Monday, September 26, 2016
Last week I gave you the first 3 of 7 reasons for spiritual vertigo. Here are the remaining 4 things that can cause us to struggle with spiritual vertigo.
4. Gratitude for past blessings. Oz Guinness says that faith stands between the no longer and the not yet. He claims there is a tension between the two. We look at the no longer and exercise gratitude for what God has done in our lives. As we are grateful, faith builds within our hearts and we are able to move forward to the not yet. For example, in the Old Testament, the problem of the nation of Israel was that they never stopped to bask in the miracles performed by God—the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna falling from heaven—did nothing to increase their faith in God. They let each miracle stand on its own, never connecting the dots between the no longer and the not yet. I challenge you to reach back and reflect on God’s blessings in your past. It will help you overcome your spiritual vertigo.
5. Our past performance. Oftentimes, we feel God will not deliver because we do not deserve it. Scripture teaches that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Often, when we don’t feel blessed we think it is our fault—we are not living close enough or holy enough. If it’s my fault, why should God help? Please know that God loved you so much that Christ came to die for your sins. You may think, “Yes but that was before I became a Christian. What about the sins I have committed since I became a believer?” When Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago, all your sins were in the future. God says, “I will remember your sins (against you) no more.” God erased your past at the cross—you need to put it behind you as well.
6. Spiritual warfare. Our faith will always face opposition. Our greatest battles are with Satan. He tempts us to sin, steals God’s Word from our hearts, places guilt over forgiven sins, leads us into sinful habits in our lives, and discourages us. Satan’s battleground is your mind. That’s why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The key to battling Satan is to fill your mind with Scripture and resist his thoughts of defeat, discouragement, and despair the moment they enter your mind.
7. Loss of hope. In Scripture, hope is not merely wishful thinking; rather it is trusting in the promises of God. Biblical hope is knowing God has something for you in the future and you are looking forward to receiving it. Sometimes we struggle because we have allowed failure, delays, and trials to discourage us—circumstances surrounding us seem hopeless. In his book, When the Gods are Silent, Kornelis Miscotte wrote about the horrors of Auschwitz. In it, he poses the chilling question, “One can still believe in the God who permitted to happen what did happen, but can one still speak to Him?” There is still hope. Hope that God will do His will in your life; hope that God will rescue you from bondage, that He will answer your prayers; that He will deliver. The greatest gold strike in history was discovered two inches from where the last man stopped digging. God loves you and He does have a plan for you. Don’t give up!
Monday, September 19, 2016
We are in a struggling world. We witness attacks in Orlando, Dallas, Paris, and London and we fear for our safety. We fear for our jobs. We are anxious about the influence of friends on our children. Often our hearts break with the disappointments in life. Our hearts are filled with doubt and our faith is challenged. Will God intervene? Does He still care? We are experiencing spiritual vertigo.
Physical vertigo is a condition where your brain cannot process what your eyes see. Spiritual vertigo happens when our faith cannot process what we see, hear, or experience. We become spiritually disconnected, off balance, and doubt our faith in God. What are the causes of spiritual vertigo?
1. Self-dependence. We have been taught to believe in ourselves, but what happens when the circumstances of life go beyond our talent, intellect or skills? We turn to God, but we are not in the habit of depending on Him. How do we pray? How do we express faith in Him in a crisis? When our children face problems or trouble, when finances are tight, when we face physical afflictions, it is difficult for us to change gears. It is foreign to us to depend on Christ. The key is to humble ourselves before the Lord. Colossians 2:6 says, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” How did we receive Christ? We humbled ourselves at the cross, realizing that we can do nothing to save ourselves. We depend totally on Christ to save us from our sins. Now, as believers, we need to humble ourselves at the feet of Christ every day, depend on Him and receive daily grace.
2. Expectations of God. We have a tendency to map out our lives, at least subconsciously. If life deviates from what we expect, we perceive God has let us down. When we have this outlook we are really saying that we know what is best for our lives. We have dreams and plans of living a certain lifestyle—a good job, plenty of money, ample free time, happy children, good health, and success. When our plans do not work out, we think God has let us down. The question is—who is in charge of your life? Who is really on the throne?
3. Misunderstanding faith. Archie Bunker once said, “Faith is believing what nobody would believe if it were not in the Bible.” When tragedy strikes our friends tell us, “Just trust God.” What does that mean? Have your friends ever experienced real problems? Sometimes we think that if we want something enough and just believe, God will deliver. It’s like we are treating God as a genie and how much we desire is the criteria for receiving. Faith, however, is simply trusting God and His Word. If God has not revealed anything through His Word or in your heart, there is no promise to claim. In order to know God’s promises and have our faith grown, we must study the Bible. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) then claim the promises of God.
Join me next week for the remaining four reasons we struggle with spiritual vertigo.
Friday, September 2, 2016
I will be signing copies of my new book, Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo, at LifeWay Christian Bookstore in Orlando...stop by and chat with me!
Follow this link for more information:
Saturday, September 10 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m..
Lifeway Christian Bookstore
2522 E Colonial Drive, Orlando
Follow this link for more information:
Sometimes doubt, fear and disappointment cause Christians to lose confidence in God’s ability to work through their faith. In Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo, Dwayne Mercer teaches how to move past disappointments and see them through God’s eyes. Mercer uses biblical examples of faith to provide practical tools for the disheartened… this book will show you how to live courageously in the light of God’s character.
Dr.Dwayne Mercer is the Lead Pastor at CrossLife Church in Oviedo, FL. In addition to Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo he has published a book on prayer, When God Says Yes. Mercer is a contributing author to several books including The Pathway to Discipleship, Living the Life, and Walk through the Word, and has written numerous articles for magazines and periodicals.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Forty years ago, theologian Francis Schaeffer, said, “Whatever the world is doing today, the church will be doing seven years from now.” This statement speaks to our culture as though it were written yesterday. These are changing times. That which was considered wrong a few years ago is accepted and applauded today. Many Christians say we need to love the sinner and hate the sin. Others say we need to love the sinner and hate our own sin. However, those pithy statements do not deal with the serious matter of how Christians are to respond to the changing values in their world. I believe there is a biblical, four-step response.
A. Stand in truth. Surrendering truth for peace or to avoid confrontation is compromising our witness. If people do not act in truth, they are at a disadvantage in life. We are to be the bearers of that truth. Trying to change the meaning of Scripture may help people feel better in the moment, but, in the long run it will hurt the ones who are walking in sin. We owe it to those we love to tell them the truth.
B. Offer grace. Jesus came to us in truth and grace (John 1:17). When we look down on others because of their sin, we are saying that we somehow contributed to our own salvation. We come to think, “Jesus died for me but it really helps that I am a good person, born to a good family, and not involved in great sin.” When we operate in grace, we are acknowledging our own sin and our need for a Savior. This helps us to relate to others in that same grace. Grace, however, is not about ignoring sin. Grace in the New Testament does not change the way God feels about sin, only how He deals with it.
C. Expect rejection. As Christians we will be rejected by those who feel we are judgmental. We will be called intolerant and be viewed as unreasonable or foolish. We must be prepared for this rejection or persecution.
D. Endure. We must be willing to be misunderstood. Jesus was misunderstood and He was killed for it. But in His death He brought forth redemption. We may be persecuted and suffer for our faith, but we must have faith that God is going to bring about redemption through our circumstances. All of us want to be loved, but if being loved or accepted becomes more important than our ability to witness, we will never be able to lead people in our culture to the truth.
I hope these thoughts help.
What do you think?
Friday, August 5, 2016
A remarkable thing happened at the 1968 Olympics. While competing in the marathon in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania suffered cramps due to the high altitude of the city. At the nineteen-kilometer point, during the forty-two-kilometer race, Akhwari fell after being hit by some other runners while jockeying for position, cutting and dislocating his knee and severely wounding his shoulder as he hit the hard pavement. But Akhwari continued running and finished the race in great pain—and in last place.
When he finally crossed the finish line, a full hour after the winner, a cheer came from the small crowd that remained. When later interviewed, a reporter asked him, “Why did you continue? You were hurt. No one would have blamed you if you had quit.” Akhwari replied, “My country did not send me five thousand miles to start the race. They sent me five thousand miles to finish the race.”
There is something admirable and special about a person who refuses to quit amidst great adversity. We admire someone who keeps getting up after falling down time and time again. All of us go through circumstances in our lives when we’re tempted to quit, and the Akhwaris in life inspire us to keep going. We become tempted to give up in tough times because we feel hopeless. We think quitting would be the greatest feeling we could imagine, because it would rescue us from our stress and discouragement.
However, there is a high cost for quitting before our race is over.
1. Quitting damages our faith. Faith grows when we have to use it. Quitting causes us to give up before our faith can develop and produce.
2. Quitting stunts our spiritual growth. Romans 5:3-5 teaches that the trials we experience help us to mature in Christ.
3. Quitting robs God. It robs God of His glory in the world. We demonstrate with our life that there is little benefit in trusting Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
4. Quitting keeps us from receiving God’s blessing. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)
So, how do we endure in the midst of adversity?
First, we must look behind us—remembering what God has done in our past. Hebrews 11 is filled with testimonies of those who faced trials and endured. Nothing builds faith faster than to remember with gratitude what God has already done for us.
Then we must look up. Hebrews 12:2 says, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Keep looking to Jesus who has all power to help in every situation.
Finally, we must look ahead. Hebrews 12:3 teaches, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Once we remember what God has done in our past, we then make Jesus the focal point of our present, so that we can more easily place our hope in Him for the future.
Remember, God did not send us here to start the race—but to finish the race!
Wanting more information about endurance? Read my new book Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
As I have grown to understand the ways of God, I’ve found that my greatest personal battles have been with Satan. I feel the warfare when I prepare a sermon. I feel the pressure when I pray or try to minister to someone. When I face spiritual vertigo, I engage in spiritual warfare. Satan is trying to throw me off my spiritual balance.
When we think of the devil, we often think of a little red man with horns and a pitchfork. Those of the Western world generally feel reluctant when they talk about evil and Satan. If a person’s head spins around and he vomits all over the place, we might say that it’s demonic. Otherwise, we find talk of demons and devils uncomfortable and, at times, offensive.
Mass murderers and terrorism are on the rise in the world. Most recently, the killing of 5 policemen in Dallas and the eighty-six killed in Nice. These attacks followed shootings in schools, movie theaters, and the Boston Marathon bombing. We usually place the blame on bad parenting, social rejection or mental illness.
In his book The Death of Satan, Andrew Delbanco—a secular liberal—states that our society hates the word “evil” because it places a value judgment on someone else. However, he says, a gulf is opening in our intellectual center enabling us to explain evil in emotional and sociological terms.
In the movie, Silence of the Lambs, Officer Clarice Starling meets serial killer Hannibal Lecter for the first time.
Starling: “I think you can provide some insight and advance this study.
Lecter: “And what possible reason could I have to do that?
Lecter: “About what?”
Starling: “About why you’re here. About what happened to you?”
Lecter: “Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You’ve got everyone in moral dignity pants—nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil? Am I evil, Officer Starling?”
Our society has difficulty answering the monster’s question. The challenge is to be consistent in our thinking. Do we believe in a supernatural God? If so, why can’t we, in turn, believe in a supernatural evil?
Spiritual warfare is not only real in the church and our personal lives, but also real on a national and world scale. Are the terrorists who attack us, or the criminals who kill us, any different than Hannibal Lecter? Terrorism and murder may be the face of evil, but the real evil is supernaturally lurking behind the door.
Satan attacks a nation in order to cripple any potential for spreading the gospel, and to promote the general misery of God’s creation. When a nation turns toward evil, the church instinctively pushes back. Often, as a consequent, Christians are portrayed as intolerant, phobic, and foolish. Satan tries to turn the tables on us, so that society looks at us as the problem, not the solution. This results in the proliferation of evil and the obstruction of the gospel message. 1 Peter 5:8 teaches, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
As believers, we must pray, knowing we are in a spiritual battle for our nation, the world, and more importantly, people’s souls.
For more study on this subject, check out my new book, Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo.”
Monday, July 11, 2016
The moment you received Christ into your heart, you were born again. At that moment, God loved you as much as He ever will love you. Because His love is perfect, His love for you will never be any more or any less than at that instant you gave your life to Him. Yet, at times it is difficult to trust His love.
Some time ago, a lady came into my office, brokenhearted over marriage issues. In spite of her prayers, her husband left her for another woman. How could she cope? How could she ever trust another man? She blamed herself. She blamed God--why had He let it happen?
Like her, we have all wrestled with doubt. Often the performance of others, our own past performance, or the performance of God (an uncomfortable concept—but it’s how we often feel), leave us doubting God.
1. Our past performance. Any time adversity strikes we tend to look inward. We ask ourselves, “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?” Yes, we have all sinned. Yes, we would have prevented tragedy if we could have seen into the future, but we cannot. We must ask for God’s forgiveness and move on, because when we hold on to past guilt, we actually cheapen the cross. As a result, we begin to live as if the cross was only a down payment for our sins and now we are paying off the balance.
So why should God help us? Because He loves us and His grace is sufficient. Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” God will not remember your sins—the past is the past. Our sins are forgiven at a high price, but, know the price has been paid.
2. The performance of others. Many of our problems and prayers center on other people. Perhaps we have to deal with a rebellious child or a difficult supervisor at work. We cannot control what others do, but how can we place our faith in God when the trials we face concern others? Will God infringe on the free will of another person just to answer our prayers? No one can fully answer that question, but I will say He can if He wants to. He is God. I believe He can draw people to repentance and place the desire in people’s hearts that they will know it is better to follow Christ than go their own way. Nothing is impossible with God.
3. God’s performance. Often our greatest struggles are the struggles we have with God. We expect attacks from Satan, but we feel our loving, heavenly Father should always come through for us. Many of our struggles have to do with our perception of God’s past performance in times of trial. Deuteronomy 8:2 teaches us that God humbles us and tests us, to see what is in our heart. “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
Whatever God does in our lives is for our good and His glory. As He brings us through trials we are able to humble ourselves anew at the cross, we are able to turn our attention to Christ—depending only on Him.
For more on this subject, check out my book, Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo (click on book on right).
What are your thoughts on this?