“Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord was speaking about when he said, ‘I must be respected as holy by those who come near me; before all the people I must be given honor.’ “ So Aaron did not say anything about the death of his sons.”
Leviticus 10:3, NCV
We dare not become casual by our contact we have with the Lord. Intimacy is obvious, but it must be done with certain precautions. He asks for us to respond with a sense of holiness. It is vitally important to Him, and it is vital for us. We must honor Him as the One who is holy.
The closer we come, the more significant our response. We are carefully monitored, to see what we will do after we confront the reality of Him. He insists that we should honor Him as ‘holy’. He passionately desires and requests that we do what is appropriate and honorable as we meet Him.
Giving Him honor is critical. It should be the first thought of every man or woman who presses in to know Him. Honoring Him as holy is not regarded as an option to be debated or brought out for consideration. It is essential to follow Him faithfully.
We live with ‘lightning’, and a flamethrower, it seems. He is a tiger who we have grabbed by the tail, we have but a few options. One is too release our hold and let Him go. The second is too hold on to Him with all our strength. He loves those who make the second choice. Grab hold of the Lord Jesus, and hang on for dear life!
“Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”
Isaiah 33:14, NKJV
He is dangerous, but in a good way.
We should anticipate Him coming and disrupting our Sunday services. We need our ushers to hand-out ropes and life-jackets before the service starts. We should expect Him to explode in our congregations, in a whirlwind of holy love. He wants us to expect Him. We must be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is a sense here in Leviticus 10 of something that is needful and mandatory on our parts. Often we will discover that entering and abiding in His presence requires us to honor His holiness. When we do so, we find we will trigger a response from the Lord, which will it turn be a true blessing to our own souls.
The moment you come to realize that only a holy God can make a man godly, you are left with no option but to find God, and to know God, and to let God be God in and through you.
“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
Isaiah 43:1-2, NLT
“YARNELL, Ariz. (AP) — July 1, an Arizona forest fire into an out-of-control inferno that trapped and killed 19 firefighters, nearly all of them members of an elite crew of “hotshots,” authorities said Monday. It was the nation’s biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years.”
“This is as dark a day as I can remember,” Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement. Firefighters have a dangerous job. They put their lives on the line.
The promises here in Isaiah 43 meant to prepare us, and promise us. Fires burn and consume. Floods keep growing and multiplying. Yet in this world full of fires and floods, we have these promises of His presence in the middle of it all. He intends to be right there when things are going very, very wrong.
And dear broken believer, trials and tribulations are a fact of life for us. Life is often full of badness, but my God, we learn. (Oh, how we learn.) You may be struggling now, but we are being made into something wonderful.
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” –1 Peter 4:12
No surprises– burning trials– something strange? Hardly, it’s just the life of a saint, as he travels home to heaven. And isn’t heaven is worth just a little temporary pain? (I walk with a cane, so I’ll be behind you a bit.)
The reality is this, the Isaiah verses declare that there will be floods, and rivers to cross, and fires and flames. These are going to happen. But, the Lord does promise that He will walk with you, as your Companion, and Protector.
“It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort. It’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.” –C.S. Lewis
We are looking to be given comfortable things, naturally easy things. Like lots of money in our bank accounts, bills paid off. A redesigned kitchen would be nice. And one of those huge refrigerators (big enough to hang a cow in.) A new VW Jetta, maybe. But this is not the comfort that God is supplying us.
You may have to shift things in your thinking. But maybe you have already learned this, and might just need a tiny reminder. There is a definite upside to this– the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is standing at your side, and you will know his true comfort and assistance. It is a promise. And it is yours. (But not the VW, most likely).
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,”
Who can understand this tremendous scriptural truth? To be shepherded by him is the ultimate evidence that we are truly loved. To say that he cares for me is a mystery and an astonishment.
Good Shepherd, be patient
And I know you will
There is much confusion
And honestly, there is no peace
Bear me up, hold me close
I’m your wandering lamb
And an obstinate sheep
Good Shepherd, be patient
There are intricacies in my heart
Which never cease to surprise
As I twist myself to the light
Good Shepherd, be patient
Encountering a resistance, a well
That bubbles up within
Ashamed, and yet brazen
Good Shepherd, be patient
An immense glory is waiting
Given freely by one who knows (me)
Golden is my name, secure and safe
Good Shepherd, you are patient
Let him shepherd you. Jesus earnestly wishes that you embrace his care, he stays available 24/7, 365 days a year. When things get really hard, he will come and carry you to green pastures. Ask him to shepherd you today,
From an article in Christianity Today, February 9, 1998
“The only army that shoots its wounded is the Christian army,” said the speaker, a psychologist who had just returned from an overseas ministry trip among missionaries. He summed up the philosophy of the group he worked with as:
1. We don’t have emotional problems. If any emotional difficulties appear to arise, simply deny having them.
2. If we fail to achieve this first ideal and can’t ignore a problem, strive to keep it from family members and never breathe a word of it outside the family.
3. If both of the first two steps fail, we still don’t seek professional help.
I have been a Christian for 50 years, a physician for 29, and a psychiatrist for 15. Over this time I have observed these same attitudes throughout the church—among lay leaders, pastors, priests, charismatics, fundamentalists, and evangelicals alike. I have also found that many not only deny their problems but are intolerant of those with emotional difficulties.
Many judge that others’ emotional problems are the direct result of personal sin. This is a harmful view. At any one time, up to 15 percent of our population is experiencing significant emotional problems. For them our churches need to be sanctuaries of healing, not places where they must hide their wounds.
THE EMOTIONAL-HEALTH GOSPEL
Several years ago my daughter was battling leukemia. While lying in bed in the hospital, she received a letter, which read in part:
Dear Susan, You do not know me personally, but I have seen you in church many times….I have interceded on your behalf and I know the Lord is going to heal you if you just let Him. Do not let Satan steal your life—do not let religious tradition rob you of what Jesus did on the cross—by His stripes we were healed.
The theology behind this letter reminded me of a bumper sticker I once saw: “Health and Prosperity: Your Divine Right.” The letter writer had bought into a “healing in the atonement” theology that most mainstream evangelicals reject.
According to this traditional faith-healing perspective, Christ’s atonement provides healing for the body and mind just as it offers forgiveness of sins for the soul. The writer meant well, but the letter created tremendous turmoil for my daughter. While evangelicals have largely rejected “health and wealth” preaching—that faithful Christians will always prosper physically and financially—many hold to an insidious variation of that prosperity gospel. I call it the “emotional-health gospel.”
The emotional-health gospel assumes that if you have repented of your sins, prayed correctly, and spent adequate time in God’s Word, you will have a sound mind and be free of emotional problems.
Usually the theology behind the emotional-health gospel does not go so far as to locate emotional healing in the Atonement (though some do) but rather to redefine mental illnesses as “spiritual” or as character problems, which the church or the process of sanctification can handle on its own. The problem is, this is a false gospel, one that needlessly adds to the suffering of those already in turmoil.
This prejudice against those with emotional problems can be seen in churches across the nation on any Sunday morning. We pray publicly for the parishioner with cancer or a heart attack or pneumonia. But rarely will we pray publicly for Mary with severe depression, Charles with incapacitating panic attacks, or the minister’s son with schizophrenia. Our silence subtly conveys that these are not acceptable illnesses for Christians to have.
The emotional-health gospel is also communicated by some of our most listened-to leaders. I heard one national speaker make the point that “At the cross you can be made whole. Isaiah said that ‘through his stripes we are healed’ … not of physical suffering, which one day we will experience; we are healed of emotional and spiritual suffering at the cross of Jesus Christ.” In other words, a victorious Christian will be emotionally healthy. This so-called full gospel, which proclaims that healing of the body and mind is provided for all in the Atonement, casts a cruel judgment on the mentally ill.
Two authors widely read in evangelical circles, John MacArthur and Dave Hunt, also propagate views that, while sincerely held, I fear lead us to shoot our wounded. In his book “Beyond Seduction”, Hunt writes, “The average Christian is not even aware that to consult a psychotherapist is much the same as turning oneself over to the priest of any other rival religion,” and, “There is no such thing as a mental illness; it is either a physical problem in the brain (such as a chemical imbalance or nutritional deficiency) or it is a moral or spiritual problem.”
MacArthur, in “Our Sufficiency in Christ”, presents the thesis that “As Christians, we find complete sufficiency in Christ and his provisions for our needs.” While I agree with his abstract principle, I disagree with how he narrows what are the proper “provisions.” A large portion of the book strongly criticizes psychotherapy as one of the “deadly influences that undermine your spiritual life.” He denounces “so-called Christian psychologists and psychiatrists who testified that the Bible alone does not contain sufficient help to meet people’s deepest personal and emotional needs,” and he asserts, “There is no such thing as a ‘psychological problem’ unrelated to spiritual or physical causes.
God supplies divine resources sufficient to meet all those needs completely.” Physically caused emotional problems, he adds, are rare, and referring to those who seek psychological help, he concludes: “Scripture hasn’t failed them—they’ve failed Scripture.”
A PLACE FOR PROFESSIONALS
When adherents of the emotional-health gospel say that every human problem is spiritual at root, they are undeniably right. Just as Adam’s fall in the garden was spiritual in nature, so in a very true sense the answer to every human problem—whether a broken leg or a burdened heart—is to be found in the redeeming work of Christ on the cross. The disease and corruption process set into motion by the Fall affected not only our physical bodies but our emotions as well, and we are just beginning to comprehend the many ways our bodies and minds have been affected by original sin and our fallen nature. Yet the issue is not whether our emotional problems are spiritual or not—all are, at some level—but how best to treat people experiencing these problems.
Many followers of the emotional-health gospel make the point that the church is, or at least should be, the expert in spiritual counseling, and I agree. Appropriate spiritual counseling will resolve issues such as salvation, forgiveness, personal morality, God’s will, the scriptural perspective on divorce, and more. It can also help some emotional difficulties. But many emotional or mental illnesses require more than a church support network can offer.
I know it sounds unscriptural to say that some individuals need more than the church can offer—but if my car needs the transmission replaced, do I expect the church to do it? Or if I break my leg, do I consult my pastor about it? For some reason, when it comes to emotional needs, we think the church should be able to meet them all. It can’t, and it isn’t supposed to.
This is why the emotional-health gospel can do so much harm. People who need help are prevented from seeking it and often made to feel shame for having the problem. Thankfully, more and more people in the Christian community are beginning to realize that some people need this extra help. If professionals and church leaders can recognize the value of each other’s roles, we will make progress in helping the wounded. Forty percent of all individuals who need emotional help seek it first from the church, and some of these will need to be referred to mental-health professionals.
Church leaders should get to know Christian therapists in their communities so they can knowledgeably refer people with persistent emotional problems.
“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.”
Proverbs 27:9, NLT
“Wise words are more valuable than much gold and many rubies.”
I’ve discovered that good counsel invariably comes from a good person.
But its more then that, not everyone can do it. At one time I thought any mature Christian believer had a right to give guidance, but that really wasn’t the case. I also believe that every believer will receive a minimum of a ‘spiritual semester’ in counseling. The Holy Spirit will come to teach you. We have to learn there is wisdom, and there is counseling. And at times, “wise counseling.” Choose your rainy day people carefully. Mark them out beforehand; before things get out of hand.
“From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive.”
Proverbs tells us that giving good advice is as rare as gold or silver. I have met so many people who have an opinion about my problems, but few want to listen. And listening skills are what my counselors need. Job’s friends were the best counselors when they sat quietly in the ashes with him. They were sterling silver until… well, you know what happened next.
I need to unload my issues. Personally, I need someone who has been profoundly depressed and finally stumbled out into the light. It’s not that I don’t love certain believers, but they haven’t been “checked out” on this particular problem. It’s like flying a plane, or operating heavy equipment. If they haven’t suffered, then leave me alone–but, please do pray for me.
I read this somewhere, “Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell– just shut up!” I don’t want to be rude, or ungrateful, but I really need someone who has visited hell on occasion. And especially down this specific corridor. People who have been damaged by life know what I mean.
Often counselors are offering a very small part of the needed wisdom. They must accept this. I place a premium on the counsel of a few dear friends, even though I have hundreds of Christian relationships. I don’t diminish those relationships, but I do know that certain people are not tested on certain problems. This may be simplistic, or a little harsh. But when I had my brain tumor, I did not want my car mechanic to fix me, I wanted a neurosurgeon. And both are wonderful people. I’m fortunate to have them.
If you’re reading this, and you have a mental illness issue that’s starting to escalate, you need to reach out. Realize, that 1 in 70 people, [more or less] are qualified to deal with mental illness. Ask the Holy Spirit for his help in this. He is the Comforter and the Wonderful Counselor. He will direct you, and help you. That is what He does.
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.” –Thomas Fuller
“A saying I heard years ago: ‘It doesn’t matter what you do. Just do something, even if it’s wrong!’ That’s the most stupid counsel I’ve ever heard. Never do what’s wrong! Do nothing until it’s right. Then do it with all your might. That’s wise counsel.” –Chuck Swindoll
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1, NIV
Those of us who examine scripture, are quickly confronted with this very direct concept of absolutely no condemnation for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. God’s own Son has died to bring us home. We are under no condemnation, our lives have been brought under His direction. His grace has done all of this, for us.
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.”
Romans 8:31-33, NLT
There is absolutely nothing that can touch us. There is no condemnation that comes up against us. Our acceptance is total and complete in Christ. A vital faith in His Word has secured our salvation.
We have been made ‘just’, and this is not a clerical mistake!
He has made us right with Him. He is now in direct intervention of the total immensity of my sin. And He is waiting for me to respond.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’
Romans 5:1, NIV
Our faith has a capacity to make us right. As we seek this out, He makes us righteous. This is in spite of our darkness. He intervenes in our darkness to bring us into the light. We stand clean before our Lord.
Anything that could be smeared on us, has been carried by Jesus as sin we gave Him. He carries us on His frame, with all of our darkness and twistedness. He has become evil, so that we might be made good. He is absorbs sin, drawing in all my evil and taking it as His own. Justification, by faith, is His gift to us.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB
What in the world is there to say? What words can verbalize after what has just happened? Let’s just stop, and think a moment. By faith “it is just as I’ve never sinned.” That is markedly good news.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Isa. 43:19, ESV
There is nothing that will increase your strength and your character like the wilderness does. It is God’s gym; he works you out on his equipment. Good things will happen to all who will work-out. The desert becomes a place of separation and resolve. It is not for the faint of heart.
This spiritual geography is also the launching pad for ministries: for Jesus’ public ministry was 40 days in the wilderness — the training for Moses’ powerful leadership of God’s people was 40 years in the desert — and maybe why you are serving your time in the wilderness, right now. It has to be. It is your place for this moment.
“In the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you,as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.'”
Deut. 1:31, ESV
Once in the desert, the Father keeps an “ultra-close-eye” on all his children.
At times of strenuous activity/emotion–he comes and then he carries us. He is exceedingly gentle, and he knows precisely what we need, and he sure doesn’t stint on his grace–he pours it out lavishly.
If you’re in the desert, know that your God is on duty. Nothing that comes to you sneaks past His alert observation and consent. (And after all, if you think about it, the wilderness is His as well.)
We seem to always be on the anvil; in the wilderness where God is shaping us for higher things. But, by faith, it is a rich place to be.
“To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness – especially in the wilderness – you shall love him.”