keep people from hearing and believing the message about Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The Importance of Understanding God’s Wrath

The original reason I chose to use this illustration is that many who acknowledge spiritual realities believe their greatest threat is the devil. And indeed, motivated by hatred for God the devil aims to bring to destruction all that He can. We ignore this at our own peril ( 1 Peter 5:8). But the devil does not administer justice and does not have the authority to sentence people to everlasting death. It is God who is the judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25); who pours his wrath out on the wicked (Romans 2:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:12). Jesus taught that it was wisdom to fear God as the only one who could cast a person into hell (Luke 12:5).

Many believers find it uncomfortable to talk about God’s wrath. We are tempted to conform to the world which has remade God in an image it can tolerate. With dwindling exceptions, mankind longs to conduct their lives as they choose without any thought of repercussions. Love in our culture increasingly means never saying someone is wrong. And so many have created an image of God that agrees with what they can accept: A God who would never judge anyone. The world cannot comprehend or accept a deity enthroned in glory who exercises judgement while maintaining unending, steadfast love. And most will never try. Mankind would rather reject any thought of divine punishment than accept responsibility for their own wrongdoing.

God’s Love for Rebels

I absolutely agree that those who follow Jesus should participate in a church that proclaims, relies on, and adheres to the Gospel. There is no picture of Christianity in the New Testament that does not include active participation in a community of faith. Furthermore, we are called to resist the devil in the power of God and the church is an integral part of God’s plan in this resistance. So, yes: Go to church and resist the devil. But remember that it is deadly dangerous to ignore the greatest threat to our souls, which is to fall under judgement for our sin. God is love, but His love is not exercised in allowing his creation to wander off in rebellion, living with themselves at the center of the universe. Rather He demonstrates his love by His willingness to put upon His own son the death due rebels, and subsequently share His own riches and honor with the ones who receive this gift of redemption.

The Throne of Grace: A Meditation on Hebrews 4:16

In a recent post we considered the value of scripture meditation. One goal of meditation is to slow down and prayerfully consider key words in order to draw out riches from the text. Let’s try this together in Hebrews 4, with a focus on verse 16:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (ESV)

  • With confidence draw near: Come with boldness, openly; Come without hesitation, doubts, or fears. God is calling us to the privilege of a personal relationship. He is calling us to come without pretense or hiding, yet with absolute assurance that He will receive us.
  • Throne of grace: First, we are approaching a throne: God is a holy, sovereign King. We are not His equal. He is our almighty creator who has all power and dominion. Secondly, the throne is described as being of the essence of grace: God is benevolent and loving. He does not treat us as we deserve. He grants favor, approval, and provision.
  • That we may receive: To take in hand. He is calling us to come expectantly; without fear of rejection or leaving His presence empty handed.
  • Mercy to help: Benefits that result from compassion. God does not just pity us and send us on our way. From his great compassion we will receive assistance, divine aid, relief and safety.
  • In time of need: Literally in season or timely. The verse is not simply calling us to run to God when in affliction (although certainly we should). But here is a call to continually draw near to God and He will ensure you lack nothing; you will have all that you need, often before you realize you need it.

I was encouraged by one of our church members who shared how they were walking through feelings of condemnation over a recent struggle. Yet God used this passage to remind them that He understood their battle and that they did not have to be afraid to seek Him in the midst of their discouragement; that in His presence they would not find further condemnation, but rather the help they needed.

Of course the foundation of these precious promises is the active, ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ as our advocate. Verses 14-15 teach us that we can only take hold of the hope in verse 16 if Christ has first taken hold of us. As John Gill once wrote:

To Christ the saints come for pardon and cleansing, for a justifying righteousness, for the acceptance of their persons, the presentation of their services, and for every supply of grace. From Him they may expect to receive mercy, since it is kept with him and is only dispensed through him.

So will you and I take God at his word and flee to Christ – through practices like worship, prayer, community, and scripture meditation – that we may boldly draw near to His throne and find the help we all so desperately need?

Delighting in God through Scripture Meditation

The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fires of meditation – Thomas Watson (Puritan preacher and author, 1620-1686)

If you were honest, how would you describe your time in God’s word? A drudgery or a delight? A chore or a gift? The reality is many Christians find reading God’s word to be more of a duty than a relief. While knowing it is beneficial, we often relate to it as a necessity for spiritual growth rather than a gift of grace.

Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2-3 (CSB)

1Peter 2:2-3 instructs us to take in God’s word, but not as a religious burden. Peter teaches that we should desire God’s word as a baby desires milk: earnestly, longingly, affectionately. And this will be possible, he says, if we have known the kindness of God through personal experience. This last statement is very helpful. While it’s possible for us to naturally grasp the benefits of Bible intake, we can not generate affection for God or His word in our hearts. Delight in God, is a gift from God.

This does not mean that we are without responsibility. Delight is NOT a passively acquired trait, which we receive apart from a habit of consistent reading. Rather as we travel paths ordained by God, in anticipation of meeting with Him, the gift of delight grows in us. One of those well traveled paths throughout church history is scripture meditation.

Meditation is modeled throughout the Bible (see Joshua 1:8, Psalm 143:5, Philippians 4:8) and is far different from the customs of eastern religions. Those practices aim to clear ones mind in order to find inner peace. On the contrary, Christian meditation is about filling your mind with God’s word, so that you might know Christ more deeply. Meditation in the Old Testament means to mutter or to muse; the implication is that we linger over the Bible through thoughtful deliberation and speak it to ourself.

So how do we meditate? The following steps are not a divinely inspired formula. But they are means adapted from Biblical principles and taught by many historical church sources:

  • Read a short passage multiple times and speak it loud enough for your ears to hear it. Emphasize different words and note the surrounding context.
  • Write the passage out. Define key phrases and consider their negative (or opposite state). Jot down questions or thoughts and rewrite the passage in your own words.
  • Memorize and sing the passage. Meditation can infer melody, as in Psalm 19:14. Use these tools to recall the passage throughout the day.
  • Pray the passage, through praises and requests. Seek personal application and pray it for others that come to mind. Consider texting them so that they know you are praying.

If you are trying scripture meditation for the first time, we would love to hear how it is going. Feel free to email us at info@agapepinson.com

5 Biblical Truths About Addiction

For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. – 2 Peter 2:19

Let me say up front that I am not a medical or behavioral specialist. I am a pastor who has walked alongside families going through the dark shadows of all types of addiction, as well as a man who has experienced them in my own life. I am also a teacher who believes in God’s word to help us understand the world and all of the troubles therein. And so my goal here is to present some biblical truths that will help form a solid foundation for our understanding of various addiction issues.

Truth #1: We are physical and spiritual creatures.

God created mankind with a body, soul, and spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23). If we are to adequately address the problem of addiction, we must do so holistically – addressing both the physical and spiritual makeup of an individual.

Truth #2: Mankind was originally created in perfection.

As image bearers of God, man was able to think, reason, and act as He does. God’s declaration over creation was that it was very good (see Genesis 1:31). Mankind lived in perfect harmony with God, with their environment, with their physical bodies, and with their spiritual longings.

Truth #3: The perfect world fell into disarray and frustration.

Mankind came to love the creation more than their creator (see Romans 1:25). They rebelled against God and became arrogantly self-centric. The outcome was turmoil in every aspect of life.

Truth #4: The resulting turmoil collectively contributes to addictive behavior.

God’s good order fell rebelliously into chaos. Physical bodies are now susceptible to disorder and decay. Family and social environments become unhealthy, with patterns of negative learned behaviors moving quietly through generations. Human culture emphasizes indulgences and experiences of pleasure over morality. People abuse one another. Motivated by greed they prey upon the weak willed. Rejection and shame leaves many searching for comfort wherever it can be found. People do not love God or look to him.

Truth #5: In the Bible, addiction would most closely relate to the concept of idolatry.

Addiction is voluntary slavery. Addicts make choices. They are in control. They are committed to their way of managing life. Yet they are enslaved and out of control. They are overpowered by the world, their flesh, and the devil.
– Edward Welch

In this world of turmoil all of us have places we turn to for enjoyment and relief. Usual suspects might be food, coffee, hobbies, career, or entertainment. But sometimes we become dependent on these things as our source of hope. Idolatry is when our hearts long for created gifts rather than the creator God. The refreshment these idols are able to provide is only temporary, so we end up returning to them over and over again. And while all idols are harmful, some people end up attracted to intensely destructive behaviors or substances. Over time the idol becomes a master, enslaving those that continually seeks its help (see 2 Peter 2:19).

An addict – of any kind – is dependent on something in creation to satisfy their soul and protect them from the difficulties of this disordered world. Therefore any hope for total and lasting freedom from addiction must involve a heart change, in which a person’s dependence moves away from the creation and centers firmly on God the Father through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

Humility is the Avenue to Glory

During a recent Sunday morning message, we were challenged to consider whether or not we are truly treasuring Jesus. One of the questions we used as a test for our heart was this: Does my life consistently reflect a laying down of myself in order to follow the Spirit of Christ?

If Jesus is the highest treasure of our heart, then over time we will have an eager willingness to die to the desires and the parts of our character that are contradictory to His. And we will find ourselves on the trajectory of growing in humility, because Jesus came to earth as the righteous, victorious, humble King. Humility is in fact a command of the Christian life.

Clothe yourselves all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
1 Peter 5:5

Without humility we have God’s opposition, no matter how right or just we may be in our argument. But with humility we are promised God’s grace, even if we have been wrong in the situation. God WILL rescue the guilty, IF they are humble (Job 22:29-30).

I define Biblical humility this way: Lowering yourself in contrition to and dependence upon God, in order to make much of Him and to make the benefits of Christ available to others. Humility gives the throne of our life back to God in order that we might glorify Him. And humility leads us to sacrifice that we might share all the blessings of God’s Kingdom with others.

So what should humility look like for a Christ follower? The following 4 items are not intended as an exhaustive list of how those who treasure Jesus will live, but it is a start to get us thinking:

  • In humility, we will be generous with all of the resources that God gives us. (1 Timothy 6:17-18)
  • In humility, we will not repay evil for evil but will seek to bless even our enemies. (1 Peter 3:9)
  • In humility, we will not be critical but will bear with the faults and differences of others in grace. (Colossians 3:12-13)
  • In humility, we will not seek to win debates but to persuade others in love. (2 Corinthians 5:11)


Pride always wants to win the argument. But humility sees truth as a compass to give direction, not a hammer to destroy.

God’s word guarantees that if we try to exalt ourself, God will humble us. But if we humble ourself in the same way that Jesus did, then in his time and in his way God will exalt us. So may we be found following after Christ as our treasure, growing in his humble nature. After all it is a great paradox in Christianity, that it makes humility the avenue to glory (Easton 1897).

Honor Is Given, Not Earned

Image result for honorI once heard someone say that ‘respect is earned, but honor is given’. Indeed, throughout the bible, people are commanded to give honor to others, with no conditions included. Of these commands, probably most well-known to us is ‘Honor your father and your mother’, which is repeated several times in the Old and New Testaments (Deut 5:15, Mark 7:10). The bible also instructs honor for the elderly (Lev 19:32), those in the church (Rom 12:10), widows (1 Tim 5:3), pastors (1 Tim 5:17), government leaders (1 Pt 2:17), spouses (1 Pt 3:7), and most importantly Jesus Christ as Lord (1 Pt 3:15). I particularly love the passage in Romans, where Paul tells the church to ‘outdo one another in showing honor’ (ESV). What we have is essentially a command to have a friendly competition in the church, trying to one up each other in honoring people.

In a biblical sense, honor is not associated with an individual’s performance. We are not allowed to withhold honor because someone is not living up to our expectations. In fact, Peter covers all the bases by saying we should honor everyone (1 Pt 2:17). Surely, he understood that everyone would include those individuals who have not earned honor- those who have not been honorable people. Perhaps the elderly person has a checkered past, or the pastor has hurt your feelings, or the church member has criticized you, or your spouse is not encouraging, or the waiter spilled your drink, or the government leader is NOT the one you voted for. Yet, we are told to honor others without consideration of their behavior.

So, let’s pause for a moment and talk about what the bible is asking us to do when we are told to honor someone. In the New Testament, the word honor essentially means to treat someone as valuable. Now we must realize that we are pulled by our flesh and our culture to determine someone’s value by what they have done, specifically, what they have done for us. It is not difficult to think about honoring someone who has treated you well, provided you blessings, or enriched your life in some way. For some of us, it is rather easy to honor our parents, our spouse, our pastor, or our boss – because they are honorable people who treat us well. But that is not true for all the people in our lives. Whether it is someone close to us, or individuals encountered in our daily routine, we all interact with those who do not act in ways worthy of our esteem. But the bible calls us to step outside of our natural inclinations.  Through our words and our actions, we are to show people that they are valuable, often, despite their behavior.

But still some will ask, what makes people valuable if not their performance or contributions to society? What we glean from scripture is that the value of life, of EVERY LIFE, is rooted in this biblical passage from Genesis 1: ‘God created mankind in his own image’. What separates the human race from the rest of that creation is that we are the image bearers of God. This speaks not of our physical likeness but of our spiritual capability. All people are born with a unique ability to intimately know, serve, worship, and love God. And while our creator God is the only one worthy to receive glory and honor (Rev 4:11), He has chosen in His mercy to crown humans with a measure of the same (Psalm 8:5). Indeed, all of us have sinned and fallen short of that glory, which is ultimately why people hurt other people. But even then, God chose to send His son Jesus Christ to redeem His image bearers and perfect the glorious likeness of God in those who believe in Him. Consequently, all people have an inherent value, because it has been bestowed upon them by God. Every person belongs to Him. Every person is stamped with His image. Every person can walk in His likeness through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. To dishonor people, for any reason, is to dishonor their creator. Not every person will earn our respect, but every person is to be treated as valuable. And often giving someone honor is all it takes to encourage them to live in honorable ways.

Direct Your Heart

 I am sure that you have heard of the catchphrase, “Fake it ‘til you make it”. This saying came up during a dinner conversation I was having with some friends recently. We were discussing the common battle we face as Christians: A championship cage-match between doing what we know we should do vs doing what we feel we should do. The decision may be to choose forgiveness or choose wrath, spread a juicy bit of gossip or keep information to ourselves, deceive to get our way or confess a harsh truth, access a tempting website or turn off the media device, do good to our spouse or return the cold shoulder in kind. There are countless battlefields upon which this war may be fought, but it is ever present. Will I act out of my feelings or from something much more solid?

Of course, as followers of Christ – we know the right answer. We don’t follow our heart – we lead our hearts. Like a leaf falling from a tree at the mercy of the wind, our emotions are subject to any number of factors that we have no real control over: our stress level, the circumstances of the day, the actions of someone else, even the weather outside. Feelings are not a sure guide because they are too susceptible to influence. Our decision-making needs to be impacted by principles, not by how much coffee we had that day. 

So eventually someone at our table said it. It was all on our minds anyway: “Well, you just have to Fake it ‘til you make it”. Honestly, I really dislike that phrase. Even though it is used widely in faith-circles, I do not believe it accurately communicates the strategy of a Christ-follower.

People do not seem to agree about the origins of the ‘fake it’ phrase, although it is often associated with the 12 steps of AA. The idea behind it is that if a person acts out a positive behavior long enough, they will eventually learn to enjoy it. The initial behavior may seem forced, but as the individual experiences the benefits, their happiness becomes real and the new behavior continues. In psychology, this is known as a positive feedback loop. Now, while I would not deny that there can be value in the study of the human psyche, we must never confuse the concepts of man with the design of God. Trust in behavior modification is a crumbling path. Sure-footing is found only in placing our confidence in gospel empowered change.

How does the bible instruct us in this battle between knowing and feeling? Proverbs 23:19 says ‘Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way’. So here we have teaching from the bible that backs up what was mentioned earlier: we should lead our hearts. Specifically, we are to lead them ‘in the way’. In its early days, Christianity was referred to as the way; probably based upon the well-known statement by Jesus in John 14:6, ‘I AM the way and the truth and the life…’. So, looking at this Proverb from a New Testament perspective, we should direct our hearts to Jesus and His way of life. And we do that by hearing God’s word, and applying what we hear through obedience.

So how does the biblical principle of directing our hearts differ from the fake it until we make it philosophy? First, the bible does not call us to pretense. We obey Christ because we love Christ (John 14:15). In the midst of obedience, we may rightly confess that we are going against our natural inclinations. Yet we obey in recognition of God’s authority over us and His majestic love for us. Secondly, the bible promises God will work within us creating a newness of desires. ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…and move you to follow my decrees’, Ezekiel 36:26-27. God has not left us alone to hope that continual behavior modification will spark new habits that we eventually enjoy. Rather His promise is to dwell with us, implementing change at the heart level. As we do the word, even against our feelings, we have the hope that God is empowering our very ability to obey and growing our love for Him. And finally, we have the confidence that God is able to bring about good from every act of obedience (2 Thess 1:11), and make our works effective and fruitful. So no, we do not fake it in hopes to make it. Instead, with our eyes trained on God we strive to direct our hearts through obedience – in full trust that Christ is able to make all things new in and around us.

 

The God of Every Season

For most families, the summer season carries with it a certain mystique. Summer is a time often filled with big events such as family cookouts, vacations, and frequent visits to someone’s pool (if you are lucky). It is a season where normal days feel rather special, especially for our kids. The days are longer, and responsibilities are often lighter. Late evening homework sessions might give way to pick-up basketball games or backyard campouts with friends. It is a time full of highlights and mountain top moments, that often stand out to us even years later. Many of us are blessed to be able to take a few days to go somewhere special, out of the way, and relax from our normal routine. The beaches along the coast, a cabin in the woods, or a tent next to a lake might serve as a special setting for our families to make new memories. At least for me, it is quite easy to sense God’s presence in those moments. Walking on a beautiful shoreline, watching the sun drop below the water line, listening to the powerful waves crash into the sand and the squeals of joy from my kids – I am so very mindful of my creator. If only – I could just live in that moment. If only – the season where even normal feels special, could last year round. But, we all know it doesn’t. August comes, and with it comes the return to routine and the mad scramble to get ready for it. There are registration forms to be filled, school supplies to be purchased, and schedules to be set. Soon the days will be shorter, and busier, and normal will begin to feel….well, normal. And sometimes in the midst of this flurry of activity, we discover that it is not quite as easy to sense God’s presence as it was when those waves were crashing in our ears.

The writer of Ecclesiastes, most likely King Solomon, knew this dynamic very well. In his observance of life ‘under the sun’, Solomon noted that God has planned our time in such a way that every occasion has a proper season (Ecc 3:1). Activities start and then eventually they end; and new activities start. This is life on the earth, as it has been from the beginning. And moreover, God has designed this life so that when properly viewed ‘everything is beautiful in its time’ (Ecc 3:11). Every activity, with its beginning and its end, is planned by God to be lovely for His people. What I enjoy about this truth is that first we have a confirmation that God intends us to find beauty in the long days of summer. When I sense God among the carefree minutes of a sunset beach walk, it is a beautiful moment just as he designed. That day is beyond any doubt, a day that the Lord has made. But second, we have encouragement that God does not disappear with the return of our routine. If we do not sense His presence in the chaos that often accompanies responsibility, it is only because we have lost sight. With God, everything is beautiful in its time. God is Lord over the day filled with obligations and busyness, and He is as near to us then as He is in our most lighthearted moments. And that, I believe, is the key: It is His nearness, that gives life its beauty, no matter the activity. He is the God of every season.

Jesus Christ, God’s son, came into the world to undo the work of evil. He declared that He came so that those who believe upon His saving work, in faith, may have life and have it exceedingly (John 10:10). Oh how I love that description! I know that it is not possible to remain on the beach forever (I have tried). Eventually the summer season must end. But I have a savior who has come to give me life, exceedingly. A savior who is able to draw me near to God the Father (Hebrews 7:25), whether the moment at hand is chaotic or relaxed; whether the day is long or short; God the Father has made everything beautiful in its time. And God the Son has made a way for me to experience that beauty continually. So as the summer begins to draw to a close, and this season of life prepares to give way to something new, let us NOT lose heart; let us not lose the beauty of today. I urge you to ponder Jesus and seek him in faith. He is near! And He is able to make the most normal of days, special. So may you and your family experience the mystique of life with Christ, no matter the season.

I love you all in Christ


David