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A Case for Emotions
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got me in my feelings

     The narrative of God’s story is one of relationships. In Garden of Eden, God created humanity to exist in perfect relationship with him and with each other. Likewise, in Genesis 1:28, God invited humanity to further create cultures and communities in which these deeply connected and committed relationships exist. Although sin would forever break the perfect relationship between God and humanity, and even the relationship between two people, Jesus offers us a way of reconciling us to himself and each other. Through his good news, he pushes us ever forward towards the experience of connected and committed relationships with him and each other. Yet in order to have these types of connections and partake in Jesus' invitation, emotional awareness, experience, and expression is vital.

   We don’t have to look far to see the importance of feelings to the rest of the world. Large tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, have been spending millions of dollars to research and implement emotion-detection systems in order to better serve the customer, advertise to the consumer, and build businesses around emotional consumption. Likewise, in the academic and professional world, the concept of Emotional Intelligence - the ability to recognize, name, and express awareness of our emotions and those of other people -  is considered so rare, yet so important, it is being taught in graduate programs, businesses, and health care systems throughout America. And all of this doesn’t even include Drake’s newest album, Scorpion, which itself alone has 3 tracks incorporating the words “Emotion” or “Feeling” in its title (still waiting to hear from Kiki). In short, it seems like most of the world recognizes the importance of emotions; so as Christians, what do we need to know about them?

   In James K.A. Smith’s book, You Are What You Love, he details a different perspective for Christians which addresses our experience of emotions. To do so, he first analyzes the historical perspective of French philosopher Rene Descartes - a perspective that confines humans into "thinking things." Descartes made the infamous statement: “I think, therefore I am”, a viewpoint which values our brains as the “mission control” of our very selves. This belief suggests “it’s thinking that defines who we are”, yet this does not adequately reflect our human experience. Descartes' viewpoints have greatly influenced modern Christian discipleship; we are told that through applying Scripture “we can think our way into holiness.” Discipleship is simply "sanctification by information transfer." Yet how many of us often know the right, best, or obedient thing - but don't do it? 

     Smith argues in order to experience change in ourselves and the lives of others, we need more than to simply ingest information. This is not to refute learning, but it is to better consider our human experience; that is to say, we do not need “less than knowledge; we need more.” As we seek discipleship of Christ and seek to partake in his redemption on earth, we need to have a more holistic, biblical understanding of humanity. This will help us grow as disciples of Jesus Christ as well as partake in his great mission on earth - one of peace, justice, and loving connection. As we follow Jesus, we need more than head knowledge; we need knowledge of the heart. We need emotional awareness and expression in order to grow and experience deeper connections with Yahweh and others.

Emotions Through Scripture

   To discuss emotions, we must recognize their God-given purpose. In Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Witacre’s book titled True Feelings, they explain the origin of the word ‘emotion’. It comes from "the Latin word movere, which means to move.” Although many could believe being moved by our emotions is a bad or 'weak' thing, Mahoney and Whitacre explain otherwise. Instead, “emotions are supposed to move us.” God gave us emotions in order to move us towards him in love and in obedience.

   Throughout Scripture, emotions push people towards a loving connection with God and with others. David, an unquestionably emotional man, constantly wrote, sang, and prayed to God through his emotions. Consider just these four verses from Psalm 42 as David laments to God:

“My soul thirsts for God,

   for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?"

 

“My tears have been my food

   day and night,

while they say to me all the day long,

   ‘Where is your God?’"

 

“These things I remember,

   as I pour out my soul:

how I would go with the throng

   and lead them in the procession to the house of God

with glad shouts and songs of praise,

   a multitude keeping festival.”

 

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,

   and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

   my salvation and my God."

      David’s feelings reflect his most fundamental state and need. He is in despair, experiencing loneliness apart from God’s presence. As he brings his lament to God, David encourages himself by addressing his very soul, taking his heart in hand as he reminds himself why he can hope in God. David’s sorrow leads him towards action - towards prayer, encouragement, and comfort. David’s emotions guide him to a deeper connection with his God.

   Jesus’ emotions also led him towards relationship. In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus expresses his state of affliction As he talks with his disciples, he says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38). Jesus asks his disciples to stay with him and watch with him, asking his friends to not leave him alone in his sorrow. Stepping away and falling on his face, Jesus prays to his Father, asking, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). Even Jesus Christ shows his deepest feelings, revealing his need to connect with Yahweh and his friends through his emotions.

   David and Jesus display a truth found throughout the entirety of Scripture. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is so moved by her visit from the angel Gabriel she breaks out in a song of worship. Joseph was so moved by seeing his brothers again in Egypt he wept, leading him to ultimately praise God and encourage his brothers to recognize God’s sovereign plan for the lives of his chosen people. The lives of Joseph, David, Mary, Jesus, and countless others in Scripture reveal how feelings can move us towards humility, forgiveness, joy, comfort, and ultimately, connection with others and with God. Their emotions draw them towards their Father and towards those they loved.

   Contrastingly, consider Cain, who is so full of anger and jealousy he chooses to murder his own brother, Abel. Yet before Cain decided to kill Abel, God seeks to connect with Cain through his anger:

“Why are you [Cain] angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7).

   In this passage, it seems God is not chiding Cain for his anger; instead, he is inviting Cain to consider the cause of his anger and turn instead towards loving and submitting to God. The problem is not Cain’s anger; but where is he going to go with it? By choosing to not humble himself before Yahweh, Cain moves towards distrust, jealousy, and sin, later causing him to be separated from his family and sent away from the very presence of God. This is the opposite of what occurs in the lives of Joseph, David, Mary, and even our Savior. Yet through all these stories, it is evident that feelings are powerful moving forces. Scripture shows how our feelings either move God’s people towards connection and deeper relationships, or their emotions push them towards sin and isolation.

A More Holistic, Biblical Worldview

  If emotions can cause us to live isolated, lonely lives, this is worth our attention. When people live in seclusion and disconnect, this goes against our spiritual DNA - and the negative results are undeniable. Dr. Henry Cloud, Christian psychologist and counselor, explains that the ability to have deep, emotional connections is a psychological term called bonding. Bonding is “one of the most basic and foundational ideas in life and the universe.” It is one of the most basic human needs; for “without a solid, bonded relationship, the human soul will become mired in psychological and emotional problems.” Therefore, emotional awareness, recognition, and expression are important for our very livelihood. Without bonds - deep emotional connections - we “will suffer sickness of the soul."

   Yet there are many reasons emotional awareness, recognition, and expression are not valued in our own personal lives. To consider this reality, we can reflect on ways we might have unconsciously accepted prescribed allowances or disallowances to the expression of our feelings. Maybe this came through your family experience or your early childhood; perhaps no one has ever taught you how to express your emotions healthily, or even shown you how to express your feelings towards others. Or maybe it is a result of our cultural assumption about manhood and womanhood. Where a man is supposed to be strong, charismatic, and invulnerable, women are supposed to be caring, emotional, and even weak. In our cultural assumptions about men and women, once again reason and emotion are pitted against each other - with reason being associated with the strength of a man.

   Whatever the cause, an unwillingness to experience and express our emotions fosters unhealthiness which goes against our God-given natures. By being told certain emotions are allowable and others are not, that certain feelings are ‘strong’ and others are ‘weak’, it keeps us from discovering our deepest experiences and being able to connect with God and others through them. Let us consider again the sorrow and fear of David and Jesus. We can learn from these men and the expression of their feelings. Being able to share such ‘vulnerable’ or maybe even ‘weak’ feelings brought them to relational connection because they shared their deepest experiences. They had the emotional maturity to recognize their core feelings and moved towards others through them. This is emotional strength and maturity, something which all people are able to experience.

   Yet growing in awareness of our feelings is truly a process requiring a lot of humility. Consider again the definition of emotion - where do your emotions take you? Often times we can become aware of where our emotions are unhealthily taking us through situations which cause us to feel  anger, denial, or avoidance. Could there be something deeper going on in your heart which needs addressing? Invite others into your journey and practice active listening with one another. Why do you feel angry? What causes you to avoid? What makes you want to deny reality? How did that experience hurt you? If we aren’t willing to invite others in, step into vulnerability, and embrace humility, we cannot grow in emotional maturity - and most importantly, we are not meant to be on this journey alone.

   We need to be emotionally aware and intentional to further the mission of the Gospel. Allowing ourselves to experience emotion and draw near to our emotional Savior, we will grow as disciples of Jesus Christ, better able to recognize and care for the emotional experiences of others. As those seeking Jesus, as those praying for God to bring justice, how might we consider being more emotionally healthy in order to form Gospel-centered relationships? How might we think about experiencing and sharing our emotions to love, to be humble, to forgive, and to form loving bonds that radically transform the world? Let us receive the invitation of Jesus Christ to experience a redeemed humanity, cultivating shalom and justice on earth through healthily expressing our emotions.

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3 ways to invite someone to Easter
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Easter is just about 4 weeks away and many of us know dozens of people who don't know Jesus and are curious about the Gospel. Our Easter gathering is a wonderful opportunity for people to begin discovering Jesus and therefore a wonderful gathering to invite friends and family to. 

First Pray

Before engaging in any of the ways below, I want to encourage you to pray. The reality is that your ability to invite others into the Gospel and our Easter gathering is not natural. You are naturally opposed to Yahweh's way and therefore should seek His way of sharing and His boldness in sharing (Acts 4v29). Your prayer should be rooted in Peter's ethic of sharing derived from walking and living with Jesus: meekness and respect (1 Peter 3v15).

Invite through Friendship

Many of us have friends that we laugh with, cry with, and travel with; these are people who are dear to us and Yahweh. Consider inviting these friends to our Easter Gathering. A personal invitation over dinner, or coffee, or while hanging out is a good time to ask. Consider telling them that you've prayed for them and that you would love to have coffee with them before the Easter Gathering.

Also consider where your friend is; have empathy for where they are. If they're post-christian, consider talking to them about that experience and mourn with them. If they're agnostic, consider talking about what their hope is and listen to what they say. If they're in discovery and want to learn more, consider how you can walk with them to discover more about the Gospel and who Jesus is. No matter the case, you should listen to them and understand where they are coming from. 

Invite through Gifts

Creatively, gift-giving is a brilliant way to invite others to our Easter gathering. Perhaps you can bake some cookies with your children and deliver them with an invite to Easter. Maybe you can consider buying some spring flowers at the farmers market and leaving them with an invite on your neighbors doorstep; you even host a dinner on a weekend and give out some invitations. In your gift-giving consider the person you want to invite, be creative and loving in what you give them. 

This is not a bribe, so you should do everything you can to make this wildly personal and familiar to the person your inviting. Remember to act in grace and compassion as you give gifts and invite. In this type of inviting or another, don't be pushy. If they decline your invitation, don't fret, understand where they're coming from and maintain a healthy friendship with them. Remember, mission talk time.

Invite through Social Media 

While we may have a few friends that we're close with, we're certainly aquatinted with hundreds online. Social Media platforms like Instagram or Facebook often serve as great platforms to casually invite a group of friends or individual to a gathering. There's probably some people on social media that you could easily invite through a link and personal message, there's also people that you could just invite to our Facebook event without even talking directly to them. 

I'll confess that this isn't the most personal or ideal way to invite people to Easter, but it's certainly worth a shot. If you're inviting people to Easter, my encouragement is to ensure that this isn't the only way you're inviting. Consider doing this and one of the options above. 

God's Invitation

In all of your inviting, consider the invitation of Yahweh. The Gospel is a story in which Yahweh has done everything to invite you and I into His family, His invitation is one that knows no ends. Consider what Yahweh has overlooked to see you as His child, consider what Yahweh has given (Jesus on a cross) to include in His family. Yahweh's ethic of invitation is one that goes beyond what's common and  convenient. Consider following in His way this Easter as you seek to invite others into the Gospel, maybe even going out of your way, emboldened by Holy Spirit.


Some helpful resources to share: 

The below are some helpful resources for social media. You can grab invite cards and posters on Sundays from our resource table.

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By Ruben Reyes III

Ruben Reyes III grew up in Pomona, California. He began discipleship of Jesus when he was 16 years old during a high school chapel. Ruben received a degree in Biblical Studies from Calvary Chapel Bible College and is currently working on a Masters in Theology. In 2015, he led a group of families and millennials to plant Solid Rock Church in Downtown Claremont. Ruben currently oversees all teaching, vision, and church planting efforts in the Pomona Valley.  Ruben and his wife, Alexis, live in Claremont, California. 

 
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Why friends?
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the loneliness epidemic

    In September of 2017, Harvard Business Review published an article titled, “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic.” The focus of this article is to address the overwhelming affects loneliness is having on Americans today, specifically considering the workplace and the friendships we experience at our jobs. Written from the perspective of Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from 2014-2017, he speaks as a doctor who has faced public health issues such as the Ebola outbreak and the Zika virus. Yet in light of his many years of helping patients and even serving as our Surgeon General, Dr. Murthy states that the most common and most impactful ailment he has encountered is loneliness. 

    In our world today, “over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely, and research suggests that the real number may well be higher.” Sadly, this statistic has doubled since its last record in 1980. Murthy states that people experiencing loneliness are also experiencing a wide variety of serious physical implications due to their emotional distress. These physical affects are equivalent to “smoking 15 cigarettes a day”; and the "long term stress” of loneliness can eventually lead to an increased risk of “heart disease, diabetes, joint disease, depression, obesity, and premature death.” Chronic loneliness will eventually even impair our abilities to make decisions and plans, control our emotions, and think abstractly.

    Clearly, we need relationships for more than just entertainment. If you’re like me, you read these statistics and must ask: what kind of relationships were we made for? As we consider the large amount of lonely people in America today and its grave implications on their lives, our minimal interactions with others must not be enough.

   As we consider Scripture, we see a narrative that revolves around relationships. Originating from creation, humans are designed to have relationships with God and with one another. But specifically, the creation narrative shows us that humanity was made for friendships with God and with each other; and in many ways, this directly addresses the epidemic of loneliness affecting so many of us today. In essence, it goes against our very DNA.

    To get a full picture, we must look to our origins and consider our Creator to help us determine the purpose and value of friendships in our lives. 

Friendships in Creation

    From the beginning of time, God demonstrates that life is relational. In the opening sentences of Genesis, we are introduced to a God who is not alone; his Spirit is “hovering over the face of the waters,” existing alongside him. And later, when God makes man, he says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” This statement is not showing that God prefers to talk to himself in third person; instead, he is revealing to us his multi-relational nature. This is complex, but nonetheless significant. Our all-powerful, gracious, loving, and perfect God exists in relationship with himself. Even God is never alone. 

    God continues to demonstrate the relational nature of life when he makes the first man, Adam. After creating Adam, God says, "it is not good that the man should be alone.” Of course, Adam wasn't completely alone, because he was with God and the rest of God’s creation. Yet relationally, Adam did not have someone like him on earth; there was no one “fit for him” to know and be known by. After this proclamation, God takes a rib from Adam and fashions from it woman, Eve. At this point, there is something much more significant to be understood than simply God creating humanity's first marriage (although that is very special). Instead, in this moment, God is creating the origin of all human relationships.

    In Genesis 1:27, we can observe the account and even purpose of humanity’s creation:

“So God created man in his own image, 

in the image of God he created them; 

male and female he created them."

    In John Mark Comer’s book, Garden City, he breaks down the meaning of the word image. In Hebrew, the word image is salem, translated as “idol” or “statue.” This means that as God’s statues, we are made to reveal what God is like to the rest of the world. Both male and female were created in God’s image, designed to make “visible the invisible God.” This has huge impacts for humanity living in relationship.

   Just one verse later, in Genesis 1:28, God provides his overall vision for humanity:

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, 

and have dominion… over every living thing that moves on earth.” 

    In this command, God gives his salem authority and dominion. He gives humanity the right to rule and invites them to co-create with him. Yet alongside this, God desires that while humans reign as his salem, they should create communities of people. Many scholars believe these two verses provide a very specific meaning for humanity. Since both “male and female” reflect the image of God, and he created the first man and woman to live in relationship with each other, God is blessing man and woman to fill the earth and create communities of people living in relationship with each other. While inviting humanity to co-create with him, God also invites humanity to create communities that serve to reflect the image of God.  

   Humanity, then, does not merely reflect God’s nature within our marriages; instead, humanity truly reflects God’s nature as we thrive in flourishing communities of people. Living in relationship with God and with others is evident from not only our creation but also by our God-given purpose and blessing. In short, the ultimate act of living as God’s salem is to create and live in community with one another. 

God as Our Friend

    Originating from a creation story that hinges on the necessity of relationship, the current devastation of loneliness is put into perspective. In no way were humans made for isolation and autonomy. On the contrary, our very Creator lives relationally and imparted his relational nature onto us, his salem

    Not only does God initiate relationships, but God also demonstrates the origin of friendship through his relationship with us. As we consider our creation, we cannot ignore God’s desire to be our friend. We were made to partner with God in our purpose and mutual desire to work and create shalom on earth. This shared aim and purpose is best defined as a friendship; we have an ultimate end that causes us to stand side-by-side, working together.

    In the same way that God initiated a friendship with us, so should we initiate friendships with others. We reflect God’s image when we create healthy friendships with one another. We understand this through Genesis 1:28. God blesses humanity and invites us to co-create alongside him; and truly, friendships are things that must be created. They require work and effort, yet they are part of our very nature. This is more than just saying hi to someone on Sunday or sending someone a birthday text; this is living with one another in such a way that we model the deep care and love that God demonstrated to humanity upon creation.

    For us now, let us live in such a way that we work to create these types of friendships. Invite someone over to your house for lunch or coffee and have conversation with each other. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Seek reconciliation with an old friend. Let us consider God’s purpose for humanity to create beauty and peace, to create shalom, with one another.

    No doubt, the loneliness epidemic is devastating, not only because of the physical implications and literal limitation on our life spans, but because it goes against our very natures. Reflecting on the story of creation puts into perspective the incompleteness of our current relationships, but it also gives us hope. As God blessed humanity to create communities and live in relationships, so are we blessed and made to live with one another. Although we can mourn our loneliness, we can celebrate that it only reveals we were made for something better.

 
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By Gabby Bingham

Gabby Bingham grew up in St. Charles, Missouri. Raised in a Christian household, she began discipleship in Jesus during her college years. Gabby attended William Jewell College in Kansas City, Missouri, where she played soccer and received her degree in Physics. Gabby is now working on a Masters Degree in Counseling from Gateway Seminary. Gabby currently serves as the Director of Discipleship for Solid Rock Church in Claremont, California.

 
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