The Care and Feeding of the Heart: Love God; Love Neighbor; [How?] As Your Self.
Welcome to the Training Table where you can depend on a feast for the born-again heart, carefully prepared, to help you run the Godly and good race (Hebrews 12:3; 2 Peter 3:8)! For what good is a good race unless it is a Godly race? Devoid of God, life can feel like a rat race… And there’s a very good reason for that.
Today’s menu at the Training Table takes into account a subject matter that I personally love to see happen in life: When “the latest and greatest, most modernist, revelations or research” reminds us… reinforces… undergirds… or goes back to… What the bible has already said is True Truth in spades! And this particular topic is as vital and relevant as any we could grasp and walk-out in life!
Research: Forgiving Yourself Can Lead to a Longer Life
(Relevant Magazine, April 9, 2014)
“Want to live a healthier life? Then you may want to start trying to move past your mistakes. Researchers at Brandeis University have published new findings in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity that found that people who demonstrate “self-compassion,” and can move on from mistakes, had measurably lower levels of an inflammation compound in their bodies that is linked to stress. In the study, people who had high levels of self-compassion, had less of the stress agent interleukin-6—which is linked to a number of health problems including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s—for days. This suggests that those who can’t forgive themselves carry harmful stress around for long periods of time. So, do yourself a favor, and give yourself a break…”
But “give myself a break…” based on what truth, principle, promise, or proof? ‘Cuz otherwise I’m going to get sick? Or is it something WAY, WAY bigger and better?
Leading and Lagging Indicators Will Lead to a Longer… Eternal Life
In the Book of Luke Jesus was put to a test by a legalist, a self-righteous and unforgiving man who wanted to trip Jesus up: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And the man answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)
“…do this, and you will live.”
The lawyer-legalist inadvertently, ironically answered his own question by RECITING the law of Moses he knew from childhood… but had never LIVED IT OUT by recognizing that the FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW was sitting right smack dab in front of him! [I love how God’s story and His Word is jammed-packed-full of paradox and ironies of this kind!]
“…do this, and you will live.”
Please chew on the Truer-Than-True ideas and interactions below for long enough to grasp the importance, and then [please] have the urgency and courage to talk to someone else who is Godly and loving about it ASAP:
The LEADING indicator for truly and deeply living is whether or not we love God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the bible—as He sees, loved, forgives, and loves us FIRST, primarily, fundamentally, assuredly:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 ESV)
The LAGGING indicator is this: If we believe this passage from the bible is TRUE… for US… we will feel completely loved, accepted, and free to love OTHERS… as we ourselves have been forgiven and loved BY GOD. And when we feel unconditionally forgiven and loved by God, in Christ, we WILL [axiomatically, inherently, unwittingly, and intentionally] love and care for and forgive and comfort and be compassionate about OTHERS as well, Beloved of God. Albeit imperfectly, we cannot stop this from being true: Faith lived out in love is what reborn people ARE… and then DO.
The LAGGING indicator is also this: If we do not believe this passage from the bible is TRUE… for US… we will feel condemned, unloved, unforgiven, and temporally and existentially guilty. And when we feel condemned, unloved, and unforgiven, and guilty, we WILL [axiomatically, inherently, unwittingly, and intentionally] condemn, hate, and not be capable of forgiving and loving OTHERS as well, Beloved of God. We cannot help stop this from being true.
This is the ecosystem, “the leading and lagging indicators”, of God’s Plan of Redemption.
There is Life in the Spirit: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)
There is Death Devoid of the Spirit: “There is therefore now ONLY condemnation and unforgiveness for those who are outside of Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has enslaved you to condemnation and guilt devoid of Christ Jesus… and therefore in bondage to the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2—its opposite)
This is the ecosystem, “the leading and lagging indicators”, of God’s Plan of Redemption.
In the bounds of how God holistically created you and me in the order of our, a) spiritual, b) emotional, c) mental, and d) physical beings, the “leading indicator” is the health and well-being of our SPIRITUAL SELF / DISPOSITION / PERSPECTIVE first. When our SPIRIT is not right with God [Who is Spirit], our EMOTIONS will reflect it: Caustic emotions flow from a spirit of godlessness… such as hatred, despair, guilt, discord, impatience, hostility, dishonesty, negligence, hostility, and indulgence [the antithesis of the Fruits of the Spirit].
These negative emotions WILL BE constantly vying for supremacy and/or dominant in our life—and have a definite ripple effect on our MENTAL STATE of well- or ill-being! Accordingly, left unattended to, when our spiritual, emotional, and mental state of being is compromised, our PHYSICAL state will be affected, compromised, and eventually destroyed.
This is not up for grabs: It’s how we’ve been designed and created by God.
Not just at your own risk, but at the risk of everyone you come into contact with in life!
RE: Beginning within your very own self.
In my humble opinion, there is no better book [beside the bible] on this reality and the repercussions than Dr. Don Colbert’s book, Deadly Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You.
Deadly Emotions not only digs deep into how negative emotions have a scientific, biologic, and adverse effect on various parts of our body, our health, and our well-being, it “ends” [RE: a new beginning] with how a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only cure… the only mitigating, assuaging, mollifying factor for Deadly Emotions.
Consider the re-ordering of things…
The “leading and lagging order” and commandment of God might be read like this: “You shall, #1: love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and you shall then, #2 love yourself, and you shall then, #3 love your neighbor.”
What is Most Personal is Most Universal.
Within the first five years after my conversion at age 31, I undertook three years of intensive counselling with Lee Lockwood in order to really get at what was underlying my personal story, and what could act as barrier to Christ’s desire for ME to live out, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
After Lee and I had been together 1-2 days a week, for over a year and a half, he began the day’s session by asking me, “John, do you believe that you are capable of being loved, or loving someone else?” Without a moment’s hesitation I responded by saying, “Absolutley not.”
I believe… God believes… that this most personal unveiling of my own heart and story is a universal story and dilemma that only God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the bible can first rescue, then resolve, and then begin to redeem by my own, your own, our own, impact on the world… BIG TIME!
Please consider the context of this story, offered for God’s glory: a) I had developed a deeply trusting, “naked and unashamed”, and intentionally-redemptive relationship with my Christian counselor, Lee; b) I had allowed myself to be lovingly yet truthfully taken into the most dark, painful, yet revealing places in my life story; c) in doing so I could understand, accept, embrace, deeply weep, lash out in anger, laugh at the cruel ironies and openly curse the woundedness… To express all of the emotions that were commensurate to, and attached to, the shame, criticism, and sense of anonymity in my early life story; and d) I could then see the truth, I could place each one at the foot of the cross and the feet of a beloved, objective, trained and trusted counselor, and then… AND THEN…, e) be set free to choose another path, another continuation of my story, another script for my own personal role in God’s story: Who I am in Christ! And how will I help redeem the world?
Until I began this incredibly difficult yet supremely divine journey, I could never know what spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical attributes of my brokenness would act as barriers to living out my faith: Highly imperfectly yet full of the wisdom that comes from GOING DEEP so that I could better live out, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
PRAISE BE TO GOD, and other sinner-Saints saved by grace in my life, I’m doing much better at accepting love, loving myself, and loving others…
Loving myself, as God first loved and loves me today in Christ Jesus, is my only hope for loving others even remotely well, my friends. Devoid of truly internalizing God’s love for me in Christ, I have absolutely no hope of ever being free to love ANYONE ELSE… Beyond my pride-full, brutish, selfish, pretentious, insecure, narcissistic, ego-driven, needy, merciless, and controlling SELF. Loving self, being [at best] indifferent to others, is the centerpiece of The Fall; it is impossible to reverse the curse apart from God’s plan of redemption let loose in my life… your life… our lives!
What can or will you say of yourself, your story, your journey, the nature of your heart [core beliefs], spirit [emotions] and life lived out?
Can you see how feeling guilty and condemned and self-obsessed can only and always lead to condemning and avoiding and judging and demeaning others… as yourself?
Is it not just [uncommonly] common sense that spiritual condemnation and the resultant deadly emotions would create an ecosystem within the body that is incredibly caustic, damaging, and ultimately spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically DEADLY?
Can you suspend your beliefs about the world’s foolish, shallow, and simplistic attributions of “mental defect” long enough to see that when any person or culture abandons their belief and trust in his or her Maker and Sustainer, the only true God of the bible, the people and the culture will go berserk?! Unhinged? Spiritually disconnected, dangerously emotionally ambivalent, mentally unstable, and eventually deranged in ways which manifest physical harm to ourselves and others?
Have we become so incredulous that these common sense connections are so foreign to us enlightened… or endarkened… moderns?
Mass murders will become commonplace. Languishing, desperate, dying, lost children will have to be medicated more and more to fit into the madness of our [mostly] godless and discomassionate meritocracy. Psychiatric specialists will devolve more and more into little more than a medication dispensing services. [Forgive the broad, unfair generalizations… But not too much. These truisms are desperately true as we speak… Left unaddressed they will exponentially expand.]
Honestly? We have no idea whatsoever about the repercussions of having rejected and neglected the “holistic ecosystem and interrelatedness of God’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical design” in and for humanity. Today’s nightly news of carnage is as tame as a stuffed kitten compared to what’s in store if we do not “wise-up” (Proverbs 1:7) and get back to how God has so mercifully designed His Image Bearers that:
“In God through Christ we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28); that,
“In God’s hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10); that,
“For Christ who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source: Father God. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call His beloved, brothers…” (Hebrews 2:11); so that we can avoid the idolatry that is so spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically DEADLY,
“…you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of His house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Daniel 5:23—emphasis added).
Beloved of God—you or anyone you can influence—your are God’s light and salt in a fast-darkening and decaying world. Is it really so surprising that, “…people who had high levels of self-compassion, had less of the stress agent interleukin-6—which is linked to a number of health problems including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s—for days” (Brandeis University research)?
If you or I have not been actively engaged with our faith and, by comparison, the principles and pragmatics of this fast-changing and decaying world we live in, we might be surprised by this “new research”.
But… BUT… if we are “surprised by our surprise” (Tim Keller)… if we do not comprehend the ecosystem of the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical interconnectedness of God’s creative genius IN OURSELVES… then perhaps we never knew or have forgotten the big picture of how God has designed the world and is redeeming it as we speak: You and me, and those who we call our NEIGHBOR, whom we are called to love as God, in Christ, has first loved US.
As “the latest and greatest research of today” has revealed once again: There is no higher and best Truth and Love of God, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Amen. And Amen.