Tag Archives: Psalm 16

Using reason to evaluate feelings

7 Apr

There was a man named Manoah.  He enjoyed a God-centered marriage to an unnamed wife who ‘happened’ to be barren when the story begins.  One day, an angel appeared to her and told her she would soon be pregnant and have a son.  (The son turns out to be Samson).

The wife ran and got her husband and filled him in on all the details of the conversation.  He believed her. (Smart man!)

The angel next appeared to both of them, reiterated the same message and agreed to wait while Manoah prepared a meal for him.  But this divine being did not eat the goat and bread set before him on a rock, instead caused fire to consume it. He then disappeared in the flames.  Manoah realized at once that this angel was the LORD and feared for his life.

Read his panicky reaction from Judges 13: 21b-22. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

The text doesn’t SAY he was frozen in fear, but I can imagine his emotional state.  If I cried out to my husband, “We’re gonna die because….!” there would be A LOT of emotion.

Manoah’s wife did not share her husband’s panic.  Instead, she responded with REASON, with truth.  This is what I want us to look at, her assessment of the situation.  She calmly fed her husband with facts, in a way that he could evaluate whether his feelings were well grounded or false.

Judges 13: 23  But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.”

Apparently, that was enough to settle Manoah, because the next verse in the text simply announces that she bore a son.

When Mike and I read this account last week I remarked to him, “Look at her logic!”  I love seeing how God encourages us to use our biblically informed minds to reason through situations.

I find that I often churn with emotion when I am not thinking biblically about a situation.  Here’s a simple and very real example.  I’m coming to the end of my Spring Break.  And like many of my students and colleagues as well, there is this reluctance to get back into the saddle, plunging into the fast pace of the workweek.

As I tried to THINK my way scripturally through this dread, the Holy Spirit brought to mind a new application about why we are not to worry.  I’ve written about the battle against anxiety and angst on my other blog site. What helps me fight the sin of unbelief  (at the root of worry) is the idea that when I think about TOMORROW, all I see are the potential circumstances minus God’s provision of grace.  He gives ‘manna for the day’.  And since it’s not yet tomorrow, the pre-planned grace is invisible to me right now.

My variation of that tactic was to think about the idea of what I’m going to call ‘joy-moments’.  I started telling myself yesterday each and every time a ‘dread’ thought popped into my mind, “Maria – God has planned moments of joy and delight for you on Monday – whether with your colleagues or students or in an email or a turn of circumstances. You just can’t see them yet.  All you are imagining are the bare circumstances unadorned by God’s goodness.”

Today, I found the biblical warrant for that idea.  Psalm 16:11b states ‘In your presence there is fullness of joy.’ Before today I assumed that this promised condition referred to my future in heaven when I am face to face with Jesus.  But this morning, a Saturday, I had time to think. And I realized that Jesus’ presence TODAY, on this earth, is promised me.  During Jesus’ explaining the ‘Great Commission’ He promised that He would be with us all the days of our lives.  And the writer to the Hebrews in Chapter 13 argued that we can “…..be content with what (we) have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

So here is how I used my reasoning abilities to fight the emotion of dread about going back to work:

P1 – As a Christ follower, I have the promise of His permanent presence.

P2 – The Bible teaches that in His presence the believer experiences joy.

C – As a Christ follower, I can expect to experience joy each day, from being aware of His continual presence.

No, I don’t know what that joy will feel or be like, but I trust God and His Word.

And that is ENOUGH of a rope to cling to when I’m battling anxiety.

Your worries might very well be weightier and more serious today than mine.  But these every-day fights for faith are where I live.  And I am a BELIEVER!   I’m in that category of Christians who confess:  ‘Help me, Jesus, for I’m fighting unbelief!’

And God’s answer to my prayer?  He has given me reason AND His Word, to think my way out of some of these emotions that seem to want to keep me locked into ‘churn’ and sadness.

What do YOU do when your negative feelings tend to dominate?

Why life is hard – one reason

26 Jan

I find that clear thinking and logical deductions help me think through my day-to-day life.  And as my understanding of the Bible deepens and is clarified, thinking carefully illumines Truth.

For instance, does it ever feel like God is blocking you? That no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to make ‘it’ happen?  What if you realized that your goal or desire is NOT what would actually make you happy?

To say that God might be in the way of our plans is NOT to imply that He is a ‘cosmic meany’ or grumpy God who is against pleasure.   Our God is the happiest being in and out of the entire universe.  The Bible even calls Him ‘happy‘ or in Greek, ‘makarios‘.

1 Timothy 1: 10b-11 …..sound teaching that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed* God.

Furthermore, our good triune God created pleasure and fashioned us, His image-bearers, to be supremely happy, content and satisfied in HIM!  We just don’t know, at first, what makes us happy.  And we have an enemy who keeps diverting our attention to temporary shiny baubles.

Psalm 16:11 – You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

What I am finding out and beginning to consciously learn is that when I start to pursue something that does not lead to ULTIMATE joy (as much as is possible here on this present earth), God thwarts me, eventually.

I’ve seen it in my decades-long pursuit of ‘the perfect weight’.  And I see it now in my desire to ‘feel competent’ at my craft of teaching French so students acquire the language.

How so?  Well, a new thought occurred to me this week.  If what I mean by ‘I want to feel competent‘ that I don’t want to feel needy or unsure of my skills, then I have set myself up for a NO-WIN endeavor.

For God has made you and me, created beings, to be DEPENDENT on our Maker.

Here’s the logic.  I’m sure you can follow these premises.  Do you agree that they are true?

  • God wills for me to be supremely happy (makarios) IN HIM!
  • God’s will is always done, eventually.
  • When I pursue something other than God that I think will make me supremely happy (makarios), then I am in opposition to God’s will.
  • God will cannot be denied.
  • Therefore, God will either block my pursuit or allow me to continue until I reach the painful conclusion of just how unsatisfactory it is.

I’m FAR better off giving in and submitting to God BECAUSE He is good and loving.

If you have listened to or read anything by John Piper from Desiring God Ministries, then you recognize how he summarizes this philosophy of the Christian life as “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Seeing evidence of God’s glory HERE and NOW fills that cavernous pleasure ache in us.  Not completely while we are in this body, but more than anything created.  Here is how our Lord describes the worth of His glory.

Isaiah 42:8  I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.

The highest and best gift God can give us is to SEE His glory.  Look at how Jesus explains it:

John 17:24  Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! (NLT)

So maybe the next time you experience frustration over something you have had your heart and mind set on, consider whether God might be blessing you by holding you back from something far less satisfying compared to what you might have now.

Of course, it goes without saying, we’ll need to pray for discernment and wisdom to distinguish between ‘a time to persevere’ and a time to ‘submit to God’s will and let go.’

Reasoning from facts about the future

7 Sep

I came upon the following Scripture this morning as I was searching for an essay I had saved about the death of a beloved dog.  Our neighbors had to say goodbye to such a good friend and they are struggling with the hole he has left in their hearts.

As I was rereading the essay, the author referenced the passage below.  The prophesy about the lion’s diet floored me.  Read on:

Isaiah 11:  6-9

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

Lion eating meat

I had to verify it, but according to what my Google search engine pulled up, lions in their present state eat meat and not straw.  And oxen are herbivores.

If that is the case, then God’s word to John about the future as recorded in Revelation 21:5 takes on new and specific significance concerning animals:

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Why should I be startled to learn that the God who created every thing that exists is also the same God who changes dispositions, tastes and digestive systems!

Here, then, is how I reasoned from that deduction.  My reasoning actually takes us back in time.  I am painting a hypothetical scenario, which I cannot prove conclusively, but I find satisfaction in stretching my mind thoughtfully:

If God changed man’s fundamental nature ( from being able to CHOOSE obedience to Him before the Fall into being able ONLY to sin as a consequence**), then it is feasible in the new heavens and new earth God will alter man’s fundamental nature anew

If God in the future will change a lion from a carnivore to an herbivore, then God in the past before the Fall may have created the lion to be different than his present predatory state

Why am I spending energy thinking through these rational possibilities?

Welcome, reality in a fallen world!

My body doesn’t work well when I eat the foods I crave.  Breads, oatmeal and starches appeal to me, but they clog up my system.  I do better eating meats.  Meat costs more than starches. And due to some financial decisions we altered our meals this summer to include non-meat dinners every other night.  Think beans and grains.  But they clog up my system.

Therefore, I have reluctantly accepted the evidence that eating beef, pork, chicken, fish and eggs is what God has chosen for me.  This diet goes with the ‘boundary lines (that) have fallen for me in pleasant places’ (as God defines my safe space! – Psalm 16:6).  This way of eating is what He calls GOOD, for me, in this current world.

My conclusion?

  • If the manner in which animals feed today in our corrupted world has been scarred, then maybe the reason for my slow and inefficient digestive system has also been scarred.

It makes logical sense, then, to accept these limits and gracefully live within them and look forward to a future world.