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I just started teaching through the Book of the Revelation. It’s a book that reveals Jesus, hence, “The Revelation”. Chapter one is all about Jesus introducing Himself via a vision to John. John had spent 3 1/2 years with Jesus during His incarnation, but now he was seeing the exalted Christ in all His glory.
Upon seeing this fresh vision of Jesus, we read of John in verse 17, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead”.
Each Sunday, at the end of the sermon, I receive questions via texts, and this last Sunday, someone asked me if verse 17 refers to what has come to be known as “being slain in the Spirit”. That is a conversation for a different time, but it did make me think about why some people pursue spiritual or so called spiritual experiences. I do believe that someone can be overcome by the presence of God, as John was here. Conversely, I also think that church leaders can manipulate desperate people into experiencing something that isn’t from God, but that is soulish, and in some instances, even devilish…but all that is secondary to the main point I want to make.
John didn’t go looking for an overcoming experience with Jesus. He simply encountered Jesus, and then was overcome with the person of Jesus. The experience was from heaven, and was real, and undoubtedly unforgettable, but the main point is this: John didn’t pursue the experience, he experienced Jesus, and an experience followed.
I have been in churches where “so called” spiritual things were happening: people being slain in the Spirit, groups of people speaking in tongues, healings, etc. I believe that some of it was real, but that a lot of it wasn’t. I have been “overcome” by the Spirit, and have been deeply touched by the Holy Spirit, but I was never “looking for a touch”. The experiences were memorable and life changing, but I never read in the Bible that we are to pursue an experience with Jesus, but rather, we are to seek after Jesus.
Some may ask, “Why does it matter”? It does matter.
First, the Bible says to “seek first after the Kingdom of God”. (Matthew 6:33) That is clear.
The Bible says to draw near to God, and He will draw near to you”. (James 4:8) That is clear.
Secondly, it matters because when Believers seek experiences, they can unwittingly be led astray because their focus is off. A Christian can have a legitimate “overwhelming experience” with Jesus, and be radically blessed, but the danger therein is that that same Christian can become an “experience chaser”, and that can be a very slippery slope that leads into unbiblical and even devilish pursuits.
In Acts 18, Simon the Sorcerer saw the Apostles ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit, and offered them money so he could experience what they experienced.
18And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Simon wasn’t seeking after Jesus, he was seeking after an experience, and he was sharply rebuked by Peter.
Why is that some Believers think passing around venomous snakes is a good idea, or even a Biblical idea? I cannot and will not judge their motives. Undoubtedly, some Christians are truly seeking God, but their lack of Biblical discernment leads them to pursue foolish and dangerous pursuits. There are a myriad of other examples, many of which are sanctioned by pastors in pulpits, but that are in no way sanctioned by God in His word.
My biggest concern is this: Both pastors and congregants can easily become people that chase experiences. Pastors hype up their congregations with either sinful or neutral props, words, and environments. The focus becomes chasing the experience, and everything starts revolving around duplicating a previous experience. This is foolish. It is the “tail chasing the dog”.
Pastors, you don’t need to hype up your church into a frenzy or even into a “feel good”. That isn’t the goal. Be a faithful pastor and study to show yourself approved, and then teach the Bible so well that the people have an amazing fresh and powerful revelation of Jesus. Jesus told Peter, “Feed My sheep”. (John 21:17)
Congregants, if you have had some amazing experience with Jesus, that’s fantastic, but we are not told to seek experiences, we are told to seek God. Be a faithful Christian, and seek Jesus. If He wants to give you an “overwhelming experience” then that is up to Him. Your part is to draw close to God.
It seems as though many churches today major in “chasing experiences”, and minor in seeking Jesus. We don’t need “soulish hype”, we need a “spiritual revelation” of the exalted Christ. Check your Bible: the men and women who encountered God were not people looking for an experience, but were people who encountered God, and as a result, had an experience.
We don’t need hype, we need revelation.
With the advent of the internet, blogging, and social networking, much of humanity now has the ability to share their thoughts and feelings almost instantly. That is not news to most of us.
On a humorous and slightly sarcastic note, someone wrote, “Just because you have an internet connection doesn’t mean that you have anything important to say”. I suppose “important” is in the mind of the writer, and not always the reader. I’ll leave that statement alone.
I find myself in a season of life where the words are not coming easily or clearly. There are different kinds of concerns on different fronts. There is instability from the human perspective. I am wondering about the future of certain people and not sure what to think or say.
I am purposely not going into details to try to explain things, because sometimes the words just don’t come. I am learning not to be bothered by that. If you know me, you may know some of what I am talking about, but I am not really looking for people to understand me. Please don’t feel that you need to respond.
It is a strange sensation for us humans to feel things very deeply, but not be able to clearly understand those feelings, or be able to communicate them. If we are fortunate enough to gain some clarity of thought, we then have the challenge of trying to express clearly what we are thinking, and then having the right person to share those thoughts with.
When we are struggling with the issues of life, though there can be people that are sympathetic, some dear people actually make life a bit harder for us. They try too hard to fix things. They give off the cuff advice without thinking. They offer up a quick “prayer of faith” that is more confusing than healing. We can appreciate such intentions, but sometimes we find that we avoid such help.
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Filed under: Blogs
, Fellowship With God
, God's Love
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Promises Of God
, Self Awareness
, Spiritual Joy
Joe Christian: “Pastor Bill, I can’t believe these things are happening to me. What did I do to deserve all this?”
Me: “Joe, in your case, I don’t think you did anything to deserve all this.” (I know Joe’s case) “Joe, you remember that Jesus said, ‘In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.?’ (John 16:33) “Jesus told us that we would have hard times in life, sometimes for no apparent reason. Remember Joe, we live in a world full of sin, and it’s not the world that God designed. It’s a fallen world.”
Joe: “But I thought that God wouldn’t give me more than I could handle. It feels like too much”.
Me: “Joe, God never said He wouldn’t give you more than you could handle. We have confused the meaning of 1 Corinthians 10:13. He allows many things to come into our lives that we can’t handle. That’s why we need Him.”
“Joe, that verse says, ‘No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.'”
“Joe, let’s break it down…”
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I spoke with a dear saint of God recently who is going through a very difficult time in life. This person has been very much wronged as of late, and negative things seem to be piling up one after another.
In the course of our conversation, this person said a couple of things that I often hear.
“I don’t know how much more I can take”. “I’m not handling this well”.
How we view the “handling” of our problems is very interesting to me, and I think we (Christians) get it wrong a lot.
I think we often feel that we aren’t handling things well for the following reasons:
1. We are very emotional, experiencing feelings of anger, resentment, revenge, sadness, despair.
2. We resent that we feel such emotions.
3. On occasions, we say or do things that we regret.
4. We find ourselves complaining to God or to others.
5. We are not ourselves. We are easily distracted, struggle to read our Bibles, and can’t concentrate in prayer. We say things like, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me”.
6. We are tempted to stay away from church or fellowship, because our emotions are depleted, and we can’t stand to talk to one more person.
7. Overall, as Christians, we expect that we ought to be much more in control of our emotions, and not feeling so out of control.
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It is possible to love Jesus and know Him as Savior, yet still have some embarrassment about Him. Our hearts can be divided between our love for Jesus and our fear of being embarrassed. Consider this passage…
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First of all, let me apologize for writing an article on an intense topic (sexual addiction), and then not visiting my own blog much to follow the conversation. In fact, I have yet to thoroughly read all the comments from the previous thread. Sorry about that. I intend to read them. As of this writing, I still don’t have internet at our new house. That should change in the next few days. Oh, the pain of it all. 😉
I want to share a few more thoughts regarding sexual sin amongst Christians.
One of the comments I hear from men who are habitually looking at pornography is that “I can’t help it”, or, I am out of control”. Some would call that “addiction”. That was thoroughly discussed in the comments section in my previous article. However we want to label such habitual behavior is secondary to how we view the actual behavior.
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For the purposes of this article, let’s use the following definitions. (www.dictionary.com)
Panic (noun)- a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals.
Panic (verb)- to affect with panic; terrify and cause to flee or lose self-control.
There is much in the world today that causes Christians great concern. It seems that some Christians are losing their peace, their joy, and their spiritual health. Circumstances are causing some Christians great worry.
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The highest and greatest organization on Earth is Jesus’ Church. That is true because it is designed and built by Him, and shall go on into eternity. Microsoft can’t make that claim, nor can any other great organization you might think of.
Though the Church is the greatest entity on Earth, it has been guilty of many sins. The sins that have most captured my attention are the ones closest to me. I have learned much about the hurts brought on by the Church, even from within the Calvary Chapel movement, of which I am (still) gratefully a part.
I am saddened for those victimized by the Church. I am equally saddened by the decision of many Believers to never return to “organized religion”. It is to those dear saints that I wish to write.
To those still not wanting any part of “organized religion”, I ask that you would bear with me. I know that me being a pastor probably brings a gag reflex to your body, but please, consider what I have to say.
I have tried to show in these previous articles that I at least have a clue of what some of you have been through. I don’t claim to know first hand, and I will not say, “I know how you feel”, because I don’t. I do understand what God’s word says to all who bear the name “Christian”. I come to you based on His words, not mine. I also come because I see what happens when we go our own way, based on our emotions. Been there and done that myself. 🙁
None of us can live by our emotions, whether that emotion is pain, happiness, lust, hate, or kindness. Pain will paralyze us and cause us to sequester ourselves away. Happiness can cause us to throw caution to the wind. Lust that rules us also destroys us. Hate is poison to our souls. Kindness can make us vulnerable to dangerous situations, if not balanced with wisdom.
Those with teenagers understand what an emotionally driven life looks like. Hormones are the tools of Satan. 🙂 Come on Mom and Dad, you know what I am talking about. Teenagers are scary creatures, driven by emotions and positive that they are correct about everything.
We warn our kids about not living by their emotions, but we fall victim to the same snares. Whatever negative consequences we warn our kids about will also come to us. We cannot be emotionally ruled people. We cannot. It’s dangerous. It doesn’t make sense. We would caution everyone we know not to live by their emotions. You know it’s true.
If society were ruled by emotions, we wouldn’t have enough law enforcement to control the chaos. We couldn’t trust anyone to keep his or her word. People would change their minds about everything, simply because they felt like it. Common sense restrains us from stupidity. Laws restrain us from crimes. The Holy Spirit seeks to restrain Christians from foolish decisions.
Emotions can be great, or they can be deadly. We need a higher standard for our decision making.
If church leaders or a pastor has hurt you, you should be mad. You should be very mad. I’m sure that you are mad. I am mad with you, and for you. That is righteous anger.
Chances are that the church leader that hurt you made a bunch of emotional decisions and claimed to be led by God. It doesn’t go well when that happens, does it?
But can you, I, or we, live by the emotions of hurt, anger, a sense of injustice, bitterness, or fear of getting hurt again? No, we can’t. I want to sometimes, but I can’t.
I need to keep coming back to church too, and not just because it’s my paycheck. It is because Christians belong with all God’s people. That’s His idea. You may be meeting with other Believers in a casual setting, and feel that is enough. That you don’t need to come to “Church”.
Chances are good that your group is a hand picked group that thinks and feels just like you do. That is not Body Life; that is simply hands meeting with hands, feet with feet, etc. That might be fellowship, but it’s not Body Life.
You need to be with the Body, the big picture, the whole church. You need to be with people you don’t like, and that bother you. They need you, and you need them. The Body must have ALL the parts present.
Every country song that sings about “looking for love in all the wrong places” illustrates what I am saying. We are fairly intelligent and reasonable creatures UNTIL our emotions take over. We do stuff based on emotions, crash and burn, and then do it again. Someone has rightly said that insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.
I’ll write again soon. I am a pastor, and your brother. Come back and join the family of God. The entire family of God. We need what you have to offer, and you….believe it or not….need us too.
I’ll write again soon…
NOTE- I am presently teaching a series on the Church. Check the sermon notes and look under “Topical”.
2007 was a year of new discoveries for me. I discovered that there was a lot I didn’t understand. The discoveries were not regarding book knowledge, but heart knowledge. The things of life. Let me explain.
In June, I became the “father of the bride”. I was blindsided, even though Sarah and Caleb were engaged for months. Caleb asked me well in advance to court Sarah, and then after many months, asked for her hand in marriage. I wasn’t surprised about what was going on, and I knew how this was going to turn out, but I was completely surprised about my reactions to it all.
As their wedding day approached, I was increasingly struck with thoughts and questions about how well I had done as a father. My only daughter was leaving “me”, and this was it. There wasn’t going to be any “do-overs”. I had raised her to follow Jesus, and now she had the nerve to actually follow Jesus, and to be joined to this young man. I was going to have to trust “this guy” to take care of my Princess. (Caleb is a great guy, you know what I mean) There was nothing to object to, and only joy to be felt. Why then, were my emotions swirling so?
Then in August, I became the “father of the groom”, as our son Chris took Melissa as his bride. Once again, personal reflection took over. What kind of man had I raised Chris to be? Had I been too busy with ministry responsibilities? Had I spent enough time with him? The questions charged at me relentlessly. Again, there would be no do-overs with Chris. He was 21, and becoming a husband. The emotions and self-examination rocked me.
This was it. The day of reckoning. The total sum of my worth as a dad was now going to measured. (I momentarily forgot about Jon. Sorry son!)
My kids were starting their own lives, just like they were supposed to. They were marrying great people. They loved Jesus. I should have been nothing but happy, right?
Well, very naturally, I finally got past the weddings. My emotions stabilized, and I started to settle down. Then it happened.
Chris and Melissa got a dog. His name is Tucker, and he is a beautiful Golden Lab.
I have had three dogs in my life, and they were all high maintenance animals. “Digger” was a Black Lab, and he, well…dug a lot. “Bear” was an 80 lb white Samoyed that ate shoes and was a tick magnet. “Brandy” was a cute little Siberian Husky who was half gopher, dug out under the fence a lot, and had lots of puppies as a result.
Me and dogs were not working well.
I finally swore off dogs, seeing no redeeming purpose for them. They were a waste of time, and the return for the effort put into them was not worth it. Then Tucker came along, and suddenly, I felt like a Grandpa. Where in the world did THAT come from? I had a grandpuppy. What in the world happened to me? I even let him in the house, and he sat around our dinner table. And I liked it! Talk about coming in from left field.
This last December 28 (my birthday), I awoke to a call informing me that my friend Roby Duke had died of a massive heart attack. I was stunned. My parents and sister are still alive, thank God. In my 52 years, I had never lost someone so close. I have lost other friends and family, but this was new. I had an emotional connection with Roby that was eclipsed only by my wife Debbie. I spent the next two days searching online for every picture, every article, every blog tribute, and every video of Roby that I could find. I read and listened and Googled over and over. I tried to step away from my computer, but felt emotionally compelled to keep reading, looking, listening. Was there something I missed? Had anyone posted anything new? What was I hoping to accomplish with all this?
I was supposed to see him in three days, and we were “gonna have fun”. We were gonna do music, then he and Erick Hailstone were going to go to “Never Never” land playing guitars. Then we were gonna eat tacos really late on New Year’s Eve off of the taco trucks downtown. We had a plan.
And then he was gone.
I was angry at him. I cried a lot. I smiled a lot. I sobbed. I was all over the map with my emotions. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
So what? Glad you asked. You should always ask, “so what?”
My purpose for writing all of this is to share an additional discovery with you all.
The discovery is this: You don’t know until you know.
You don’t KNOW until you KNOW.
YOU don’t know until YOU know.
You DON’T know UNTIL you know.
Catch my drift?
It is very easy for us to view and judge the world based upon our own experiences. We determine how people ought to be feeling. We judge their spirituality based upon how we believe we would react to the same situation. We wonder why they can’t get over things, and determine that they should be further along in their emotional lives.
We minimize their life experiences, and measure their lives by our own. We forget that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, uniquely individual. We assume that everyone is like us. They ought to feel like we do, think like we do, and react like we do.
And the crazy insane thing about it is: we are SO sure that we are right.
Of course, that all changes when what they are going through finally comes into our life. Then we really see what we are made of.
Let me confess some things.
I have never, ever been able to relate to things like candle light vigils, flowers and stuffed animals at a makeshift shrine, posters addressed to the deceased, etc. I always thought that that stuff was well, a little extreme.
Now I understand it.
I have never understood what parents went through as the nest was emptying out.
Now I understand it.
I have never known how wrong I could be in judging other people’s reactions to pain sorry, change, loss, etc.
Now I understand it.
One great thing that has come as a result of this year’s discoveries is this: I am a different guy. At least I think so. I certainly hope so.
God has kept His promise to “work all things together for good for those who love God”. (Romans 8:28)
God has taught me a lot through the discoveries of 2007.
I am slowing down a bit now. I am lingering in conversation a bit longer. I am trying harder to look into people’s eyes, and listen more intently. I am trying to love more.
I am trying to not relate with others based upon their feelings for life, their experiences, their reactions, etc. I am trying to listen and understand, and I am trying to simply love people better, regardless if can relate to them at all.
I am revisiting old attitudes that I have had, and repenting of some of them. I am trying to be patient with others who are judging people based upon their limited experiences.
Most of all I am thanking Jesus for stepping into my world. The Bible says that “He was in all ways, temped as we are, and yet without sin”.
I am stuck in my highs and lows. I cannot avoid times of sorrow. I am a man, and stuck in my humanity, good and bad.
But Jesus stepped into MY world, put on flesh, and chose to feel the things I would rather avoid. He did it so that He could be my “Great High Priest”, one who could identify with my weakness, and comfort me.
Some discoveries are things that we go looking for. Other discoveries blindside us.
If you are a Christian, God will use every single one of them for your good and His.
May I encourage you to not be so sure in your judgment of how others ought to be feeling? You probably don’t have all the facts, and you haven’t walked in their shoes. You very possibly don’t now how they feel, and if you had more facts, you would probably change your tune about them.
And, more than anything, …remember that Jesus LOVES them.
He loves you too.