Suck it up, Buttercup

Feelings are good. They can let us know when things are okay or bad or scary or wonderful. Some would have us believe that we should be ruled entirely by our feelings. We should always feel safe. We should never feel threatened. We always have a right to feel whatever we want to feel and express those feelings however we choose. And how is that working out for us?

Even King David, upon learning of the death of his son Absalom, had a moment when he let his feelings overtake him. He retreated to his safe space. And you know what that earned him? A big, fat lecture from the leader of his military.

The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son, Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Then Joab when into the house of the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from you youth till now.”

2 Samuel 19:4-7 (NIV)

Ouch! Who would be brave enough to tell a king to get off his butt, wipe the tears off his face, and congratulate the army that killed his son? From David’s perspective of intense grief, one may say that Joab was overly harsh with his king. What right did he have to say what he did in the manner he said it? Was David not allowed to mourn for his son?

Had David chosen to put his feelings first and wallow in his grief, it would have cost him the kingdom that had just been saved. Instead of closing the door on Joab, David heeded his commander’s advice.

So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.

2 Samuel 19:8 (NIV)

We are all entitled to our feelings, but our feelings are not entitled to rule us unless we allow them to. God gave us feelings. He gave us the ability to rejoice and to grieve. He made us to be glad as well as sad. But He also gave us dominion. To be ruled by our feelings is to look solely on our inward selves. To give in to every feeling with the unction to express every little emotion that comes upon us is to become utterly selfish.

Was David selfish in wanting to grieve for his son? No. But in his grief, he stole the joy of victory from his men. They thought they had done well in restoring the kingdom to its rightful ruler. But instead of a pat on the back, all they saw was David’s back as he turned to mourn the death of his enemy.

While we should welcome feelings and emotions, we cannot be entirely ruled by them. Sometimes how we feel must take a back seat to what we must do. Sometimes we have to suck it up and do what is best for the greater good rather than our own good.

Take a page out of David’s book, literally. He learned to channel his feelings and emotions, pouring them out to God in the pages we now know as the Psalms. There, the shepherd boy who became a king, let it all out. He figured out how to handle his emotions while balancing them with the responsibilities of ruling God’s chosen people. He learned humility above all.

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 131 (NIV)

Read: 2 Samuel 19-20, Luke 21:20-38 

The one

Jesus was a storyteller. He liked to get his message across using stories that related to people where they were at. In Luke 15, he tells three stories one after the other. Since most of our Bibles have headings before each story, we have a tendency to pull them apart and use them as stand-alone tales. But I think Jesus told them together for a reason.

The first story is of the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine who are safe and accounted for to find the one which was lost.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:7 (NIV)

The next story is of a woman who has ten coins, but loses one. She turns her house upside down to find that one lost coin.

And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Luke 15:9-10 (NIV)

The last story is perhaps the most referenced parable Jesus ever told—that of the prodigal son. A son asks his father for his inheritance and gets it. Immediately, he leaves his father’s house and squanders all of his money on debauchery. He returns home in utter humiliation.

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:22-24 (NIV)

There are three types of people Jesus addresses with these three stories.

  1. The wanderer. This person is completely unaware of their drifting. One moment they are with the flock and the next, lost and alone. They wander away not knowing any better. But God still chases after the one.
  2. The neglectful. This person, like the coin, is lost through neglect or carelessness. They stop paying attention to where they are going and, like the sheep in the previous story, find themselves lost and nowhere near the rest of the group. But God still chases after the one.
  3. The prodigal. This person knows exactly what they’re doing, and they leave anyway. They’ve made themselves to believe that life is better on the other side and they squander the riches they’ve been given. But God still chases after the one.

I’m not sure that Jesus could have reached any more people with a fourth story. In one way or another, we can all find ourselves in at least one, if not all, of these parables.

Maybe you’ve wandered away because your faith is still new and you just don’t know any better or your roots weren’t deep enough to keep you close to God. Maybe you’ve neglected your faith and have found yourself out of touch with the Lord. Or maybe you made the choice to walk away. But no matter what situation you may find yourself in, God wants you back. He always wants you back. To Him you are the one.

Read: 1 Samuel 17-18, Luke 15:1-10

His harvest

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Luke 10:2 (NIV)

It takes a lot of pressure off of what we do as Christians, as ministers, doing the work of the Lord when we focus on one simple aspect of this verse. We could very easily take it upon ourselves to do all of the work and bring in all of the harvest while worrying about how to plant, water, and grow it as well. But notice that Jesus calls it his harvest field. It is not our duty to worry about anything but bringing it in and praying for more people to help us bring it in.

Not everyone has had a revelation of who God is—they have not yet heard the Gospel, but according to Jesus, many have heard the Gospel and need help taking that final step toward salvation. It is up to the Church to go out and gather these people so that they may develop a deeper relationship with God.

All these things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Luke 10:22 (NIV)

Jesus chose not to reveal himself to the kings and rulers of the day. He revealed himself to the average person. He did not seek to attain political power, but humbly approached the lowly and simple. In doing so, he changed a nation from the bottom up. By the time the rulers discovered who Jesus was and what he was doing, it was too late to stop him.

There is no reason why our ministry now should not reflect what Jesus did in his time on earth. We should pray for our leaders. We should be leaders. But we don’t have to go out looking for the harvest. The harvest, God’s harvest, is among our peers and those with whom we do life with on a daily basis. It is those people we should be talking to, building relationships with, and showing them the love that Christ has already extended to us and to them through us. The harvest is all around us and we are all the workers God has called to bring it in.

However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:20 (NIV)

As much as we long to (and should) see the power of God in signs and wonders, our greatest joy should be found in the fact that we are the children of God. That joy only grows when we are able to lead others to join us in our heavenly citizenship.

Don’t worry about how to grow the harvest. It’s not yours. Just go out and get it.

Read: Judges 15-17, Luke 10:1-24

I will be joyful

It’s easy to be joyful when things are going your way—when you meet that special someone, when you get a big promotion, when you receive an unexpected gift. But what about the other times, when things aren’t going the way you’d hoped? Can you still say that you’re full of joy?

We often look at the dry or dark times in our lives as seasons where God just isn’t there. We struggle on hoping to pass through the difficult season and into the one of abundant harvest so that we can find our joy again. Maybe we’re missing the point.

I don’t believe that God brings the dark times, but I do believe He will walk with us through them. Psalm 23 says that, even though we walk through the dark valley of death, He walks beside us. And not only does He walk with us, He prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. He doesn’t make it all go away, but He endures it all right beside us.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT)

The world may be able to take a lot of things from you, but it cannot take your confidence in your salvation. It cannot take your joy. It cannot take God away from you.

What could be worse than the thought of losing everything? The thought of an eternity without God.

If you are in a dry season, take comfort in this: God is still God, He is right beside you, and He will never, ever leave you alone. If you are in a season of abundance, keep the joy that you have now no matter what comes next. If Habakkuk could look around and see nothing but doom yet still find joy in the God of his salvation, who are we to do anything but likewise?

Daily Bible reading: Habakkuk 1-3, Revelation 14

The replacements

Our lives are full of comings and goings. Things change every moment of every day. Some things we can control, others we can’t.

Have you ever tried to break a bad habit? First of all, it’s not easy to do. Second, if you don’t replace that bad habit with something else, it’s bound to come back with a vengeance.

And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT)

It’s Grey Cup Sunday—the biggest day in Canadian football. Of course I can’t let the day go by without yet another football reference.

In Canadian football, there are 12 players on the field for each team at any given time. If a player gets injured and requires attention, he must then sit out for a minimum of three plays. Now, once that player is off the field, he must be replaced so that there are still the required 12 men on the play. The same applies for a player that isn’t getting the job done. If the coach decides he needs to go, he must also be replaced. A team that tries to play anything but 12 players will be penalized.

Many things in our lives work the same. If we’re trying to break a habit, we can’t just say we’re going to stop. That void has to be filled with something else or we’ll go right back to doing that thing we don’t want to do.

This is why, when we accept Jesus into our lives, that God takes away our old, stony heart of sin and replaces it with a new, obedient heart. He takes something away and puts something better in its place. The injured player comes out and a new, healthy one comes in.

God doesn’t just take things away from us like a big bully. He removes things from our lives so that He can replace them with better things. His things. And we need to let Him. If we had our way, we’d be like a coach playing a half dozen injured players and being baffled by the loss of a game. God wants to put us in the very best position possible. That means replacements.

So don’t get down when it’s time for God to pull something from your life that just isn’t working. Rejoice, because He has a better plan to fill that void.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 36-37, 1 Peter 3

Just the right time

There’s a lot of waiting for the right time. We hear it often. There’s a right time for farmers to plant crops. There’s a right time for a couple to start a family. There’s a right time for that special person to come along. There’s a right time to start school. There’s a right time for that promotion. There’s a right time for just about everything.

Because we spend so much of our lives waiting for the right time, it often has an effect on our response to Jesus. Some people are told that they have to wait for the right time for salvation. Well, guess what? It’s now!

Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (NLT)

There are those that may leave the impression that a person must be in the right place in their lives in order to be saved. You need to finish something. You need to change something. You need to know more. You need to do less.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Romans 5:6 (NLT)

Utterly helpless. That doesn’t sound like a person who has it all together. That sounds like a person who has completely fallen apart. That is the person Jesus came to save. Jesus didn’t die only for those people who are good enough. News flash—no one is good enough. We cannot save ourselves from our own sin.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 (NLT)

Jesus took to the cross of his own free will knowing full-well that there would be those who would refuse his sacrifice. There would be those who would try to earn the gift that he was giving. Some might even try to pay for it. Knowing all of that, he still gave up his life on the cross for all of us who would recognise our own sinfulness and humble ourselves enough to accept what he went through—shedding his blood as the final sacrifice that would wipe our sins from all heavenly record.

Because of Jesus, we can step into a new relationship with God free from any guilt and shame that may plague us.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.

Romans 5:11 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 73-74, Romans 5

Satisfied

When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time in the car. Once a month, we’d be on the road from one city to the next to visit family. Late in the evening when the sun had gone down and we could see the shimmer of the lights of home in the distance, we’d turn on oldies radio. Guaranteed, every time that station came on while we drove that particular highway, we’d hear the Rolling Stones (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. All six of us would sing along at the top of our lungs.

The song has become somewhat of an anthem for generations. The whole world sings, I can’t get no satisfaction, ’cause I try and I try and I try.

The solution to this epidemic is simple.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Psalm 90:14 (ESV)

Satisfaction will never and can never be found in ourselves or the world around us. True and complete satisfaction can only come from the love of God.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 90-92; Romans 11:1-21

Sounds familiar

Sometimes, when I read the Bible, I forget that it was written thousands of years ago and not last week. Today David’s words ring as true as ever.

Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.”
Fools are evil and do terrible things;
none of them does anything good.

God looked down from heaven on all people
to see if anyone was wise,
if anyone was looking to God for help.
But all have turned away.
Together, everyone has become evil;
none of them does anything good.
Not a single person.

Don’t the wicked understand?
They destroy my people as if they were eating bread.
They do not ask God for help.
The wicked are filled with terror
where there had been nothing to fear.
God will scatter the bones of your enemies.
You will defeat them,
because God has rejected them.

I pray that victory will come to
Israel from Mount Zion!
May God bring them back.
Then the people of Jacob will rejoice,
and the people of Israel will be glad.

Psalm 53 (NCV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 53-55; Acts 27:26-44

One

How important is one thing to you? The one thing of many that you would leave behind the rest to chase after?

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep. If a man has one hundred sheep and one gets lost, does he not leave the ninety nine to go look for the one?

In church, I’ve seen people chase after church-hoppers harder than they chase after the unsaved. Well, the unsaved get chased, but it’s more like running them off the property and hoping they never come back rather than going after them to bring them back in for a cup of coffee.

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:7 (ESV)

Which one will you chase after? The one who slept in the church stairwell to stay dry last night or the one who drove across town in their luxury car because they were mad at someone in the church they usually attend?

Do we want our rejoicing to be greater over extra money in the offering plate or over another soul ransomed into the kingdom of Heaven?

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 17-18; Luke 15:1-10