Grace Community Church

eyes on the prize

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Spiritual Numbness

Posted on January 24, 2012 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Following a surgery on my knee, I had a patch of skin which had no feeling. I could run my finger over the exact line where the sensation stopped. The nerve that supplied that area of skin had been cut during the operation. 16 years later, the nerve has healed, and I have normal sensation. But at the time it was the strangest thing. Have you ever had that kind of feeling in your spirit? You apply God’s truth to it and you can’t feel a thing? You bathe it in beautiful music that glorifies Jesus, and it just rolls off? Nothing produces feeling?  How can we escape feelings of numbness? How does God feel about us when we feel dead or paralyzed? How can we regain excitement and passion? I’m (slowly) learning that a good way to address a problem like this is to first find the relevant promises. Then, it’s helpful to attempt to view ourselves from God’s perspective. So, the promises:

Promise: God promises to be found. Jeremiah 29:13-14 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” God does not try to make it hard for us to find him. He puts himself in our way when we search for him. When I play hide and seek with my kids, I have the power to get out of the house, go down the road, and hide in the bush, and they would NEVER find me. But I want them to find me. So I hide to make it fun for them, but if it’s too hard, I give them audible clues so that they will find me. I think that searching for God moves his heart. “Seek and you shall find.” Matthew 7:7. God knows that when we commit to seeking him, our heart changes, and he loves to bless that change. So he asks us to seek.

Promise: If we enjoy God, he will satisfy our heart. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Imagine that all your clothing has been woven out of coarse hair, and you have never worn anything soft or comfortable. You live in a mud house with a dirt floor, and you sleep on a think blanket.  Now imagine a soft, rich, dense and luxuriant cashmere sweater. (I realize this may not resonate with male readers. Just pretend that you’re female for a moment.) Imagine being enveloped in its warmth and richness. Imagine enjoying the way it feels against your skin, and the way you feel valuable and precious because of the sweater. This is the picture in this verse. The Psalmist is saying, “Enjoy God this way. Delight in him. Be at peace in him. Find comfort in him. Luxuriate in him. And he will answer your deep heart desires.”

I don’t want to be critcial, but often our spiritual numbness comes because we focus so much on ourselves. Our heads are down, our thoughts are inward, and our vision of God is vague or nonexistent. Our thoughts are about the friend who made a cutting remark, or the guy who cut you off in traffic.  It's all about how bad my life is.  One of the prescriptions for changing a feeling of deadness is getting our vision fixed on our risen Saviour, Jesus Christ. How does God feel about us? Does our spiritual numbness affect him? I believe it does. While God is sovereign, he is also passionate about us, and our situation affects him. He offers us rest, and a freedom from weariness and overload. Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Sadly, I often completely miss the rest that God has for me because I don’t ask for it, or seek or. I don’t give him the chance to bless me. I keep my deadness to myself.

Finally, sin will make us feel distant from God. Sin damages our relationship. It makes us fearful of God’s punishment, and it obstructs the Holy Spirit from speaking to us. Proverbs 28:9 “God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law.” John 9:31 “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him.” A prayer God will answer is “Lord Jesus, can you show me any sin in my heart, so that I confess it to you, and find freedom and rest in you?” He loves to hear prayers like that.  

Don't let Satan convince you that your numbness is irreversible.  It IS reversible, and Jesus is the most richly living and passionate Person there is.  

...still learning

Pastor Keith

Men, Video Games, and Success

Posted on January 4, 2012 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Why do men and boys find video games so fascinating? Why do males get addicted to games? Is it satisfying some deep need to shoot things? Is real life too boring? Is success in gaming enough to make life worthwhile? Is the best use of one’s life accumulating meaningless points in a make believe space? Do men need video games to help them cope with life’s pressures?

I’ve played a few games, and I’ve watched people play games, and I know a few game addicts, so I know a little about gaming. Gaming is scary because it is such a deadly trap. Gaming tells us men three things that we desperately want to hear:

 

  1. I am a success, not a failure. I am successful without suffering pain. My life is exciting, not boring. From my experience, one of man’s deepest fears is not about relationship. It is not about being unloved, or being alone. It is about being seen as a failure. God gave us a deep need to achieve and accomplish. He made us men to literally change the world. The course of history and human events is supposed to change because a man lived here. Some of us meet this need by success in education, some by acheivement in business, others in sports, others in art, others in life skills. The list is endless.   This drive is at the identity level for a man. Acheivement is about who I am. Therefore, anything that tells us that we are a failure strikes us at a deep level. Gaming answers that deep need. We are successful! We can acheive level X in game X! We can clear the minesweeper bombs in 12 seconds! “I am not a failure!” Games give us a feeling of power. 
  2. I am successful without suffering pain. This is wonderful news for a man. The price of acheivement is so low it is almost unbelievable. A few dollars for a game, or not even that for a free game, and I start feeling triumphant and powerful. And, even if the games are costly (some games cost upwards of $80, plus joysticks, special keyboards, faster computers, monthly subscriptions, etc.  You gamers correct me on these specifics), the price of success is still cheap compared to the struggles of gaining skills, knowledge, and wisdom in real life. 
  3. My life is exciting, not boring. When I game, the adrenalin surges. I have to be on high alert. The game occupies my full attention, and the rest of the world disappears. The excitement comes from risk. I might lose. The unexpected will come at me. An obstacle appears that I didn’t expect. Many of us find real life pretty unexciting. We get up at the same time, see the same people, say the same things, do the same work, sleep in the same bed. Life can become boringly predictable. We men like unpredictability, to a degree. That’s one reason that sports are attract so many male fans. The outcome is unknown. We want something to happen (our team to win), but we have no garauntee that they will, and we like that. Gaming offers the same attraction: new levels, new stories, new conquests, new skills required. And again, as in #2, there is no pain with the outcome, except some momentary disappointment. 

 

I could go on about the dangers of wasting time, addictions, loss of real life perspective and more, but I’m going to leave that for another time. I think the important thing for a gamer to do is to examine his motivations for playing, and ask the Lord if those motivations honour him.

These verses may be helpful: Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? The Message: By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single minded in my pursuit of You; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. Has God posted a road sign that says something about your gaming?

Just one comment about the last question in the introduction: Do men need games to cope with life’s pressures? I’ve heard the "I need to check out" argument used to justify everything from alcohol use to watching TV to playing video games to getting engrossed in a book to getting engrossed in Facebook. The argument is baseless because checking out only provides temporary relief. In fact, in my experience, it makes the problem worse because using the relief valve actually drains the strength and mental energy needed to deal with the pressures. I’ve often felt drained after watching a movie. How does that help!? God promises us that he will “restore our souls” (Psalm 23:3). Show me a video game that can do that!

Still learning….


Pastor Keith

Personal Goals

Posted on November 16, 2011 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Today's Question:  What does God think of personal mission statements and goals?  I've read Stephen Covey's book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and he suggests that we start our journey into effectiveness by writing a personal vision statement.  The idea is that your life is centered on achieving this purpose and vision.  Every day you expect to grow closer to this goal, every year you can look back and mark the signs of improvement.  At first glance it sounds quite humanistic: "I will change me."  Or at worst, it has echoes of the sentiment that "I can do anything I want to do; become anything I want to become."  Frankly, I'm wary of manmade mission statements because of our humanistic tendencies.

But then I am reminded that the Apostle Paul had his own mission statement(s).  "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  (1 Corinthians 2:2)  Or this one, in Acts 20:24 "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God."  

Paul's mission in life was uniquely and totally dedicated to service to the Lord Jesus.  He is at the extreme end of DISregarding his own life in order to fully appropriate the life of Jesus.  In Phillipians 1:21-25 he is arguing with himself about the best use of his life: die and be with Jesus, or stay, and help the people he loved.  He reaches the conclusion that many others have reached when given the choice: stay and help people.   I think he is basing his decision on something deeper than the comparison between eternal bliss and temporary earthly ministry.  He decides to stay because he understands the servanthood of God's love, and that God's love is expressed so well through sacrifice.  The fruit of his continued presence with the people at Phillippi will bring "glory in Christ Jesus" (v. 26), and Paul can't think of any higher goal than that.  

So how do we focus our lives?  What is the purpose of me, or you?  What does a good mission statement look like?  

We know that we are "made in his image" (Genesis 1:27), we are "His craftsmanship" (Ephesians 2:10), and that God has "crowned us with glory and honour" (Psalm 8:5).  Therefore, it seems logical that any consideration of our purpose and value should start with God's ideas about us.  So we ask God, "Why did You make people?  Why are we here?"  God has a purpose for people, and it goes something like this: "I wanted to demonstrate to the universe that there are creatures who will love me with their whole hearts.  So I made people to illustrate in living colour the true possibility of intentional love.  I can make a creature, put my heart in him/her, and they will return love to me of their own free will.  You people are to show the reality of unforced love."  I believe that is the general purpose for our creation.  That is the overarching purpose of people.  How does that relate to you and I?  

A better question might be: "Jesus, why did You make me?"  Since we know that if we seek we will find, I'm sure that God wants to tell us his unique purpose for us.  God will show us his answer.  He doesn't want your life to be wasted.  My experience has been that God will give us answers to the sincere questions that we ask.  And often (or always?) His answer will be truth from the Word of God.  This is the mission He has given to me: "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but it is Christ who lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me."  Galatians 2:20  Often the theme of my walk with God has been dying to my selfish desires, finding life through Jesus, and walking in faith.  Perhaps this isn't the focused mission statement that Stephen Covey envisions.  But it is a powerful motivator for me to remember why I am here, where my life actually comes from, and what God has in store for me.  

...living through Him and learning to know Him,

Pastor Keith


Welcome to the Pastor's Blog

Posted on November 10, 2011 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi, and welcome to my blog.  Yes, this is the Pastor's blog, and you're welcome to it.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it.  On this blog I want to share my thoughts on current issues, as well as stimulating our thinking about God, our Red Lake culture, and following Jesus. I don’t expect to provide answers for everything, although I do hope to raise some really good questions!  Perhaps you can answer my questions for me.  I plan to post every Wednesday, but I’m a little nervous about making that a deadline for myself. So at this point I’ll treat that as a guideline instead of a deadline. (Why are they called DEADlines?)  I hope we have lots of fun together!

Here is a sample of the questions I hope to tackle over the next few weeks:

  • How does God feel about personal vision, goal setting and achievement? 
  • How are the messages that our popular media feeds us affecting us? 
  • Are lots of people lonely in Red Lake? If so, what should we do about it? 
  • How does our culture and mindset differ from other worldviews, and does it matter? 
  • Does God want to do miracles? Today? 
  • Is it necessary to know the original languages of the Bible to clearly interpret it?

Stay tuned…

Living through Him, Pastor Keith