In the video below, Michael shares his concern for people who are left with doubts due to emotional spirituality.
Michael Furlonger shares his thoughts after watching a video by Francis Chan on the topic of genuinely loving Jesus Christ. His great concern is this new emotional spirituality or sentimentalism that has flooded many churches. So Michael took time to discuss what Francis Chan lacked in his teaching.
Make it clear that Michael also didn’t go on a personal attack of Francis Chan. Michael’s main concern was for those who are left with fear and doubt of their faith.
Let’s look at the “agape” or brotherly love of the Bible.Love for fellow Christians and our brothers.No matter the degree of relationship, Christ calls us to have “agape” love for the other person.This means consideration for their best interest, especially their salvation.
Let’s define “brother” as Jesus defined him: our “brother” is the whole world and remember Matt. 22:37 calls for us to, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul tells us, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:12)
I believe that implies we are to yield ourselves to God and bring the “Good News” to others.The “Good News” is salvation through Jesus Christ and for floundering Christians, it is the “recovery” of their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Every step we take is about growing our faith in God and we want our faith to live within us.
James 2:17 warns us, “Faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Carrying the message, the “Good News” is the action or works.
Action feeds our faith; it is evidence of our living faith in God.We have faith in God, so even if witnessing frightens us, we carry the Word in obedience to our Savior.As you carry the message you will grow to care about the salvation of “total strangers” and their spiritual welfare. As you’re caring grows, so grows the character of Christ within you and then other changes begin to take place.
First of all, fear begins to fade.Thankfully, love drives out fear.Fear is the source of anxiety, anger, resentment, fatigue, and often ill health.Fear raises your blood pressure, your hunger response, and blood sugar.As your fear fades, these problems will begin to fade as well.
As your desire to carry the “Good News” grows, your dependence upon God the Holy Spirit grows as well. You depend on God to keep you in His will and you depend on the Holy Spirit for daily guidance.It follows that you will go back to God’s word, the Bible, to learn more about Him.
This is the goal of any service we perform in the name of Jesus.
Not only do we carry the “Good News” on our tongues, but we also carry it within the very example of how we live and serve.In 1 Corinthians 16:14, it says, “Do everything in love.”If your actions are motivated by and performed in love, your brothers will see that very love which is modeled after Jesus.
L—love God first
O—open up to healthy relationships
V—verify your love through works
E—embrace service for others
Luke 8:16-19 tells us, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.Therefore, consider carefully how you listen.”
How you live shows what you believe, you can’t hide it.Let your life show your love and your faith.
“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loath those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try mean and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 19-24
I have spent the last number of months moving through Psalm 139, sharing how precious we are to God; how he loves us and created us, a wonderous creation. I have shared the precious thoughts God holds for those he has made. Then, I come up against Psalm 139: 19-24. What happened here? We have moved from pure love to hate, or so it seems. Is this some sort of contradiction?
We have a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. With us he is warm, friendly, funny, and just a loving dog. We have had him since a pup, and he thinks I am his mommy. We have a loving relationship. But his loyalty also means he is a very protective guard dog. In contrast, if anyone who is not a member of our household comes too close to his mommy, he is upset; ferociously upset. Maybe he even hates.
The first eighteen verses of the Psalm are a major love affair between God and his creation. By now the Psalmist has fallen helplessly in love with God who loves him and thinks about him intimately, all the time. Up to this point it has been just God and him. He now turns his eyes off God and onto the world around him. There he sees evil men who hate God. Therefore, furious indignation ignites David. He uses strong words to these godless evildoers as he stands up to defend the God who loves him.
Is it Okay to Hate?
And he hates what God hates. The intimate relationship between him and God has been intense. He has come to know God, personally. He knows God hates evil and so he too hates it, with righteous hatred.
We have become averse to the word hate. We perceive it is always bad to hate. But sometimes it is okay to hate, it is even the righteous thing to do. We are to hate evil, passionately hate it. When we see evil we ought to pray that God will help those under its evil clutches escape. When we see human trafficking, racism, murder of the innocent, misogyny, child slavery, oppression – the list goes on; it is okay to hate. It is called a righteous hatred. We hate the evil and stand against it and side with the victim and fallen. This hatred is far different than when we lash out at the closest person to us because we had a bad day at the office. It is different that the indication we feel when we are slighted or suffer a minor offence. That is plain old hatred and maybe we need to learn tolerance and forgiveness.
So self-hate towards ourselves, hate towards others for unrighteous reasons is not hate that is acceptable, either by God or in society. It is unrighteous hate. We need to develop a hatred that parallels God’s hatred.
When we think of God’s hatred, we must remember that although God hates evil and evildoers, he still sent Jesus Christ to this world to reconcile us back to Him. “For God demonstrated his love to us, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Are we capable of that kind of righteous hatred while loving ultimately?
The Psalmist is not just some self-righteous snob. He is not arrogant for he recognises that he could also succumb to adopting an evil mindset or acting against God and his creation. Thus, he calls out to God and says, (my words); Lord God, I could fall prey to that too. I pray that you, God, will search my heart and if I have any hint of evil in me, lead me away from it, lead me to the way everlasting.
The Psalmist had a realistic expectation of what his body and mind can do. He knows that all have fallen short of the Glory of God. He knows he needs help from God lest he too become a godless hater.
All scripture is written for our benefit. Our takeaway today is that we, like God, should hate sin, love righteousness, and love the God who loves us.
“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm 139: 17-18
Scientists have no concise number of thoughts a person thinks about in a day. Some will say we think about 12,000 thoughts, most of them useless. Other researchers estimate we think up to 80,000 thoughts per day, again, much of that useless thinking too. But even if we go for the lowest number, thousands of thoughts a day is a good number. Depending on what we are thinking, that is. We can have negative or positive thoughts, and then there are precious thoughts.
We all have negative thoughts from time to time. “I didn’t study hard enough, I’m going to fail this exam,” you might say before walking into the examination room. Or “She doesn’t really like me, she just pretends. I’m not her type.” Negative thoughts.
Sometimes these negative thoughts overwhelm us. They come from all around us. For example, when a loved one, be it a parent or spouse condemns us, puts us down or even abuses us, we start seeing ourselves that way. If we are called stupid, then stupid we become! At least in our minds. Maybe what that person said is true? We start to maximise the negative and minimise the positive. Even if we once thought we had wonderful attributes, they now are subdued, pushed underground.
If we are a child or woman subjected to violence, we develop negative thoughts. Sometimes though, life can be good, but our negative thoughts come from within. And they don’t stop. They become like a run-on sentence, a replay that keeps repeating in our mind until the rut is entrenched in our mind. What happened once or twice now happens repeatedly in our minds. Negative thoughts. They don’t go away. Our thoughts become shrouds over reality.
Positive thoughts can belong to the optimist, and the optimistic mind looks for happiness, health, and positive results in every situation. This optimistic person may have become so because of positive reinforcements in his or her life. Perhaps, there was an encouraging person in their life.
Once in awhile, life is difficult, but for the most part, a person with positive thoughts can look at the future with a smile and rejoice about today and tomorrow. They have made a different groove in their brain, grooves of positive thoughts. It isn’t that they don’t have problems, they do, they just handle them differently. Furthermore, they embrace the challenges of life.
Precious thoughts don’t come from us originally. They come from a Source outside of us, even outside our realm. If we look at the verse above, it says that God’s thoughts towards us are precious, and more than the sands. How many thoughts are those?
Scientists have done an estimate by calculating the number of grains of sand in a teaspoon and then multiplying it by all the beaches and deserts in the world. The rough estimate is seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains. That is a number I cannot even comprehend. I might have been able to handle 80,000 thoughts but in the quintillions. Forget it! I can’t even count that high!
That is how many precious thoughts your Creator thinks about you. Whether you are a man or woman, boy or girl, you are treasured in his sight. So much so that he thinks about you all the time. Whether you are sleeping or awake, God is with you, watching over you, calling you his cherished child. That is how much you are worth to God Almighty.
Now if the God of the universe thinks about you that much, how does that help you move from negative thoughts to positive thoughts? Maybe what man has said about you is wrong? Could you be precious and worthy of love? Maybe you are a wonderful person after all? After all, God thinks precious thoughts about you.
Moving from Negative to Positive Thoughts
If we know the precious thoughts, is it now possible to move from negative thoughts to positive thoughts? It might be worth the try. You see, God says, we love because he first loved us. So maybe we can’t really love ourselves until we know that God loves us. Is that possible?
God isn’t like man. His love isn’t dependent on what others think of you, or what you think of yourself. He doesn’t ask that we be perfect and flawless when we come to him. He takes us just as we are. Why? Because he looks at our potential. He looks at how he formed us, not at what we have become or what we think of ourselves.
If you are abused and broken, come to him, and let him put his healing hand upon you and heal you. Let him love you so you can love yourself. If you have sinned and lived a miserable life, he can cleanse you and make you whole. After all, that is why Jesus came to earth, to reconcile us back to God. No matter what condition you are in, God’s thoughts towards you are precious. No matter what you think of yourself, negative or positive, God has precious thoughts towards you, quintillions of them.
If we know the love of God, can we learn to love ourselves? Can we look at the future with a smile when he turns ashes into beauty? You are loved and wanted by the Almighty, the One who has precious thoughts towards you.
You saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came into being. Psalm 139: 16
Our environment tells us we are just here. Parental abandonment tells us that we are unwanted. Some societies value sons over daughters. Perhaps we are made to believe that we are unwanted and unloved. Scientists say we live and die without purpose, maybe we are just a mass of cells and chemistry, nothing more. We exist but without love, without purpose and without happiness. In fact, life is miserable. Gloom fills our days and we are walking in the valley of darkness. We believe we are unloved, unwanted and without hope. Death may even be sweeter, so suicidal thoughts creep into our lives.
But what if all the above is a lie to rob you of your joy and hope of a fulfilled purpose in life?
There Wasn’t an Accident
Over the years you heard the whispers when people thought you weren’t listening. Or perhaps you have been told directly that you were an afterthought, or an unwanted child. Perhaps due to a violent twist of events, your mother was raped, and you were born nine months later. Or due to parental abandonment, you feel your life is a failure, you are to blame for your parent’s marriage problems. Or perhaps your parents are so consumed in their lives, you feel emotionally abandoned. You feel unloved and unwanted. Depression digs deep you wish you hadn’t been born.
But may I tell you another story?
Imagine an architect who designs a home. Mathematics and straight lines and curves, exact measurements are penned to paper so when it comes time to build, what has been conceptualised can be brought into existence at the construction site. A beautiful edifice evolves. I had the privilege to tour architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania. It is indeed a wonderous structure above a waterfall. Just to hear the water cascading downward is reason to live there.
But he didn’t do it without thought. There was a plan, a blueprint and then the construction material was brought to the site. Then the rubble of bricks, wood and stone took shape as the blueprint was followed and a work of art stood where once was barren ground. The structure was not an accident. It was constructed due to intent, for a purpose.
You Were Perfectly Made
God is your architect. He visualised you before you were even conceived. He saw your incomplete substance in his eyes and then he fashioned you in his mind. God perhaps didn’t use pen and paper for his blueprint, but he wrote it on his heart. His knowledge of us is intentional. His knowledge of us comes from sight, not hearsay. We are not an accident. We were planned and creatively designed by the Almighty. You were born just the way He wanted you to be born, the exact shape and size and with purpose. And in everything he does, love defines his actions and his finished masterpiece.
“That’s hard to believe,” you may say to me. “Look at me, I’m too fat or too skinny. I was born blind, without limbs, look at me, I’m a misfit,” you may yell at me.
You have looked in the mirror. Who can know you better than yourself? You have seen the imperfections. You cringe at what you see, and you believe the world joins the chorus. In fact, they are the ones that started it with their taunts and bullying. Our beauty culture demands perfection and we are not perfect. We try diets, exercise, cosmetics but we see the same body every time we look in the mirror. We become dejected and depressed. “If only I looked like a movie celebrity, I would look beautiful,” we lament.
What the world calls imperfect, God calls beautiful. His design, his blueprint comes with beauty and purpose. How can a man born without limbs have beauty? Yet when you hear Nick Vujucic’s story, it is there.
God looks at the heart of a man or woman, he is most interested in our inner being. Yes, he is concerned about our body too, but he has the whole picture of what we are all about, inside and out. He sees where people can’t see. This should bring comfort that we are whole beings who matter to him. He has no limitations to his love.
You Were Born for a Purpose
We were not born just to exist. While it is true that we live to die, we do not live a purposeless life just drifting through until we are buried never to be resurrected. Science may teach us so, but science doesn’t have all the answers. God does.
All of our days have been ordained. Ordained has two meanings: One is that we are appointed, invested, and/or anointed. All these words imply purpose or position behind the one who does it. For example, if we are appointed to a position, it is expected that we carry out certain functions, have a specific role. Human resources call it a job description. In the second instance, ordained means to decree, to order or command. For example, a nation may decree that certain laws must be followed. People are ordered to follow the laws of the land. Again, we see purpose for no law is given without a positive purpose to it.
And so, all our days have been ordered, or appointed. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Your work was cut out for you even before you were born, while it was only visualised in God’s mind.
“But what must I do,” you cry. “I don’t know my purpose in life. What is wanted of me? I don’t have direction.”
Jesus can answer those questions. When you “abide in Christ”, you will find joy, hope, self-worth, and purpose. God loves you and wants you.
For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139: 13-14
Everyday thousands of girls are born, unwanted. In some countries like India and Pakistan, boys are the preferred gender. A man might divorce his wife because she bore him a son. Girls receive less or no education because of gender discrimination. The list of abuses against women is exhaustive. Many girls grow up wishing they were born boys for they know they would fare better as males. And it isn’t just in Asia or Africa, gender discrimination against females is a worldwide problem.
Many young people, men and women, grow up hating themselves and their bodies because they either feel unwanted or they do not like who they are. They look in the mirror and see only an ugly face staring back at them. Their image is often shaped by an ill-placed insult or demeaning statement by a friend or relative. Perhaps an aunt many years ago said to her chubby-cheeked niece, “My, aren’t you a chubby one!” Although the aunt had intended no harm, the little girl begins to think there is something wrong with her body. She is too fat. This is especially possible in a world that emphasises thinness. Women are supposed to be shaped a certain way, thinly, that is. Soon, the little girl is eating less and develops anorexia. This may seem extreme, but all very possible.
Or maybe you live in a country where there is a strong “beauty culture”. You compare your body and facial feature to the latest Bollywood or Hollywood beauty or fashion model. You fall short. Low self-worth sets in. You wish you had not been born, or if at least, if you could have been born in a different body, you are sure life would be better. You begin to berate yourself.
Now I am going to take you on a bit of a journey; to a grandmother knitting a sweater for her grandchild. Let’s say it’s her granddaughter. She either uses a pattern, chooses the colour carefully, perhaps in a lovely pastel pink because her little granddaughter loves pink. It’s her favourite colour. Or maybe the grandmother is an accomplished craftswoman and makes her own design, a detailed artwork of cables, purls, and knits. She sits in a comfortable chair and love is wrought with every click of the needles, ever stitch knit, love for her granddaughter. The creation is finally complete, and the grandmother wraps the sweater up and gifts it to her granddaughter. A beautiful creation is born swathed in love.
Let’s now look at how God’s design (that is you) happens. The Psalmist says, he was knit together in his mother’s womb. Take now the imagery above of the grandmother and replace it with God. That is how God makes you. He lovingly knits you together in your mother’s womb. Love and beauty poured into one creation. You.
Then the Psalmist goes on to say that he is fearfully and wonderfully made, God’s works are wonderful. You are wonderfully created by the Creator. And the love that was poured into designing you! Unfathomable!
If you feel unloved, unwanted, imperfect, if you despair at how you look, what your gender is, if you feel unworthy of love and attention, look to your Creator. Look to the love he poured into you. Look at his design. You might not be a fashion model, but you are beautiful, you are wonderful.
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! Psalm 139: 8
For some, darkness is an everyday occurrence. We wrestle with demons at night; the wounds and pains that run replay through our mind. Morning dawns with no desire to get up and enjoy a day ahead of us. There is no joy ahead, only the dark gloom of an unwanted day.
You finally climb out of bed because of obligation or duty, but not because of joy. Life goes on, in the same rut. Maybe the children must be fed, work has to be done. Trudge on, trudge on. Let’s make it through the day, even if all you want to do is sit and wish the day gone.
This is not something you can easily snap out of; it’s easier said than done. Depression doesn’t work that way. You feel that there is no one who understands or can help. You are alone in the journey and you prefer alone; as much as your heart cries for someone to love you, you also push others away. This is your battle. Besides, who wants to be with miserable old you anyway?
You cry for help, inside, but laugh on the outside. You pretend life is just fine when it couldn’t be worse. The valley is dark and deep, and heaven is no where in sight. You feel depressed and alone.
But you are not alone. The one who loves you most, who thinks about you continually. He sees all your tears and puts them in his bottle of remembrance, He is the one who knows the number of hairs on your head and sees you and is even with you in your valley of darkness.
In the verse above, it says “if I make my bed in Sheol, he is there with me”. What is Sheol? Sheol is the place of the dead, dark place where spirits of the deceased go. Does it sound a bit like where you are right now?
There, in the depth of darkness, God is with you. Where misery is, so is light, so is love, so is comfort. He is waiting to lift you up, hold your hand and take you to heights unknown. If you call out to him, he hears you. If you reach out your hand, know that he is there, even if you don’t feel it right away.
It might take time to know he is there. That is okay. There is no rush, take your time. Think about what the verse is trying to tell you. If the verse brings you any comfort, cling to it. Read it over and over until it becomes a truth that encourages you and lifts you up. Someday the light will shine, and you will ascend to heights above the valley, maybe even there may be days on a mountain top. Everyone has spells of depression, and you might have a fallback time, but don’t despair; God is with you, even “if you make your bed in Sheol, he is there with you”. Take his hand and he will help you climb up the valley banks again.
What does the Bible say about times that seem to be out of control?
Doesn’t this Corona virus seem to be out of this world type of crazy?
People are to stay in their homes, wear masks and gloves if they have to go out. We are being told how to wash our hands and how to sneeze (into a tissue or our elbow), as if we are ignorant to this simple tasks. We forget. We take life for granted. Now we have to find a NEW awakening to a (?new?) normal.
2 Timothy and the 3rd and 4th chapters are very real words written to us for this day and age. (click on the link to read the whole chapter(s).
Let’s take the time to have a cup of coffee or tea, and think about these words. People are living for their own selves. Seeking money, boasting, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, the law, government …. slandering, haughty, brutal, haters of good, unholy, trailers, deceivers and deniers of Gods power, and the list goes on.
Let’s not be gullible, and think this has become the way of life, or normal. Nothing about the list just written is normal, it’s not good, it’s quite bad. We have to check our hearts, and run to God, seeking his forgiveness. I need to do this every day, even a few times a day. I don’t want to go to bed with shame, guilt or ugliness on my hands, nor in my heart or mind. Jesus forgive me/us.
We have to manifest FAITH.
Faith leads to HOPE.
Hope leads to love.
Let us become a people that will help others. May we teach our children the goodness of God. Good things. Not slander and ungodly attitudes.
When we are persecuted, and we will be, let us endure and not retaliate. Let us be Jesus to this dying world. That is worth repeating. Let us be Jesus to this dying world.
Why? Because if we are CHRISTians, we are like Christ. Christ endured the path to the cross, dying for us. Being there for us as a way to salvation into ETERNITY. The long term affect is life in hell or heaven. Let’s remember that.
We are to preach the WORD of God. The Kingdom is at hand. Let is be a beacon of LIGHT today to this world – they need US NOW!
Be ready to tell of His love in season and out of season. When it’s convenient and non convenient. We are to convince, rebuke, exhort with long suffering and teasing. there will be a time they will not endure sound doctrine (sound familiar?). People are led by their own desires and not listen to sound teaching. Wow. That is from ch. 4, verses 2-5.
God’s Word is real. It is relevant. The lost in this world need to know TRUTH, and sometimes it needs to be convicting, with love and care.
Let us be the Light today. Do not wait. Share the Bible and its FULL instruction, not just part of it.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139: 7
As a child, most of us have, at least, threatened to run away from home. Things don’t go right; either Mom or Dad says you can’t do this or that; or you got disciplined for something that you did wrong. At the not-so-mature age of eight, you make the big announcement, “I’m going to run away from home.” You expect Mom and Dad to crumble and beg you to stay but they don’t. You pack a little bag, make it as far as the end of the yard and head back home. Going out on our own can be a scary thing.
Now I just described a rather normal, mild case of running away. But for some, they wish they could really run away, or maybe they do because life at home is painful. Maybe parents are abusive, neglectful or dysfunctional. Maybe your spouse is violent, controlling and jealously watches your every move. Life is volatile and you just want to escape a harsh dominating overseer. So, you run away, or try to run away. But where do you go? Life gives no easy roads for you.
So when you read the verse above; if you have been watched, dominated and controlled at every moment of your life, the idea of a God that watches over you where you cannot escape his presence, might not fill you with joy. It might even be an unbearable idea.
So when you read the verse above; if you have been watched, dominated and controlled at every moment of your life, the idea of a God that watches over you where you cannot escape his presence, might not fill you with joy. It might even be an unbearable idea.
God is not man. He doesn’t think like man, there is no comparison. A harsh earthly father doesn’t equate to God. A violent controlling husband is not the bridegroom of heaven. They don’t compare.
I would like to share an image from a book in the Bible called Hosea. This image of God embraces me and quietens my heart. God says that even though his child Israel went away from him, he loved him, he called him. It was God that taught him how to walk, took him in his arms and healed him. He gives us an image of a father lifting his child to his cheek and then bending down to feed him. He looked after him with cords of human kindness. All this to a son who wasn’t perfect! Unconditional love. All of us could do with a bit more of that kind of love!
For me, I don’t want to run away from this kind of Spirit. And even if I could, the Psalmist says I can’t flee from it, because it is always present. He knows where I am all the time. Furthermore, if the God that is described in Hosea exists and I believe he does; I want that kind of God with me all the time. I don’t want to go from his Spirit. In fact, I want more of it.