Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘lie-based self-talk’

Self-Image: Three Questions

SOURCE:  Taken from the book by Ed Welch

So much of life comes down to the following three questions:

  • Who is God?
  • Who am I?
  • Who are these other people?

You might not wake up in the morning with these questions on your mind. In fact, you might never have asked these questions. But, as a human being, those questions are part of your DNA. You will find them sneaking around in your anger, happiness, contentment, jealousy, sadness, fear, guilt, cutting, sense of purpose, life meaning, decision making, moral choices about sex, friendships, school, work, and so on.

Notice, for example, how jealousy answers these questions.

Who is God?

“He is someone who should give me what I want.”

Who am I?

“I deserve better—better looks, better athletic ability, a better boyfriend or girlfriend.”

“I am a judge who is authorized to stand over others.”

Who are these other people?

“They are below me. They have things that I deserve more than them.”

 

Sadness or depression? Listen and you will hear their answers too.

Who is God?

  • “He is far away and doesn’t care.”
  • “He is someone who didn’t give me what I wanted.”
  • “He could never forgive me for what I have done.”

Who am I?

  • “I am nothing, literally nothing. It isn’t that I am trash; I am just nothing.”
  • “I am needy, and I haven’t gotten what I need.”
  • “I am alone.”
  • “I am God. I deserved something and I didn’t get it.”

Who are these other people?

  • “They are my life. I put my hope in them, and they let me down.”
  • “They don’t care, so I am trying not to care about them, but it isn’t working.”
  • “They can’t be trusted.”

You can see what’s happening. You already have answers to these questions. You just have to uncover them. You might know some right answers, such as “I am a child of God.” But our hearts are complicated. The right answer is rarely your only answer. Instead, you usually have at least two sets of answers: those that are “right,” and those that actually guide the way you live. To discover your real answers to these questions, watch how you live. In particular, track your emotions. Look for what makes you upset, depressed, angry, and anxious, or what makes you happy, calm, excited, and peaceful.

Once you settle into one of your less comfortable moods, who do you say God really is?

  • Angry
  • Far away and not aware of what you are doing in secret
  • Far away and uncaring about what is bothering you
  • Picky
  • Unfair

What about other people? Who are they?

  • Objects you manipulate so that they serve you
  • Protectors
  • Threats
  • Jerks
  • Things that can make you feel really good or really bad
  • Idols that you worship

And you? Who are you? Try to capture your view of yourself with a picture. If the picture is “child of God” don’t stop there. Find some others.

  • I am alone, living behind thick walls. I can see out, and everyone else looks normal, but I am isolated.
  • I am a leper who has to live with other lepers far away from everyone else.
  • I am the black sheep—unwanted, standing out in a bad way and not fitting in.
  • I feel like a baby bird, vulnerable, needy, waiting to be pushed out of the nest.
  • I am a piece of a puzzle, happy to fit in but not stand out.

Any you would add?

When it comes to being controlled by the opinions of others—the fear of man—there is one image that fits most of us: a vessel, cup, bowl, or some kind of container. Listen for words such as need, want, and empty. They hint that we want to be filled with something that only other people can give us. Ever feel empty?

Any thoughts on what you think would fill you?

Picture a cup, something like the animated walking teacups of Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. There is already something in it; call it self-esteem for now. Some people have more, some less, but no one feels like they have much. You waddle around, hoping that no one bumps you so hard that everything spills out. You also hope that someone close by is in the shape of a pitcher so you can be filled.

What would cause a spill?

  • “Loser!”
  • “We decided not to hire you.”
  • “We regret to inform you that you weren’t accepted to . . .”
  • “Can’t you do anything right?!”

What would fill you up?

  • “Nice outfit.”
  • “Awesome game!”
  • “Good job.”
  • “I love you.”

“I love you” fills you up best. Sometimes it is enough to hear it from a parent. More often, parents can’t fill you with their words of affection, though they certainly can cause you to spill all over the place with words of rejection. The job of filling you is usually reserved for your peers. Get an “I love you,” or even an “I really like you,” from the right person, and life is wonderful. You feel great. Full. Who cares if someone bumps into you? “I love you” is high-octane fuel for your self-esteem.

If you don’t get filled, bad things happen. You wander around with a case of the blues, though you might not even realize it. Some people try to fill themselves with other things: achievements, sex, drugs, music, video games, Internet porn, and fantasy. But none of it really works. Even if you receive love it doesn’t work for too long. It is like a drug that fills you for awhile—about an hour or so—and then you need more. And there will be days when you feel so bad that even “I love you” won’t make any difference. Either your cup has a leak in it, or you weren’t intended to live like a cup. Which one do you think it is? (Both answers are correct, so you don’t have to worry about getting the wrong answer.)

Do you have any ideas why life as a love cup doesn’t work?

There is nothing wrong with wanting love. It would be positively inhuman not to want it. The problem comes when we desire it too much—when our desire for love becomes the center of life—which, when you think about it, makes us the center of our own lives. The problem is when we want to be loved more than we want to love. If only life could be a little bit less about us.

Then it gets worse. When we live as love cups, we will get hurt. There is no doubt about that. We can never get filled enough. When the hurts pile up, we feel ashamed and protect ourselves. We hide behind masks. You can’t let others see you or really know you. You try to spruce up your facade with grades, thinness, or some other accomplishment, but you never feel covered up enough. When other people are staring, it’s as if they can see through the mask. So you move on to something less revealing—if masks won’t work maybe walls will. But walls have problems of their own. Have you ever experienced the transition from love cup (or approval cup or success cup or . . .) to mask to walls? We all have, so what was it like for you?

What masks do you wear the most?

  • Intelligence
  • Athletics
  • Popularity
  • Creativity, being different

One problem with masks and walls is that, though their purpose is to protect you from hurt, they hurt you even more because they don’t allow relationships. You can’t have a deeper relationship if you won’t allow yourself to be known. All this leads to a dead end: if you allow people to know you, you get hurt; if you protect yourself from people, you get hurt. It ends in misery. But there is another way. This better way allows us to be open and honest and part of a community where we don’t have to put up self-defensive walls. Ever been there? Have you ever had the pleasure of being open with another person?

Think about it. What’s better than having relationships that let you be yourself? If you have ever experienced that, be sure to thank those people.[1]

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

[1] Welch, E. T. (2011). What do you think of me? why do i care? answers to the big questions of life. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press.

Advertisements

How God Embraces the Embarrassed

SOURCE:  Paul Maxwell/Desiring God

Whether it’s a laughable underwear-on-stage experience (laughable later), or a deeply unsettling loss of integrity, embarrassment is a besetting quality of human life. It lurks and stalks beneath the surface of our circumstances, waiting to sink its teeth into our every failing and loss — intentional or naive, serious or jovial, public or private, embarrassment is a trained hunter of human failure.

Getting Behind the Blush

As with any concept, it is best to begin with a clear definition. For our purposes, we will define embarrassment this way: The emotional experience of being judged by others, whether rightly or wrongly; perceived or real. This embarrassment has five basic components.

1. Escape

“I want to die.” “I want to fly away.” “I want to disappear.” “I want to stop existing.” “I want to go back in time.”

Naturally. We want to escape the people. Embarrassment is an experience of the reaction of others to our condition or experience.

And it’s nauseating. Our very bodies start running away from us, out of our control. Tears. Blush. Vomit. Embarrassment is an emotional nuclear meltdown — not a fit, but an uncontrollable and convulsive inside-out-ness. The structures that support us begin to fall — our operating system fails from overload, and we just. . . want. . . to. . . ugh. “Get me out of here.”

2. Shame

“I am unacceptable.” “I have defiled myself.” “People now see the worst of me.” “People see me as undesirable, dirty, disgusting.”

When embarrassed, we assume we have elicited the gag reflex in everyone around us. In that moment, we feel like a monstrosity at whom people tilt their heads, from whom parents hide their children’s eyes, whom adults only speak of in morbidly curious judgment. The embarrassed are self-professed psychics, hearing, “I didn’t know you were so creepy, gruesome, strange, icky, hideous, shameful.”

Choose your poison. It’s there. In the moment, in the emotion, embarrassment is laced with fatal doses of shame.

3. Loneliness

“Not only am I not okay. Everyone else is fine.” “I am the only one who would do something this stupid.” “I am the only one who would be this dumb.” The loneliness of embarrassment can take extreme forms. “I am the pure and full embodiment of failure.” “Others fail, but not like me.” “Others make mistakes, but not like an idiot, not like me.”

To be embarrassed is to feel alone. In whatever amount, loneliness is a universal ingredient in the embarrassment cocktail. Stigma. Social exile. Them over there … me over here. No matter the circumstances, in the moment and emotion of embarrassment, we are utterly isolated and distanced, banished from words like “normal,” “everyone,” and “belonging.” Embarrassment revokes our access to the word “us.”

4. Self-Deprecation

“I deserve their scorn.” “I deserve to be laughed at.” “I deserve to be demoted to a lower social caste.” “I hate myself.” “Why did God even make me?”

Self-deprecation is more than shame. It is articulated and pointed. Shame is a blunt weight on our back. Self-hatred is a knife in our own hand. Self-deprecation is also more than loneliness; it is rationalized: “You should be alone. Who would want to associate with you?” Self-deprecation is our natural inclination to answer embarrassment’s “Why?” with a staunch “Because of me — obviously, again — because of me.”

5. Legalism

“I could have prevented this if I had been better.” “I could have stopped this if I had done better.” “I have put myself here.” “It’s all my fault.” “It’s always my fault.”

Embarrassment remembers. It keeps a record of wrongs. When embarrassed, we feel the cutting edge of disapproval from God and neighbor. Embarrassment is the emotional experience of failed earthly justification — of failing to attain “righteousness of my own that comes from the law” (Philippians 3:9). “From the law.” Insert: the righteousness that comes from being wealthy, successful, morally upright, popular, stable, employed, and socially savvy. Now imagine all of the condemnation that can rip you to shreds when you drop a meatball in your lap at a business lunch. “Now there’s no hiding how stupid I am.”

Embracing God in Embarrassment

Embarrassment is an obnoxious suffering. It is not something of which we can repent. Embarrassment is an experience of losing control of one’s self and circumstances. Embarrassment is an emotional and spiritual reality in which it seems like God is either absent, laughing along with the crowd, or expecting us to just move on and get over it already. But God rushes in to offer several unexpected gifts for the embarrassed.

1. Escape

Perhaps surprisingly, God endorses our desire to escape — but he won’t let us escape him (John 10:28–29). The first embarrassing moment in history: Adam believes that God is coming against him as he hides in shame: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). God’s response? “Good. Run. Get out of here. We don’t want you here. Look at yourself: naked, shameful, sinful.” We expect it. But no. Never. “The Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:23) “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22).

God says, “Hey, let’s get you out of here. This place isn’t safe. What do you have there? Fig leaves? Here are some leather garments; you’re cold. Come with me.” Why? “Lest he. . . live forever.” Parsed simply: “I won’t let this be your life.” “I won’t let you be inside-out forever.” That feeling of ours is grievous and important to him (Isaiah 51:3).

2. Protection

God is urgently involved in protecting the embarrassed — but he won’t let us run away from hard experiences either. In the moment of embarrassment, let the words of Genesis 3 show us God’s disposition toward the embarrassed: Notlaughing in agreement, but rushing to your aid. “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4). You want to escape? God is helping you to do just that — but you won’t escape him, and you won’t run away. He will rush into your embarrassment, break you out of hopelessness by strengthening your feeble arms (Colossians 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:3), and stand with you as your honor no matter your circumstances (Psalm 62:7). He does not mock. He does not forsake (Deuteronomy 31:8; Psalm 37:28).

“In your embarrassment, God is not laughing in agreement, but rushing to your aid.”

3. Perspective

A moment of embarrassment is like a moment of severe pain — all of our attention is on the bruise, the sprain, the break, the gash. Most often, we are powerless before embarrassment. It is locomotive, overpowering, controlling. But as we spin into our emotional tornado, God gives us relational grips to reach for. However embarrassed we feel, this moment will not last in the minds of others around us. Remember: embarrassment isn’t about the thing — embarrassment is about our experience of how other people experience us.

So let’s split up the opinion of others into unbelievers and believers. (1) To the unsanctified, the sinful heart is too self-involved to indulge in the downfall of others for long — they “seek their own desire” (Proverbs 18:1), “set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Romans 8:5), and are only bent on their own universe, even to their detriment — they “immediately forget what [they look] like” (James 1:24). And (2), to the sanctified, there is grace (Colossians 4:6), tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:32), and even protection to be received. People do not have the energy to harbor such sadistic scorn for long. And if they do, it certainly does not reflect the attitude of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:6; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:3–8).

People can be cruel to us, but often not as treacherous as we are to ourselves.

4. Communal Acceptance

Christians are often the first people to have a reason to qualify love, “Yes, God forgives them. . . . but they should be ashamed.” “. . . but let’s be real.” “. . . but they should know better.” “. . . but they should do/be better.” This is a failure to “rid [ourselves] of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from [our] lips” (Colossians 3:8). Embarrassed people already know that they have not made ideal choices or been placed in ideal circumstances. They need Jesus Christ, not a qualified personal Christian opinion (Hebrews 13:20–21).

We should “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19), we “should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:2), and we should “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The embarrassed need to receive Christ through real flesh and blood people (2 Corinthians 7:6). Because embarrassment is primarily an emotional experience ofother people, then the church, as other people, is in the perfect place to dispel the myth that they are under judgment, shame, or worthy of self-hatred. The church needs to find an “us” with the embarrassed. “Hey, I know you probably have tons of emotions swirling around. . . but this one time I messed up big, and was so embarrassed. Let me tell you my story.” “. . . but my spouse left me as well, and I’m here to talk if you ever want to.” “. . . but by the way, nobody is gossiping about this. We all just love you and hope you’re okay.”

Acceptance “from God” is real, and perhaps helpful long-term. But very often, what we need is acceptance from God in the form of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 15:7). In this way, the people of God combat both loneliness and shame.

5. Words

The last place the embarrassed will go is Scripture. Why would we go to a book that shames us? “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). The embarrassed are not a holy people. Or are they? Where would we fit in Scripture? It’s obvious. Out. Out where? Probably “the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42). Yes, there.

Well, maybe not. Scripture doesn’t cast us out. There are more fitting and redemptive roles to play for the embarrassed. God wrote embarrassment into the script of redemptive history, and therefore the Christian life — it’s part of the plan. For those who have sinned, God gives the words, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). For those who have suffered, “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived’” (Job 3:3).

Okay, so there are words for the embarrassed, but are there any positive words? Yes. Look to the crucified criminal. Publicly displayed, without excuse, exiled, punished, ashamed, naked, utterly embarrassed, interjecting into Jesus’s cry of dereliction, “Remember me” (Luke 23:42). The criminal is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), who cries “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Embarrassment, rejection, exile, shame, and loneliness are all real. And so the embarrassed are a people who cry “Why have you forsaken me?” with Jesus, who says to them, “You will be with me” (Luke 23:43), and “Can a woman forget her nursing child. . . ? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15–16). To the embarrassed, Jesus is not just with us. He is one of us. Not embarrassed of us, but standingwith us. He calls us his own.

In moments of embarrassed shame, loneliness, self-hatred, and failure, God gives the embarrassed his very Son (Romans 8:32), protection, perspective, acceptance, and words to say when (not if) embarrassment comes. The Redeemer is not surprised by our embarrassment, and he is not unprepared for it either.

“Jesus is not embarrassed of you, but stands with you as your crucified, humiliated Savior.”

Divine Conversation: A Present-Oriented Healing Prayer Model

SOURCE:  Excerpted from a dissertation by Bill Bellican*

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . . My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me (John 10:14, 27).

 He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught (Isaiah 50:4).

 I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out my complaint to him; before him I tell my trouble (Psalm 142: 1-2).

 Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is its most essential part – Andrew Murray

There is divine conversation between our Shepherd—The Lord Jesus Christ—and us who follow him.  He passionately loves us and invites us to talk to him and to listen to him.  Since the Lord is Truth (John 14:6), what we listen for and to is truth. This truth sets us free (John 8:32, 36).  The truth dispels lies and overcomes strongholds that would constrain us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  This truth makes it possible for us to walk in light instead of continuing to walk in darkness (John 8:12; 1John 1:5).  This truth allows us to have more of the mindset of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:2).  This truth destroys the work of the devil (1 John 3:8).  It is readily intuitive that individuals in a loving and intimate relationship with each other carry on truthful conversation for the edification and enjoyment of the other.

Divine Conversation is a spiritual tool—a present oriented healing prayer model—that fosters communication between the Lord and us for an intentional reason.  That reason involves positioning ourselves before the Lord to attune to his truth to overcome destructive strongholds of lie-based thinking.  This prayer based spiritual tool of communication with the Lord is within the tradition of healing prayer.

I find that established Spirit-led healing prayer models typically seek the deeper source of an individual’s present distress by addressing the inception of emotional woundedness or trauma that generates false beliefs that remain operative in the present.  These models position the individual to receive God’s healing truth as he brings his healing perspective to this hurtful and painful source.  Among leading deep level healing prayer models today, in my opinion, two are most notably and visibly used—Formational Prayer developed by Terry Wardle (Wardle 2001) and Theophostic Prayer developed by Ed Smith (Smith 2007).

The present oriented healing prayer model, Divine Conversation involves a basic process.  This process is “at once entirely simple and richly complex” when one thinks about how the Holy Spirit sanctifies the mind and imagination in a supernatural interaction with the living God (O’Donoghue 1986, 192).  Nonetheless, the process is simple in its application.  It is not unlike the process of salvation.  While the overall understanding of what is involved in salvation—a holy and righteous God choosing to die in the place of sinful people in order that a personal, intimate, and eternal relationship might be restored with him through faith in him—is also deep and profound, it does involve a process. However, this process is simple enough in its application that even a child might embrace it (Matt. 18:3).  This process of salvation involves some basic steps:

* understanding God’s love

* understanding our sinful and needy condition

* understanding God’s righteous, just, and redeeming response

* understanding our faithful response

In addition to these basic steps, other actions are also included to help give additional clarity and application to Scripture (Bright 2007, 1-16).

The process of Divine Conversation is much the same.  When indicated by the presence of negative emotional upheaval, the steps of Divine Conversation intentionally can be put into action.  Just as in the case of salvation, the Lord responds to a genuine invitation or expression of our will (Rev. 3:20).  The Divine Conversation process allows you to ask, seek, and knock for the truth as an exercise of the will (Luke 11:9-10).

Divine Conversation involves four primary components:

1. Emotional Upheaval

2. Core Steps

3. Prompted Steps

4. Experienced Truth

Like the process of salvation, the Divine Conversation process is simple and fluid.  The triune God’s power and plan encompasses the entire process of Divine Conversation.  The Father and the Son desire for us to be holy and formed into the likeness of the Son.  The Holy Spirit directs and empowers the various steps to make this plan possible.  The next sections look at each of the Divine Conversation process components in more detail.

Emotional Upheaval

Lie-based thinking and negative emotional upheaval are correlated.  The negative emotional upheaval serves as an indicator that something is going on within that needs attention.  Emotional upheaval serves “as God-given ‘dummy lights.’. . .[these emotions] are a God-given means for discerning inner motivation and thinking” (Kellemen 2005, 396).  This type of emotional upheaval is characterized by such things as an unsettled spirit, a lack of emotional peace, angst, anger, anxiety, and depression. Both Wardle and Smith have written a great deal about the connection between past wounding life events, associated lies, emotional pain/upheaval, and current life events (Smith 2007, 15-46; Wardle 2001, 127-144).  Our past constantly shapes and affects our present. We only have the moment to live in the present.  It then slips into our past. Our mind associates what it is currently experiencing with previously stored data whether that past data is based upon truthful or erroneous interpretation.  When a past event is based upon truth, there is no problem.  For example, each of us has learned somewhere originally in our past that a green light means go, and a red light means stop.  In the present, when we come upon a traffic light changing from red to green, there typically is no problem.  There is peace, and no emotional pain is present.  No lie-based thinking is involved.  No past wounding life event was experienced when originally learning the meaning of green and red.  The experiences associated with this original learning event were based on truth—green means go and red means stop.

However, too often, present life events tap into past experienced emotional wounds and troublesome life events that have never been resolved.  When that occurs, we ultimately experience the emotional pain or upheaval that is associated with the lies we presently believe based on our interpretation of the past event.  Left unattended, we may turn to any number of behavioral narcotics (both socially acceptable and unacceptable) in the present to quell the emotional pain we feel (Moon 1997, 39-43).  Scripture calls attention to the dual purposes of Satan and God as captured in Genesis 50:20—the same event involves two vastly different motivations.  Typically, Satan seeks to capitalize on our past woundedness to intensify and exaggerate the lies.  He desires that the emotional upheaval will turn our attention onto self and short-term fixes apart from depending upon God.  He wishes our destruction and harm.  Conversely, God uses the reality of this present emotional upheaval to get our attention focused on him and his pathway of truth and healing.  He is only interested in our good as he accomplishes his will concerning us.

Smith does clarify that some painful past experiences actually may carry truth-based emotional pain.  For example, I may experience present grief or sadness when an event triggers a memory about the reality of growing up without both parents present.  This emotional pain is real and normal.  It is based on truth—both parents were not available to me.  However, if that emotional pain and upheaval also ties to a belief that something is wrong with me because I did not have both parents in my life, a lie is present and operative.  Although some present negative emotional upheaval can be based upon past truth, “it is more common that the emotional pain . . . is rooted in what was falsely interpreted about the event as opposed to the truth in the event” (Smith 2007. 168).

Divine Conversation becomes one additional way to deal with the negative emotional upheaval and lie-based thinking in the present moment in place of turning to any other ineffective and harmful coping mechanism.  More extensive and deeper healing work may be needed to address the root or core issues fueling the lie-based thinking and emotional upheaval, but the lie-based thinking can be abated in the present moment.

Divine Conversation:  The Core Steps

We must consider the reality that we are in a personal relationship with a supernatural and triune God who greatly loves us and desires a communicative relationship with us.  He purposes to engage us in a unique relationship that is designed to mature us spiritually and conform us to the likeness of Christ.  One of the divine weapons or tools that God uses to accomplish this is Divine Conversation.  As we look more specifically at Divine Conversation, we must remain mindful that steps and technique are never to displace the relational connection with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What follows are the core steps for Divine Conversation (i.e., to define, to own, to move, to demolish the lie, and then desire and experience the truth).  It is desirable to have quiet, focused, and intentional time regularly to practice Divine Conversation.  However, spontaneously engaging in Divine Conversation is also feasible.  This type of prayer is to be used in the present moment of need.  As with any new skill, even a spiritual skill, practice is required.  Continued practice makes us more open, aware, receptive, and sensitive to the personal working and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Continue to practice Divine Conversation and the various spiritual exercises so that you are likely to initiate use of Divine Conversation at any time.  Use it immediately in the midst of any circumstance.  It is a form of prayer, and we are invited always to be in prayer (Rom. 1:9-10; Eph. 6:18; 1Thess. 5:17; 2 Tim. 1:3).  Just like Nehemiah, there are times where intensive prayer and communion before the Lord are necessary (Neh. 1:4).  Then, there are times when spontaneous communication with the Lord in the present moment is needed (Neh. 2:4).

Included with each step is a brief description and suggested dialog with the Lord.  The dialog is just an example.  You must convey your heart through your own words—simply and honestly.  For any words in brackets [ ], insert your specific words, feelings, and thoughts.

Core Step 1.   Define the Lie.  The initial step toward solving a problem is to define what the problem is.  In the case of lie-based thinking, the first step is to define the actual lie that is intruding upon the present.  For the most part, lies become rooted in our minds from several sources usually during our younger, formative years.  First, someone who intends to hurt us can speak lies into our lives.  In addition, we can experience traumatic episodes in our lives perpetrated by others, or we can experience trauma as the result of natural disaster or other calamity.  Second, those around us can unintentionally cause hurt and damage because of their skill-based, emotional, and relational deficiencies and/or mistakes in judgment.  Third, we can mistakenly come to the wrong conclusion about an event in our life and focus on a false interpretation.  Regardless of the situation, our mind works to make sense of an event, and we come to some interpretation of it.  As Kellemen notes, “We must make sense of our life experiences. . . . we are meaning seekers” (Kellemen 2005, 174).  Finally, we are subject to our own sinfulness and faulty natural disposition that touches every aspect of our existence.  “We are all bent souls. . . . Sinfulness infects both our thinking and our affections, blinding us to truth and causing our hearts to stray,” writes McMinn in Why Sin Matters (McMinn 2004, 37).  Ultimately, we fail to think and do that which we should, and we end up thinking and doing that which we should not (Rom. 7:15-24).

When our interpretation is not based on truth or is flawed, the seeds of lie-based thinking are planted, surrounded by emotional pain.  On a repeated basis as time passes, certain present life events serve as triggers as the brain associates the present situation with past information or memories that are stored.  When what is stored and accessed is based on lies, painful memories, and emotional pain, these intrude into the present resulting in emotional upheaval and dysfunctional coping measures.

The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), delights in uncovering anything, including lie-based thinking, that hinders our ability to live and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).  As fallen as they are, God can sanctify our reason and imagination to use them for his good purpose (Foster 1998, 25-26).  Thus, we must look to the Holy Spirit and seek his help in determining the lie,

“Holy Spirit, sanctify my mind as I am feeling [anxious and overwhelmed] in this moment.  What feels true to me?  What am I believing right now that is not based on your truth?  I want you to bring any lie I believe to my attention.”

Wait on the Holy Spirit as you sense, feel, and listen for him to bring to you the lie(s) you believe.  Allow the Holy Spirit to do this in his way and timing.  Keep alert and attuned to the Holy Spirit to do this. The lie will typically take the form of oppressive, intrusive, negative, hopeless, and despairing thoughts.  Many times, the lie will include self-identity statements (i.e., “I” statements) such as:  “I am no good.”  “I can’t do anything right.”  “I’m pitiful.”  “I will never get over this.”

At other times, the lie may be aimed at God.  These types of lies could include things such as:  “I can’t trust you.”  “You don’t love me.”  “You will abandon me.”  These are lies which you might know are not true about God, but they feel true in the present moment.

Whatever form the lie takes, always listen and sense for what seems to feel true.  It does not have to make logical sense.  You might even cognitively argue that you know better.  However, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to have you experience what feels true in the present moment.  In this case, this is the lie that is affecting you.

Allow the Holy Spirit to enable you to discern the difference between what actually could be true versus what feels true but is not the truth.  For example, a person asked to pray in front of a large group for the very first time may feel anxious or nervous about doing so.  This person may even think, “I might stumble over my words,” or “I am not ready to do this, yet.”  These are normal and true feelings and thoughts for a person in this situation.  Still, this is different from this same person thinking and feeling, “I will make a fool of myself if I do this,” or “I will stumble over my words and prove that I am an idiot.”  The latter are lies that hold us captive which the enemy capitalizes on to inhibit our spiritual walk and development into the likeness of Christ.  In his book, The Lies We Tell Ourselves, Chris Thurman does a wonderful job defining various categories and aspects of lies we believe and how to distinguish lies from truthful thoughts (Thurman 1999, 3-99).

Core Step 2.  Own the lie.  By owning the lie, we must acknowledge that the lie revealed by the Holy Spirit is real, and it is destructive in our lives.  We must embrace how this lie feels terribly true, and it is operative in the present moment of our lives.  We must agree with the Holy Spirit, not only about what the lie is, but also about the extent it has an evil hold on us.  We must see how the lie connects to our dysfunctional thinking and behaviors.  We must allow ourselves to grieve over the presence of the lie in our lives and for the space that we give it within ourselves to thrive.  We proclaim to the Holy Spirit,

“Holy Spirit, yes, it does feel true that [I am worthless and will never be of value to you or anyone else.] This lie has held me back and kept me down for so long.  I grieve and sorrow over how I continue to give in to this lie and let it control me and dictate how I live.  Cleanse me as I have focused more on this lie than I have focused on you.” 

Core Step 3.  Move the lie.  Moving the lie involves willingly, humbly, but decidedly taking the lie to the presence of Christ.  As McGee says, “We turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus” (McGee 1995, 191).  We turn the control of our lives and this lie over to Jesus.  We realize that he is the only one who desires to and can handle our hurts and fears.  Only he can tear down and effectively destroy the strongholds of lies in our lives.  Only Jesus can bring freedom for us to live freely in spite of outward circumstances with an inward peace based upon our moment-by-moment relationship with him (Isa. 26:3-4).  We must remember and take action on the fact that we cannot handle the vast array of lies that surround us and intrude into the present moment of life.  We have no power or wisdom in and of ourselves.  We must look to Jesus to fight against our strongholds and the lies within (2 Chron. 20: 12, 15).  We can confidently enter his presence with freedom to find mercy, grace, healing, and truth (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 4:16; James 1:5).  Apart from him, we are powerless to do anything about the lies in our lives (John 15:5).  To that end, we choose to remove the lie from just our presence and take it to the presence of Jesus,

“Lord Jesus, by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I bring to you this lie that feels so true.  What feels true is that [I am worthless and will never be of value to you or anyone else.]  It has held me captive too long.  It destroys me.  I believe that apart from you, I can do nothing about this lie.  Only you can destroy this lie.”

To be mindful of the presence of Jesus, allow yourself to feel his surrounding nearness.  Center your thoughts upon him realizing that there is not a moment of your life that he is not present and involved (Ps. 139; Isa. 52:12).  You might also use the Safe Place exercise as a way intentionally to be in the presence of Jesus as you bring to him the lies that hinder you.

Core Step 4.  Demolish the lie.   God is truth and totally truthful in all ways (John 14:17; Heb. 6:18; 1 John 1:5).  Satan is the originator, embodiment, and perpetrator of lies (John 8:44). Satan uses lies in our lives to harm us in any way possible (John 10:10).  These strongholds and lies “are ways of thinking and evaluating that are false, arrogant, and destructively disobedient. . . . [They] are beliefs that are untrue about oneself, others, or circumstances” (Murphy 2003, 376-377).

The plan of God includes destroying the works and lies of the devil (1 John 3:8).  God desires to give us what he knows is good and best for us—his presence which is his truth (Matt. 7:7-11).  God requires that we hate any form of evil (Rom. 12:9), flee any form of demonic presence (1 Cor. 10:14, 21), and let nothing master or hold sway over us that is not of God (1 Cor. 6:12).  Since we were bought at such a great price (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:20), God is vested in demolishing the strongholds that are counter to him and his love and plan for us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  Seek his help in eradicating the present lie that you have brought to his presence,

“Lord Jesus, please now demolish this lie that [I am worthless and of no value to you or anyone].  Tear it down.  End how this lie holds me captive.”

Core Step 5.  Desire the truth.  God’s desire for us is more than just bringing us truth to counter lies we believe.  While he does want us to have his truth, his greater goal is for us to desire him more (Matt. 6:33; 22:37) and to relate to him more intimately.  He wants us to want him more than what he will bring to us or do for us.  God has placed choices before humankind from the beginning of time through the present day (Gen. 2:16; 3:6; Josh. 24:15; John 3:16-18; Rom. 1:21-25).  He considers the motives of the heart about what an individual really wants to do (Prov. 16:2; Heb. 4:12)—whether or not we genuinely want to abandon the lies believed to embrace his truth or just feel better.  Jesus even asked the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46; Luke 18:41) what he wanted him to do.  Obviously, Jesus knew the man was blind.  However, Jesus had Bartimaeus state what he desired.  Jesus gave him more than just his sight as Bartimaeus also entered into a personal relationship with Christ.  Do we really want more of his presence in our lives?  Do we desire a full and deep application of his truth to do more than just help us in the moment?  As we truly delight in him and want more of his presence, he will give us this desire (Ps. 37:4).  Express your desire for the fullness of the truth of Christ to be experienced by you,

“Lord Jesus, I do want to hear or sense your truth in place of this lie that [I am worthless and of no value to you or anyone].  What is your perspective?  What do you say about this?  Let me not hear any other voice but yours or receive anything other than your truth.  Make it possible for me to experience you and your truth and the freedom you promise.  I am willing to receive whatever you bring to me.”   

Divine Conversation:  The Prompted Steps

The prompted steps are key elements about which to be mindful and willing to initiate as the Holy Spirit prompts you.  While attuning to the Lord and waiting for his truth to counter lie-based thinking addressed through the core steps, the Holy Spirit may encourage implementation of one or more of these prompted steps.  The reasons for these prompted steps are two-fold:  (1) The Holy Spirit knows that there is some impediment to your receiving truth; (2) He wants further to solidify his relationship with us.  Although the core steps are essential to the Divine Conversation process, any or all of the prompted steps are taken only as the Holy Spirit moves one to implement the prompted step(s).

Prompted Step 1.  Reaffirm position in Christ.   It is critical for us to know and internalize who the Lord says we are from his perspective.  We tend to spin around what we have internalized as true (Prov. 23:7).  As Neil Anderson says, “The battle is for the mind, which is the control center of all that we think and do” (Anderson 1993, 282).  Since Satan does not want us to be free because we might continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, he desires that we forget who we are in Christ.  Satan wants us to continue to internalize who we were apart from God.  Quite the opposite, the Holy Spirit wants us to revel in the fact that we are children of God and planned to be like Christ (1 John 3: 1-2).  As the Holy Spirit leads, remind yourself and experience the truth about who God says you are by reaffirming truthful identity statements that the Holy Spirit brings to mind,

“Holy Spirit, help me remember and experience the truths that [I am yours.  Jesus is my King, Savior, Lord, Master, Beloved, Brother, Friend, Shepherd.  I am God’s forever. God loves me more than I can understand.  God chose me to be in a forever relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit.  I am forgiven and accepted in every way by you.  Allow me to receive your truth in place of this lie.”]

Prompted Step 2.  Resist the devil.   Scripture makes it clear that Jesus defeated all the powers of evil at the Cross (Col. 2:15).  Additionally, in James 4:7-8, we are reminded that as we willingly and consciously submit to God’s authority, we can take a stand against this defeated foe—the devil.  The end goal of doing so is greater communion with God.  Anderson reminds us that although Satan is a defeated foe and his power is limited, “he still has the ability to deceive ‘the whole world’ (Rev. 12:9)” (Anderson 2000, 161).  However, we counter Satan’s deceptive attempts and practices with the internalized and experienced truth and authority of Christ.

Because of our faith in Christ, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph.  2:6, NIV).  Because of Christ’s heavenly position of authority, we also have this same position of authority.  This allows us to take a stand, resist, and wage warfare against Satan and his demons (Foster 1992, 239).

One key way we are able to stand firm and resist the devil is by spiritually attiring ourselves with the full armor of God (Eph.  6:10-18).  As we understand the significance of this spiritual resource, we can assert our will against being deceived and bullied by the enemy.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit calls us to resist the devil, we do so by taking our rightful authority in Christ,

“Lord Jesus, in your Name, I resist Satan and any demonic influence upon me.  I recognize only you as my Lord and Master.  I wear your full armor that I might stand firm against the devil’s lies.  I rebuke the lie that [I am worthless and have no value to you or anyone else].  I also ask that you—the Lord who is for me and who has chosen me—rebuke this lie and any demonic influence behind it.  Lord, what truth do you have for me in place of this lie?”

Prompted Step 3.  Proclaim desire for obedience.  According to Rick Warren, “You were created to become like Christ.  From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to make you like his Son, Jesus” (Warren 2002, 171).  The problem is that lies we believe hinder our obedience and, thereby, our progress to “be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24, NIV).  The good news is that as we seek to be obedient and in-step with the Holy Spirit, he releases his power to transform us into his image and to accomplish his purposes.  As Warren continues to emphasize, “God waits for you to act first. . . . [by] doing the right thing in spite of your fears and feelings.  This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit” (Warren 2002, 175).  As you seek his truth about the lie you brought to the Lord’s presence, acknowledge your desire to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in ways of obedience,

“Holy Spirit, enable me to desire obedience to you in all ways.  Train me in obedience.  Motivate me to obedience.  Open my eyes to what obedience looks like.  Bring to me the truths that I need only from you.”

Prompted Step 4.  Praise God.  Scripture commands us to offer praise and give thanks to God.  For example, we are told to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17, NIV).  Additionally, the psalmist explains that God is good and what he does is good even when he allows affliction.  He goes on to say that it was good that he was afflicted given that God in faithfulness brought forth the affliction (Ps. 119: 67-75).  McGee offers, “praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare” (McGee 1995, 194).

As you wait upon the Lord to bring his truth to you in place of the lie, praise him for whatever way he directs you to praise him.  Allow the Holy Spirit to freely carry your praises heavenward,

“Lord Jesus, help me to praise you.  Enable me to believe and experience how you are using my circumstances, the lies affecting me, and even Satan’s attempts to destroy me to work out my salvation and character to become more complete in you.  I praise you for your goodness in spite of what my problems and hurts are.  I trust you will only do what is right and good for me.  For all of this, I praise you for your wisdom and sovereignty over me.  Help me to be open to your truth.”

Prompted Step 5.  Remedy Sin.  To remedy sin involves engaging one or more of several components that the Holy Spirit might bring to our attention:  confession and repentance, releasing anger – bitterness – resentment, and receiving cleansing.

Confession and repentance involve more than just acknowledging sin or a stronghold and deciding to turn away from it.  Confession means that we allow the Holy Spirit to show us the reality of personal destructiveness caused by the sin or stronghold including the depth of evil it injects into our lives.  Repentance calls us to move away from a self-willed or rebellious approach to life and to move toward a humble, relational encounter with Christ (McGee 1995, 189-194).

By releasing anger, bitterness, and resentment, we become willing to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Matt. 18:15; Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32).  First, we move toward forgiveness, not because the offender deserves it, but because Christ deserves our obedience given that he sacrificed all to pay for our sins.  He did this for us when we did not deserve it and were, in fact, still his enemy (Rom. 5:6-10).  Second, when we hold onto unforgiveness, we impede our own healing, our fellowship with the Lord, and our ability to receive his truth (Ps. 66:18; Matt. 6:12-15; 18:21-35).

When releasing and forgiving others who have hurt us, Seamands has provided a wise and prudent way to go about this process as outlined in this summary (Seamands 2003, 130-147):

*Facing the facts.  We must be genuinely and ruthlessly honest about what we experienced.

*Feeling the hurt.  More than just being honest about the facts, we must allow ourselves to feel and connect with the pain we have and do experience.

*Confronting our hate.  We must have the courage to confront our hatred for the offender given what we experienced.

*Bearing the pain.  Forgiveness is costly.  When we choose to forgive, we also choose to bear the pain of the injustice we have experienced.

*Releasing those who have wronged us.  While not ignoring the demand of justice, we choose to release our offenders and turn them over to God.  Faithfully, we trust God to exact justice in his way and timing (Rom12:17-21).

*Assuming responsibility for ourselves.  We cease being a victim or needing to blame someone else.  We recognize that our identity is not defined by what happened to us.  A choice is made that holding on to the  pain and resentment caused by another is not to be a source of meeting our needs.

*Longing for reconciliation.  The goal of forgiveness is the restoration of broken relationships.  Just forgiving to get beyond the pain and get on with life does not go far enough.  It is very true that the nature and extent of reconciliation with an offender depends on a number of significant factors.  At the same time, as we are willing to trust the Holy Spirit to oversee this process and outcome, we find ourselves in the presence of the Cross of Christ.

After we have confessed and repented about a sin or stronghold and/or released others from our debt, it is critical that we are willing to receive the cleansing of Christ in our own lives.  His death on the Cross made provision for us to be cleansed from all aspects of every sin regardless of the source and to continue to experience this cleansing on an ongoing basis (Heb. 10:22-23; 1 John 1:9).  At times, we may feel that we have failed too many times, our failures are overly egregious, or we have been stuck in a sinful, shameful position for too extensive of a time.  The lie-based belief that either we are too bad to receive cleansing or that God will not provide further cleansing is another attempt of the devil to constrain our freedom in the Holy Spirit and hinder our relationship with Christ (2 Cor. 3:17).

As the Holy Spirit leads, express your heart to remedy any sin or stronghold, and/or for the release of troublesome emotions,

“Holy Spirit, you have shown me that I do hold [anger] toward [specific person].  Honestly, I have been [hurt] by [specific person].  However, I desire to be obedient to you.  I choose to forgive [specific person] for the damage done to me.  I do this not because [he/she] deserves this, but because Jesus deserves my obedience given how he has forgiven me.  Make it possible for me to forgive [specific person].  Take away the [anger and hurt].  Replace this with the thoughts and feelings you would give to me.  Forgive me for holding on to what happened for too long.  Allow me to experience your cleansing and release from this.”

Prompted Step 6.  Receive the Holy Spirit’s filling.  According to Ephesians 5:18, being filled with the Holy Spirit is a natural part of the believer’s life.  However, it is important to make a clear distinction.  Being indwelled by the Holy Spirit and filled by the Holy Spirit are two distinct aspects.  When a person by faith accepts Christ as personal Savior, a spiritual birth or conversion immediately takes place where the Holy Spirit forever indwells and seals the individual as proof of the redemption that has taken place (John 3:1-8; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30).  However, being filled with the Holy Spirit as noted in Ephesians 5:18 means being empowered, released, guided, and controlled by the Holy Spirit.  This is not a one-time event like being indwelled by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion.  Rather, this is an act of our will where we seek the continual, moment-by-moment presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  As noted by Siang-Yang Tan, “When we are open to the Spirit—continually filled and seeking to be filled—we are less likely to quench or grieve the Spirit in our daily living” (Tan and Gregg 1997, 20).  When the Holy Spirit prompts or reminds us to be filled, we exercise our will inviting him to overtake us and undertake whatever he desires in our lives in the present moment,

“Holy Spirit, I seek your total and complete filling in this moment.  Take control of everything about me.  I willingly invite you to be over my entire life, and I submit to you.  Make my will and desire to be exactly what your will and desire is.” 

 Divine Conversation:  Experienced Truth

“God is not simply to be learned about in life,” according to Wardle, “[h]e is to be experienced.  He waits in every moment to be encountered by those who seek him” (Wardle 2007, 110).

We are in a deeply intimate and personal relationship with a God who is to be known and who is to be experienced.  Our problem experiencing God has several facets:  (a) We have primarily a surface understanding about Christ and do not have sufficient knowledge about him, his work, and his Word.  We have treated him like a very distant cousin who we know of but do not really know well at all and with whom we do not spend any significant time; (b) At the other extreme, we know about God in great detail and have made it a disciplined practice to study about him and his Word.  At the same time, we have ignored, not understood sufficiently, or simply downplayed the reality of the experiential aspect of our relationship with him.  In other words, we know a lot about God without really knowing God (Benner 2003, 27).  Kraft reminds us that “John 8:32 refers to experiential knowledge, not mere theoretical knowledge, as that which undergirds the truth that sets us free” (Kraft 2002, 76); (c) Some are more left brain oriented and are not as oriented to the right brain functions allowing the spiritual senses to be open to imaginative and experiential encounters with God.

God works in the totality of our lives—past, present, and future.  He wants to bring us his truth to deal with the more past-oriented, deeply seated wounds and resultant lies of past troublesome events through deeper level healing processes.  At the same time, he wants to bring us his truth in the present moment of need to counter the lie-based thinking that invades our present.  In both cases, it is the relational experience of God and his truth that bring to our lives correct meaning, thinking, feelings, and actions.

As you apply the Core Steps of Divine Conversation and are mindful how the Holy Spirit leads using the Prompted Steps, you now are open to experiencing the truth in the way that the Holy Spirit knows best to bring it to you.  God will apply his unique truth tailored to the individual.  As Smith indicates, “God’s Spirit may convey truth through thoughts and words, visual imagery, or a sense of His presence” (Smith 2007, 159).  Additionally, God may apply his truth through:  (a) his Word as we read and meditate upon it; (b) timely and wise counsel of mature Christian believers; (c) the use of providential circumstances; (d) our sanctified common sense and reason; (e) applications of nature and creation such as a majestic sunset or the worry free existence of a squirrel gathering food (Tan and Gregg 1997, 57-60).

While waiting for God’s truth, we must be vigilant in the process and careful not to desire the outcome of the process over the One we are in relationship with.  We must not put our desire and focus more on what God might say or bring than on God himself.  With this in mind, we must guard against:  (a) putting God on our timetable to bring us his truth.  He will bring it in his timing; (b) limiting how God brings us his truth.  We must be open, willing, and sensitive to his choice of how he communicates truth to us; (c) putting words in God’s mouth.  We must discern the difference between our voice/other voices and the Voice of God; (d) seeking the spectacular.  As indicated in 1 Kings 19:12, many times God communicates in the manner of a “gentle whisper;” (e) ignoring basic good sense.  God will not convey anything that is contrary to his nature or Word (Johnson 1996, 92-95).

Having reviewed the core steps and prompted steps, I want to make a final observation.  There is no reason to feel guilty or perplexed if it seems that you are encountering the same or similar lie on frequent occasions requiring repeated truth from the Lord.  First, various characters in Scripture (Moses, the Israelites, Joshua) received reoccurring truths from God (e.g., “Be strong; Do not be afraid; Do not be discouraged”), perhaps, to counter reoccurring lies they were believing.  The enemy knows what particular lies in his arsenal work best against us, and he will trigger us through life events to bombard us with them. More important, the Giver of Truth will overcome these lies with his truth on each occasion (James 1:5).

Second, keep in mind that as you focus on healing prayer in the present moment, you are not attending to the lie at its source, as would be the case in deeper level healing prayer.  Simply allow the Holy Spirit to identify whatever lies are present and bring to you the experience of truth as he directs.  As you continue to hear the Lord’s persistent truth, it will tear away at the lie stronghold weakening its ability to stand against truth.  In God’s timing and way, the stronghold will be demolished.  Scripture indicates the need for us to position ourselves as persistently dependent on God for his mercy and truthful intervention (Ps. 123:2; Luke 11:5-13).

Finally, you might consider entering a season of deeper level healing prayer to address a reoccurring lie at its source.  In this case, Divine Conversation becomes complementary to deeper level healing prayer process.

APPENDIX

 DIVINE CONVERSATION: PRESENT-ORIENTED HEALING PRAYER MODEL

 

Bill-Bellican-chart

Divine Conversation Present-Oriented Healing Prayer Model

                                                                                                  

 

CORE STEPS

 Understand Life Events – Various life events trigger associated negative past experiences and/or are capitalized upon by Satan as a venue to breed an unsettled spirit within us.

 Recognize Emotional Upheaval – A negative emotional indicator that something is going on within me that needs attention.

Attend To Lie-Based Thinking – Inner statements/beliefs/attitudes that are intrusive but feel uncomfortably true.

Define The Lie – Ask the Holy Spirit to define specifically what feels true.

Own The Lie – Once defined, embrace the lie-based thoughts that feel true owning them as though they were true.

Move The Lie – Bring the lie-based thoughts into the presence of Christ recognizing your powerlessness to deal with them.

Demolish The Lie – Seek and depend upon the Lord to demolish the lie-based thoughts and enable you to take them captive.

Desire The Truth – As an act of the will, seek and expect the reality, application, and experience of the Lord’s truth counter to the present lie-based thoughts.

Experience The Truth – In the present moment, sense, listen for, be aware of the Lord conveying and applying His truth in the ways He chooses to do so.

Peace/Freedom – The opposite of emotional upheaval enabling you to experience freedom and peace in the present moment as truth is experienced.

 PROMPTED STEPS

 Should the Holy Spirit prompt you:

Reaffirm position in Christ – I must know who Jesus says I am to Him and who He is to me.  The devil does not want me to know this. (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 3:1-2)

Resist the devil – The devil is defeated, and I can resist him because I belong to Christ. (Eph. 6:10-12; Col. 2:15; James 4:7-8)

Proclaim desire for obedience – I must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to allow God to produce his character in me.  The devil does not want me to change.  (Ps. 119: 33-37, 44-48; Eph. 4:24)

Praise God – I can reflect God’s goodness by being thankful regardless of circumstances.  The devil wants me discouraged and mistrustful of God.   (Ps. 119:68; 1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Remedy sin – I must receive the abundant cleansing from my sin continuously offered by Christ. The devil continuously accuses me to promote a guilty conscience.  (Heb. 10:22-23; 1 John 1:9; Rev. 12:10)

Receive the Holy Spirit’s filling – I can live an empowered new life controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.  The devil wants me to live apart from God’s power.  (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18)

Examples of Lie-Based Thinking

Lies about God – He will not take care of me.  I cannot trust him.  He will never answer me. He could not possibly love me.  He is angry with me.  He is disappointed in me. He will not help me so I have to figure it out myself.  He cannot/will not forgive me because I have done too much.  He is not enough. God owes me. God is not fair.

Lies about others – No one will ever love me.  Everyone will hurt me.  All reject me.  No one sees any value in me.  Others do not like me.  No one cares anything about me.  People do not want to be around me.  Everyone is out to get me.

Lies about myself – I will never amount to anything.  I always fail.  I am worthless.  I can never do anything right.  I am hopeless.  I cannot change.  I cannot take it anymore.  I will always be miserable.  I will make a fool of myself.  My life is wasted.  I am stupid.  It is always my fault.  There is something wrong with me.  I am doomed.  I cannot stop.

Lies about circumstances – This will go on forever.  Nothing will ever change. This situation is impossible. There is no way out of this situation.  This problem cannot be solved.  My situation is hopeless.  There is no end to this problem.

Lies that seem positiveIt will not hurt me to do this.  I need to look at this/do this.  Doing this will make me feel better.  God understands if I do/think this.  If I do this, no one will know.  I will do this only this time.

NOTES: 

Anderson, Neil.  1993.  Living free in Christ.  Ventura, CA:  Regal Books.

________.  2000.  Victory over the darkness.  Ventura, CA:  Regal Books.

Benner, David G.  2003.  Surrender to love.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity

Bright, Bill.  2007.  Would you like to know God personally?  Peachtree City, GA: Campus Crusade for Christ.

Foster, Richard J.  1992.  Prayer: Finding the heart’s true home. New York:  HarperCollins Publisher.

Kellemen, Robert W.  2005.  Soul physicians:  A theology of soul care and spiritual direction.  Taneytown, MD:  RPM Books.

Johnson, Jan.  1996.  Enjoying the presence of God.  Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Kraft, Charles.  2002.  Confronting powerless Christianity.  Grand Rapids:  Chosen Books.

McGee, Robert.  1995.  The search for freedom.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Servant

McMinn, Mark R.  2004.  Why sin matters.  Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House

Moon, Gary.  1997.  Homesick for Eden.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Servant Publications.

Murphy, Ed.  2003.  The handbook for spiritual warfare.  Nashville:  Thomas

O’Donoghue, N. D.  1986.  The Mystical Imagination.  In Religious imagination, ed. James P. Mackey, 186-205.  Edinburgh UK: Edinburgh University

Seamands, Stephen.  2003.  Wounds that heal.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity

Smith, Edward M.  2007.  Theophostic prayer ministry:  Basic seminar manual 2007. Campbellsville, KY:  New Creation Publishing.

Tan, Siang-Yang and Douglas H. Gregg.  1997.  Disciplines of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House.

Thurman, Chris.  1999.  The lies we tell ourselves.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Wardle, Terry.  2001.  Healing care, healing prayer.  Orange, CA:  New Leaf

________.  2007.  Strong winds and crashing waves.  Abilene, TX:  Leafwood

Warren, Rick.  2002.  The purpose-driven life.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

*Author:  Bellican, W. M. (2010).  Divine conversation: Attuning to truth in the sacrament of the present moment.©  (Doctoral Dissertation).  Retrieved from Theological Research Exchange Network. (028-0324; 773236003)  http://www.tren.com/search.cfm

Letting Go of Lust

Why willpower alone is not enough

SOURCE:   Adam R. Holz/Discipleship Journal

The young man looks at the pile of work on his desk and takes a deep breath. With dread, he thinks about the deadline that looms on Friday. The pressing tyranny of so many things to do day after day has begun to wear on him.

As he heads to the kitchenette for another cup of coffee, a coworker steps out of her cubicle in front of him. He notices her clothes, or more specifically, how they fit her. In an instant, his thoughts race into forbidden territory as his glance sweeps over Marcia’s body.

“Morning, Sam,” Marcia says with a friendly smile.

“Morning, Marcia,” Sam replies according to script, unable to look her in the eyes.

Sam and Marcia discuss the morning’s non-news, the mundane stuff of casual conversations between coworkers. Almost unconsciously he watches her as she turns to leave the kitchenette.

As soon as she disappears around the corner, Sam realizes he’s fallen again. Despite his pleas to God and his vows to try harder, to do better, still his eyes wander. Like Peter after the cock crowed, Sam is filled with remorse. Back at his desk, he quietly pleads, “Forgive me, Lord.” But he neither feels forgiven nor has much time to think about it as he picks up the next invoice to record in the ledger.

Anatomy of Lust

Many sincere followers of Christ struggle with lust. What, exactly, is lust? Webster’s defines it as an “unusually intense or unbridled sexual desire.” In Ephesians, Paul says that lust characterizes those without Christ:

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.—Eph. 4:18–19

Paul also wrote, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Eph. 2:3).

These passages paint a dark picture of the person trapped in lust. Though Paul was talking about unbelievers, when believers give in to lust regularly, our souls are similarly darkened. We grow insensitive to sin and increasingly pursue fleshly gratification. Lust promises satisfaction but never delivers. Instead, we’re left with a driving hunger for more.

People who struggle with lust may be tempted to wonder, Is obedience in this area of my life really possible? This has been a pressing question for me. I’ve had seasons of consistent obedience as well as failure. I wish I could say that I have “arrived” when it comes to defeating this demon. But I have not discovered the silver bullet that will permanently vanquish lust from my heart, mind, and eyes.

However, I have begun to see that dealing with lust demands a deeper examination of the core beliefs from which our sinful choices spring. We can make important behavioral changes—such as memorizing Scripture and seeking accountability—but still fail to look carefully at what’s really going on in our hearts. To experience lasting change, we must recognize that sexual sin springs from wrong beliefs about God, about others, and about what will ultimately satisfy our longing.

Unmasking Unbelief

What drives us to choose something that so consistently fails to satisfy, something that heaps debilitating shame upon our lives? God has created us with a natural desire to experience intimacy. Lust is a debased form of this desire to connect with others. We want other people to understand what’s going on inside us. Lust, however, mistakenly elevates the sexual component of intimacy. It twists and warps our hearts into the tragic belief that sexuality—and fantasy—is the chief means to that end.

Lust also reveals a stunted belief in God’s goodness and His ability to meet our needs. Throughout the Bible, God has promised to fill, satisfy, and sustain us. Isaiah 51:12 says, “I, even I, am he who comforts you.” Zephaniah 3:17 describes God’s passion for us in poetic terms: “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” David spoke of God’s love for him: “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you . . . My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods” (Ps. 63:3, 5). In Ps. 16:11, David also said, “You will fill me with joy in your presence.” Finally, Isaiah wrote about how God has designed our relationship with Him to quench our deepest thirsts. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is. 12:3).

The New Testament echoes the Old in the ways it describes God’s promise to satisfy us. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:14). Paul wrote, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19, NRSV). Paul repeatedly described believers as heirs to the inexhaustible riches of a Father God who loves us passionately. We are children of the King!

And yet we sometimes choose to live as paupers, rooting around desperately in the trash instead of dining on the rich fare He offers His children at His table. If we capitulate to the siren song of the flesh, distortions and lies creep into our thinking in subtle ways. Enticing but life-sapping alternatives to His goodness always crouch in the shadows of the soul, seeking to seduce our heart’s attention. Whether we realize it or not, we begin to rationalize our sin.

We may think, I’ve sought to serve Him with all my heart for many years, but still He hasn’t brought me a life partner. It doesn’t matter if I indulge this lustful thought a bit. God knows I’m a sexual being. I deserve a bit of comfort. Instead of recognizing our sin for what it is, we come to see it as a right. We squint at God, viewing Him as a stingy miser who has established unreasonable laws to keep us from what we think will satisfy us. Lust is born the moment we choose to meet our needs our way instead of trusting God to be true to what He’s promised.

Maybe we don’t vocalize those thoughts. But when we choose lust, our actions uncover what we believe. We have essentially said to God, “I really don’t believe You can satisfy my deepest needs, and I’m tired of waiting. I am going to have what I want, on my terms, right now, and I’m not willing to wait for You to fulfill my desires in Your time.” Lust, then, is the wicked child of unbelief.

That’s why willpower alone can never be the ultimate solution to the battles we wage against the lusts of our flesh. I may vow, “I’m never going to do that again.” But that momentary intention does not get at the root of the problem: my unbelief in God’s goodness.

Instead, I must recognize that one key to resisting lust’s lies is learning to go to the Father and praying in faith, “Lord, You have said that You delight in me, that You love me, that You want to comfort and fill me with Yourself. You have said that You alone are life and that Your love is better than anything we might experience in this life, including sex and my fantasies about it. Father, help me to trust You in this moment of temptation. I believe in Your ability to fill and satisfy me.”

Peter said that if we take God at His word, we will experience freedom from the shackles of sin and we will know Him intimately. “He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Pet. 1:4).

Seeing Better

In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, a once proud and noble king slowly goes insane, slipping into deep paranoia about those close to him. One of Lear’s friends admonishes him, “See better, Lear.” Like the senile Lear, we, too, need to see better. Not only does lust reveal unbelief, but it also demonstrates that I see others only as objects of gratification, not as individuals whom God has lovingly created in His image.

How can we begin to see people as God sees them? By allowing Scripture to saturate our hearts. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s Word will transform our perspective. As we read and meditate upon it, we see what He values and discover how He wants us to relate to others. He uses His Word to rewire our perspective on reality, giving us new eyes to “see better.”

All of Scripture pours forth God’s love for each individual. A couple of passages, however, stand out regarding the way we see people. One important thing to reflect upon is that every person has been made in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). David describes God’s craftsmanship in Ps. 139:13–16:

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful . . . My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

Every person has tremendous dignity and worth simply by virtue of being created lovingly by God. We can begin to combat lust by asking God to help us remember and believe, deep in our hearts, that each individual is a unique and wondrous creation who bears His image. When I lust after a woman, I do violence to her dignity by failing to see her as a whole person and respect her as an image bearer of our God. Over the last couple of years, this truth has significantly changed the way I see people.

Another passage is one of the most familiar commands in the Bible: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Mt. 7:12). As a man, I’ve rarely been on the receiving end of lustful glances. However, one experience showed me how ugly, how selfish, how disgusting my lust is.

On a weekend trip to Santa Fe with one of my best friends and his wife, we discovered a club that featured a different kind of music every night. We enjoyed a delightful evening of jazz and returned the next night to see what else was on tap.

When we walked in, I noticed that everyone sitting at the bar was male. My friend whispered to me, “This feels weird.” He was right. Several male couples openly expressed their affection for one another on the dance floor. Recognition dawned: It was gay night.

By the time my friend and I turned to leave, three men at the bar were openly sizing us up. No veil of shame or embarrassment cloaked their hungry eyes. I remember how disgusting it felt to be seen as a steak on a platter. Almost immediately, however, a familiar voice said, “Adam, how often do you do the same thing?”

I try to remember that sense of violation. I try to remember because it’s not the way I want to be treated, nor is it the way I want to regard any woman. By God’s help and power, I am learning to see better.

Intimacy and Community

Earlier I commented that lust is a misguided attempt to meet our legitimate needs for intimacy. We may think the key to escaping lust’s tenacious grip is paying more attention to private spiritual disciplines. While this is important, I believe another crucial component is often overlooked. Those who struggle with lust must experience wholesome intimacy within the context of a loving community. We need to be with others who love us deeply, yet not sexually. We need to receive their affirmation, their affection, their love, and their touch.

Genuine community is built upon a willingness to take off our masks in front of others. Though we need to be careful to do this in appropriate settings, such as in a small group or even with one other person, it’s critically important that someone knows who we really are.

Moving toward that kind of honesty is never easy, even if someone else has taken the risk first. But often, we will have to be the one who steps forward, takes the risk, and talks openly about our sin.

Proverbs 28:13 describes the healing process that takes place when we confess our struggles to an accepting community of believing friends: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” I’ve sometimes failed to live up to the standards of purity God commands of us. Each time, I experience a tortuous descent into self-loathing, a crippling burden to bear alone.

Even after I’ve confessed my sin to God, I can only find complete freedom from my shame by confessing the whole truth about my choices to several men I trust. In doing so, I’ve never failed to experience the mercy about which the writer of Proverbs speaks.

The freedom and healing in confession come from knowing that others have glimpsed the dark places in our hearts yet accept and love us anyway. God graciously uses other believers as vessels of His mercy and grace, reminding us through them that forgiveness is real, that it is our birthright as His sons and daughters.

Hope for the Battle

When we find ourselves giving in again to lust, we need to look beyond the behavior itself to what’s going on in our hearts. Lust is a clue that something about the way we’re approaching life is not right.

If you’re wrestling with this sin, consider how you’re seeing God and others. Do you believe God is capable of meeting your needs? Are you carving out time to know Him in increasing intimacy through His Word and prayer? How are you looking at other people? Are you seeing them as image bearers of God or treating them as objects? Are you sharing your heart with others, letting them see your struggle, and receiving the gift of their prayers and willingness to listen? Or are you in hiding?

Paul’s promises about God’s work in my life give me hope for this ongoing battle. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). By His grace, I recognize His tremendous Father-love for me more each day. As I do so, His eyes become mine, and I see other people from His redemptive, life-giving perspective, instead of viewing them through the warped lenses of lust.

Even Though . . . . . .

SOURCE:  Alice M. Canny/Discipleship Journal

Even after I confessed to God and my husband, my past haunted me. I am an adulterer, I thought time and again. Every day that I get up, that is what I am. I wanted to serve God, but I felt unusable because of what I’d done.

Then God showed me people in the Bible who failed or sinned yet went on to serve Him. I began to imagine how these individuals might complete the statement “Even though I have….” As I wrote out the following list, God’s promises of forgiveness and restoration became real to me.

Abraham: Even though I have lied, I can be God’s friend.

—Gen. 12:10–20, Jas. 2:23

David: Even though I have committed adultery and murder, I can have a heart that pleases God.

—2 Sam. 11:1–17; Acts 13:22, CEV

Elijah: Even though I have been depressed, I can regain strength and joy to serve God.

—1 K. 19:3–18

Jonah: Even though I have refused God’s assignment, I can find it again.

—Jonah 1–3

Matthew: Even though I have committed extortion, I can be a disciple of Jesus.

—Mk. 2:13–17

Zacchaeus: Even though I have stolen from others, I can feast with Jesus.

—Lk. 19:1–10

Martha: Even though I have been distracted, I can experience Christ’s love and truth.

—Lk. 10:38–42, Jn. 11:5, 21–26

Peter: Even though I have denied Christ, I can feed God’s sheep.

—Jn. 18:15–27, 21:15–18

Thomas: Even though I have doubted, I can believe.

—Jn. 20:24–29, Acts 1:13

Paul: Even though I have fiercely opposed Christ, I can be a great witness for Him.

—Acts 22:1–21

These people sinned and displayed weakness, but none of them became permanently unusable to God. The same is true for us. Though we may stray from God’s plan for our lives, He promises to forgive us when we confess (Is. 44:22, 1 Jn. 1:9). We do not have to wear our failures like a name tag: liar, thief, adulterer. The only label that permanently defines us—and qualifies us for God’s service—is “child of God.”

Tag Cloud