4 things to KNOW instead of FEEL

4 Pillarsi’ve written quite a bit about how dangerous it is to trust what you feel. (read some here, here, here, and here). our hearts are deceptive. therefore, when faced with a choice between trusting what you feel and trusting what you know…i’m going to try and go with what i know to be true.

today, here are four things i want to know, even though they are sharply contrasting to what i feel. maybe you want to know these things too?

1) i know i need to pray.
prayer has always been a challenge for me. i think some of that stems from my role in ministry: i was always the “official pray-er” at every church and ministry event i attended. maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore?

notice what i wrote there? maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore.

i know i need to pray. i know that communication (both talking and listening) is vital to the development of any relationship. i know God wants to hear from me. i know God has a lot he would like to tell me. i know the discipline of prayer would be good for me…it would force me to slow down and quiet down.

2) i know i need to love others.
my kids. my co-workers. the guests who sit at my tables at Applebee’s. the unbeliever i really like and the Christian i don’t like at all.

no matter who it is or how i feel about them…i know i need to love. not just like. or get along with. or tolerate.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but i don’t feel like i have any of those. it might be just as hard to love those you feel apathetic towards. and i know i need more of the Spirit to do this well. see #1.

3) i know God is close.
it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have one arm full of hot plates of food, the other hand with a check to be dropped, two tables who need drink refills, and the expectations your managers, staff, and guests have for you to be perfect.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have 3 kids screaming at you and each other, 2 kids wrestling on the couch, and 1 kid waking up cranky from a nap with the worst kind of bedhead.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when your bills are past due, your friends ignore you, your dreams abandon you, and your heart is breaking.

he. just. doesn’t. feel. close.

but. i. know. better.

if anything, on my better days, i may be more aware of God’s closeness in the chaos of my full house and full restaurant than i was in ministry. at the very least, i am definitely more aware of my need for his closeness.

4) i know i’m not a big deal.
i think everyone likes being a big deal. our culture makes a big deal out of becoming a big deal.

i felt like a big deal in the previous season of my life. i was leading a growing ministry. i was sought after to speak in lots of churches and at lots of functions. i had successfully funded a book project, partnering with hundreds of people.

i felt like a big deal.

and i let my big deal-ness define  me. (but more on that another day.)

when you think you’re a big deal, you have to make decisions that help you stay a big deal. you don’t make decisions out of faithfulness or humility or for the benefits of others. you make decisions to help you maintain your rock star status.

here is what i know today: i’m not a big deal. i never have been. and that truth is incredibly liberating. it frees me to be a child of God, a husband to Keri, and a father to my gaggle of children. it allows me to be a lowly server at the neighborhood bar and grill.

i wasn’t making much of a lasting splash when i felt like i was a big deal. now that i know i am not a big deal, i receive the grace to try again and hope for a bigger splash for my family, my guests, and for the little corner of the Kingdom in which i reside.

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whose voice do you hear?

i’ve spent a little time writing about the importance of not trusting your heart, but instead trusting what you know. (read about it here, here, and here.)

today, i have had a series of short thoughts on the topic i figured i’d share. here goes:

we all sin.
the Enemy of our souls loves to remind us of all those mistakes.
he is called the Accuser. and that’s what he does.
“you’re a loser.”
“you’re never going to be any better.”
“you’ll never amount to anything.”
“you’ll never move beyond this. and if you do, there will be something else.”
on any given day, you’ll feel the brunt of a hundred accusations slap you in the face.
the woman caught in adultery (john 8) heard those accusations.
“you’re a harlot.”
“you’ll always wear the scarlet letter.”
“you don’t deserve blessings, peace, or life.”
but there stood Jesus, as quiet as a church mouse.
an Advocate.
standing between the accused and her accusers.
with one sentence, the crowd drops their rocks and walks away.
“where are your accusers?” he asks her.
the same question is for us today.
whose voice do we hear?
the voice of the Accuser?
or the voice of the Advocate?
do we listen to what we feel (the life-sucking accusations)?
or do we listen to what we know (the holy abandon)?
as max lucado says, “you are who He says you are.”
there is no longer any condemnation for those who listen and follow the Advocate.
don’t believe what the Accuser wants you to feel.
believe only what the Advocate wants you to know. 

the three most dangerous words

there is a phrase made up of three words that we hear often. usually it’s given to us as advice, often when we are facing a difficult decision. usually these words are offered by well-meaning people to help us find our way.

but these three words are dangerous. oh so dangerous.

as dangerous as saying “walk off cliff.”

the three most dangerous words?

follow. your. heart.

go with your gut. trust your feelings. follow your heart. 

this sounds like good advice. and it makes for good television. there is just one problem:

“The heart is deceitful above all things…”
Jeremiah 17:9

following your heart is like following a used car salesman. it’ll tell you what you want to hear so that you’ll think you’re getting a good deal. and then you’ll be left paying a huge price for the mistake you’ve made. and after that, you’re still stuck with a lemon.

how do you know if you’re following your heart? 

i think the answer is painfully simple: you only believe what you feel. if it feels right, it must be so. if it feels good, do for it. if it feels true, believe it.

danger.

so, what are we to do? if we shouldn’t follow our hearts, which compass should we use? what do we trust?

again, the answer might surprise you. stay tuned.