Emotions are unreliable beasts

Emotions are dangerous and unreliable beasts.  Relying on them can invoke the most negative of consequences.  Ask any woman (sorry to be hard upon my gender) who on any given day of the month can experience happiness, sadness, crabbiness, and joy all within a matter of minutes simply because of fluctuations in her hormonal state.

Growing up, my mom told me to never make decisions when I was emotional.  When you are tired, hungry, grumpy, or upset, you are more likely to make bad decisions.  That’s because when you make decisions based on emotion, you tend to ignore reality.  You tend to ignore the facts.

Never before have I seen this displayed more clearly than in our present state of world affairs.  In the beginning of the coronavirus panic, it was natural to feel a bit of fear.  Everything was uncertain.  We did not have any facts, and we were being told daily how many people were dying.  If you are constantly bombarded with the threat of death, you will begin to live in a state of fear and panic.

It’s not that way anymore.  We have a ton of facts.  We have research.  We now know how the virus works and what kinds of treatment it responds the best to.

Yet people have been conditioned to remain afraid.  They have been trained, quite effectively I might add, to live in and stay in a state of panic and fear.  The facts do not matter to people.  Fear has become their primary motivating force.

Here you have a virus where on average 99% of the people who get it survive, yet people are completely gripped with fear.  You can show people the actual data being reported from their very own community, yet they remained completely paralyzed with fear.  For example, in my community, only .02% of the entire population have died from the virus, and 99.88% of the population do not even have the virus currently!  Yet people are walking around town looking at others like they are carriers of some deadly plague.  It is completely unreal to me.

They are being ruled by fear and not facts…emotions and not reality

Take for another example: the masking requirements.  In my state, only .15% of the population is confirmed/presumed [emphasis intentionally presumed] to even actively have the virus.  Yet our governor is threatening masking mandates throughout the entire state.  He has spent millions of dollars on fear mongering propaganda to maintain a state of panic among the masses.  Manipulating masses to fear is pure evil, yet people fall for it because they are operating emotionally instead of rationally.

Even though there are numerous studies put out by real experts in the past 20 years who have done real scientific studies that demonstrate the ineffectiveness of masking on healthy people and the potential problems that could arise from healthy people wearing masks, we are constantly being told that we must do things because the “experts” say so.  Yet those experts are always unnamed.  Or we are told the CDC says something is so, and people blindly trust it regardless of the fact that in the beginning they were telling us something very different than they are telling us now.  Has it ever occurred to anyone that the government is using the government to support what it tells you to do?

Emotions are dangerous and unreliable.  By living in certain emotions, like fear for example, you will make decisions that are not grounded in truth and reality.  Living in fear is so dangerous, in fact, that it can leave you opened to being controlled by other people…people who may not have your best interests in mind.

Come out of your emotional stupor and into reality, even if just for a moment.  Examine the facts.  Study them.  Make decisions grounded in what is real.  Stop reacting to the world around you and start acting like a rational human being.  Conditioning can be reversed, but you will have to work at it by educating yourself intentionally with the truth.

A Matter of Conviction

Last night I had a conversation with my husband.  You see, our church is opening back up on Sunday with a long list of state-imposed rules.

We have never been mask wearers, nor do we believe we should be forced to wear masks by anyone.  We believe there are all sorts of reasons, psychological and health-wise, not to wear a mask.  However, our pastor has indicated that even if we are not afraid, he recommends we wear a mask for others, especially when we sing.  It is not mandatory, but it is recommended.

So back to the conversation I had with my husband last night.  I told him that I was really nervous about going to church.

“Nervous about what?” he said.

“Confrontation.” I replied.

“What are you going to be confronted about?” he queried.

“Not wanting to wear a mask and being told it is because I am not being kind” was my reply.

Our conversation moved to other things.  Fast forward to this morning.  My husband opens the day as follows:

“Do you know how I know that Satan is involved in all of this?”

“How?” I responded.

“You are nervous about going to church because everyone is so divided.  Why should you be nervous at all about going to church?”  he responded.  “The devil is involved.”

So this got me to thinking back to the days when I was actively counseling clients.  So many times, I would have clients that came into my office feeling extreme guilt over things that were not sinful.  This guilt would keep them from doing all good things including reaching out to God, being around people, and going to church.  I would have to explain to them the difference between true guilt and false guilt.

This circumstance is no different.

You see, true guilt is when you stand before a holy God sinful because you have broken one of His Commandments.  We are all truly guilty before God because of our sin.

False guilt is when people tell you that you should feel guilty about something because of what they believe or think.

True guilt brings you to repentance and a restored relationship with God.

False guilt keeps you from God because it comes from emotional manipulation and not truth.  It keeps you from people because there is a part of you that almost believes the manipulation.  This is by design.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (English Standard Version) states, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

It is not wrong for me to not want to wear a mask anymore than it is wrong for you to want to wear a mask.  It is a matter of conviction not a matter of sin.

I am going to church today, and Satan is not going to separate me from other believers with emotional manipulation.

The battle belongs to the Lord!

Jumping Off the Cliff

My mom always taught me to ask why.  She taught me to never just accept anything until I had read it or looked into it myself, not from pastors, not from teachers, not from anyone.  Indeed, I have often reflected on I Thessalonians 5:21 (ESV) which says, “Test everything”, and I have done just that in my own life.  I test everything.  I ask questions and think.  I examine what is going on in the present asking questions of the past and reviewing what is known in God’s Word.  The following is a narrative of what I have determined as a result.

The problem with humankind is that the nature of man has not changed since the Fall of Adam.  Sin is still an ever-present force in how a person thinks and how a person behaves.  Man is wicked, and the heart of man not to be trusted (cf. Jeremiah 17:9).  All have sinned (cf. Romans 3:23), and there are none that seek God (cf. Romans 3:11).  Not until one has been regenerated by faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross will this change (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9).

Another problem with humankind is that people are not scholars of human history.  They do not learn from what has happened before.  They do not look into the past for insight into today.  History is rich with wisdom if only we would look into it.  However, most people are “bored” with history and do not think that it is relevant to their own lives.  As a result, they do not realize that history does indeed tend to repeat itself.

So it is no surprise to me that many people do not ask questions.  They tend to blindly trust their fellow man, people who have gotten themselves into some type of leadership or positioned themselves as an expert.  Those leaders and experts tell people to jump.  The people respond, “How high?”, never realizing they’ve been told to jump of a cliff.  They just jump often to their own demise.

You see, people are power hungry.  You know it; I know it.  We have evidence of this all around us.  Being power hungry is part of our sin nature, and it remains unchecked until we are regenerated through Christ.  Even after coming to Christ, people still struggle with power and control.  We want to be the boss of our lives, and we want other people to do what we think they should.  It is a daily battle which some might simply call selfishness.  For any human on the face of this earth to say they do not struggle with wanting some power and control in their lives would be a lie.  We are all selfish.  It is a sin that we must kill daily.

I can tell you that I have often observed that people in authority can be particularly power hungry to the point of almost seeming consumed by it.  They may not have started out that way at first.  They may have started out with the best of intentions, but give them a little taste of power over other people, and bam!  The maintenance of that power becomes a commanding force!  Famous historian, Lord Acton, wrote in a letter in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”  How true that is still today!

Even right now the general populace believes that if a leader or government official tells you to do something, this official is doing it for the good of the people.  I challenge the populace to look back through history.  How often have leaders and governments and people in authority done things for the right reasons?  What if entire people groups could come back from the grave to provide insight?  Ask the Jews under Pharaoh, most of the kings of Israel, and under Hitler.  As the early Christians under the Roman government.  Ask the Cubans under Castro.  Ask the Russians and Chinese under basically every government leader they have had.  Ask the Europeans under centuries of monarchs.  Ask the Africans under all the different types of regimes they have been under.  Ask the children that worked 14 hours days during the Industrial Revolution.  Ask the slaves on the cotton plantations.  I am most certain you can immediately think of other oppressed peoples throughout history.  You do not have to look far back into history at all to discover that there are many bad people who have done bad things to others for nefarious reasons including power and control.

Just looking at the here and now, not thinking about the nature of man since the Fall and the history of this sinful world, you may think that there is no way a person in leadership would take drastic measures to gain and maintain power and control.  However, the nature of man and the patterns of history suggest otherwise.  You may think that so-called experts have your best interests at heart.  However, you have underestimated the power and draw of money and power and prestige and being looked at as an authority.  You have underestimated the pull of the sin nature.  Ultimately, you have underestimated the intent of the principalities and powers of this world (cf. Ephesians 6) in the war for your soul and for supremacy.

What has been will be again because most people are willing to blindly jump off the cliff without questioning why.

Why are People so Afraid?

Why are people so afraid?  It is a very simple answer.  Most people these days are afraid because they choose to be.  (I said most, not all as I know there are certainly extenuating circumstances that can influence these things.)  People are afraid because with every cough, sneeze, and sniffle, they believe they have some life altering illness.  They flock to doctors’ offices with symptoms that this time last year they would have simply treated with at home remedies and over-the-counter medications.  People are afraid because they have bought in to the mass hysteria incited by a media that focuses on the negative.  If it weren’t the coronavirus, it would be something else.  Anytime you focus only on negative things, you will find yourself living in fear, worry, and dread.

People don’t like hearing they are responsible for their emotions.  However, Scripture clearly tells us that what we focus on will become what we are.  What is in our heart will be what comes out of our mouth (cf. Luke 6:45 ESV).  If you are constantly consuming negative, panic-inducing information, you will be panicked.  You will not think clearly.  You will feel the way you think.  You then will act in ways that you might not normally have behaved had you not focused your thinking in such a negative manner.

Believers are instructed not to focus on the negative.  Indeed, we are instructed in Philippians 4:8 (ESV) quite to the contrary:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Why are people so afraid?  They choose to be.  They choose to think about things that are not true.  They choose to think about things that are not honorable.  They choose to think about things that are not just.  They choose to think about things that are not pure.  They choose to think about things that are not lovely.  They choose to think about things that are not commendable.  They choose to think about things that are not excellent.  They choose to think about things that are not worthy of praise.

So what are you thinking about?  What are you feeding your mind with?  What you think about will be how you feel and then how you behave.  It’s your choice!

Train Your Brain: Always be Learning

For several years I have been joking with my children that their impulsivity and bad decision-making is because their frontal lobe is not fully developed.   Anytime they did something that perhaps was not so very wise, I would remind them of this.  The fact is, this wasn’t really a joke at all!

Your prefrontal cortex is part of the frontal lobe of your brain.  Your frontal lobe is responsible for all sorts of things like decision-making and planning, reasoning, personality, social skills, recognizing and regulating emotions, and morality.  The prefrontal cortex is specifically responsible for decision-making, impulsivity, attention, and emotional regulation. This part of your brain does not fully develop until you are in your early twenties.

This slow development of the prefrontal cortex can cause children, teens, and even young adults to make all sorts of bad decisions.  If you are a parent, you probably understand this quite well.  Sleep deprivation and substance use make the problem even worse.  Thus, it is very important to do things that nurture and develop the functioning of the frontal lobe.  Essentially, you have to proactively train the brain!

Believe it or not, training the brain involves regular workouts.  I’m not talking physical workout here but mental workouts.  While regular physical activity is great for the brain, purposeful mental workouts are of utmost importance.  If kids would start training their brains when they are young, this would help improve the functioning of their prefrontal cortex as they age.  Kids aren’t the only ones who can see results from mental workouts though.  Adults can keep their brains in shape too.

What workouts improve the fitness of the prefrontal cortex?  Any activity where you have to evaluate alternatives, make decisions, or solve problems are helpful.  Rather than sitting on the couch engaging in mind-numbing passive behaviors, you need to get out there and do some things that require you to think and to learn.  In other words, always be learning.  Be proactive.  Be purposeful.

What are some ways to train the brain?  Take interesting and challenging classes.  Engage in social interactions.  Play games that involve thinking and strategizing.  Identify interesting problems and work to solve them.  Build and create things.  Play a sport. Read a book.  It does not matter how young or old you are.  You can improve the efficiency of your frontal lobe at any age!  So what are you waiting for?  Train your brain!

 

Just Learn to Love Yourself…Not!

“When we learn to love ourselves, we can love God and others.”

This statement generally sends me off the deep end.  Oh, if you could just love yourself, everything would be wonderful!  If you could just learn to love yourself, you could be right with God and man.

Hogwash!!

Loving ourselves is what gets us into trouble to begin with!  I mean, without realizing that we are sinners in need of a savior…that we are not okay without Christ, and we are in fact dead in our trespasses and sin (cf. Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13)…we are lost.  I know a lot of people who love themselves, and this is why they feel they do not need Christ.  Satan loved himself and thought he could usurp God.  God doesn’t say, “Love yourself first, then you can come to me.”  He says, “You have sinned and fall short of my glory” (cf. Romans 3:23).  He says, “You deserve death for your sin” (Romans 6:23).  He said, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  True love comes from God first and is given to us through Christ.

What if instead of falling for the psychology of the world, we understood who God is and who we are in Christ first?  After all, love comes from God (cf. I John 4:7-9…note that in this passage the love referred to is for others not oneself). I love who I am in Christ because of the work Christ did on my behalf.  I do not love myself.  There is nothing inherent in me that makes me lovable apart from the work Christ has done in my life.  Christ’s righteousness transferred to me is what makes me capable of loving God which in turn makes me able to love others.  I am last on that list if I make the list at all (cf. Philippians 2:3).

Sometimes I think that the study of psychology puts blinders on our eyes so that we are evaluating God’s Word through it as opposed to evaluating psychology by God’s Word.  If Satan can twist things just a little, he can keep more people from truly knowing Christ.  It’s like having a glass of cool clear water which is good to drink and refreshing.  However, if you put just a drop of arsenic in it (something you cannot see which poisons the water), a drink from the glass leads to death.

Let’s not fall for the tricks, the slight adjustments to truth, which are propagated by the spiritual forces of evil (cf. Ephesians 6:12).  Satan has a way of making things that lead to death look good.  Just something to think about.

Into the Mind of a Teenager

Driving to baseball practice one day with  my youngest son, I became curious about what was going on inside his head.  He was very quiet and contemplative.  We had been going through a lot of turmoil due to some pretty severe health problems my husband was experiencing.  Naturally, I thought perhaps my son was thinking, perhaps even worrying, about his father.

“What cha’ thinking about?” I queried, glancing over at my son.

A brief pause ensued. Then in deepening voice came the reply, “Rocks.”

“Rocks!” I exclaimed.  “What are you thinking about rocks for?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I was just thinking about the different kinds of rocks there are,” came the reply.

(Yahoo!  Our geology studies in homeschooling are paying off!)

As I endeavored to take a look into the mind of my teenager, what I had assumed he was thinking about was not the case at all.  He was otherwise preoccupied.

You never know what is going on in a teenager’s mind.  That being said, it doesn’t mean you should not attempt to find out.  Teens need you to.  There could be a world of hurt going on in there that they are not letting anyone know about.  It is important for you to ask though.

You never know when you try to delve into the mind of a teenager what you might find.  You may get some deep, hurt filled information that you can help the teen with.  But then again, you could get nothing but rocks!  Take the time though.  It’s worth it!

Friction

Friction…it sounds like such a troublesome word.  It sounds like something that holds you back or causes you problems.  Friction…

Yet for all the potential issues friction can cause, there are many benefits as well.  Friction can keep you from sliding on the ice.  It can warm you up when you are cold.  Emotionally and in relationships, friction can cause you to learn lessons you might not have otherwise learned had you not experienced it.

My husband is a politician.  Sometimes he votes “no” on things.  He hates to see the people’s money wasted.  Yet this creates a lot of friction with other people who perhaps do not care as much about frivolous spending.  For some reason, when you are the odd man out voting “no” on things, the other politicians think you are the bad guy.  I tell him, “You are the friction that keeps those guys from wastefully spending my tax dollars.  You slow their spending down.”

Naturally, people purposefully avoid things that cause them trouble.  They tend to avoid things that cause friction.  Perhaps, however, friction is not as bad as people might think.

God uses trials in our life as a source of “friction” to create perseverance in His children.  James 1:2-4 (NIV) states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  Friction should be considered joy because it produces perseverance.  Perseverance works in our life to produce maturity and completeness.

Friction…perhaps it is not so troublesome after all.  The results of friction can include not bumping your head on the ground from slipping on ice, being able to keep warm, and maturity.  In fact, even joy can be found with friction if you really take the time to consider it!

Half the Battle is Still Only Half the Battle

There is a thought that knowing you have a problem is half of the battle towards solving that problem.  This may very well be true.  However, the problem is that most people stop at just knowing there is a problem.  Admitting you have a problem and not doing anything about it is like making dinner and not eating it.  What would be the point?

If you know you’re self-centered, but don’t work to try to put others first, you have decided you’re more important than others.  If you quarrel with people easily, but don’t work to try to hear them out, you have decided you are more important than others.  If you hold grudges against other people, but don’t work to practice forgiveness, you have decided you’re more important than others.  If you decided you’re more important than others by your behaviors, you will never change…not even if you admit there is problem.  People tend to prefer themselves to others.  It’s our sinful human nature.

While knowing you have a problem may be half the battle, you still have to do something about the other half of the battle.  You still have to change, or the problem will never be solved.  At the point that you do not change, selfishness reigns.

Control is an Illusion

Control is an illusion.  We like to think that we are in control of what goes on in our lives, but the reality is that we are not completely.  Sure we can decide what color socks we wear and what we eat for breakfast.  However, we don’t decide some of the bigger things in life like when we are born or when we die.  We don’t decide what family we are born into or what in geographical location we come into this world.  We don’t completely decide what people come in and out of our lives.  We can try as hard as we might to get a particular job, yet we may not be able to secure that job.  We don’t get to choose when or if we are hit with a sudden illness, disease, or accident.   In fact, there are many things that we don’t even see or know about that are decided for us.

In Psalm 139:5 (ESV) David talked about how God hemmed him in “behind and before”. In other words, the circumstances that surround our lives are hemmed in behind and before by God.  Nothing that occurs in our lives is a surprise to God even though it may be a shock to us.  God is the God of all creation, and He is in control of what happens here.

This can be hard for people to understand.  They even may get angry about it if you tell them that they really have little control.   After all, we want to know that we are safe and secure.  We want to know that things will go our way.  We work hard to ensure that we feel in control of what is happening and that our lives are ordered the way we intend them to be.

I think of it as our longing for Eden.  When God created Adam, God placed Adam in perfection.  The world around Adam was perfect and Adam’s relationship with God was perfect.  It was built into us to want this perfect world and relationship with God.  However, the Fall of man ruined this for us all.  Now there are a lot of things that are outside of our control for us to worry about.

Anxiety is one way that we try to control the world around us.  I have often found that worry happens when people feel they have no other way to control a situation.  The worry is their way of trying to control those things over which they really have little control.  Think about the kinds of things we tend to worry about:  bad things happening, death, destruction, accidents, illness, and so on.  These things are outside of our control, so we worry about them.   Subconsciously, we feel a little more in control when we worry.

This is why I say that control is an illusion.  You walk through your life thinking things are going the way you planned then…BAM! You get hit with a ton of bricks that you never anticipated.  You lose someone you love.  You lose your job.  You are told you have cancer.  The list could be endless.

The only resolution to this dilemma that I have found is to rest in God.  For God, control is real.  He is sovereign over this world.  Psalm 115:3 (ESV) states, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”  God works all things out according to His will (Ephesians 1:11).  In fact, as part of God’s redemptive plan for His creation, Christ conquered death, the thing we all fear the most!

Control is an illusion…for us.  Control is real for God.  Rest in Him because He truly is our strong fortress.  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2 NIV).