Monday, September 11, 2006

‘You Stand At The ‘Y’: “Do You Really Want To Get Well?”’

Life Is Too Short To Be Wasted Being Mad, Angry & Emotionally Wrecked

This week: ‘You Stand At The ‘Y’: “Do You Really Want To Get Well?”’

This series could be subtitled, ‘How To Stay Off The Jerry Springer Show’.

Each day you and I stand at a “Y” in the road and each day you and me make a decision. Our choice leads us towards something and away from something else. What are the choices?

The choices are to repeat our yesterday that is full of stagnation, burnout, cynicism, anger, pessimism, fear, problems, victim hood, and sometimes just plain apathy and boredom. You can be tied up with straws and think that they’re chains.

The other path yields something to live for, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, wisdom, and goodness.

Take the road that demands the most of you.

This series is all taking the higher road, the path to growth. Specifically we’ll look at these areas: relational formation, our community; It’s about mental formation, our mind; it’s about spiritual formation, our heart; it’s about our missional formation, our will as a church; and it’s about our emotional formation, our experience of feelings.

Today we’ll set the groundwork for the weeks to follow. I want you to get an idea that this theme of being at the ‘Y’ runs throughout Scripture:

Isaiah 38:1-5
About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: "This is what the LORD says: `Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.'" When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, "Remember, O LORD, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you." Then he broke down and wept bitterly. Then this message came to Isaiah from the LORD: "Go back to Hezekiah and tell him, `This is what the LORD, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life…”

Notice the display of emotions. Notice, too, that Hezekiah was allowed to put his things in order. Hezekiah stood at a very decisive ‘Y”. Read the response of Hezekiah in verse 17, "Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins."

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
"Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the LORD your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

"But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.

"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

Here Moses recaps the covenant God has made with His people. He shows them that they stand at a decisive ‘Y’. That choice still holds for us today.

Romans 6:17-18
Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

‘Slaves of sin’ is the left turn on the ‘Y’. ‘Slaves of righteousness’ is the right hand turn.

Galatians 5:16-26
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the Law of Moses.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Notice that much of the two paths mentioned here relate to emotions, especially emotions as they relate our character and being to the world around us. These emotions are the medium that our internal workings are conveyed to the world. It’s hard to say that ‘we’ve got the joy of the Lord inside’ if we’re always kicking the dog when we come home from work!

Reality may not be as it appears on the surface!

Henri Nouwen, the great Catholic writer, once said that all of the effect of his writing came from his vulnerability in the face of life’s issues.

2 Peter 1.3-11
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world's corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God's promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:18
You must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

Growing in grace and knowledge has a relationship to emotional health.

You and I may present ourselves as having it all together or as being spiritually mature, but something is terribly wrong when it oozes out in all the wrong places. People who are emotionally immature demonstrate little ability to process anger, sadness, or hurt. We whine, complain, and distance ourselves from others. We blame and use sarcasm—like little kids do when they don’t get their way. Highly defensive to criticism or differences of opinion, we may expect to be taken care of and often treat people as objects to meet our needs. We talk about people instead of to them. We try to rally support for our position from others rather than seeking truth. In short, we spiritualize dysfunction.

That’s what this series is all about. So many people go through life living in emotional bondage without evening knowing they are stuck. When they became Christ-followers they continue in the same pattern because they have never allowed Jesus to enter into the core of their being and, unfortunately often their fellow Christ-followers have not helped them to grow in their journey to wholeness that Jesus has invited us all on. This happens because we give our mind to Jesus and believe what is taught about him but we relegate our heart and emotions to the therapist’s office and take only our “spiritual” issues to church.

“She is an unfriendly, humorless creature who does not get anything out of life and who, by her mere presence, extinguishes other people’s joy of living.” Albert Einstein describing his wife Mileva in an April 1914 letter

Ever met a Mileva? Ever been a Mileva? Do you want to change that today?

“Emotions form an essential part of life and are the most important building blocks out of which happiness and enjoyment of life are built. To avoid feeling is to avoid life and causes us to lose touch with what really makes us tick. On the other hand, to feel too much and allow those feelings to control our lives has the potential of destroying our lives.” Dr. Frank Green

“Despite all the emphasis today on spiritual formation, church leaders rarely address what spiritual maturity looks like as it relates to emotional health, especially as it relates to how we love other people.” Pete Scazzero

Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.

Emotional health can really only happen within community. Community is:

A place where people feel they belong, where they are welcomed, accepted, and both challenged and encouraged.” David Prior

M. Scott Peck says that there is no adequate one-sentence definition of genuine community because community is something more than the sum of its parts. However, he moves toward defining it when he says,

“If we are going to use the word meaningfully we must restrict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to ‘rejoice together, mourn together,’ and to ‘delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own.’” M. Scott Peck

Peck states the truest characteristics of authentic community: inclusivity, commitment, consensus, realism, contemplation, a safe place, a laboratory for personal disarmament, a group that can fight gracefully, a group of all leaders, and a spirit.

Even in business they’re grasping this idea: "Everything about business comes down to PEOPLE. Where in business can we escape the impact of human care, human creativity, human commitment, human frustration, and human despair? There is no reason for anything in business to exist if it does not serve the needs of people." Bruce Cryer

An American Sociological Review study found that isolation and loneliness was associated with mental and physical illness. Lack of community affects our emotional and spiritual health.

Standing at the ‘Y’ today, I want to propose that you ask yourself a question: “Which rule do I live by, the freedom from which would give me great joy?”

"Part of the reason we hold onto our feelings is we think we're justified. We'd rather be right than free of our pain. It's human nature. We'd rather be right than free of our pain and have what we want." Hale Dwoskin

The church is meant to be the primary vehicle to our emotional and spiritual maturity and wholeness. Spiritual maturity and emotional maturity go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. In fact true spiritual maturity leads to emotional maturity!

Wouldn’t you agree that we spend far too much energy avoiding reality in our relationships because we think we’re doing other people a favor? That we’re caring for them when in reality we’re only caring for ourselves?

John 5:1-17
Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, "Would you like to get well?"

"I can't, sir," the sick man said, "for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me."

Jesus told him, "Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!" Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, "You can't work on the Sabbath! The law doesn't allow you to carry that sleeping mat!" But he replied, "The man who healed me told me, `Pick up your mat and walk.'"

"Who said such a thing as that?" they demanded.

The man didn't know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, "Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you."

So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, "My Father is always working, and so am I."

Jesus sees this man. How many of us would even notice? Aren’t our worlds too busy already? Don’t we have enough on our own plates to see with eyes of compassion?

But Jesus does see him and asks him a question. “Do you want to get well?” Jesus loves questions, and they’re usually very simple but extremely profound.

What is Jesus’ question to you?

What question would put you in touch with your heart?

What kind of question could cut right through the layers of your heart and reveal where you need to change?

The question opens our heart by exposing our areas of pain and illusion. There's no doubt our hearts can be distracted by various illusions -- things we believe to be true but are only a shadow of reality.

Remember that reality may not be as it appears on the surface!

Do you want a great marriage? Do you want to healthy friendships? Do you want to live without needing to hide what you’re really feeling? Do you want set boundaries so that you don’t resent getting yanked around by the expectations of others? Do you want to be free from the pain of your past? Do you want to have authentic relationships? Do you want to get well?

Which way will YOU go at the ‘Y’?

In the book, Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl writes, "Some of these prisoners from Dachau, who yearned so desperately for their freedom, had been held captive so long that, when they were eventually released, they walked out into the sunlight, blinked nervously, and then silently walked back into the familiar darkness of the prisons, to which they had been accustomed for such a long time."

"How? How is that possible?"

And then we hear the question: "Do you want to get well? Do you really want to get well?”


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