What God Feels

Yes, God Is Emotional Over You

God feels, and if you ever doubt that, then among the loads of Biblical evidence to the affirmative you should consider, most of all, just look at Jesus. He is the visible image of the invisible God, and what we see in Jesus is a God who has a wide range of emotions. God the Son cried, was angry, expressed wild joyfulness, and felt deep compassion for the hurts and needs of people. Yes, God feels—and he feels quite deeply for you!

The Journey: Mark 8:2

I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat.

Does God have feelings? Does he feel sadness, compassion or hurt for the things that make people cry? Does he ever feel happy and laugh at the funny things people do? Does he swell with pride, brag about his kids, delight when they come for a visit? Does he feel all these emotions over me?

I am on pretty sure Scriptural grounds in answering “yes” to the above questions. Yes, God feels, and among the loads of Biblical evidence to the affirmative, all you have to do is look at Jesus, the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15, NLT), to see that God has a wide range of emotions. God the Son cried, was angry, expressed wild joyfulness, and felt deep compassion for the hurts and needs of people. Yes, God is emotional. And we humans, who were made in the image of God, had to get our emotional capacity from somewhere; we came by it supernaturally.

In the story of Jesus feeding the 4,000, this outstanding miracle arose out of the concern and compassion the Lord had on the people who had been hanging around, listening to his teaching, waiting to be touched, hoping for a miracle, for three days. They were so hungry to encounter God that they had neglected their physical appetites. And since Jesus was about to send them home, he was worried that they would become faint along the way. So he arranged for one of the greatest impromptu lunches of all time, and the crowds left happy and full.

Jesus felt for them—he feels for you, too. So does his Father. And though you might think that is pretty common knowledge, in truth, that is not how most of the rest of the world sees it. You see, for most of our history, man has viewed the universe as dangerous and the gods as hostile. The gods didn’t care about humans and they certainly gave no thought to serving them—humans existed to serve and please the gods, not vice versa.

G.E. Lessing, an 18th century scholar from Germany said if he had one question to ask the gods, it would be, “Is this a friendly universe?” You can be certain that this universe is indeed a friendly, perfectly safe place for you because of your Father’s closeness, care and competence. Jesus said so, and he showed so! Both the Father and the Son teamed up to prove it. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:32,

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

If you ever wonder if Gods feels—either for you, or for the rest of the world—just take another look at that cross where the Father sacrificed his Son. You will never again doubt how much God feels for you. As R.A. Torrey said,

We sometimes fear to bring our troubles to God, because they must seem so small to Him who sits on the circle of the earth. But if they are large enough to vex and endanger our welfare, they are large enough to touch His heart of love.

Now, doesn’t that make you feel better!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, you feel my pain, you know my disappointment, you see my distress. You also swell with joy in my victories, dance with delight over me as your child, and move all of creation to give me the delight of my heart as it is centered in you. Thank you for carrying me close to your heart.

The Greatest Virtue

Jesus spit on his fingers, then touched the tongue of the man with a severe hearing and speech impediment—and healed him! Maybe that’s where many so-called faith healers come up with their crowd-wowing antics. But they miss a key point: Jesus first led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. Jesus never used people for show; he was more interested in their restoration as cherished children of the Heavenly Father than his own ratings as Israel’s messiah. There was no arrogance whatsoever found in Jesus, only humility, the greatest virtue. The next time you see an arrogant religious leader in action, turn off the TV or turn around and walk away. And the next time you’re tempted to think, feel, act or speak in any manner other than true humility, learn a thing or two from Jesus.

The Journey: Mark 7:33-35

Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said … “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!

It would be normal for us to focus on the unusual healing methods Jesus employed to heal this man with deaf ears and tied tongue. What a strange thing—Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears, then apparently, removed them, spit on them and then touched his tongue.

Yikes! I’m glad Jesus wasn’t setting a pattern for praying for the sick today. What Jesus did for this man—or more accurately, how Jesus prayed for this man—has nothing over some of the strange antics and overt showiness of some of today’s so-called faith healers.

But don’t miss the first thing Jesus did when this poor man’s friends brought him to Jesus for prayer: he pulled the man aside so he could minister to him in private. Obviously, Jesus didn’t want his methodology to be the thing the crowd focused on. Nor did he want to turn this man into a sideshow or use him as a trophy that could build a greater following. The Lord never used people in that way, so he simply, quietly healed the man in the most respectful way possible.

So why the weird methods? I’m not really sure, since Jesus could have simply spoken a word and the man would have been healed. But he had his reasons, and the bottom line was a man who had been victimized by this horrible physical bondage was miraculously, fully and gratefully set free.

Nor should we miss the greater message behind this event. It is a message, in fact, that runs throughout the entirety of Mark 7. What is that message? It is that God values “humility”. It is the lack of humility that frames the opening encounter between the religious elite and Jesus. When the scribes and Pharisees criticize Jesus and his disciples for not observing the man-made minutiae of the Jewish Law, Jesus rebukes them for their arrogant, manipulative and abusive misapplication of God’s true law.

On the other hand, it is the presence of humility that moves Jesus to respond to the woman who comes to the Lord to get her daughter delivered from a demon. Jesus initially puts this Syro-Phoenician lady through her paces in order to bring out her faith. But the woman, who is from a much wealthier, more prestigious culture than this simple Galilean’s, humbly makes her request of Jesus, who grants her request.

Then, as we’ve seen with the healing of the deaf man with a speech impediment, Jesus rejects any form of showiness by doing in private what God does—restoring deaf ears and dignity of the human soul.

Nothing turns God off like arrogance. And nothing turns God’s on like humility. That’s because nothing is closer to the core of God’s character than humility, which the Apostle Paul reminds us of in Philippians 2:1-11 through the example of Jesus,

Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

That is why humility is arguably the greatest virtue.

The next time you see an arrogant religious leader in action, turn off the TV or turn around and walk away if you are in their presence. Next time you see a person humbly appeal for help, turn toward and humbly serve them as the Servant would. And the next time you’re tempted to think, feel, act or speak in any manner other than true humility, go back and read Mark 7. And as Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4

In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, reveal any form of pride that may reside in my life and remove it from me. I humble myself before you and ask for your help in exhibiting the attitude of humility exemplified by my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Make me like you, I pray, a servant of the gospel to all.

Don’t Be A Religious Stinker

The Pharisees Were Not All Jews, And They Are Not All Dead

The Pharisees tended to what God said, but not what God intended. By the way, the Pharisees were not all Jews, and they are not all dead! And since God wasn’t impressed with the Pharisees and their pious religiosity, we must remain alert to our own religious rituals being devoid of the relationship he most desires with us. More than anything, God wants what we do with our hands to reflect the love that is in our heart. If that is not true for you, then back up and get your heart right!

The Journey: Mark 7:6-8

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

What stinks? When people, especially spiritual influencers who ought to know better, exalt religious rituals over a real relationship with God, God holds his nose! When a religious activity is devoid of loving obedience, God finds it odious, obnoxious and he is repulsed by both the act and the religious spirit behind it.

That’s what Jesus was dealing with in this story. As he began to preach and minister the Kingdom of God, conflict with the Pharisees, religious leaders and other “stakeholders” in traditional Judaism increased dramatically. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus wasn’t holding to their traditions at all—and Jesus wasn’t intimidated by their pressure to conform.

In this particular conflict, they were upset that his disciples didn’t go through ritual washing before eating. This was just one of many “violations” that upset them. When they questioned Jesus about it, he let loose a holy tirade against their ridiculous traditions. In Divine “dressing down”, we see something of what is truly irksome to God: shallow, hypocritical, spiritually incongruent religiosity. Jeremy Taylor writes,

The Pharisees minded what God spoke, but not what He intended…They were busy in the outward work of the hand, but incurious of the affections and choice of the heart. So God was served in the letter, they did not much inquire into His purpose; and therefore they were curious to wash their hands, but cared not to purify their hearts.

God wasn’t impressed with the Pharisees, nor is he impressed with your rituals; he wants to be in relationship with you. Holding onto tradition for the sake of tradition is meaningless to God; he wants your acts of worship to be authentic. Lips that affirm one thing but a heart that holds to something else is completely odious to God—be very alert to that.

God desires integrity in our behavior, intimacy in our walk with him, and authenticity in our worship practices. Spirituality devoid of integrity, intimacy, and authenticity is even more repulsive to God than people who know they are sinners and don’t try to hide the fact.

Now there is an obvious application to this particular reading: God wants your heart. And he wants the heart you offer him to be pure. But let me suggest a riskier application of this text: Rather than reading them and feeling a sense of spiritual justification, why not read yourself into the story as one of the Pharisees. You see, the longer you are in the faith, the greater the likelihood that you will slip into some of the very practices God found so odious in the religious establishment of Jesus’ day.

Whatever it takes, keep your relationship with God fresh and vital!

Are the activities of your faith born out of ritualistic observance or loving obedience? Remember, God wants what you do with your hands to reflect the love that is in your heart. If that is not true for you, then back up and get your heart right!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, I give you my heart. Please take it, it is all yours.

God’s Therapy Is The Cure For What Ails You

Want To Feel Better? Just Do What Jesus Did!

No matter what heaviness you are feeling today, God’s therapy is the cure for what ails you. If you are down, then marinate in the Father’s compassionate love for you. If you are exhausted, then  honor the Creator’s rhythm of renewal and find rest. If you are suffering, then find someone worse off than you and serve them on God’s behalf. If that’s what Jesus did when he was down, tired and suffering, then you should, too. Just do it, and you will be blessed – and you’ll feel a lot better!

The Journey: Mark 6:34

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, had just been beheaded, and most likely, Jesus was grieving John’s loss when he suggested to his disciples, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31) Of course, both Jesus and his disciples were in an incredibly busy season of ministry and the needs of the crowds were emotionally draining, but add the sorrow of this personal loss to an already demanding situation and you have the perfect storm of spiritual and emotional exhaustion.

Yet when the needy crowds found Jesus in his place of retreat, he responded in a way most of us would find impossible under such an exhausted state. He has compassion on them. He saw their need. He saw their vulnerability—they were like shepherd-less sheep, unprotected, unfed, unguided. So he tapped into a source of inner reserve of grace and “began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34, NLT) Then he performed one of the outstanding miracles of the Bible by feeding “five thousand men and their families” from five loaves of bread and two fish. (Mark 6:41-44, NLT) And, as if he needed to do anything else to prove his deity, Jesus topped it all off by walking on the water. (Mark 6:47-52, NLT)

So what are we to make of all this, other than Jesus was not only a great guy, but without a doubt, God come in the flesh? Let me offer three things for you to consider:

First, Jesus’ compassion for people reveals the heart of God for you. If Jesus could set aside his own emotional grief and physical tiredness to minister to hurting, hungry and helpless people, you can be certain that nothing will get in the way of him coming to your aid, too.

Second, Jesus’ willingness to find a place of retreat to refresh the tired spirits of both he and his disciples is a reminder that you, too, ought to honor the rhythm of renewal the Creator has hardwired into your DNA. If even the Son of God got tired, if even the Creator of the Universe rested from his work on the seventh day, perhaps you’re not so important and indispensable to interrupt your busyness to renew yourself once in a while. Rest is an act of worship that honors your Designer.

Third, Jesus’ willingness to interrupt his grief and take a time out from his time out to minister to hurting people shows that the best therapy for what ails you is to find someone worse off than you and serve them. God never calls you to deny your pain or ignore your woundedness, but at some point, serving others is God’s prescription for our own recovery.

Mark 6:34 ends by saying, “Jesus began teaching them many things.” He can teach you a few things, too!

What a person should do if he felt a “nervous breakdown” coming on? Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for them. (Karl Menninger)

No matter what you are facing today, God’s therapy is the cure for what ails you. So which of these three things that Jesus teaches you do you most need to lean into today? Do you simply need to marinate in God’s compassionate love for you? Do you need to honor the Creator’s rhythm of renewal? Or do you need to find someone worse off than you and do something for them? Whatever God shows you to do, just do it!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, teach me to think, do and be just like Jesus. Help me to live as Jesus would if he were in my place.

Tying God’s Hands

There's One Thing That Limits The Lord

What is the one thing Jesus can’t do? Violate a person’s willful unbelief, that’s what. He will help a person’s humble admission of unbelief but he will not impose his Lordship on someone’s refusal to give him a chance. That’s why it’s best to pray every once in a while, or quite often, “Lord I believe, but help my unbelief.”

The Journey: Mark 6:5-6

And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

This is one of the most amazing texts in the entire Bible. Remember, this Jesus was the second person of the Trinity. He was the visible image of the invisible God. He was the pre-existent one. He was the agent of creation. This very Jesus had raised the dead, healed the sick, delivered the demonized, fed the five thousand, and walked on water. And yet he could do no mighty works in his own town because of the unbelief of the people who knew him.

As unbelievable as that seems to you and me, even Jesus—the one who had seen it all and done it all—was amazed by their unbelief. To say the least, it takes an awful lot to stump Jesus! And yet he was completely stunned by their stubborn unbelief.

What is the one thing Jesus can’t do? Violate a person’s willful unbelief, that’s what. He will help a person’s humble admission of unbelief (Mark 9:14-25), but he will not impose his Lordship on someone’s refusal to give him a chance.

Do you think we sometimes do that with Jesus? We’ve seen his glory; we’ve tasted his goodness; we’ve been touched by his love and grace and power. Yet we still question his right of Lordship over our lives. How? By doubt, worry, fear, depression, anger—engaging in any number of self-medicating, self-destructive acts—overspending, overeating, oversleeping, over-talking, over-sharing, over-indulging, sexually addictive behaviors, substance abuse or by any number of other faithless attitudes and activities.

Why would we surrender to any of those faith-killers when we have beheld the power and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ? I don’t know. Sometimes my own propensity to resist his loving Lordship amazes me.

Here’s what I do know: If we will take an honest look at where we are resisting his right to rule over us—both passively and willfully—and come to him with a humble request that he help our unbelief, even that crack in the door will be enough for him to do his mighty works in our lives. Andrew Murray wrote,

Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, ‘above all that we ask or think’. Each time, before you Intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!

What are the areas of your life where you are still resisting the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Identify them, confess them, and then surrender them to the power of  the cross by asking Jesus to help your unbelief.

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, I expect great things from you. Help my doubt.

Raising The Dead

Do you believe that the dead can be raised? Not just in theory, but in reality, not just in impoverished villages but in the western world? I have read of the dead being raised throughout Christian history, heard missionaries tell stories of the dead being raised among the people whom they serve, and interviewed spiritual leaders who claim to have raised the dead. And I have no doubts whatsoever about the validity of such testimonies. Yet I suspect more pastors and parishioners in American today would question what I have just said than would accept it. But I still believe the dead can be raised. On what basis? Jesus said we would do the works he did, and even greater works—and in my mind, raising the dead certain hovers somewhere near the top.

The Journey: Mark 5:35-36

While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

A few years ago, a young man came to me, asking for prayer that God would give him the faith to raise the dead. It wasn’t a general request, mind you; it was to raise a friend of a friend who had just died.

I faced a moment of awkwardness. I do believe that the dead can be raised. Jesus said we would do the works he did, and even greater works—and in my mind, raising the dead certain hovers somewhere near the top. I have read about the dead being raised throughout the history of Christianity. I have heard missionaries tell stories of the dead being raised on foreign fields. In my church planting work in East Africa, I have interviewed spiritual leaders who have actually raised the dead. In fact, there are reports of the dead being raised in that country to the tune of about one every twenty-four hour period.

While I suspect more Biblical authorities today would question what I have just said than would accept it, I have no doubts whatsoever about the validity of such testimonies. Yet as that sincere young man stood before me with his request, I struggled with how to pray. Did I really believe God could use him to raise the dead? Do I believe that resurrections are for everywhere else but America? Do I believe in it theoretically, but not in reality?

I suspect that the young man, and the others who were engaged in the conversation, sensed my hesitancy. In the seconds that passed, I faced a crisis of belief. But in that moment, the conviction of the Holy Spirit won out, and I said to him, “Yes, I will pray for you. If the dead were raised by New Testament Christians, then we ought to expect that God can use us 21st century American believers to raise the dead too!”

Do you believe that’s possible? Not just in theory, but in reality, right here, right now, in the good ol’ US of A? I completely understand if you hesitate—that’s what I did. Yet Jesus words to Jairus nearly two thousand years ago are for you and me today: Don’t be afraid; only believe.

The question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question. (C.S. Lewis)

Who knows—maybe one of us just crazy enough to believe will actually raise the dead one of these days. I sure hope so! As Jesus said, “Just have faith!”

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, I believe. Help my unbelief. Let me see your miracles—even the dead being raised here in America—in my generation. And if you are willing, use me as a conduit of those miracles.

When Jesus Speaks

Demons Are Removed, Minds Are Restored, Hopes Are Renewed

In the most dramatic fashion, the story of the man delivered from a legion of demons paints a picture of the awful reality of Satanic dominion, and, more importantly, of the matchless, irresistible power of he who is greater than Satan, Jesus! What an encouraging reminder that there is One who speaks and demons flee, who speaks and minds are healed, who speaks and hope is restored, who speaks and a future is birthed where there had been none. You have to love it when Jesus speaks, because life gets set straight!

The Journey: Mark 5:18-19

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.”

What an amazing story this is! A man is in such complete bondage to so many demons that they call themselves “Legion”—which literally meant thousands. This demonized man roams the hills, barking mad, terrorizing the locals, and is so supernaturally strong by the power of Satan that no one can subdue him. Yet with just a word from Jesus, the stunned demonic powers flee and their pitiful victim is free.

You just gotta love it when Jesus speaks, because things happen!

In the most dramatic fashion, this story paints a picture of the awful reality of Satanic dominion, and, more importantly, of the matchless, irresistible power of he who is greater than Satan, Jesus! What an encouraging reminder that there is One who speaks and demons flee, who speaks and minds are healed, who speaks and hope is restored, who speaks and a future is birthed where there had been none.

You just gotta love when Jesus speaks, because life gets set straight!

But that’s not the end of this incredible tale. Jesus actually carries on a conversation with the demons—which was not a pattern he was setting for future deliverance ministries, mind you—and the suddenly evicted hoard of demons request new residence in a herd of pigs. And Jesus obliges them! Poor pigs—why couldn’t it have been cats?

You just gotta love when Jesus speaks, because devils submit!

But wait—there’s more. A man has just been set free from the most awful prison of insanity and hopelessness, so now he wants to give the rest of his life to following and serving this Great Emancipator. However, in a stroke of kindness, Jesus sends him back to his family, which no doubt has long ago given up on their son. Jesus doesn’t parade him around as a trophy of his healing ministry like some so-called “faith healers” would most likely do today, he just quietly sends him back to the ones whose years of tears and hours of prayers will now be rewarded with unbridled joy.

You just gotta love when Jesus speaks, because relationships are restored!

But best of all, Jesus reminds this man—and you and me, by extension—that the real story here is not the sensational encounter with the legion of demons, nor the extraordinary deliverance of the Gadarene demoniac, and not even the dramatic swan dive of the swine off the Galilean cliffs. No, the real story here is how merciful God is. And whether you’re a Gadarene demonic or just a garden-variety sinner posing as a church-going saint, the only and best hope you have is the mercy of God.

Truly, you just just gotta love when Jesus speaks and mercy flows.

I love how Charles Spurgeon put it: “There is mercy with the Lord; this should encourage the miserable to approach Him; this informs the fearful that they need bring nothing to induce Him to bless them; this calls upon backsliders to return to Him; and this is calculated to cheer the tried Christian, under all his troubles and distresses. Remember, mercy is like God, it is infinite and eternal. Mercy is always on the throne. Mercy may be obtained by any sinner.”

Yes, Mercy is forever on the throne, and sinners can obtain it.

Jesus told the man delivered from demons to go home to his family and tell them all that God had done and how merciful he had been. Since God has been both kind and merciful to you, should you do that, too? Tell that to someone today.

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, today I simply praise you for your mercy. My heart and my hands lift heavenward in unending gratitude.