Journey Through The Wall, 22 January 2012


“Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

The Big Idea

The third pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to journey through the Wall.


Life is a journey. We are all at different places in the journey. It matters not where you are, but where you are headed.

The Bible is full of journeys. The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. Jesus spent three years journeying with his disciples. Life is not a simple straight line. We have detours, curves...and obstacles or Walls.


What is the greatest obstacle in your life? It might be your job, finances, physical health, shattered dream, betrayal, a wayward child, being single, your marriage, etc. The Wall is not a traffic jam or getting the flu. It’s a season of testing or a severe trial.

If you’re honest, there are moments in our lives when we just don’t understand. Our faith does not appear to work. God seems distant or absent. We have more questions than answers. St. John of the Cross called it the dark night of the soul.

On Monday nights at the greenroom we’ve been talking about being real with God with our anger, fear, and even doubt. For reasons sometimes known only by God, we just don’t understand. We ask why. We cry out for help.

I’ve done that countless times—especially over the past several years. I’ve faced walls, I’ve searched for God, I’ve struggled with pain, uncertainty, and stress.

If you’ve ever felt like the door of heaven was closing when you prayed, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever felt helpless, empty, dry, or defeated, you’re in good company. Today we’re going to look at the story of a man who faced an incredible wall. In his case it wasn’t the absence of God, but God’s presence and outrageous command that challenged his faith and reality.

The Bible...and church history is filled with people who have faced walls.

Ignatius Loyola, John Wesley, Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill, and countless others have experienced stages of their faith.

David cried out to God for years when Saul and his men pursued him, and he
was forced to hide in caves.

Psalms 69, 70, 71 and others are filled with cries for help from God. In fact, the largest category of psalms—about 1/3 of them—are psalms of lament.

Consider Job. Satan challenged God to take away Job’s wealth, animals, children, and good health, all as a way to see if Job would continue to be upright. At first, Job cries out to God, but God does not answer right away (Job 13: 20-26). Eventually, God speaks up and Job repents and relents (Job 42:1-6).


Abraham had his share of Walls in his life. He was asked to leave his family and travel to an unknown land. He arrived and encountered a famine, had a conflict with his nephew Lot, his wife was unable to have children, he bounced off that wall and had a son with his wife’s servant.

At age 110 he hit another wall. His promised son was finally born and then God asks him to do the unthinkable.

Genesis 22...

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:1-2)

God does not tempt, but tests Abraham to confirm his faith and prove his commitment.

This seems so bizarre to us, yet in that day child sacrifices were commonly offered to pagan gods.

Tragically, 1/3 of my generation has been killed, but that’s another issue for another time.

Mount Moriah is now the covered with the Dome of the Rock in Israel, a Muslim structure.

Abraham faces a Wall, a test that he causes a crisis of faith.

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:3-5)

Imagine that journey!

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
(Genesis 22:6-7)

Good question!

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied. (Genesis 22:8-11)

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:12-14)

Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich developed a model in their work
The Critical Journey: States in the Life of Faith that looks something like this...

Stage 1: the beginning; we recognize our need for God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness

Stage 2: we learn about God and what it means to follow Jesus.

Stage 3: we get involved, serving God and His people with our gifts and passions

We encounter the Wall which turns our world upside down. Our faith doesn’t seem to work.

Many people get stuck at the Wall and refuse to do the hard work necessary to journey through it. They give up their faith, mask their true heart, or self-medicate.

How do we get through the Wall?

- by the grace and timing of God
- on our hands and knees
- through deep introspection
- by releasing the trappings of this world
- with prayer and help from others
- with determined faith
- by not giving up hope or giving in to temptation
- by not losing sight of God

Stage 4: The Wall compels us to the inward journey. Sometimes the inward journey leads us to the Wall. It is ultimately God that brings us to the Wall.

Stage 5: after passing through our crisis of faith, we begin to serve God, but this time we give out of a new, grounded center of ourselves in God. We have a deep, inner stillness and an awareness of God’s deep, unconditional love for us.

Stage 6: the brokenness we have experienced coupled with the healing of the Holy Spirit brings us to a place where we surrender to God, His will, and His power.

There are several things that the Wall roots out in our lives.

- pride
- greed

luxury (using God for your own pleasure)
wrath (easily irritated)
spiritual gluttony
spiritual envy

The Wall changes everything!

You may not know exactly when you begin to go through the Wall, or when you reach the other side. Ultimately God moves us through the Wall and there is a mystery to it, but you are making progress if you experience shifts in your life.

From Pride To Brokenness

Years ago there was a young preacher that was attracting huge crowds of people. An older, wise pastor was asked about him and said, “He’s gifted, but he’s not broken yet.”

When we journey through the Wall, we are forever changed. We are broken. We endure pain, but experience transformation in the process. Our affections and passions are purged.

Richard Rohr has written five realities that we must recognize if we are to grow into maturity.

- Life is hard.
- You are not that important.
- Your life is not about you.
- You are not in control.
- You are going to die.

From Pleasure To Appreciation

Rather than focusing on our own pleasures, we have an awareness of ourselves, God, and the world around us. We begin to seek His pleasure.

We don’t take things for granted.

We also have a greater awareness and appreciation of the mystery of God. We know He does not fit into a tidy box. As the classic line from the Narnia book says, we realize that He is not safe, but He’s good.

The more I know about God, the less I know about Him. That may sound like a bad thing, but actually it’s wonderful to have a child-like faith filled with awe and wonder, resting in the truth that God is in control...and I’m not!

From Impatience To Patience

I hate to wait, but I’m slowly—pun intended!—learning that God’s timing is perfect. He is never late, but rarely early.

I want things now, God knows best.
Look at Psalm 130.

A song of ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their
(Psalm 130)

Here’s a man facing the Wall, yet aware of God’s perfect timing. He’s been through the wall previously.

Abraham learned to wait. He was 75 when he was told he would be a dad. Eleven years later, he got tired of waiting and birthed Ishmael through his maidservant Hagar. He waited another fourteen years for Isaac. Then he had to wait until the very last moment for God to provide a sacrifice in place of Isaac, his cherished son.

There are so many similar examples throughout the Bible, yet we literally read years or decades in a sentence or two.

From More To Enough

The purpose of the Wall is not to harm us, but to help us detach from certain selfish actions and desires and experience a more intimate, loving attachment to God.

Those who are most detached on the journey are best able to taste the purest joy in the beauty of created things.

They are able to experience contentment. They look to Jesus to be enough.

They are able to fully surrender to God and worship Him with all we are.

You can listen to the podcast

Note: many ideas derived from Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituailty.

Going Back In Order To Go Forward, 15 January 2012


“Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

The Big Idea

The second pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to embrace our past, breaking free from the destructive sinful patterns of our past to live the life of love that God intends.

Going Back In Order To Go Forward

Pete Scazzero notes two essential biblical truths:

1. The blessings and sins of our families going back two to three generations profoundly impact who we are today.

2. Discipleship requires putting off the sinful patterns of our family of origin and re-learning how to do life God’s way in God’s family.

The Background

We all come from broken families. Some are certainly more functional than others, but since the first child, Cain, killed his brother Abel, we have passed down dysfunction and sin from generation to generation.

Joseph’s story fills the last quarter of the book of Genesis. His family is about as dysfunctional as they come.

a. He comes from a blended family. His dad had children from two wives and two
concubines. Twelve sons all lived together.
b. Joseph was clearly the special son, making his brothers jealous.
c. Joseph’s brothers sell him off and tell their dad that he was killed by an animal.

He is sold into slavery, then rots in a prison for years on false rape charges.

How would you feel sitting in a prison cell for years for something you did not do? What would you think/feel about your family? About God?

Family Genogram

Joseph is the eleventh child, one of twelve brothers and one sister.

Take some time to sketch your family

Joseph has three major traumas

1. At age 17, he is thrown into a deep well by his brothers (Genesis 37).
2. He gets sold as a slave for $80,000 (two years wages) and his father is told he
is dead. He loses his language, culture, family, freedom, everything!
3. He was in prison unjustly for many years (Genesis 39-40).

Twenty-two years later, he encounters his brothers (Genesis 42).

He had every reason to be bitter and enslaved by his past. Instead, he clearly understands his heritage but allows God, not his family of origin, to determine his future.

Genesis 50:15-21

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (Genesis 50:15-17)

His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. (Genesis 50:18)

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21)

Joseph breaks from the “normal” family tradition by forgiving his brothers. What would you have done?

What has Joseph learned about himself, God, and his family (see 19-21)?

Genesis 50:20 is a summary of the Old Testament.

5 Basic Needs be Met for Healthy Development (Pesso)

-- need for “place” the world was waiting for your arrival; you were wanted
-- need for nurture words and touch
-- need for support loving, caring environments
-- need for protection physically, emotionally from harm
-- need for limits boundaries (see Townsend and )

Sin and rebellion destroy families from God’s original intention

Cain and Abel were just the beginning! All of our families are messed up! Jesus allows us to be born again, but we cannot ignore our past. We must put off the sinful elements of our past to become transformed and a blessing to the world.


We must know what went on deep beneath the surface of our family.

Ten Commandments of Your Family

Which of the following messages were sent to you by your family, spoken or unspoken?

1. Money. Money is the best source of security. The more money you have, the more important your are.

2. Conflict. Avoid conflict at all costs. Don’t get people mad at you. Loud, angry, constant fighting is normal.

3. Sex. Sex is not to be spoken about openly. Men can be promiscuous but women must be chaste. Sexuality in marriage will come easily.

4. Grief and Loss. Sadness is a sign of weakness. You are not allowed to be depressed. Get over losses quickly and move on.

5. Expressing Anger. Anger is dangerous and bad. Explode in anger to make a point. Sarcasm is an acceptable way to release anger.

6. Family. Duty to family & culture comes before everything. You owe your parents for all they’ve done for you. Don’t speak of your family’s “dirty laundry” in public.

7. Relationships. Don’t trust people. They will let you down. Nobody will ever hurt me again. Don’t show vulnerability.

8. Attitudes toward other cultures. Only be close friends with people who are like you. Do not marry a person of another race or culture. Certain cultures/races are not as good as mine.

9. Success. Is getting to into the ”best schools.” Is making lots of money. Is getting married and having children.

10. Feelings and Emotions. You are not allowed to have certain feelings. Your feelings are not important. Reacting with your feelings without thinking is okay.

3 Practical Applications

1. Recognize the iceberg in you from your family

We can easily ignore or underestimate it. The effect of our families is deeper than any of us realize. Your family is filled with patterns. We all have negative patterns. When we recognize them, we can choose to maintain or change them. When you are unaware of them, you are doomed to pass them on.

2. Discern the good God intends “in, through, and in spite of,” your family and past

God knew what He was doing. He has a great plan for you and your life. God is working in a hidden, mysterious way. He was doing it in Joseph’s life and He’s doing it in you. We are often unaware of what God is doing, but He can be trusted. Joseph trusts God. He knows that God is good and God is sovereign (in control). He knows God. He certainly spent many years in prayer and solitude.

3. Make the decision to do the hard work of discipleship

This includes silence, solitude, Scripture, and small groups. Discipleship is breaking the sinful patterns of our past and being recreated into the image of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Pete Scazzero writes

“Going back in order to go forward is something we must do in the context of community—with mature friends, a mentor, spiritual director, counselor, or therapist. We need trusted people in our lives of whom we can ask, ‘How do you experience me? Tell me the feelings and thoughts you have when you are with me. Please be honest with me.’ Prayerfully listening to their answers will go a long way toward healing and getting a perspective on areas of our lives that need to be addressed. Needless to say, this takes a lot of courage.”

God’s Plans

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

Four Lessons From Joseph’s Life

1. He understood God’s goodness and love, even during the storms
2. He expressed his emotions and loss, allowing him to truly forgive
3. He moved forward despite his past
4. He partnered with God to bless others

The Good News

God is in the business of transformation! His grace (unmerited favor) and love are endless. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a new creation. God is your father. Your sins are forgiven. You have been given a new name. You have been given a new inheritance. You have been given new brothers and sisters (Ephesians 1).

In the movie
“Good Will Hunting,” Sean (Robin Williams) repeatedly tells his patient Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault.” We are all products of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. We have all been dealt an imperfect deck. But it can be restored. There is hope in Jesus Christ. His plans for you are fantastic!

Are you willing to go back in order to go forward? Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Fear of bringing secrets and sin into the light paralyzes so many followers of Jesus from truly experiencing the abundant life and transformation that Jesus wants us to experience.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Questions for Discussion

What words would describe the way your family related to one another when you were growing up?

What does this text tell us about God?

What does this text tell us about ourselves?

On a scale of 1 (very troubled) to 100 (very nurturing), how would you describe your family?

What messages did you receive from your parents or guardians as a child?

What “earthquake” events sent “aftershocks” into your family?

How do these messages compare to messages you have received about God’s family?

What one area needs the most change?

How does your family of origin impact you today? What areas do you need to address in order to move forward?


You can listen to the podcast here.


Series outline and ideas from
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.

Know Yourself That You May Know God, 8 January 2012


“Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzeros’ book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

The Big Idea

The first pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to know yourself.

Top Ten Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

1. Using God to run from God
2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness and fear
3. Dying to the wrong things
4. Denying the past’s impact on the present
5. Dividing life into “secular” and “sacred” compartments
6. Doing for God instead of being with God
7. Spiritualizing away conflict
8. Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure
9. Living without limits
10. Judging the spiritual journeys of others

Know Yourself That You May Know God

How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?

Augustine in Confessions, AD 500

Our wisdom…consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, AD 1530

Who Are You?

From the beginning of sin in the Garden of Eden, we have been hiding ourselves from God and others.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:6-7

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

We live our lives filled with guilt and shame so we put on masks.

Here are some symptoms that you are hiding your true self:

1. I say “yes” when I really mean “no.”
2. I get depressed when people are upset with me.
3. I have a need to be approved by others to feel good about myself.
4. I act nice on the outside, but inside “I can’t stand you!”
5. I often remain silent in order to “keep the peace”.
6. I believe that if I make mistakes, I myself am a failure.
7. I avoid looking weak or foolish for not having the answer.
8. I criticize others in order to feel better about myself.
9. I have to be doing something exceptional to feel alive.
10. I have to be needed to feel alive.
11. I am fearful and can’t take risks.
12. I do what others want so they don’t get mad at me
13. I use knowledge and competence to cover my feelings of inadequacy.
14. I want my children to behave well so others will think I am a good parent.
15. I compare myself a lot to other people.

1 Samuel 17:26-40 David

Goliath mocks God and defies the armies of Israel.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. 1Samuel 17:4-7

King Saul and the Israelites are afraid.

On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. 1Samuel 17:11

Eighty times Goliath taunts them.

For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. 1Samuel 17:16

Nobody can even imagine facing this giant.

When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear.
1Samuel 17:24

David knows himself, but He also knows God.

David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 1Samuel 17:26

They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.” 1Samuel 17:27

When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” 1Samuel 17:28

How’s that for a confidence boost? Even the best of families are messed up.

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. 1Samuel 17:29-31

David stands up to his family (28-31).

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 1Samuel 17:32

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” 1Samuel 17:33

David stands up to significant others with authority and experience (32-33).

King Saul and the people of Israel said they believed in God, but their acted like atheists. How often do we lack faith and act as if God does not exist?

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.
1Samuel 17:34-36

The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”
1Samuel 17:37

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 1Samuel 17:38

David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
1Samuel 17:39-40

David knows himself. He is an expert on himself and is able to discern wise counsel from unwise counsel.

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

We must seek counsel, but it is not always good for us.

Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” 1Samuel 17:41-44

David stands up to Goliath (vv.41-44)

Again, David knows himself and God.

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1Samuel 17:45-47

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. 1Samuel 17:48-49

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. 1Samuel 17:50

David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
1Samuel 17:51

David didn’t face Goliath to look good, please people, or make a name for himself. He did not have the strength to defeat Goliath, but he had God and a slingshot. He did not lack common sense, but was aware of his God-given abilities with a slingshot and his God. He is afraid of nothing.

You and I have God-given abilities and tools if we will use them to glorify Him.

Do you know your strengths? Weaknesses? Spiritual gifts? Pathways to God? Personality? There are tools (see below) that can assist you in discovering how God uniquely wired you up.

We hurt ourselves and others when we are not true to ourselves.

The ultimate question once we know who we are goes back to last week. Do you seek to bring glory to God or yourself.

Four practical principles to begin making the radical transition to living faithful to our true self in Christ.

1. Pay Attention to Your Interior in silence and solitude
2. Find trusted companions
3. Move out of your comfort zone
4. Pray for courage

The people of Israel knew God intellectually, but not experientially.

David points to Jesus. They are both saviors and conquerors opposed to Satan.

He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Psalms 23:3

Reflection Questions

What does this text tell us about God?

What does this text tell us about ourselves?

What giants are drawn up against you in battle? How are they taunting you? Is your attitude toward them more like Saul’s or David’s? How does that attitude need to change?

What larger missionary purpose might be accomplished for God if you would turn that battle over to the LORD?

What’s holding you back from tackling the bull by the horns (or the Goliath by a slingshot)? What do you fear might happen if you turned and faced the enemy who taunts you and defies God? What’s the “worst case scenario”? Having imagined that, now re-write the end result with God on your side.

What Goliaths are there in society, defying God and Christians? How can you, small and unarmed, work to bring them down? What can your Journey Group do?

How important is the approval of people versus the depth of your soul?

Questions for Reflection

What are you angry about?
What are you sad about?
What are you afraid of?
What are you enjoying?
What brings you shame?
What do you dream about?
What do you sing about?
What do you cry about?
What are you beginning to realize/learn about yourself?

Recommended Resources

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

Free Spiritual Pathway Discovery Tool

Free Spiritual Gifts Discovery Tool

Strengths Finder

You can listen to the podcast here.


Series outline and ideas from
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

Other study questions from
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

The Problem With Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality, 1 January 2012

Big Idea: The life of King Saul provides us with a portrait of an emotionally unhealthy man. His example can be a warning for us all, driving us to our knees and dependence upon God as we strip away the illusions in our lives and get real with ourselves, God, and others.

Happy New Year! Did you make New Year’s Resolutions? Perhaps the most common one is to get in shape. Our culture loves to focus on the physical, and why not? It’s the most obvious and visible to others. Years ago Billy Crystal’s character “Nando” used to say, “It’s not how you feel, but how you look...and darling, you look maaavelous!”

Our physical bodies are important. They are the temple in which the Spirit of God dwells.
Jesus was asked how to inherit eternal life.

He answered: “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)

We are holistic beings. God created each of us with a heart, soul, body and mind and they impact one another. When your body is sick, you’re more likely to be crabby. When your mind is stimulated, you may be motivated toward physical action. When your soul is uplifted, there’s a good chance that your mood will become more positive.

Contrary to some western thinking, we are not compartmentalized creatures but multi-dimensional.

We begin the new year with a series entitled
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

The purpose of this series is ultimately to draw you closer to God and, ultimately, to others. It has been said that some Christians are so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good, and I’ve witnessed that. Perhaps you’ve met someone that is “spiritual” but miserable to be around.

Last month...last year!...I had a pastor friend say that he had a group of elderly people at his church that attended church every Sunday, had studied the Bible, and gave generously, but they were mean and grumpy!

Then I had a friend tell me about a family member who always talks about God but is filled with insecurity and envy.

Then I had a personal encounter with a family member who is a life-long Christian but was guilty of gossip and judging others.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be healthy and me? Ha!!!

Several years ago I was introduced to a book called
The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero. The subtitle is “a strategy for discipleship that actually changes lives.” I was so impacted by the book that I gave it to all of the leaders at the church I was leading. Weeks after becoming the pastor here at Scio, I was informed of a monthly pastor’s gathering with the Alliance and began attending. This was the book we studied together. Later in the year, I was asked to attend a special seminar on the subject.

It’s a great book that I highly recommend, but when I read it for the first time, I remember being delighted by the “what” but asking “how?” Then I read the sequel!
Scazzero’s book
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is easily one of the top five books I have ever read. As he states on the cover, “It’s impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature.” Although I rarely use a book other than the Bible for ideas (Radical was an exception), I taught much of the material I’ll be sharing with you when I was at Frontline Church and it was probably the most talked-about, transformation series I have ever done. I can’t think of a better way to start the new year than to get emotionally healthy.

In life, things are not always as they appear. An iceberg is a remarkable formation that appears large on the surface, but actually is much larger under the surface. In fact, only ten percent of an iceberg is visible about the water.

In a similar way, we can attend church gatherings on Sunday, put on a happy face, and mask our true self from others who we fear will judge or shame or shun us. It’s easy to be a Christ-follower for an hour on Sunday, but what really goes on in your life during the rest of the week? What really goes on in your heart the rest of the week?

How are you doing? No, really!

Christians can be the biggest fakers. There are written and unwritten expectations of how Christians are supposed to act. Can a Christian drink alcohol, attend an R-rated movie, swear, smoke, wear makeup, dance, or listen to rock music? These are just a few of the external behaviors that have been prohibited in many so-called Christian circles that never address the core heart issues and motivations that affect not just what we do but who we are.

The problem of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality is huge. Too many so-called Christians look great on the outside, but inside they are a wreck...and afraid to admit it. We’re afraid that if people know who we really are that they’d reject us.

We crave intimacy but are terrified by it, not only on Sundays, but for many of us in our own homes.

Can you think of anyone who has appeared on the outside to be have their act together, only to find out later that they were a mess inside?

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1Samuel 16:7b)

What you and I need is not a list of dos and don’ts to follow in this new year. Following Jesus is not about a checklist. A WWJD bracelet that reminds us to “act” (as in actor) like Jesus is a far cry from becoming like Jesus. We need to be transformed from the inside out. This is not something that just happens overnight. It will require changing unhealthy habits that you and I have embraced our entire lives. Reading, prayer, Sunday messages, and especially midweek interactions will all be powerful in the process of becoming whole and healthy. Jesus said that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

When our kids were younger, we had conversations about swearing and why the pronunciation of certain words was deemed in appropriate. We explained that the sounds are not bad in and of themselves, but it is the heart behind the words that makes the difference.

The true test of who you are is not how you behave on Sunday or at some public gathering, but who you are when nobody is watching. Another test is how you respond to stress and unexpected challenges. When the going gets tough… One definition of integrity is “the state of being whole and undivided.” That’s a beautiful image. We live in a culture that is obsessed with the external. What we need is a spiritual revolution that begins inside.

We’re going to look at a very emotionally unhealthy man who looked great on the outside. He had power, fame, money, and friends. He was very spiritual, too. He made a great mistake, though. He never dealt with the core of his being and his emotions sabotaged his success.

King Saul started out great, but went awry. He was commanded by God to wipe out the Amalekites. He partially obeys, but does not complete the mission. On the surface of Saul’s life, he looked great, but his life was out of order underneath the surface.

Let me set up the scene for you. Saul was appointed king of Israel by God after the people begged for a king like all of the surrounding nations despite God’s warning that it would be better to just serve God.

Saul is told to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15:3)

Saul kills his enemies, but keeps some animals.

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

“Stop!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.”

“Tell me,” Saul replied.
(1 Samuel 15:14-16)

Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (1 Samuel 15:17-19)

“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.” (1 Samuel 15:20-21)
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. (1 Samuel 15:24)

There are three signs of emotionally unhealthy spirituality in Saul.

1. He refuses reflection and self-awareness

He is doing some of God’s will, but he is more concerned about the opinion of people. He is out of touch with his own fear.

A few verses later Saul says to Samuel

“I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.” (1 Samuel 15:30)

There is jealousy in his life. He doesn’t want others to look better than he does, especially David. Here tries six times to murder David, so threatened by him. He believes he is doing God’s will but he is unaware of how shallow his spirituality is and his own sins. He was unaware of why he did the things that he was doing.

Why do you do what you do? So much of our lives are lived out of the layers beneath the surface. Reflection can be painful because we see our sin and feel guilty. It’s easier to deny our stuff and pretend.

Silence and solitude are required in order to examine our motives and feelings and thoughts on the inside. You can’t be in touch with God if you are not in touch with yourself.

Saul lived an illusion, presenting a false self to God, as if God could be tricked!

Many of us keep ourselves so busy and noisy that we cannot reflect.

Unlike David, Saul never spends time in silence and solitude. He never writes poems and songs, pouring out himself to God. David was aware of his own heart and expresses it to God.

2. He refuses to cultivate his own personal relationship with God

He began humble and blessed by God but never develops his relationship with God. He does not have a hidden life in God. He has a public one, but no personal relationship with God.

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

The words “obey” and “listen” are the same in Hebrew.

Saul though he was a pretty good guy but instead Samuel exposed the wickedness in his heart, calling him out on witchcraft and idolatry. He never asks, “What is God saying to me?”

Do you ever ask God what He is saying to you? Christianity is not meant to be merely intellectual, but experiential. What is God saying to you? He is speaking. Are you listening?

Dallas Willard told John Ortberg. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry. Ortberg said, “Okay, what’s next?”!

Contemplation is about getting God from your head to your heart. Sermons are a good start, but they are not the end. You must digest this food through Journey Groups and time alone with God.

The Pharisees knew all about God, but they never cultivated their relationship with God.

You must take responsibility for your relationship with God. Nobody else can do that for you. We can challenge you, provide you with tools and resources and opportunities for growth, but only you can cultivate your relationship with God.

It’s like marriage. People can give me books on marriage, I can attend marriage seminars, talk to people about marriage, and even decide in my head that I want a great marriage but if I don’t invest time and energy into my relationship with my bride, I will never have a good marriage.

3. He refuses to be broken by setbacks and difficulties

Trials can draw us to God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). This does not mean the financially poor, but those that are desperate for God, broken by life and in need of God. The Father longs to be with us, know us, and spend time with us. He will often allow things to occur in our lives to get our attention because He wants nothing more than us and our hearts.

You cannot have God without poverty of spirit. You can have yourself, but not God.

The writer of Hebrews said of Jesus...

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)

Jesus learned obedience through suffering. There are no shortcuts.

God is trying to humble Saul to make him great and Saul just wants to be great.

God wants to take the Saul out of us. There is a Saul in each of us. Our self-will and stubbornness must be removed.

There is nothing like testing and trials to destroy our illusions about ourselves, others, life. There is nothing like testing and trials to build our character. They bring about an authentic life.

This series is about emotional health and contemplative spirituality. Over the next several weeks we will be discussing these two subjects and how they can help us love God and love others.

Top Ten Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

1. Using God to run from God
2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness and fear
3. Dying to the wrong things
4. Denying the past’s impact on the present
5. Dividing life into “secular” and “sacred” compartments
6. Doing for God instead of being with God
7. Spiritualizing away conflict
8. Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure
9. Living without limits
10. Judging the spiritual journeys of others

Which one item is God bringing to your attention? Listen to Him. He delights when you listen to Him.

You are messed up, but Jesus offers forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Don’t run away from God but run to Him. The Gospel means “good news.”

That’s what we celebrated with communion. That’s why Jesus died. That’s why we have peace and hope and joy. That’s why 2012 can be different.

My prayer for you...and for me in 2012 is to know Jesus and look like Jesus. My desire is that one year from now we will reflect upon 2012 and see how God has led us and shaped us and helped us grow. This series will give you several tools to help in the process. The Radical Experiment is a huge part of it.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Note: many ideas derived from Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituailty