winning with the hand you’re dealt* (Part 3)

Do you ever feel that life has treated you unfairly? Do you wish you’d received a different set of life circumstances? That’s the feeling that Rick Warren talks about in a sermon entitled, “Winning with the Hand You’re Dealt.”*

Last time we saw that God judges us only for the oppoturnities and abilities He gave us. He doesn’t hold us to account for chances we never had.

Then we began a study of the five cards that, according to Rick Warren, we’ve been dealt.

1.The first, which we looked at last time, is My Chemistry; that is, my genes and hormones. Whatever your makeup, Warren suggests, you can become healthier.

2. “My Connections… My connections are my relationships in life…you are a product of your relationships,” writes Warren. He continues that “there are three problems with that. One…is we’re all imperfect. And since we’re all imperfect…we hurt each other….

“Second, sin disconnects us…from God…[a]nd…from each other….[H]ere’s the third problem with this card. The more disconnected I am, the more fearful I become….And if you grew up feeling disconnected, you have a hard time trusting other people….We crave intimacy. But we fear vulnerability which is the only way you get intimacy. We want one without the other….We crave acceptance, but we fear rejection. And that forms your identity” (Hope for Mental Health Saddlebadk Resources 2015, 6-8).

What to do about it? Warren suggests, “I can choose to deepen my relationships. I can learn some communication skills. I can build some new, healthy relationships and replace some bad, unhealthy relationships. I can…risk connecting.” (Winning, 12).

Specifically, Warren points to 1 John 4:18. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Warren continues, ‘Love has no fear because it’s not about me….Self-centredness walks in the room saying how do I look to everybody else? Love walks in the room going, who here needs my help? Who needs a word of encouragement?…Who…looks like they’re a little on the outside and uncomfortable and I could put themat ease?” (Winning, 13)

3. “My Circumstances…These are the things that happen to you…You are a product of the traumas and the troubles in your life…the suffering and the shame and the shock and the stress. Pain shapes your life” (Winning, 8).

What to do about it? It’s important to remember, as we think about the pain we’ve experienced in life, that Rick and Kay Warren are not ivory tower academics. They lost their young adult son to mental illness through suicide in 2013.

Warren suggests, “I can choose to trust God no matter what happens” (Winning, 15) and points to Romans 8:28. 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. He continues, “It’s not all good but it can be worked into something good” (Winning, 15). God can take all the ugliness and pain of my life and build something beautiful out of it. A carpenter needs good construction materials in order to build a quality home. God, in contrast, can take the garbage of our lives and make something positive out of it.

He goes on. “I’m a product of my past. But I am not a prisoner of it. And I can be different” (Winning, 16).

More next time.


winning with the hand you’re dealt (Part 2)

What do I do with the circumstances life has given me? That’s the question Rick Warren set out to answer in a sermon entitled “Winning with the Hand You’re Dealt.”

Last time we saw that Psalm 139 tells us it’s a friendly universe. Our Creator God knows all about us, wants to help us with the circumstances we face, made us the complex individuals we are, and thinks about us all the time.

Warren moves next to a story Jesus told about a master who gave an investment assignment to three servants. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. Matthew 25:15

Upon the master’s return, he met with his servants. The servants who had been entrusted with five bags and with two bags had each doubled the amount. The master’s words to each of these two were identical. Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! (Matthew 25:21, 23). In other words, the master evauated each on what he had given that servant, and was equally pleased with each of them.

Warren writes, ‘You’re not…responsible for talents you weren’t given.You’re not going to be judged by God for opportunities you didn’t have. But God is going to judge you one day and evaluate yourlife on what you did with what you were given. The point of the parable of the talents [bags of gold] is we don’t get the same thing. We don’t have the same talents. We don’t have the same background. We don’t have the same pains. W don’t have the same problems. We don’t have the same potential. We don’t have the same anything except we’re all loved by God. We are all unique. We are all different” (“Winning with the Hand You’re Dealt”, Hope for Mental Health, Saddleback Resources 2015, p. 1).

And not only that. There are no perfect cards. It’s a broken world. Warren continues, ‘In many ways…life is like a hand of poker – that you ‘ve got to play the hand you’re dealt…[E]ach of these cards…is flawed. Every one of these cards is marred by sin” (Winning, p. 2-3).

And how does one do that?

Warren suggests that we’ve been dealt five cards, and gives an idea for how to win with each of them. “If you want to understand who you really are, you have to understand the five factors that make you you. I’m using this metaphor, these five cards to represent this” (Winning, p. 3).

1.Warren continues, ”My Chemistry…It’s your genes. It’s your hormones…Every one of us have structural and chemical weaknesses in our bodies…Mental illness is no more to be ashamed of than cancer.” (Winning, 3-5)

What to do about it? Warren writes, “I can choose to get healthier. I don’t care what handicap you have in your life. You can be healthier than you are right now….Psalm 119:73 (TLB) says this, You made my body, Lord; now give me sense to heed your laws.

“There are certain things you can learn. Maybe you need to go get a checkup. Maybe you need to go get some blood work. Maybe you need to go see a dentist. Maybe you need to get a supplement or get on some kind of hormone replacement. Whatever. I don’t know. But the fact is, there are some steps you can do – medicine, exercise, controllable things…What do I need to do physically?” (Winning, 11-12.)

For starters, is that helpful? More next time.

Winning with the hand you’re dealt*

Have you ever wondered, playing a card game, “What am I supposed to do with this hand I’ve been dealt?”

Rick Warren, in a sermon entitled “Winning with the Hand You’re Dealt” (Hope for Mental Health, Saddleback Resources 2015), writes,

“In five card stud poker you have to play the cards you’re dealt. You don’t get to mix and match them. You don’t get to say, I want to play his hands. You can only play the cards you are dealt.

In many ways this is a metaphor for life. There are some things that you have been dealt in life. You didn’t choose them. You didn’t choose your parents. You didn’t choose when you were born, where you were born, how you were born. You didn’t choose your race. You didn’t choose your talents. You didn’t choose the talents you don’t have. There are a lot of things that make you you that you had no choice in at all. They are the hand you were dealt. But you’ve got to play the hand you were dealt.” (Winning, p. 2)

You may recall that this is for Rick Warren and his wife Kay not an academic topic. They lost their 27-year-old son to depression through suicide in 2013. The mental health series we’ve looked at in the past two months is part of their working out of grief over their son’s death.

If you feel despair at the thought of the hand you’ve been dealt, hopefully a look at the Bible and at some of Warren’s thoughts in the next couple of weeks will help.

Psalm 139 can give some perspective.

1.O LORD, you…know everything about me.

You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my every thought when far away.

You chart the path ahead of me

And tell me where to stop and rest.

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. Psalm 139:1-4, New Living Translation 1996.

How does it feel to know that you are not alone in this universe? God sees you and knows everything about you.

“Well,’ you might say,” that depends on whether God is a friendly force or not.”

Keep reading.

2. If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me. Psalm 139:9-10, Good News. There is no place in the universe where God is unable or unwilling to help you. He knows the hand you’ve received and He’s willing to help you with it. You’re not alone.

3. This God made you the way you are, writes David. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Psalm 139:14, New Living Translation 1996. Warren writes, ‘To become all that God intends for you to be you have to look at every dimension of your life, not just one.” (Winning, p. 1). Don’t focus only on the parts of your life that feel overwhelming.

4. Fourth, the Creator God thinks about you a lot.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!

They are innumerable!

I can’t even count them;

they outnumber the grains of sand! Psalm 139:17-18 New Living Translation 1996

God has more thoughts about you than there are grains of sand. How does that feel, as you think about the troubles of the hand you’re dealt?

5. Fifth, God will get you safely through life and through death that waits for you at the end.

And when I wake up, you are still with me! Psalm 139:18.. Psalms scholar Derek Kidner writes, “[t]he words ‘I am still with thee {you]’ (18b), taken with the background of verses 7-12, can be given no limit, even by death. ‘When I awake’ may therefore have its strongest sense, a glimpse of resurrection.” Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 73-150 Inter-Varsity 1975, 466-7.

6. Finally, (for today) a guide can only guide someone who is willing to be guided. The final stanzas of David’s song talk about choosing to accept God’s guidance and about people who reject God’s good will and guidance.

Search me, God and know my heart;

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24. Noted Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann writes that “what dazzled the speaker at the beginning now becomes a source of comfort, reassurance, and well-being (v. 24).” Texts for Preaching: Year A John Knox 1995, 411.

The cards in your hand; that is, the circumstances of your life, may feel overwhelming. Please begin your day by remembering that it’s a friendly universe if you allow this all-knowing Creator God to help you.

Who’s your favourite life coach?

There is an abundance of inspirational stuff to help you live your day better. There are books, blogs, podcasts and great speakers.

You’ll need to make some decisions, because you can’t read it all and listen to all the great speakers.

By what criteria will you narrow the field so that you can read a manageable number of authors and spend the rest of your time putting into practice what you learned?

How will you choose?

Here’s a suggestion: Ask this question: Can this person take me beyond my final day on earth?

Here’s a second question: If the person claims to be able to do that, how does he or she back up the claim?

In the sacred Scriptures Jesus read (Chrsitians call them the Old Testament), in the record of His teachings (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and in the rest of the New Testament there is an abundance of inspirational stuff to help you live your day better.

And there’s more.

Jesus said…, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…’ (John 11:25).

There you have it. A clear claim to be able to take people successfully beyond the final day of life on earth.

Jesus of Nazareth, born about 4 B.C. to a working-class Middle Eastern young woman and her husband, claimed to be God in human form. He taught that His assignment was the following:

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Luke 9:22) A few verses later Luke records, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51). Jesus made the reason clear in another conversation: We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delvered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again. (Luke 19:31-33). And Jesus kept moving toward Jerusalem.

Good Friday remembers Jesus’ death in the manner and location He had predicted: after rejection by the religious leaders, at the hands of the occupying Romans in Jerusalem.

Easter, the third day after Good Friday, celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. After His resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days with His followers. On one occasion, He appeared to more than 500 at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Jesus’ appearances didn’t stop with His departure (Acts 9) or with the completion of the Bible. They continue to the present day.

As you know from the news, in parts of the world there is very strong opposition to changing one’s religious allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth. And yet, in those parts of the world people come to faith in Him nonetheless. One study set out to find out why. “What was it about Jesus or the Christian faith that they found to be sufficiently compelling, making them willing to pay such a heavy price?…over one-fourth of those surveyed state quite emphatically that dreams and visions were key in drawing them to Christ and sustaining them through difficult times….Though there are variations, Christ appearing in a white robe is a recurring image among those who have had dreams and visions.” Woodberry & Shubin, “…’Why I Chose Jesus’”, Mission Frontiers March 2001, 28-33,…-why-i-chose-jesus.

In other words, Jesus of Nazareth promised the ability to take people beyond death – while also giving lots of helpful tips for a successful life.

He then volluntarily died in the manner and location He had predicted, and rose the third day as He had predicted.

In case it’s alarming for you to simply consider 2000-year-old witnesses, investigate also contemporary stories of people who became Jesus followers because He appeared to them. Consider the high price some of these people paid by making the decision to follow Jesus.

-Helps for successful daily life.

– A physical resurrection from the dead, with hundreds of eye witnesses.

– Continuing post-death appearances to the present day, transforming lives, creating allegiance in extremely challenging settings.

Is there another book on the shelf of your favourite bookstore or another health and wellness teacher that can offer you all of that?

making God cry

How do you figure out what you truly need?

Here’s part of the Palm Sunday story to focus that question:

[Jesus] came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept ovr it, saying, ‘If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!’ Luke 19:41-44, Good News

Here’s what’s going on. The nation of Israel is suffering under a brutal foreign occupation. They want freedom, of course. But Jesus came to tell them that they had a much bigger problem which He had come to solve, and that they had put themselves in mortal danger by rejecting Him – kind of like spraying your house for bedbugs while the house is on fire. “The crowds were looking for political deliverance from Rome; he had come to bring spiritual deliverance from sin. They wanted One to conquer Caesar; he had come to conquer Satan” (Miller, Layman’s Bible Commentaries: Saint Luke SCM 1959, 136).

“The lament over the city…ties the destruction of Jerusalem to the…rejection of Jesus….The tragedy is that…God had come calling but his visit had gone unrecognized (Talbert, Reading Luke Crossroad 1986, 180).

Jesus, God in human form, knew what they truly needed. Because He is able to see the future, He also knew that their desire for political liberation from Rome would not succeed (check Jerusalem’s history 70 A.D.). Jesus’ focus was not on political liberation but on loving and healing both Jewish people and Romans, making them sisters and brothers in a new family centred on following Him.

Here’s the first Palm Sunday lesson from this story. The God who lovingly created you knows you better than you know yourself. He knows the future, and the consequences of the different options you face. He’s available to guide your choices as you surrender your future and your dilemmas to Him.

And the second lesson is that because God loves you and is able to see the future, He weeps as He watches humans make choices that will harm themselves and others. He finds no joy in watching people make self-destructive choices.

The best way to keep from making God cry is to allow Jesus of Nazareth, God in human form, to be the leader of your life. The future is unknown. We can’t predict with certainty the consequences of each option we face. Good Friday reminds us that God loved us so much that He became a human and voluntarily died to set us free from the destructive forces in our lives – something that we could never achieve on our own. However, He can only set us free if we allow Him to set the direction for our lives.

God loves you. He knows what you truly need. He can see the future. Wouldn’t you rather make Him smile than weep?

weapons of self-destruction: insecurity

Do you know the feeling of rejection?

With the guidance of Rick Warren (“Set Free From Me” Hope for Mental Health Sermons Saddleback Resources 2015) and Paul of Tarsus’ eighth chapter of Romans, we’ve thought about the things people do to themselves that are self-destructive in their minds.

1.For the self-destructive thought pattern of shame, we saw that Jesus voluntarily died as a sacrifice for all our failure and wrong-doing, and therefore God no longer condemns those who belong to Jesus (Romans 8:1-4).

2. For the self-destructive weapon of uncontrolled thoughts, we saw that the Holy Spirit gives life and peace to those who allow Him control of their minds (Romans 8:5-6).

3. For the weapon of compulsions, Paul told us that no Jesus follower has any obligation to follow destructive impulses because the power of the Holy Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside them (Romans 8:9-12). That power of life is infinitely greater than the destructive impulses you sometimes feel.

4. For the self-destructive weapon of fear, Paul tells Jesus followers that God is their father and they are His children (Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit who lives in the Jesus follower is not a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1&7, New English Translation).

5. For the self-destructive weapon of hopelessness, Paul gave us the word picture of child birth for our pain (Romans 8:22-25). For Jesus followers, there’s meaning to the pain and new life beyond the pain (Romans 8:17-18).

6. For the self-destructive weapon of bitterness, Rick Warren pointed out that Paul told us the Holy Spirit prays for us when we’re in distress (Romans 8:26), that God works our troubles out for good (Romans 8:28), that God is greater than my problems (Romans 8:31) and that God will give us what we need to handle the trouble we face (Romans 8:32).

7. That brings us to the seventh self-destructive weapon; namely, insecurity. Warren writes, “The fact is when you feel inecure it really messes up your life. And the worst fear that we have in insecurity is rejection. You have felt it from your parents. ‘Why can’t you be like your sister or your brother?’ You’ve felt rejected by kids on the playground. They made fun of you and made up names. You felt rejected bya boyfriend or a girlfriend. May be you’ve been rejecte by a spouse. Nothing hurts more than rejection. But one thing I can tell you. God’s never going to reject you” (Warren 18).

First of all, Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (Romans 8:34). “Interceding” – that means speaking on your behalf. Will God the Father listen to God the Son speak up for you? (Hint: that’s a rhetorical question – the answer is yes.)

Second, you can fight back against insecurity when you “trust that God will never stop loving me” (Warren 18). Paul explains, I’m convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t and life can’t. The angels can’t and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39, New Living Translation 1996).

Stay in relationship with Jesus and with a healthy Jesus-centred support group (called a church) and you can disable the seven weapons that want to destroy the health in your mind.

weapons of self destruction: bitterness

Life is unfair.

Do you agree?

Have you experienced that unfairness?

If so, how do you deal with the memories?

Are you ever resentful of the unfairness as you compare yourself to someone who did not experience that unfairness?

Do you feel resentful toward the person who treated you unfairly and got away with it?

If so, very smart medical people want you to know that the resentment you feel is toxic. Here are two resources accessible online.

“Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness” is an article on the Mayo Clinic website

Dr. Grant Mullen, who blogs at, says that our personality is shaped by the events of the past and by our interpretation of those events. He says that our interpretation of the event is more important than the event. What does that mean? Check out his website and you’ll encounter greater insight. Also, keep reading for Rick Warren’s answer to the question. He says that the sixth weapon of self-destruction is bitterness (“Set Free From Me” Hope for Mental Health Saddleback Resources, 2015, 16-18).

Warren writes that in “verses 19-25 of Romans 8, Paul describes how sin has damaged the world…everything in the world is broken…is suffering…in pain…is frustrated….He [Paul] says that the result of living in a broken world is pain, and the result of pain is bitterness…people hurt you and you get bitter and you get grudges and you get resentful, that’s a pain that’s going to eat you up. You’ve got to learn how to deal with that weapon of self-destruction” (Warren, 16-17). The cure for bitterness, writes Warren, is “to remind myself that God is good and in control” (Warren 16).

Warren finds in Romans 8 “four magnificent truths” in support of his basic principle “God is good and in control” (Warren 17).

a)”Verse 26-27 says this: The Holy Spirit is praying for me” (Warren 17)

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will (Romans 8:26-27, New Living Translation 1996).

b) “God is using it all for good….It’s not all good but he’s using it all for good” (Warren 17).

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).

c) “God wants me to succeed.” “God is greater than my problems. God is greater than my enemies. God is greater than my critics.” Warren 17

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

d) “God will give me what I need” (Warren 17).

Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else? (Romans 8:32, New Living Translation 1996).

“If God loved you enough to let Jesus die on the cross for you don’t you think he loves you enough to help you with your debt? Don’t you think he cares enough to help you with your health?” (Warren 17).

Writes Warren, who lost a son to mental illness and suicide, “Pain in your life is not optional. But misery is….Suffering in your life is not optional…Bitterness is optional” (Warren 17).

Broken as it is, the world is a safe place for those living in the power and leadership of the Creator God who loved them enough to die to rescue them.

Does this help?