Feeling Nothing? Welcome to a Life of Faith!

The music was glorious. The congregation was swept up in the joys of Christmastime. Hands were raised. Tears flowed. Yet once again I looked like a person waiting for a root canal. I felt nothing positive or negative. Mentally, I was plagued by guilt that I, a missionary, seemed unmoved by the ancient truths that saved my soul. Since returning to the US I had waited for “something” to happen to me. I wanted God to move on what I perceived was a hardened heart. After months of “waiting for God to move” I was starting to feel like I was waiting in vain. There was no zing, swoosh, or zoom. I heard no sound of a rushing wind. I was praying and still feeling like I was dead as a doornail. Then, God spoke.

“What they are doing is easy”. That was it. That was all He said. I didn’t feel a thing, but the impression of that sentiment was so strong I knew it was Him and I found myself realizing something I already knew to be true: nothing is as it appears to be. People’s upraised hands meant nothing if they were not living a life of faith.

The months rolled by and the time for our return to Papua was at hand. I was at a ministry wives’ retreat and there was a moving altar call that touched the lives of many. Women filled the altar, tears flowed, hankies flew and I found myself once again standing alone in the middle of the friends pinching the bridge of my nose like a woman with a migraine. I kept saying, “God please do something wicked* quick”. (*God speaks Bostonian).

Suddenly, I was standing under the eaves of our house in the remote village of Waipapa. I heard the Lord speak clearly and evenly, “I don’t want you to cry. I don’t want you to weep. I want you to go back”. Then, I opened my eyes and saw I was still in a room full of passionate pastors’ wives and they looked a lot more touched than I felt. I said to the Lord, “Couldn’t I have gotten a little zip with that?” This time He said nothing. I had just had an unemotional vision.

Getting older answers a lot of the questions you have as a young person. I am now glad I didn’t get goosebumps when other people did. The Lord knew what I needed and what would mess me up. A lot of emotion would have been a disaster where I lived, and sadly I saw a lot of people walk away from their calling because the enthusiasm they used as a barometer to confirm God’s will suddenly was not enough to keep them going. Life cannot be maintained at such an emotional level. If a rushing sense of emotion indicates the joy of the Lord, then a lack of it would seem to indicate that the joy of the Lord is not present. In truth, joy is a perspective not a feeling and any internal barometer of God’s will is by definition, egocentric.

The Lord knows our emotions like our bodies, were made to reflect His glory but are corrupted by the fallen world. I don’t need a zing to tell me God’s will when I have His Word. His Word says to preach this gospel “in season and out”, which is a nice way of saying, “When you feel like it and when you don’t”. The Spirit of God promises to lead me into all truth, but not all giddiness. God called me to missions and the longer I have served Him in that capacity the less I have heard affirmation of the call. I know I am called. He impressed it on me and then He stepped back and let me live that call out in faith. I had ‘only’ the Word of God and the Spirit of God to guide me. And if I rely solely on the scriptures and live them just as they are written, I will indeed have a super natural life with the Spirit of God leading me in all truth. I have seen a lot of miracles and I have seen a lot of sorrow. I have had some truly amazing days where I felt incredibly awesome. I have had an equal number of days when I felt in the pits. In between I didn’t feel a whole lot out of the ordinary.That means I am living a very scriptural life.

Yes, you will have your battles with your emotions. Never let your emotions define you or your choices. A heart of faith makes decisions based not on how we feel but on the Word of God. Now be free and live as big as your God.

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The Great “Who Is”

Sundays come and go. We sing to the Nameless “You”. We sing of being ravished by love, wanting to shout it out, jump, freedom (x7), and other nice things that happen to us. We don’t sing using the Name of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor of the Son of God who shed His blood to ransom us back, nor the Holy Spirit who indwells us. We do not sing of the sin from which we are blood-washed, the joy of salvation by the grace of God Incarnate. Often I think we should just rename it “we-ship” since we focus on our feelings, thoughts, reactions and how well it is going for us. Today, a pastor friend expressed her feelings after a morning of service saying, “I was singing like Jesus is my boyfriend”.

I laughed but with a heavy heart. Neither of us were raised with any Bible knowledge but as the Bible says, through the “foolishness of preaching” and the proclamation of Christ in song, we were changed. I’m a 10 years + older than my friend and hymns were not our chosen genre (think Crosby, Stills and Nash for me and she’s so young I don’t know) but as much as we joked about tunes in 9/8 time, we sensed God’s Spirit’s present when the church sang about Jesus, the Lord Almighty, the Maker of the Universe, the Son of God Incarnate who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire. Yes, music has modernized and we are glad for it. But we did not need to stop singing truth. Our God has a Name and His Name still makes my heart soar. We actually can sing “This I Believe” and we should.

NEWSFLASH: WE ARE NOT UNITARIANS

Unitarians have no name for God. They are lovely people who believe that it is possible but not mandatory that there exists a Nameless Great Gender Neutral Someone/thing/force who can’t really be known except as we/you/me/they/he/she/ze/e* perceives said Being. Unitarian optimists hope, in the wishful sense, that when someone dies they go to a better place. Unitarian pessimists just let people live on forever in their hearts. There is no assurance of anything since nothing can be known. They normally meet in very nice landmark churches with rainbow flags out front. They are not more welcoming than we are, but the one thing they firmly believe is that should A Great Who-Is exist then He/She/It welcomes you to that house of faith (or doubt) depending on your faith or faithless orientation.

Their music is as pallid as their belief: God has no name.

Our God Has a Name

Our God has a Name. We should sing it. We should proclaim it. We should shout it from the roof tops. We live in a post-Christian era when people simply cannot be expected to guess their way into the gospel. They don’t need to guess if we spend our services proclaiming Jesus Christ the Son of God. We are called to ascribe worth to Him. It is not a 45 minute sing-a-long led by a coach who tells us how to act like we are blessed. We don’t need to pretend if God is really there. We need to sing the truth and proclaim it clearly and with the joy that truth still resonates within my heart 40 years after I first heard it.

As my friend shared, she spoke of a teen, for whom time on earth would seem quite limited. He came to church for hope. When she asked him the subject of the songs, he replied that he presumed the songs were about God but had no clear idea they were about Jesus. Forty-five minutes of what might have been joyous song-filled proclamation of Christ, gave way to “singing like it was to a boyfriend” and this young man still had no clear hope.

Young People Change This

Each of us is called to reach our generation and train the next. I can’t sing or write like I am 20-something. Someone 20-something can and must create music that sings the unashamed, unabashed truth that Jesus Christ came to save sinners and if He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself. If He is not lifted up we and all who hear us will be bored to numbness. Don’t blame your pastor or worship leader. Fix it. Write songs worthy of the Son of God. Stop rolling the dice with visitors. Stop rolling the dice outside the church with other people’s souls. We are saved by One who deserves that we sing with beauty and power and promise. When a lost person meets you he or she should not leave without hope. May we always be ready to share the only name given among men by which we might be saved: The Name of Jesus.

*ze/e are new alternatives that a famous university is providing so students can choose their own pronouns

(Yes, I will pick up on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit tomorrow. I just had to get this out of my system).