What if I Don’t Feel God?

I remember talking to a young, recent Bible College graduate, who related that as he preached a sermon he could feel the power of the Holy Spirit come over him. It was obviously a moving experience for him.

I’ve preached hundreds of sermons in multiple churches and in several different countries and I’ve never had that feeling.

Is there something wrong with me?

The subject of feeling God or feeling the presence or power of God is not an easy one to address. It is compounded by our personal experiences and emotions. No one wants to deny what another person says they experienced.

But what if I don’t feel God?

What if I’ve never felt God?

Does that mean that I’m not walking in fellowship with God? Or that I have a sub par faith? Or worse yet, I have no faith at all?

One writer put it this way: When I had expected to feel His warmth, I felt cold. When I had expected to feel peace, I felt fear and anger. When I had expected to feel His presence, I felt emptiness.

Has that been your experience?

I think that it has been the experience of more Christians than want to admit it. After all who wants to admit that they don’t feel God, when everyone else is saying just the opposite?

I don’t know that I have the final answer to this discussion, but there are several things that we need to remember about feelings.

While Scripture talks about feelings, and you’ll see this in relationship to feelings about God in places like Psalm 22:1, our feelings don’t occupy a major place in God’s revelation. Doing is emphasized far more than feeling.

In fact, we’re told that our feelings aren’t always trustworthy (Proverbs 14:12, Jeremiah 17:9, 1 John 3:20). With actions you either do or you don’t, but with feelings you can never be sure.

Another problem with feelings is that something fallible becomes our spiritual guide. While we are on a journey toward ultimate sanctification, we are not there yet. Our feelings or emotions have not yet been fully sanctified. So, what is less than sanctified (feelings) becomes our guide to spiritual reality, decisions and actions. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Instead of focusing on our feelings we need to concentrate on those things that the Word of God holds out to us as reliable guides. Things like faith (1 Peter 1:20-21), hope (1 Peter 1:13), and love (1 Corinthians 13).

When it comes to your feelings it’s best to keep in mind what one writer said; your emotions are gauges not guides.

So, if you don’t feel God, don’t worry. It’s more important to obey God than to feel Him.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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God Sent a Mosquito

In the black night it sounded like a miniature jet plane in my ear. Given its incredibly small size the sound it made was incredible. And irritating. No amount of waving my arms around in the dark could stop it from its intended mission.

Anyone who has been dive bombed by a kamikaze mosquito knows the aggravation. I was getting mosquitoed. Only my third night in Haiti and I was already under attack.

And suddenly I remembered that I had forgotten the most important thing I needed to do in Haiti. Take my malaria medicine.

The problem with malaria medicine is that it’s easy to forget. It’s taken with food and my normal routine over the years has been to take it with my evening meal.

And that’s where the problem started.

Haitians eat their main meal at noon and I was only snacking last night. I’m a creature of habit and not being in my routine was a problem. No meal – no medicine. I had only been in country for three days and I’d already forgotten to take my malaria medicine.

And that’s when God sent a mosquito.

To be truthful I don’t know if God sent it or not but it did the job. That nasty little insect was looking for a landing spot. A place to suck my blood. And if it’s the right (or wrong) kind of mosquito, to give me the malaria virus. All I wanted to do was to end its’ life before it nailed me.

And that’s when I remembered the medicine. I never did kill the mosquito but I did take my medicine.

I got to thinking about that mosquito. Could it have been a messenger from God? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll never know.

But it made me think about how God directs us in life. We tend to think that if God is going to lead us He will do it in a nice, comfortable way. But what if God chooses to send a mosquito to move us in the right direction? What if He decides that the best way to get us to do what He wants is to send an irritation that has the possibility of giving us spiritual malaria if we don’t do the right thing?

There’s no guarantee that whenever God acts in our lives, He’ll do it in a way that we enjoy. In fact that seems to me to fall into the category of Christian myth.

The Palmist wrote; it is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes (Psalm 119:71). And this from the New Testament writer, James; count it all joy when you fall into various trials – because trials can produce godliness in us (James 1:2-4) when we handle them the right way.

I suspect that the list of saints, both Biblical and non Biblical, who have been moved by trials of all kinds is long. Somehow God knows that the mosquitoes of life are affective.

So the bottom line is –it’s ok to kill the mosquitoes before they bite you, but it’s better if you can learn from them – especially the spiritual ones.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Christians sometimes act as if they need to protect God.

You see this most often in the religious sounding clichés that are posted on social media sites like Facebook. The trouble with many religious sounding clichés is that they simply don’t ring true. At least not if you are using the Bible as your standard of truth (and we all should be).

We profess to be people of truth but we don’t always express the truth in ways that are clear and helpful.

Here are two of numerous examples of clichés that Christians like to throw around.

God never shuts one door without opening another

There are variations in this, such as God never shuts a door without opening a window.

But where is that in the Bible?

It’s not.

The truth is that sometimes God shuts all the doors and leaves you standing in the hallway because you’re not spiritually ready for the opportunities He has for you.

The truth is that sometimes God shuts all of the doors because He wants you to stay right where you are and not be looking for other opportunities.

There may be more reasons that God does not open a door but you get the point.

There is no Biblical guarantee that when God shuts a door of opportunity, He’ll open another one for you.

Another spiritually twisted clichés is:

God never gives you more than you can handle.

Again, that’s not in the Bible. It’s a nice thought but not a Biblical thought.

But what would people think of God if He overloaded us with burdens? That’s far from loving in our minds.

And what about 1 Corinthians 10:13? Doesn’t it promise that God won’t give you more than you can handle?

Here’s what it says:

No temptation (some would say trial) has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (tried) beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Because that’s in the Bible, it’s true. But is that the same thing as saying God never gives you more than you can handle?

Paul didn’t think so.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul said, we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.

Far beyond our ability to endure sure sounds like God gave him more than he could handle.

So how do we reconcile these two passages – both from the pen of the same writer?

The key is what follows in verse 9 where Paul exclaims, Yes! We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God.

God does give us more than we can handle, but not more than He can handle. And He does it for a reason – so that we learn to trust Him in the difficult circumstances of life.

The way of escape from our trials (1 Corinthians 10:13) is to trust.

So why do we throw around these cute sounding but unbiblical religious slogans?

There are several reasons for this anomaly. One is that many Christians are unfamiliar with the Bible and if something sounds religious it must be right. While that may be true of some Christians, I don’t think it’s true of the majority of evangelical Christians (the majority of my audience).

Another reason for our religious clichés is that it makes us feel better about God. Our mental image of God is that of a grandfatherly figure who will always act in kind, loving ways toward His children.

It’s true that God always acts in kind and loving ways toward us, but only when you understand that trials and suffering (and yes, even discipline see Hebrews 12:5-6) are included in His acts of kindness and love.

Giving you more than you can handle is not an unkind act, it’s an act of love.

A third reason that we express our faith in religious sounding clichés that don’t reflect Biblical truth – and I think this is more often the case than we would like to admit – is because we’re trying to protect God. And if anyone demeans Him, we do what we can to protect Him and His reputation.

After all God needs someone to protect His image. Not.

God is more concerned about making you like Jesus than He is about what people think about Him. So He’ll load your plate if He needs to without worrying about His reputation.

Here are my two take-a-ways from all of this.

1. God doesn’t need us to protect Him. Anyone who would blame God for being unfair, unkind or unloving doesn’t know God. And no cute sounding religious saying is going to change their minds.

2. We need to be Biblical in our expressions and beliefs. Just because something sounds like something God would do doesn’t mean that it is.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Trust His Heart

I read a statement recently that intrigued me. It said, When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.

There will be times in life when you don’t see the hand of God, either because you’re not looking in the right place or because God has hidden His hand from you (that’s another blog!). And because you can’t see His hand you don’t understand His plan.

What do you do then?

If you are like many Christians your reaction can range from panic to doubt to complaining. Because you haven’t yet learned to trust. Trusting God when you can’t see what’s going on is not easy.

We want answers. We want full disclosure.

What we really want is to control our lives – to call the shots.

The reality is that we simply don’t trust God to do what’s best for our life. That’s a natural human reaction.

But it’s not the right reaction.

Have you ever had a friend that you were so close to that you trusted them explicitly? It didn’t matter what they did or even what they said about you, you knew that they had your best interest at heart?

They might even publicly disagree with you, perhaps causing you some degree of embarrassment but you knew that they loved you. So you gave them the benefit of the doubt. You accepted their criticism.

You trusted their heart.

That’s all God wants. He wants you to trust His heart even when you don’t understand His plan for your life.

I think that’s the essence of Proverbs 3:5, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t trust in your own understanding, perspective, wisdom (my translation/ commentary).

Trust HIS heart, not your heart. Trust HIS wisdom, not your wisdom. Trust HIS way not your way.

As Christians we are to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith refers to the things that we can’t see. You can’t walk by faith if everything in life is clear and plain.

Walking by faith demands hiddenness.

Walking by faith demands trust.

Trust in the Heart of God.

Trust that His heart is Good. That His heart is Pure. That His heart is Loving. That His heart will never take you where His Grace cannot take care of you.

So when you can’t see the Hand of God – you can’t tell what God is doing in your life, Trust His Heart.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

P.S. You might enjoy the song Trust His Heart. You can listen to it here.

Last week’s blog, Life is Hard, hit a nerve. There was good feedback from a number of readers. But I don’t want to leave it there because that’s only half of the Truth.

The other half of the Truth is God is Good!

Psalm 136:1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

Whenever we emphasize half of the Truth to the neglect of the other half we’re headed down a self-defeating path. Half of the Truth is never the Truth. You need it all. And what we need to balance the difficulties of life is the Goodness of God.

Which gives us some insight into why we question God when we don’t like the way life is going. It’s because we’re not focusing on all of the Truth.

There is even truth in the realization that at times God in His Goodness makes our lives hard. From the beginning Adam was expected to work (Genesis 2:15). Granted we don’t know all that entailed, and it was certainly different from the work he did after the fall (Genesis 3:17-19) but it was still work. He didn’t sit around all day sipping Mint Juleps. God expected Adam to work.

The idea of God displaying His Goodness through the Hard Times in life is even more evident after the Fall. Perhaps the clearest statement is Joseph’s explanation to his guilt-ridden brothers late in his life. After all of the hardships of life that he went through because of the hatred of his brothers, he could say God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). That clearly implicates God in the hardships. But it was because He is Good and He was doing Good.

Even when He brings hardship into your life He is still Good.

And you can count on Him always being Good because His Goodness is based on His Character, not on your circumstances.

God can’t help being Good. It’s Who. He. Is.

That means that God always acts toward us in Goodness. It doesn’t always appear that way to us; we don’t always understand it; we don’t always like it, but it’s still true.

When someone is fundamentally Good you know that you can Trust them. You know that you can Rely on them. You know that they will Treat you Right. You know that they have your best interest at heart.

That’s God.

His Goodness, even in the Hard Times, is for your Good.

Yes, Life is Hard. YES, God is Good.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

God in the Big Things

Recently I shared a posting on Facebook – it was a sermon by Alistair Begg titled God of the Ordinary (you can listen to it here). Too often we miss what God is doing because we overlook the ordinary events of life – which is where He normally appears. Don’t miss God in the ordinary.

But God also works in the dramatic, the extraordinary. Let me share a story with you from a young lady who was raised in our church and is now serving as a missionary in Haiti. Her name is Krischelle and she works in a very poor and difficult area of Haiti, even by Haitian standards.

A large truck and trailer filled with supplies was donated to Lemuel Ministries (see their blog here), the ministry Krischelle works with in Haiti. Getting supplies to Haiti is difficult at best – getting them through customs is even harder. Two of their staff members traveled to Port au Prince and each day checked with customs praying and hoping that their things would be released. One of the customs agents was even a former Lemuel staff member who did all he could to expedite their case. The two men who were there to pick up the truck and drive it back parked in the same place at the dock every day and waited – for a week and a half. Then on Thursday of the second week there was a large chemical explosion at the docks. Buildings, trucks, cars, and supplies were damaged and destroyed.

The customs inspector who was helping Lemuel had walked out of the area thirty minutes before the explosion.

The two Lemuel staff members decided that day to return home. The location where they had parked for the better part of two weeks suffered extensive damage – all the cars parked in that area burned.

There was a group of ten new four-wheelers waiting to clear customs. The security personnel only had time to save one of them – it was Lemuel’s.

Other large trucks waiting to clear customs were destroyed – Lemuel’s truck was unscathed.

You can choose to look at this as a series of fortuitous circumstances. Or you can choose to see the hand of God providing for His people. It takes as much faith to believe one as the other.

Yes, God appears in the ordinary events of life and that is where He normally works. But at times He shows up in the big events – at just the right place, at just the right time. And for that we praise Him!

Romans 8:28 is still true. We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

The Mysteries of God

I’ve been writing this column for almost six years now. Some of you have been readers from the very beginning – others may be reading it for the first time. My hope is that it is an encouragement and guide to you on your spiritual journey.

The longer I write, the more I find myself addressing what might be referred to as the mysteries of God. Let’s face it – God is not easy to understand. If He was, He wouldn’t be God. Be glad you have a god that you can’t understand. That means He’s more than the sum of your thoughts, greater than your problems and higher than your expectations. If you could understand all there is about God then He would be no greater than your IQ. I want a god who is vastly greater than my IQ.

One of the great mysteries related to God is why life happens the way it does. Why doesn’t God intervene in bad situations? Why does He allow/determine things to happen to His children that bring sorrow and pain? Why does He seem silent . . . uninterested . . . uncaring? If God is sovereign, isn’t He in control of life? And if He is in control of life, why doesn’t He solve our problems? Why doesn’t He remove all evil? Why doesn’t He just DO something?

No one has all of the answers to such cosmic questions, but as I have reflected on this issue some thoughts came to mind. I need to hear them – perhaps you do too.

1. It may be that God has intervened and you haven’t yet recognized it. We are dealing here with not only what we can see, but what we can’t see. Remember Elisha’s servant who saw the mighty army of the Syrians but couldn’t see the army of God until his eyes were opened (2 Kings 6:17). Much of what God does in our lives is done in the realm of the unseen. Don’t think that just because you cannot see what God is doing that He has failed to act. Ask Him in His grace to help you to see.

2. Remember that God’s highest goal is His glory (Exodus 20:2, Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). We want God’s highest priority to be us. We want Him to spend His time (if we can even refer to God and time in the same breath) solving our problems. I know that God is the ultimate multitasker – I’m not making a reference here to God but to us. We need to keep the truth in front of us that when God acts, He ultimately acts for His own glory. That might mean that the trials we face are intended to enhance His glory in ways that we cannot understand. Ask God to glorify Himself through you.

3. God may use the bad in your life for the good in someone else’s. Life isn’t just about us – it’s about all of us. As Christians we are to live our lives for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and the benefit of others (Galatians 6:10). Joseph’s trials were for the good of his family and ultimately the nation of Israel. Paul’s prison experience was for the good of the Philippian jailer and his family. Christ’s death was for the good of those who trust Him as savior. Good often comes out of bad – and if the spiritual good of another person can come out of your pain, well isn’t that worth it?

4. God may be trying to change you. Real spiritual change rarely comes from pleasant circumstances. It normally comes out of hardship (James 1:2-4). When life is good we tend to sit back and enjoy it. It’s when life is painful that we begin to examine it and search for answers. That process will lead to change. In fact the Christian life is all about change – changing into the image of Christ. Take encouragement from your trials – they mean that God isn’t through with you yet (Hebrews 13:21).

5. God forgives all confessed sin but He doesn’t always remove the consequences of our sin. We tend to think that when God forgives, He removes the sin and the results of our sin. It’s true that He removes the sin and puts it on His Son. It’s also truth that He removes the eternal consequences of sin. But He doesn’t always choose to remove the temporal consequences. The alcoholic may suffer the ravages of a diseased liver even after confessing his sin. Many of our problems in life fall into this category. We suffer even though we are walking with God because of choices made in the distant past. When that is the case, ask God for grace to handle the trials (Hebrews 4:16).

6. The actions of other people impact my life. It may not be fair but it is reality. What other people do; the choices they make can have a significant impact – often negative – on our lives. While we may not be able to control what they do, we can control how we respond. This is where faith comes in. As Christians we walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). That is we choose to respond in a Jesus imitating way instead of how we would like to respond.

God is a mystery, however the Christian life isn’t. He’s told us how to live. It won’t be easy but it is possible. Ask Him for strength to get you through.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve