Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 13

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the questions, “What kind of prayer life do you have? How much time do you spend in the Word of God? What are ways you can make your devotional time more meaningful and life-changing? However important that we spend time in prayer and reading the Word, time alone isn’t the only element. What other factors are needed?”

I do not pretend to be an authority on these topics, but I will attempt to answer these questions personally.

First question: What kind of prayer life do you have? I have learned that every breath can be a prayer. I have learned that just because I say “amen” the prayer does not need to end. I talk to God about everything. I ask Him to help me find eternal life while contemplating the themes of life, but when at the grocery store I ask Him to help me find the enchilada seasoning mix. I have learned to not only pray before reading the Bible, I also pray before reading any book. I pray for God to help me find anything that will make me a useful better person. I have also learned that when someone calls and asks you to pray for them, that they want you to pray with them right there on the phone-now. I have learned to pray in restaurant parking lots, Wal-Mart isles, and anywhere I am with people who are asking for prayer. Sure I will pray later, but these people want prayer now.

How much time do you spend in the Word of God? My job as a Bible Instructor requires I spend a lot of time in God’s Word, but that is not why I do it. I want to stay in a relationship with Christ. I haven’t always been a Bible Instructor. For a couple of years, in Fort Worth, Texas I worked at UPS from 3 to 8 AM every morning and then went straight to my day job from 8:30am to 5 or 6pm or later. My schedule tore me away from a lot of things, but I was determined it was not going to tear me away from God. I often hear people say they are too busy to study the Bible and pray, but my attitude was that if life was too hectic to spend time in God’s Word then life had just defeated its purpose! Everything else is meaningless without God so why let it take you away from God? I had my Bible with me all the time. I read it first thing in the morning at 2AM. I had it with me on breaks and lunch hours. I had the Bible on CD in my car. What I would have given to have had it on my cell phone back then like I do now! (Today you can get the Bible and Sabbath School lessons on your cell phone.) I want to share something very important right here. My parents raised us with having family worship every day. If we had guests, they were invited to join us, but we never skipped it. If we were visiting family or friends we had it in their home. I believe my sister and I are still in a relationship with Christ today because of this foundation. I think this is something we need to hear a lot more about. We go on and on about Christian education and good church schools which are great. However, I am convinced that Christian Education often takes credit for what was going on in the home. Fact is, many and I mean many kids who attend Christian schools leave God once they are out of school if they were ever with God at all. The kids who attend church school and stay with Christ were also having family worship like my family was. I do not mean to take away from Christian schools, but we need to give credit where credit is due, and I believe family worship needs to be preached in our church as a necessity even above placing your kids in Christian schools.

What are ways you can make your devotional time more meaningful and life-changing? I have always enjoyed having special places where I meet with God. In Fort Worth I loved going to the Japanese Gardens in the Botanical Gardens. Here I love going to the parks on the river or by the bay. It also becomes more meaningful and life changing when I share the relationship I have with God with others too. I love to write or blog or even just post statuses on Facebook  about what God is teaching me. If you are not as transparent as I am and a little more private, then try just writing in a journal for personal reference. Many Bible apps for your cell phone provide opportunities to make notes.  Even if you don’t want to share what you are learning with the whole world, share with somebody.

However important that we spend time in prayer and reading the Word, time alone isn’t the only element. What other factors are needed?” I remember a while back going door to door, asking people if they wanted Bible studies, and I met a lady who told me she reads four chapters a day. To me, that sounded a little legalistic. I don’t use a stopwatch when spending time with friends and I don’t use one while spending time with God either. Yes, there is a lot to spending time with God, but sometimes it is better to read a small passage and mediate to get the whole meaning, than it is to read several chapters and not comprehend any of it. Sometimes you can just let one phrase soak in. For example, in Genesis 12:3, God tells Abraham “in thee (his seed) shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Take some time and let that soak in. How has every single family in the world from Adam to today been blessed by the seed of Abraham? How have atheist families been blessed? How have families suffering from physical and sexual abuse been blessed? How were families who were born and died in slavery blessed by Abraham’s seed? You will be begin to sense the power of the cross as you let that short phrase really sink in instead of just quickly skimming over it on your quest to read several chapters.

Again another important element is sharing with others. This is where Sabbath School comes in. Small groups are fun and educational too. One on one Bible studies are helpful as well. If you would like to find out how you can become involved in a Sabbath school class, small study group, or one on one Bible studies, please contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net I would love to hear from you!

Jesus Wept: The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 1

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area and home of the 2004 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

These are my thoughts on emotions and principles as we begin our study on this quarter’s Adult Sabbath School lessons. You can download the Adult Sabbath School Lessons onto your android phone here.

” ‘I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy’ ” John 16:20

Hockey is not my favorite sport, but I have been to a few games. I have seen players skating at full speed, miss the puck and slam themselves right into the wall. Some get hurt doing that, but in a few minutes they are right back at it. I am thinking, after I slammed my body into a wall like that, I would be more careful next time. Maybe don’t skate so fast. Maybe don’t try so hard, after all, you could get hurt. While a hockey player’s emotions and passion for the game will not allow him to do anything less than slam into the wall and also the ice at full speed, off the ice we have learned not to let our emotions and passions get the best of us. After getting hurt, we metaphorically skate a little more carefully around the wall and on the ice.

I have talked to people who have all kinds of pets at their home who have told me, they prefer pets over people, because their pets won’t hurt them. At least not emotionally, which is the worst kind of pain there is. People who have been both physically and emotionally abused say they handle the physical pain a lot better than the emotional pain. And to the brain, pain is pain regardless if it is physical or emotional. I have had Bible studies with teenage boys who play games with their electronic gadget games all the time. Some people find their obsession with these electronic games as being anti-social, but I have found over time, that the boys are not anti-social. They just have been hurt many times by people and so they stick to things that won’t hurt them like people will.

While our emotions open the way for grief and sorrow, we are also taught to be wary of emotions. People tell us not to sign any important documents while in an emotional state, just like they say not to drink and drive. It’s just a bad combination. We are told that love is not an emotion but a principle. That is part true and part false. Love is a principle, yes. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells husbands to love their wives, during a time when a lot of marriages were arranged by the parents. There may not have been any emotions or butterflies in their stomachs when they saw their wives. Their wives may not sweep them off their feet, but they were still to love them by following the principle of love which is others first. In order to love his wife, a man needed to put her needs above his own and the same is true today. Love is a principle which is others first.

In our church today we see a lot of emotionalism. Some are concerned that the principles of the church are being sacrificed for all this so called emotional worship. After all, the church has principles and we are not just all about emotions. We have seen drunkards respond to an altar call, sobbing while the music plays, and then the next day they are back on the bottle. We remind them that the church was built on principles and not emotions. Was it? Really? While Jesus was a man of principle He was also very emotional. He cried when He saw others weeping. He cried out over a city He was longing to save. He was emotionally distressed in His own personal Gethsemane. They don’t call it the passion week for nothing. Jesus was a man of principle and a man of emotions.

Consider this, a man and woman can be married and practice all the principles of love, such as putting the other person’s needs before your own. However, that principle alone is not going to produce anything. Now get a husband and wife to add a little emotion and passion to the principle and they will reproduce! Do you think, that maybe, the same God who planned it all out for a husband and wife to combine their passions and emotions with their principles in order to make new babies, also planned it out for His church to combine emotions and passion with our church principles in order to make new baby Christians who will also grow up in Christ to make more baby Christians?

In hockey there are skills and rules and principles that must be learned for a player to ever finally win the Stanley Cup. He can’t just skate his heart out on the ice, crashing into the wall all the time and expect to win. At the same time, he will never win the Stanley Cup without more than a few scrapes and bruises. He has to learn skills and principles, and protect his body, while still throwing his emotions and passions all over the ice to be slammed against the wall and crashed on the ice. So in the church and in life, we must follow principle, we must follow the rules, but we won’t get anywhere trying to protect and hide our emotions and passions all the time. You will never see me on a hockey rink, but I am determined to live my life the way Wayne Gretzky played hockey. I am headed full speed towards the puck or the wall or whatever is ahead. When I fall and get hurt I am getting back up and going full speed again, just like I have never been hurt. I am playing for something much greater than the Stanley Cup! I am so glad I have a Jesus who lives and loves me the way some people play hockey!