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Posts tagged ‘Lie-based thinking’

Why Do You Do What You Don’t Want To Do?

Source:  Rick Warren

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32 (NIV)

Have you ever wondered why you do what you don’t want to do? Ever wondered why it’s so hard to do the things that you know are the right things to do?

Our sinful nature causes us to often make the wrong choice. You can probably relate to the apostle Paul when he says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate . . . So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t” (Romans 7:15, 17-18 NLT).

Even after you become a follower of Jesus, there’s this tension inside of you. You have your good nature that God gave you, but you also have your old sinful nature that is pulling at you.

But there is a way out! Jesus promised in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (NIV).

The secret to personal change is not willpower or something you do or say. It’s not a pill, resolution, or vow you make.

The secret to personal change is something you know.

You know the truth. When you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel. And when you change the way you feel, it changes the way you act.

Behind every self-defeating act is a lie you believe. It may be a lie about yourself, your past or future, God, or others.

Why do you do something that you know is bad for you? Because you think there’s some kind of payoff. That’s the lie! You can only change and fulfill God’s purpose for your life if you start with God’s truth. If you want to change the way you live, you need to start in your mind. You need to know and believe God’s truth.

When you know the truth, the truth will set you free.

God, His Truth, and Our Lies

SOURCE:  Dr. Bill Bellican

Each of us is affected by events in our past that have led to emotional wounding. We are fallen “image bearers” of Christ living in a fallen world. Certainly, we are affected by our own sinful choices as well as by the sins of others. Whether these events are traumatic or seemingly insignificant, they are fertile ground for distorted thinking, misperceptions, and lies to become embedded. The historical memories containing these “lies” too often are triggered by present events and act as unhealthy filters as we think, feel, and act in the present.

In addition to our own distorted thinking, Satan capitalizes on these lies using them as a way to keep us in bondage, weakened, ineffective, and destructive to ourselves and those around us. Satan would have us live an emotionally unhealthy, unfulfilled life in darkness. In contrast, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are Truth and desire us to walk and live in the truth. God knows that His truth will dispel the lies we believe, bring light to the darkness, and will set us totally free. Then we are able to love God more fully, love others, serve God, and enjoy a more fulfilled relationship with God.

The following Scriptures (NIV) are listed to open your thinking about lies, the truth, who God is, and how Satan works. The notes, which follow the listed Scriptures, are taken from the NIV Study Bible and other sources.  The notes are included to provide further insight and application of these truths.

Prayerfully read and reflect upon them asking God to apply His truth to your mind and to your heart.

Genesis 18:14a, Is anything too hard for the Lord?

NOTE: The answer is “no.” Nothing in God’s will is impossible for Him.

Exodus 23:29-30, But I will not drive them out in a single year.  Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

NOTE: Many times God works with us through a process by which He prepares us for the next step.

Numbers 33:50a-55, The Lord said to Moses, “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you.  Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.  But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.

NOTE: It is critical for us to allow God continually to root out all lies and distorted beliefs, or they can be triggered causing us continued problems.

Deuteronomy 4:29, But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

NOTE: This indicates total involvement and commitment. The Lord longs to bring us His truth.

Joshua 4:24, He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

NOTE: The Lord wants us to realize that He accomplishes His work without our help.

Joshua 5:13-14, Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

NOTE: We must know our place. It is not that God is on our side; rather, we must fight God’s battles. God has sent the commander of his heavenly armies to take charge of the battle on earth. He will fight on our behalf. We must be willing by faith to receive the truth from the Lord.

Joshua 6:1-20, Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands.  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.  On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.  When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.

NOTE: Marching around the city was a ritual act signifying a siege of the city that was to be repeated for six days. The Lord was laying siege to the city. At times, He may choose to lay siege to the walls around our memories, lies, and pain.

Job 12:22, He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.

NOTE: God knows even secret, evil plans/thoughts. His light penetrates the deepest darkness.

Job 42:5, My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

NOTE: It is one thing to know God and another to “feel” and experience God’s truth with eyes of faith and spiritual understanding. Freedom occurs when we trust God to apply to our lives the truths we had previously only known.

Psalm 28:6-7a, Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.

NOTE: The Lord realizes the need we have for the truth. He is our help as we look to Him.

Psalm 33:4, For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

NOTE: No power or combination of powers can thwart God’s plan and purpose to save his people. Under the Lord’s rule in the creation, there is goodness, order, dependability, and truth.

Psalm 36:9b, In your light we see light.

Psalm 43:3a, Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.

NOTE: God’s light invades and removes the darkness giving us a clearer, more focused view of the present that is based on His truth.

Psalm 66:18, If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

NOTE: Sin can be a barrier to the Lord bringing His truth to us.

Psalm 77:13-14a, Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles.

Psalm 86:8,11a, Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart.

NOTE: God is the only true God. No other “god” acts with such sovereign power. Dependence on and devotion to God ask that He save us from the enemy outside but also from our frailty within.

Psalm 119:130a, The unfolding of your words gives light.

Psalm 139:7,12, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Even the darkness will not be dark to you for darkness is as light to you.

NOTE: Just as the whole creation offers no hiding place from the Lord, neither does even the darkness. There is no memory or lie that cannot be accessed by the Lord. He knows where everything is located.

Proverbs 2:6, For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

NOTE: As we cry out for, look for, and search for wisdom/truth, the Lord will bring it.

Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

NOTE: We must commit to God our need, helplessness, powerlessness, and inability to figure Him out. We must refuse to come up with or rely on our own “answers” apart from Him. He will remove the obstacles from your pathway and bring you to the place where He wants you to be.

Proverbs 8:14, 17b, Counsel and sound judgement are mine; I have understanding and power; those who seek me find me.

Proverbs 30:5a, Every word of God is flawless.

Isaiah 2:5, Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 9:2, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

NOTE: Jesus is the light for our darkened minds and the lies we believe. His light is truth.

Isaiah 31:1, Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.

NOTE: Our help and the truth must come from the Lord, alone. No one else can provide what He alone can provide.

Isaiah 45:19b, I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.

Isaiah 49:8a, This is what the Lord says, “In the time of my favor, I will answer you.”

NOTE: The Lord has a perfect timing in revealing His truth to us.

Isaiah 49:23b, Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.

Isaiah 50:10b-11a, Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.

NOTE: When we try to help the Lord or find the answer ourselves, we will fail. We must simply “actively” wait for the Lord to accomplish His purpose in our lives and circumstances.

Isaiah 55:8-9, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

NOTE: We can’t put God in a box to do things the way we think they should be done.

Isaiah 59:1-2, Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

NOTE: God can do all things. But, our sins can be a barrier to God bringing us His truth. He longs for us to bring our sins to Him to be healed and released from them.

Isaiah 59:9b-10a, We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes.

NOTE: Too many times, we try to find our own solutions. We fail to take God as His word that He does want to bring us His truth to really set us free from our lies.

Isaiah 59:12-13, For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

NOTE: Too often, we choose to cling to the lies continually acting them out. Once we turn to the Lord, He accepts our request for forgiveness and freely brings His truth in His way and timing.

Isaiah 59:15-16a, Truth is nowhere to be found. The Lord was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him.

NOTE: The Lord knows we are actually helpless to heal ourselves in any permanent way. He is the Author of truth, and He is willing to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Jeremiah 17:9-10a, 14, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind.  Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

NOTE: Wickedness/distorted thinking/lies must not be allowed to take root in the heart.

Jeremiah 20:12a, O Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind

Jeremiah 23:23-24, “Am I only a God nearby, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

NOTE: God is both transcendent and immanent; He lives in a high and holy place but also with him who is lowly in spirit. There is no place that the Lord can’t access.

Jeremiah 32:17, 27, Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

NOTE: The answer is, “No!”

Ezekiel 22:30, I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

NOTE: The counselor lends his strength to those who have been weakened by the lies as both counselor and counselee look to Christ for His truth.

Daniel 2:22, He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.

NOTE: God knows where the darkness is and what lurks in it. Only His light will be effective in this darkness.

Daniel 9:13b, All this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.

NOTE: Too often, we remain in the darkness even if we don’t like it. It is what we know. At times, we choose to believe that nothing can really change us or our situation. God’s truth can bring true change.

Hosea 10:12:13a, Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception.

NOTE: Be no longer unproductive, but repentant, making a radical new change and becoming productive and fruitful. It involves hard work to break up unplowed ground. Many times the Lord allows us to “seek and wait” on Him until He brings His truth at just the right time.

Micah 7:8b-9b, Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.  He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.

Zechariah 4:6, So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

NOTE: The Lord Almighty is the One who brings freedom. It is not we who do this.

Matthew 8:2-3a, A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.”  “I am willing,” he said . “Be clean.”

NOTE: The Lord is the God of truth, and He always is willing to bring His truth into our lives.

Matthew 10:34, Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

NOTE: As one becomes more healthy, others who remain dysfunctional will try to draw the one back into the family dysfunction. Additionally, as we seek the truth, the spirits of darkness/Satan become active in trying to hinder this process of becoming free.

Matthew 11:29-30, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

NOTE: Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden is receiving His truth and freedom from the burden of lies we believe.

Matthew 13:58, And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

NOTE: We have to allow God to exist “outside of the box” we tend to put him in realizing His ways and thoughts are above ours. Otherwise, our ability to receive His truth is dulled.

Matthew 16:16-17, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

NOTE: When Jesus “breaks into” one’s life to reveal His truth, it is not the product of humanity/our own minds, but of Divine revelation.

Matthew 18:3, And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

NOTE: Trusting and unpretentious behavior like little children is necessary.

Matthew 19:26, Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 28:20b, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

NOTE: Jesus will not abandon us allowing us to trust in His presence always.

Mark 1:40-42b, A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing you can make me clean.”  “I am willing.  Be clean.’

Mark 2:3-5, Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, thy made an opening in the rook above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

NOTE: Jesus recognized that the bold action of the paralyzed man and his friends gave evidence of faith. Even so, the men had to work in faith to reach the Lord with their friend.

Mark 4:37-40, A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

NOTE: Jesus is always in control. He is never intimidated by the worst of problems we face. He calls on us to believe in His ability to handle all situations and to do that which we find impossible.

Mark 5:24b-28, A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

NOTE: The woman was healed because God graciously determined to reward her faith.

Mark 5: 36, Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Mark 6:5-6, He could not do any miracles there.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

NOTE: Jesus chose not to perform miracles in such a climate of unbelief.

Mark 9:22b-23, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

NOTE: The question centered on whether the father had faith to believe Jesus could heal. A person who truly believes will set no limits on what God can do.

Mark 10:15, I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

NOTE: The kingdom of God must be received as a gift; it may be entered only by those who know they are helpless, without claim or merit.

Mark 10:27, With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

NOTE: Apart from the grace of God, no one can be saved or healed.

Mark 10:51-52a, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”

NOTE: Jesus wants us to realize what we need from Him.

Luke 1:37, For nothing is impossible with God.

Luke 5:12b-13a, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

NOTE: Jesus is willing to meet us at our point of need in answer to our faith.

Luke 5:18-20, Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Luke 5:39, And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “The old is better.”

NOTE: Jesus was indicating the reluctance of some people to change from their traditional religious ways and try to think “out of their religious box.”

Luke 8:50b, Don’t be afraid; just believe.

Luke 13:12, When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”

NOTE: The spirit had been cast out, and the woman was freed from the bond of Satan and from her physical handicap. In the process of healing, Jesus caused her to face the reality of her pain. He causes us to face the reality of painful memories as the lies are determined.

Luke 18:17, I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

NOTE: With total dependence, full trust, frank openness and complete sincerity.

Luke 18:27, Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Luke 18:35-42, A blind man was sitting by the roadside.  He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

NOTE: It seems that Jesus wants us to fully understand our problem and realize what we are asking Him to do for us.

John 1:4-5, In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

NOTE: From Christ comes all spiritual illumination. He is the “light of the world” who holds out wonderful hope for all.

John 1:17, For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 5:8-13a, Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.  The man who was healed had no idea who it was (that healed him).

NOTE: Ordinarily, faith in Jesus was essential to be healed, but here the man did not even know who Jesus was. Jesus usually healed in response to faith, but he was not limited by a person’s lack of it.

John 8:32, 36, Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

NOTE: The truth Jesus brings dispels the lies and allows freedom. Those whom Jesus frees, are truly and completely freed.

John 8:44b, He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

NOTE: The truth is foreign to Satan who stands in direct opposition to the truth Christ brings.

John 14:6a, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

John 14:16-17a, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.

John 16:13a, But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

John 17:17, (Jesus in His prayer to the Father) “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

NOTE: In essence and in action the Spirit is characterized by truth. He brings people to the truth of God. All three persons of the Trinity are linked with truth.

John 20:27b, (Jesus to Thomas) “Stop doubting and believe.”

NOTE: Jesus calls us to simply believe who He is and in What He does and says.

Acts 26:17b-18, I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

NOTE: The role of the counselor is to be used by Jesus as a tool to bring the light of His truth to those who are encumbered by lies and Satan’s deceit.

Romans 1:25a, They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

NOTE: In our fallen state, we choose to believe a lie over the truth.

Romans 7:22-8:2, For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work in my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

NOTE: Deliverance comes through Jesus Christ over the force within us at work preventing us from believing in God’s truth. The controlling power of the Spirit frees us from the controlling power of sin and the lies it produces.

Romans 8:6, The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

NOTE: The mind of the sinful nature leads to death/lies. The mind of the Spirit-controlled nature leads to freedom/peace.

Romans 12:2b, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

NOTE: This is the process of the truth permeating the thought/will.

1 Corinthians 4:5b, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness

NOTE: God will find and expose the deepest lies of the mind.

2 Corinthians 3:17, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

NOTE: The presence of the Lord brings freedom.

2 Corinthians 4:4, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

NOTE: The devil is the archenemy of God and the unseen power behind all unbelief and ungodliness. He attempts to infect all with his lies to keep unbelievers and believers from walking in the freedom that Christ brings.

2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

NOTE: Christ, the only entirely righteous One, at Calvary took our sin upon Himself and endured the punishment we deserved, namely, death and separation from God. Thus, by a marvelous exchange, He made it possible for us to receive His righteousness and be reconciled to God. Our standing and our acceptance before God are solely in Him. All this is God’s doing. Given this, it is all the more believable that Christ would want to bring us His truth to dispel the lies we believe.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5, The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

NOTE: As the center of our very being becomes exposed to and fully subject to the lordship of Christ, every stronghold of lies is demolished.

2 Corinthians 11:14-15, And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

NOTE: Even when masquerading as an angel of light, this Great Deceiver remains forever the prince of darkness and father of lies.

Galatians 5:1a, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

NOTE: Christ sets us free from the burden of lies in which we are caught and entangled.

Galatians 5:13a, You, my brothers, were called to be free.

NOTE: God wants us free from lies/bondage to better serve Him and each other in love.

Ephesians 1:17-19a, I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

NOTE: As Christ brings truth to dispel the lies we believe, our mind, understanding, and inner awareness can more certainly believe in the hope He offers.

Ephesians 3:17b-21, And I pray that you may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory for ever and ever!

NOTE: God, who is infinite in all his attributes, allows us to draw on His resources to believe in that which is beyond our human capability — that He is willing and able to break-in our past — to free us and redeem our present — to enable us to live a more fulfilled future.

Ephesians 4:26, In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

NOTE: Anger directed toward injustice is appropriate. However, it is important that it is appropriately expressed and released to Christ not being allowed to turn into bitterness.

Ephesians 4:31, Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

NOTE: Such things grieve the Holy Spirit and become a barrier to Christ bringing His truth to us. We must allow Christ to take these things away from us and onto Himself.

Ephesians 6:11-18, Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all thee flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

NOTE: Our battles can’t be fought only using human resources. The battle is actually against powerful, evil beings in the unseen world. Human effort is inadequate, but God’s power is invincible. Ours is a spiritual battle and must be fought in God’s strength, depending on the Word and on God through prayer.

Philippians 4:13, I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

NOTE: Union with the living, exalted Christ is the secret of contentment and the source of our strength as we trust Him to bring us His truth. We are not helpless in any way.

Colossians 2:6-7, So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

NOTE: We must continue to be “rooted” in Christ in an intimate, spiritual, living union.

2 Timothy 1:7, For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

NOTE: Confusion and weakness are not from God. He calls on us to wait confidently for Him as he brings His truth.

Hebrews 1:1, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

NOTE: God is not limited in how He chooses to bring His truth to us. In these last days, the creator of the universe is the One who brings the truth.

Hebrews 4:12-13, For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

NOTE: God’s truth was revealed by Jesus. His words are active in accomplishing God’s purposes through a living power that works as an all-seeing eye, penetrating the totality and depth of our innermost being.

Hebrews 6:18b, it is impossible for God to lie

NOTE: God is absolutely trustworthy.

Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

NOTE: This “bitter root” or pride, anger, animosity, rivalry, or anything else harmful to others can block God bringing his truth and healing grace.

James 1:5-6a, If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt

NOTE: Wisdom is not just acquired information, but practical insight/truth generated by the Spirit.

James 1:18a, He chose to give us birth through the word of truth

NOTE: Since He gave us birth through His word of truth, He surely wants us to live and walk in His truth.

James 1:21, Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 3:14, But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

NOTE: All barriers to Christ bringing His truth must be removed with His enabling.

1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

NOTE: God does not want his chosen ones to dwell in the darkness of lies but rather would have us live in the light of his truth.

1 Peter 5:8, Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 John 1:5b, God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:6-10 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

NOTE: Light represents what is good, true and holy, while darkness represents what is evil and false. To live and walk in darkness is characterized by wickedness and error/lies, while to walk in the light is characterized by holiness and truth. For Christ to be free to bring us His truth, it is critical that we bring to Him all known sins that He may forgive us and restore our communion with Him.

1 John 2:8b, its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

NOTE: As we look to Jesus, the darkness passes as the light of His truth shines within our minds.

1 John 2:21b, no lie comes from the truth.

NOTE: The truth is completely freeing and overcomes the lies of our minds.

1 John 4:18a, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

NOTE: There is no fear of God’s judgement because genuine love confirms salvation. To be frightened/fearful of God is based on a lie and is part of Satan’s deception.

1 John 5:6b, The Spirit is the truth.

3 John 4, I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Strongholds of the Mind VS. Divine Weapons

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Rick Thomas

  How do you take every thought captive–the battle for your mind

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true?

Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true?

Either way, whether from you or another, any false argument launched against you can turn into a stronghold in your mind that will spiritually debilitate you.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We all are susceptible to false arguments that control our minds.

There are recurring thought patterns, if left unchecked, will become the dominating argument of a person’s mind, to the point where they become what the argument says they are.

To continue reading, please go to this link:  

https://rickthomas.net/how-to-take-every-thought-captive-the-battle-for-your-mind/

 

20 Lies Addicts Say to Justify their Addiction

SOURCE:  

Angel came into counseling knowing that something was wrong but not knowing what it was. After being married for seven years, he noticed his wife became more secretive and distant. Money from their savings account was missing and unaccounted for, his wife would disappear frustrated and return weirdly happy, and she seemed to get angry very easily over insignificant matters.

At first, he thought she was having an affair. But after looking at her phone and locations, he ruled that out. So he sought the advice of a therapist. Oftentimes when a spouse is hiding the severity of an addiction, the only evidence of it is the way they talk about it. An addict lies to themselves and others in order to justify continuing in their addiction. Here are some examples of addict speak.

  1. “It’s not that bad.” At the first sign of confrontation, an addict will minimize their addiction by claiming it isn’t that bad. They might even say they were far worse in the past.
  2. “I only use it occasionally.” Instead of flatly denying the abuse of a substance, an addict will admit to far less than what they are doing. The rule of thumb is that an addict admits to less than half of their actual usage.
  3. “I can’t deal with my problems without it.” The irony of this statement is that the addict begins to look for reasons to use their drug of choice. They might even create unnecessary problems to support it.
  4. “I can stop whenever I want to.” To keep from thinking they are addicted, an addict will deceive themselves into believing that they can stop at any time. They might even go for a short period of time to prove it but it is only temporary.
  5. “I’m not like … he/she is worse.” By comparing themselves to others, the addict can minimize the effects of the addiction while highlighting the severity of another person.
  6. “I’m different than …” Again, the addict picks another addict that is strongly disliked and says they are not like them. This comparison might even be accurate but it doesn’t diminish the reality of the addiction.
  7. “Everyone else does it.” This is a larger comparison where the addict claims that everyone they know does the exact same thing and therefore, they can’t have an addiction. It is a type of group think.
  8. “This is my thing, not yours.” Addicts tend to become weirdly possessive of their drug of choice. It is an affair of sorts where they are uniquely connected to the substance.
  9. “Life without it is boring.” This statement is further evidence of a substance affair. The addict sees life a dull and meaningless without the use of the substance.
  10. “I just like how it feels.” True addicts develop a personal relationship with their substance and assign properties to it as if it was a human. The substance can generate feelings within the addict.
  11. “I can’t be social without it.”A common belief is that the addict is unable to engage in society or with family and friends without the use of the substance. The more they use, the worse this becomes.
  12. “If everyone is, I have to too.”The addict will claim that everyone else does it and therefore they have to too as if there were no other options. This is especially true in work environments where substance usage is encouraged.
  13. “I need it to be creative.”This lie actually gives the substance credit for the addict’s creativity instead of the person doing the task.
  14. “I need it to relax.” Instead of dealing with stress and anxiety, the addict covers it up with their substance usage. But the problem that brought on the stress still remains after the substance wears off.
  15. “You are trying to take away my fun.” As soon as the addict receives some resistant from others for using, they resort to believing that everyone is trying to keep them from enjoying life.
  16. “It makes me a better person.” To justify their usage, addicts will say that without the substance they are more angry, frustrated, anxious, depressed, and/or bitter.
  17. “It hasn’t changed me.” The contrast to the previous statement is that the substance doesn’t have any effect on the abuser. In reality, the worse the addiction, the more dramatic the personality changes.
  18. “I’m not hurting you.” After being confronted, an addict will minimize the effects of their addiction by claiming that they are not doing any harm to others.
  19. “I’m still working, so it’s not that  To prove they are not addicted, an addict will use their ability to continue with work as justification. Many addicts are functioning addicts meaning that they are able to function during the day.
  20. “The kids don’t know, so it’s okay.” Another common lie is the belief that kids won’t notice the addiction. Unfortunately, many kids are sneaks and very observant.

After reviewing this list, Angel realized that his wife frequently said all of these statements. So he staged an intervention to confront his wife and get her the help she needed for recovery.

Unlearning the Lessons of a Toxic Childhood

SOURCE:   / PsychCentral

I didn’t realize until relatively recently how much my view of things is shaped by childhood. I took the position, until I went into therapy, that at age 42, all of my problems had to do with the present. But they don’t.

Even my therapist said that my mother did the best she could, and I believed that and, frankly, thought I should just make do with what she did give me and muddle through. But that’s not the answer, I now realize. Reading this book has made me realize how much I am getting in my own way.

Everyone in my life keeps telling me to move on, that the past is the past, and I need to just get on with living in the moment. They just don’t get it. The little girl I was needs to be dealt with.

Our culture is characterized by impatience with slow recovery, has a penchant for quick fixes, and a focus on forward motion, and future possibility; these cultural biases make it hard for someone who’s trying to make sense of and deal with childhood experiences as these messages, received from readers of my book Daughter Detox: Healing from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life, attest. Get Over It! Is considered by many to be positive cheerleading, even though it belies any understanding of what psychological damage looks like.

 

CONTINUE READING AT THIS LINK:  https://blogs.psychcentral.com/knotted/2018/01/unlearning-the-lessons-of-a-toxic-childhood/

 

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts

SOURCE:  Renee Jain, Contributor/The Huffington Post

All kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous.

“I didn’t get invited to Julie’s party… I’m such a loser.”

“I missed the bus… nothing ever goes my way.”

“My science teacher wants to see me… I must be in trouble.”

These are the thoughts of a high school student named James. You wouldn’t know it from his thoughts, but James is actually pretty popular and gets decent grades.

Unfortunately, in the face of adversity, James makes a common error; he falls into what I like to call “thought holes.” Thought holes, or cognitive distortions, are skewed perceptions of reality. They are negative interpretations of a situation based on poor assumptions. For James, thought holes cause intense emotional distress.

Here’s the thing, all kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous. Studies show self-defeating thoughts (i.e., “I’m a loser”) can trigger self-defeating emotions (i.e., pain, anxiety, malaise) that, in turn, cause self-defeating actions (i.e., acting out, skipping school). Left unchecked, this tendency can also lead to more severe conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, in a few steps, we can teach teens how to fill in their thought holes. It’s time to ditch the idea of positive thinking and introduce the tool of accurate thinking. The lesson begins with an understanding of what causes inaccurate thinking in the first place.

We Create Our Own (Often Distorted) Reality

One person walks down a busy street and notices graffiti on the wall, dirt on the pavement and a couple fighting. Another person walks down the same street and notices a refreshing breeze, an ice cream cart and a smile from a stranger. We each absorb select scenes in our environment through which we interpret a situation. In essence, we create our own reality by that to which we give attention.

Why don’t we just interpret situations based on all of the information? It’s not possible; there are simply too many stimuli to process. In fact, the subconscious mind can absorb 20 million bits of information through the five senses in a mere second. Data is then filtered down so that the conscious mind focuses on only 7 to 40 bits. This is a mental shortcut.

Shortcuts keep us sane by preventing sensory overload. Shortcuts help us judge situations quickly. Shortcuts also, however, leave us vulnerable to errors in perception. Because we perceive reality based on a tiny sliver of information, if that information is unbalanced (e.g., ignores the positive and focuses on the negative), we are left with a skewed perception of reality, or a thought hole.

Eight Common Thought Holes

Not only are we susceptible to errors in thinking, but we also tend to make the same errors over and over again. Seminal work by psychologist Aaron Beck, often referred to as the father of cognitive therapy, and his former student, David Burns, uncovered several common thought holes as seen below.

  • Jumping to conclusions: judging a situation based on assumptions as opposed to definitive facts
  • Mental filtering: paying attention to the negative details in a situation while ignoring the positive
  • Magnifying: magnifying negative aspects in a situation
  • Minimizing: minimizing positive aspects in a situation
  • Personalizing: assuming the blame for problems even when you are not primarily responsible
  • Externalizing: pushing the blame for problems onto others even when you are primarily responsible
  • Overgeneralizing: concluding that one bad incident will lead to a repeated pattern of defeat
  • Emotional reasoning: assuming your negative emotions translate into reality, or confusing feelings with facts

Going from Distorted Thinking to Accurate Thinking

Once teens understand why they fall into thought holes and that several common ones exist, they are ready to start filling them in by trying a method developed by GoZen! called the 3Cs:

  • Check for common thought holes
  • Collect evidence to paint an accurate picture
  • Challenge the original thoughts

Let’s run through the 3Cs using James as an example. James was recently asked by his science teacher to chat after class. He immediately thought, “I must be in trouble,” and began to feel distressed. Using the 3Cs, James should first check to see if he had fallen into one of the common thought holes. Based on the list above, it seems he jumped to a conclusion.

James’s next step is to collect as much data or evidence as possible to create a more accurate picture of the situation. His evidence may look something like the following statements:

“I usually get good grades in science class.”

“Teachers sometimes ask you to chat after class when something is wrong.”

“I’ve never been in trouble before.”

“The science teacher didn’t seem upset when he asked me to chat.”

With all the evidence at hand, James can now challenge his original thought. The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is for James to have a debate with himself.

On one side is the James who believes he is in big trouble with his science teacher; on the other side is the James who believes that nothing is really wrong. James could use the evidence he collected to duke it out with himself! In the end, this type of self-disputation increases accurate thinking and improves emotional well-being.

Let’s teach our teens that thoughts, even distorted ones, affect their emotional well-being. Let’s teach them to forget positive thinking and try accurate thinking instead. Above all, let’s teach our teens that they have the power to choose their thoughts.

As the pioneering psychologist and philosopher, William James, once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

5 Beliefs People with Adverse Upbringing Have about Themselves

SOUCE:    /PsychCentral

One of the negative effects of being raised in a difficult environment is a warped self-perception that manifests itself in various false beliefs. In this article, we will explore a few of the more popular ones.

1. I’m worthless

Believing that you are worthless is extremely common. Many children grow up into adults with a diminished sense of self-worth. That is the reality: if you treat someone whose mind is still developing as if they are worthless, they will believe that they are worthless.

This is understandable because if you are repeatedly told that you are stupid, incompetent, and useless, or even subtly or explicitly treated as though you are worthless, you receive the same message.

This is especially the case when those treating you this way are the very people that you are dependent on. You will, then, internalize this feeling and it will become your self-perception. Children pick up on these signals from their caregivers and adapt to their reality.

This belief is often accompanied by similar toxic beliefs:

  • I am unlovable.
  • I don’t matter.
  • I can’t do anything right.
  • There’s no point of even trying.
  • I don’t deserve anything.

2. Everything is my fault

Excessive, unjust guilt is another common problem people suffer from. This belief develops if a child is punished for making mistakes, if they are micromanaged, if they are expected to meet unrealistic or unfair standards, and if they are blamed for things that they are not responsible for.

As a response to such treatment, the person learns to believe that whatever “bad” happens it’s their fault—because that’s how they were treated and led to believe. It often leads to feeling severe social anxiety and being in a constant state of alertness. It makes a person’s personal life quite challenging since they constantly concentrate on others and think that everything is somehow related to them.

Similar beliefs:

  • I deserve to be treated this way.
  • It wasn’t that bad.
  • I was a bad child.
  • I am inherently bad or defective.
  • Someone’s always watching me.
  • Everyone hates me.

3. I have to take care of everyone

This is an extension of the previous belief. Here, the person believes that they are responsible for things that they are actually not responsible for. It is very common for such individuals to try to take care of other people’s needs, preferences, and emotions at the expense of their own.

If a child is not allowed to be a child and is forced to take up on a role of a parent—to their own parents, their siblings, or others—then they grow up feeling responsible for others. Such role reversal in a person’s early life predisposes them to neglect their own well-being, dreams, aspirations, and life for other people. The easiest form to recognize is people-pleasing, but it takes other shapes as well.

Similar beliefs:

  • I am responsible for other people’s emotions.
  • If others are suffering it’s my fault.
  • It’s my responsibility to save others.
  • I have to make sure that everyone’s happy.
  • My needs and wants are unimportant.

4. I can’t do anything myself

Many people who grow up in a controlling environment become overly dependent. This is because they were treated as if they are incompetent and weren’t given freedom to pursue their own goals, to make mistakes, and to overcome obstacles. Instead, they developed codependent tendencies and a sense of incompetency.

Here, instead of being an individual, facing life’s challenges and developing competency, the person stays stuck in the role of a helpless, dependent child, where they need someone else to take care of their financial, emotional, and even physical needs. A common, more extreme example would be a battered spouse who is afraid to leave because they think they can’t survive the separation.

Similar beliefs:

  • I’m not good at anything.
  • Everything’s so complicated.
  • I don’t understand anything.
  • I am waiting for my savior.
  • I just want for someone to take care of me.
  • I just want someone who will make me feel safe.

5. I have to do everything myself

This is, in many ways, the opposite of the previous belief. Instead of being passive, the person feels that they have to do everything on their own. As a child, they had to take care of themselves because their caregivers were not very caring or reliable. They were forced to grow up quickly and deal with their struggles alone.

For people like this it is difficult to trust others, ask for help, or be vulnerable. They were routinely hurt by other people’s insensitivity, betrayed by those who were supposed to love them, and let down by people’s incompetency and unreliability. So they learned that you have to do everything yourself.

Similar beliefs:

  • Showing emotion is “unmanly” or weak (i.e., dangerous).
  • I can’t trust anyone.
  • I don’t need anyone.
  • Everyone is just selfish and doesn’t care about anybody else.
  • Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  • You have to carry everything inside.
  • Nobody can understand me.

 

Overcoming Thoughts of Spiritual Betrayal (by God)

SOURCE: Dr. Gregory Jantz/AACC

If you have faith in God, depression can be similar to a betrayal by him.

After all, you have trusted him to care for you, yet you are still depressed.  You may have heard from your childhood that, as a Christian, you were to experience and exhibit joy, peace, patience—all the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23.  This sense of betrayal may haunt your sleepless nights and invade your despairing thoughts.  Feeling forgotten by God, you may even be angry at him.

This anger at God can contribute to your depression by provoking feelings of guilt.  You don’t think you should be angry at God, or you don’t think you have the right to be angry at God, so you feel guilty when you pray, the more you are convinced that he could fix it, but he won’t .  You doubt his love.  But you’ve also memorized John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world…” so you’ve been told he does love you.  Looking at all of this, you conclude he’s got a lousy way of showing his live, at least to you.

Or you may think, Perhaps I don’t deserve his love.  Maybe he doesn’t change my situation because I don’t deserve joy and peace in my life.  Possibly the things I’ve done are so bad that he wants to love me but can’t because of who I am.  And if God can’t love me, then I’m not really worthy to be loved by anyone.  And if my life is to be empty of love, hope is impossible.  If you look at it this way, depression is completely understandable.

Or is it?

Have you picked up the stream of thoughts in this line of reasoning?

It takes snippets of truth—God loves you, and Christians are to live lives of joy—and twists those around into something meant to injure you, not give you comfort.  This line of reasoning is not from God; it is from the Deceiver.  Rage is a deceiver.  False guilt is a deceiver.  Abject despair is a deceiver.  Depression is a deceiver.  That is why when you are in the midst of depression, you must replace your own negative self-talk with God-talk, which is based upon truth.  This God-talk will support your positive self-talk by agreeing with affirming statements, such as these:

  • I deserve love. (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16)
  • I deserve joy. (“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” –Isaiah 51:11)
  • I am strong enough to learn and grow each day. (“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” – 2 Samuel 22:33)
  • I can experience contentment in my life. (“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” – Philippians 4:12)
  • I am able to respond to my circumstances, instead of react. (“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” – Romans 12:2)
  • I can look forward to tomorrow. (“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” –Lamentations 3:22-23)

How do you fill your life and your mind with God-talk?

The Bible is full of life-affirming messages.  It is, at its heart, a love story.  It is a story of a loving God, who created you to love you and to be loved by you.

Like every great story, there is a separation, which must be overcome by terrible sacrifice.  Through God’s sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, you are able to confidently say, “I can live happily ever after.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books.

Three Steps to Overcoming Toxic Thoughts

SOURCE:  Jimmy Evans

After experiencing many life hurts of my own and helping many others deal with pain, I believe the worst part of being hurt isn’t the direct, tangible pain. The worst consequence of being hurt is the message within the pain which is often subliminal and less obvious.

You’ve probably heard of the novel or movie “The Horse Whisperer.” I often refer to the devil as “The Hurt Whisperer” because of the deceptions and lies that he whispers in the soul of our hearts. He’s sneaky and stealthy. We don’t even realize he is sending us these faulty messages about ourselves and others.

Some common lies and deceptions we hear are: “You’ll never succeed.” “God loves other people more than you.” “You’ve sinned too much for God to forgive you or bless your life.” “You can’t trust people, they’ll always disappoint you.” “If God loves me, why did He allow this to happen?”

We all have deceptive thoughts and we have to deal with them in order to heal from the pain in our lives. When we have unresolved hurts or life issues, we have faulty messages within us that keep us from God and what’s best for us. I believe virtually everyone has these issues controlling their lives, even believers who have known the Lord for many years.

Some of my primary thoughts from pain that I believed were: “I’m a freak.” “Anything good will be taken away from me.” “If people really knew me, they would reject me.” “I’ll always be disappointed.”

Some of Karen’s thoughts from her pain that she believed were: “Something is wrong with me and it can’t be fixed.” “I’m stupid.” 
“I’m unattractive.” “Something is mentally wrong with me. I’m not normal.”

Even though we can sometimes be the source of inner thoughts, the devil is the source of most of these. He whispers deceptions to destroy our lives.

Here is what I’ve learned and how you can destroy the devil’s lies that limit your life and marriage.

First, expose the thought to the light. We must be honest with God and ourselves because the truth makes us free and God works in light. Say how you really feel to God. God knows everything and will help you remember events and expose issues you’ve covered up, denied or forgotten.

Just spend some time with God and say, “God help me take inventory of my life. What pain have I experienced and what messages have I heard within the pain.” Think about your years growing up, especially trauma or grief. Write down the messages that you remember.

Secondly, expel any thought that doesn’t agree with Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, Paul writes that any thought that we don’t take captive will take us captive. A bondage is a house of thoughts. Every thought that comes through our minds, we must vigilantly and sometimes even aggressively put an end to its power.

If any thought or message that you have disagrees with God or Scripture, get it out of your mind and decide that this deception is not true and will have no power over you.

Finally, express your agreement with God’s word in Scripture. When the devil attacks and hurtful things happen, openly and daily confess the truth of God. Ephesians 6 tells us our confession with our mouth is our most powerful weapon. It’s literally like a sword that defeats the hurt whisperer.

Next time you feel inadequate and hear whispers like “You’re defective and inadequate.” “There’s something wrong with you.” “You don’t deserve success.” I want you to know that you don’t have to believe these lies. Believe what God says. You can overcome these negative thoughts with truth.

God says you were created personally and intricately. Your life was planned before you were even born (Psalm 139). You have a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) and you can do all things with Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13).

If you’ve ever had pain, failure or disappointment, then you’ve received an untrue message from the devil. To be free from that pain, we must expose it, expel it and express agreement with God.

Through this process God will heal your hurts and you’ll live in a new level of peace and freedom in your life.

Your Life Is Shaped By Your Thoughts

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2a NLT, second edition).

You cannot become all God created you to be until you understand the five factors that influence your identity. The first two are chemistry (how you are made) and connections (your relationships). You are a product of the way God created you and of the relationships in your life.

Your identity is also influenced by your circumstances and your consciousness.

Circumstances are the things that happen to you and around you — none of which you control. You are a product of the trauma, troubles, suffering, shame, shock, pressures, and pain that have shaped your life. Perhaps even abuse has affected your identity. If you’ve ever had a series of failures or a catastrophe, it has left an indelible mark on who you are.

Consciousness is how you talk to yourself. You know what? If you talked to your friends the way you talk to yourself, you probably wouldn’t be friends anymore, because our thoughts are filled with the lies we’ve heard from other people that we’ve let simmer and fester. When we repeat other people’s thoughts in our head, they go deeper and deeper in our consciousness, and they begin to shape our identity.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life” (NCV). Your thoughts don’t have to be true to hurt you; you just have to believe them. If you tell yourself your marriage won’t last, then it won’t. If you’re afraid you can’t do something, then you won’t. Your thoughts run your life!

Your circumstances may be out of your control, but God is in control of everything. Your thoughts shape who you are, but you can change the way you think. Your circumstances and consciousness have shaped who you are, but the way you respond to your circumstances and the thoughts you choose to believe will shape the rest of your life.

LET GOD CHANGE YOUR MIND

SOURCE:  Amy Simpson/InTouch Ministries

When it comes to worry, yes it’s all in your head and there’s something you can do about it.

There was a time I was nearly powerless against my own emotions.

Growing up in a household made confusing by my mother’s schizophrenia, I learned to mask my feelings well—the only way I knew how to handle them. When bad things happened or I got negative feedback, I’d quickly plummet into discouragement, depression, and sometimes self-pity. It was amazing how quickly I could drop from fine to really, really not fine.

Things have changed. I’ve changed.

A Christian counselor helped me understand the power of my “cognitive distortions”—negative and false messages I was habitually sending myself. I used to say, You’re a loser. You always screw up. You’re  worthless. Sometimes I didn’t even put these messages into words; I just directed hatred toward myself. I didn’t realize I was mistreating my own  soul. And because I sent myself these messages  so often, my spirit believed they were true.

Now my spirit believes something different.

I started sending myself messages grounded in biblical truth. I also started reading the Bible more, taking risks in Christian fellowship, and reaching out to develop supportive friendships. I can see those old messages are false, and when they do come to mind, I recognize them and tell myself what is true: I have purpose. I’m a beloved child of God. My God is much more capable than I am, and He loves me.

Fear and anxiety are normal, healthy, and productive capabilities given by God—but they’re not meant to be permanent states of being.

This change in self-talk affected more than my mind. It made a difference in my entire life. I’m less prone to depression, I’m more peaceful, and I have more love to offer others. I’ve noticed another change: I don’t worry as much as I used to. When I start to worry, I remind myself that God has transformed me into a new person by changing my mind.

Romans 12:2 is a commonly quoted verse, but we often focus only on not being shaped by the world but utterly transformed. We haven’t given enough attention to this transformation happening through a renewal of our minds. It’s not merely a soul or heart change. As the New Living Translation says, it’s a matter of letting God “transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Science is only now catching up to Scripture, which teaches us what is possible through Jesus Christ.

Our Changeable Brains

My story is one of many that demonstrate the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy. According to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, this form of counseling “is based on the idea that our feelings and behaviors are caused by our thoughts, not external things like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel/act better even if the situation does not change.” Rather than live at the mercy of outside forces, we have a choice. And the most effective way to modify our habitual behaviors and emotional patterns is to let God change the way we think.

Strong, if emerging, physical science also supports this.  Research has transformed our understanding of the brain’s capacity for change through neuroplasticity. It turns out that our brains are moldable long past childhood; they can and do change throughout our lives.

“Brain plasticity is a physical process,” says Dr. Michael Merzenich, noted neuroscientist and expert in brain plasticity. “Gray matter can actually shrink or thicken, neural connections can be forged and refined or (conversely) weakened and severed. Changes in the physical brain manifest as changes in our abilities. Often, people think of childhood and young adulthood as a time of brain growth … but what recent research has shown is that under the right circumstances, the older brain can grow, too.”

Thanks to neuroplasticity, changing our thoughts (as well as our behaviors and experiences) causes us to form new synaptic connections, strengthen existing ones, and weaken others. These new and altered connections result in changes in our behavior. In his book Soft-Wired, Dr. Merzenich writes, “As a skill is developed (such as whistling, or doing a pirouette, or identifying bird calls), the specific neural routes that account for successfully performing this new skill become stronger, faster, more reliable, and much more specific to—specialized for—the task  at hand.”

This is as true for habitual worry as for anything else.

Worry Is a Problem

Many of us need this kind of change. In a 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association, 40 percent of respondents said that in the previous month, stress had caused them to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. Nearly one-third said they had skipped a meal because of stress, and more than 25 percent said they had been unable to sleep. Another survey found that more than 60 percent of American workers worry they will lose their jobs, with 32 percent saying they worry about this “a lot.” Parents commonly worry about their kids, and big worries start when children are small. Worry is not only common in our society; it’s also woven into our cultural fabric—an expectation of responsible people, a fashionable accessory whose absence seems suspicious.

We often confuse worry with two other states of mind: fear and anxiety. The three tend to be used interchangeably, but they’re different. Fear and anxiety are normal, healthy, and productive capabilities given by God—but they’re not meant to be permanent states of being.

Our culture provides plenty of opportunities to worry. But followers of Christ are called to live and think differently from the worried world around us.

Fear is a response to an immediate (real or perceived) threat. Anxiety usually appears in anticipation of what will or might happen.

Unlike normal anxiety, worry is not an involuntary physical response but a pattern we choose.

Coming from within ourselves, it’s a decision we make to stay in that place of anxiety, which was designed to protect us from immediate danger, not to see us through everyday life. For some, staying in a state of anxiety isn’t a choice but, rather, a disorder that happens when the body’s healthy, helpful biological process works overtime. An anxiety disorder is, essentially, too much of a good thing, afflicting 29 percent of us at some point in our life. It’s very different from voluntary engagement in worry and requires treatment with medication, counseling, or both.

For anyone tempted to worry (and who isn’t?), our culture provides plenty of opportunities. But followers of Christ are called to live and think differently from the worried world around us. Voluntary worry directly contradicts the way God commands His people to live. If we’re not careful, it can lead to sinful behavior. Hence Jesus’ words: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34). This same message holds through the Bible, affirming a countercultural lifestyle of faith and trust from Genesis to Revelation.

Worry can injure our bodies and minds. It can cause shortness  of breath; heart palpitations; pain and damage in the back, neck, and shoulders; muscle tension; nausea; headaches; and other physical problems. In his book The God-Shaped Brain, Christian psychiatrist Timothy R. Jennings describes how the effects of ongoing worry look in our brains. As we spend more of our lives in a state of anxiety, fear, and worry, our neurons don’t function as well as they should, and we don’t produce as many healthy new ones.

The damage isn’t limited to our bodies. It injures our relationships with other people. And like all sinful patterns, worry forms a barrier in our relationship with God. It keeps us focused on ourselves, our agendas, and our own problems. It keeps us peering into the future, which is God’s domain, and clinging to people and possessions that belong to Him. That’s why addressing worry must include spiritual transformation. Voluntary worry ultimately cannot be overcome by sheer willpower—its solution is rooted entirely in who God is.

Solution: Faith

In their book How God Changes Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman used neuroscience to establish this startling concept: Belief in God—and religious activity itself—physically changes our brains. “Faith tempers our anxiety and fears, and it may even temper one’s belief in an angry God,” they write. “The beauty of Job’s story is that it reminds the suffering believer that God  is ultimately compassionate. And from the perspective of medicine and neuroscience, compassion can heal the body as well as the soul.”

Changing worry means changing what we believe about God and ourselves.

The discovery of neuroplasticity is a startling affirmation of Christian belief in allowing God to transform us through the renewing of our minds. It affirms the power of cognitive change as well. “Watch over your heart with all diligence,” Proverbs tells us, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus Himself spoke of the true source of our behavior: “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man” (Matt. 15:17-20).

Likewise, Paul told the Roman church, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5-6).

No therapeutic technique can transform us as the Holy Spirit can.

Acknowledging that neurological changes happen with a change in belief doesn’t diminish the mystery or power of God’s work in us. But we do have a choice—we can welcome this transformational work or resist it. God graciously gives us the freedom to believe.

Changing worry means changing what we believe about God and ourselves. If we don’t believe God is any bigger or better than us, we have reason to fret. But if we believe He’s all-powerful, trustworthy, righteous, and good, it makes sense not to waste our lives in worry, but instead to believe and embrace what we know to be true about God and who we are as His children.

Numbing Out The Voice of God

SOURCE:  John Taylor/Relevant Magazine

Confessions of a Drunk Worship Leader

One man’s story of overcoming his secret alcohol addiction.

Hungover and leading worship on Easter Sunday, Seth Haines felt a sharp, nauseating pain in his stomach. Two thousand churchgoers sang along, unaware, as he, nervous about hitting high notes, struggled to keep from vomiting. He led the congregation in singing:

He has cheated hell / And seated us above the fall / In desperate places / He paid our wages / One time once and for all

After the service, a couple of friends caught Haines as he exited the stage. “You have a special anointing,” they told him, with their hands placed on the worship leader’s shoulders.

Haines forced a smile before stumbling back to his seat.  “Anointed?” he thought. “What are you talking about? I’m hungover. I was probably still drunk when I got here this morning.

It all began with a Nalgene bottle.

Two years before that Easter Sunday, Haines sat in a hospital waiting room, trying not to think about Titus, his infant son born with a hole in his heart and a rate of respiration that jogged a little faster than most.

“You get enough alcohol in your system and you don’t feel anymore.”

Friends, family members and strangers visited in rotation. They offered prayers for swift recovery.

Haines and his wife, Amber, watched as doctors squirted blue liquid into Titus’ mouth through a syringe. The 6-month-old gurgled, squirmed and wailed as plastic tubes entered his nose and reached down into his still-developing intestines.

The doctors shook their heads when they found clumps of blood the size of popcorn kernels. The Haineses discussed what songs they would play at Titus’ funeral.

That was when Haines called his sister and said, “I need you to bring me gin to the hospital. Smuggle it in.”

Hours later, a Nalgene bottle arrived, filled to the top with Tanqueray. Haines unscrewed the cap and poured its contents into a plastic cup filled with ice.

In that moment, Haines—the believer, husband, father of four, full-time attorney, worship leader, home group host and editor of the blog “A Deeper Church”—was becoming an alcoholic.

Because, as Haines would say later, “You get enough alcohol in your system and you don’t feel anymore.”

***

“I think everyone’s story of belief is pretty complex,” Haines says. “Mine is no exception to that rule.”

About two years ago, in that hospital room, gin and tonic became “more gin than tonic” for Haines.

He started with casual single shots. Then doubles. Then triples. And eventually, regardless of the pour, he consumed as many as 10 drinks daily.

Before long, and almost unwittingly, he found himself hiding his drinking from his wife, Amber.

To keep her from noticing his rapidly growing addiction, Haines says he would store empty bottles in his car, then drive garbage bags of them to the dumpster behind his office.

When he and Amber hung out in their living room—talking and usually listening to worship music—Haines would wait for his wife to go to the bathroom, turn up the stereo volume and run to the kitchen for another drink before Amber could get back.

Despite his efforts, Haines couldn’t hide from his wife.

“Do you think you’re drinking too much?” she asked one afternoon about a year into Haines’ downward spiral. “When’s the last time you went without drinking?”

“I just knew, ‘All I have to do is plod away at my desk, keep my Christian facade up, then get home at night and drink away the voice of God.’”

He couldn’t remember. “Last…” he looked away, trying to think of a day Amber would believe.

“Thursday,” he lied.

***

A few months later, Haines was out-of-town attending a Christian conference and staying with some friends. As usual, on one of his nights away, he’d “had a good bit to drink.”

“It was 3 a.m. and there were these college kids who came across the yard and introduced themselves,” he explains. “I started talking to them about church. Before long, I was pretty much witnessing to them.

“The next morning, when I sobered up, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing?’”

That same weekend, as he describes it, the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to him through a concerned friend. Somehow, she’d guessed that he had a problem. He says their conversation was revealing.

“I would say things like, ‘Yeah, but I’ve never been pulled over for a DWI.’

“And she would say, ‘Well, you know that doesn’t matter, right?’

“I said, ‘Well, I’ve never hit Amber.’

“And she said, ‘You know that doesn’t matter either, right?’”

Later that day, Haines dialed Amber’s number and said, “I think I have a problem, and I don’t really know what to do.”

When he arrived home, the Haineses started a long journey of drying out.

***

In his first therapy session, Haines tried to answer tough questions: “Were you drinking to pass out?” “Do you have the shakes?” “Have you been drinking and hiding the evidence?” “Is it starting to interfere with your job?” “What are you covering with the alcohol?”

After he admitted his problem, Haines needed to discover the reasons behind it.

Titus wasn’t getting any better, he explained to his therapist. He and his family prayed for Titus’ recovery for months, but those prayers seemingly went unanswered. Haines feared losing both his son and his faith, in that order.

“Sickness, I fear, is the permanent plague of my son’s life,” he said to his therapist. “Of my life.”

A breakthrough came while Haines and his therapist discussed the initial source of the pain that first drove him to that Nalgene bottle.

Throughout his life, Haines has suffered from asthma, and it was particularly severe when he was young. As a child, he regularly spent time in the hospital for it. And it seemed after a while that his parents exhausted their options. In a kind of last-ditch effort, the elder Haineses turned to a faith healer.

Haines remembers the experience vividly. The healer marked a cross on young Haines’ forehead, his finger dipped in olive oil bought from a nearby grocery store.

“With enough faith, all things are possible,” the man said. He prayed so loudly that he was nearly shouting.

It didn’t work, and Haines still struggles with asthma today.

“That moment, more than any other moment in my life, has haunted me,” Haines says. “It was the moment where my faith was put to the test, when my faith as a 6 year old didn’t measure up. And if my faith as a 6 year old didn’t measure up, it’s definitely not going to as a 37 year old.”

The experience drove doubts into Haines’ faith, and it continued to “undermine the good seasons” in his life. Off and on during the next three decades, he would question just about everything about God: “Is He really there?” “Does He really intervene?”

“I would have those seasons of intense thoughts,” he says. “But I always seemed to come through them.”

Then Titus got sick. Haines was back in a pediatric ward, this time with his son.

“Today, I’m dry. Tomorrow I’ll be dry. And then we’ll see what happens. ‘One day at a time’ is a real thing.”

“We were visited by a person who comes to the room and says to me, ‘I know Titus is going to be fine, because you’re a man of great faith. Through your faith, God is going to heal your son’,” he remembers.

That was the last thing Haines wanted to hear.

In therapy, Haines realized that Titus was a constant reminder of the loss of his childhood faith. From his experience with the faith healer, Haines internalized the idea that his faith wasn’t good enough for God. And with Titus, Haines was seeing that his faith—and all of his church involvement—again wasn’t good enough. Slowly, he stopped trusting in God.

Cognitively or not, Haines thought God abandoned him. More than fear for his son or any kind of parental stress, that’s what drove him to the bottle.

“For me, it was, ‘If I drink enough, I don’t have to hear the voice of doubt in my head,’” he explains. “I just knew, ‘All I have to do is plod away at my desk, keep my Christian facade up, then get home at night and drink away the voice of God.’”

***

The same friend who identified Haines’ addiction suggested he journal as a part of the recovery process. On one particular night, well into his dry-but-searching phase, Haines read through the passion of Jesus—the suffering Christ endured in the hours leading to His crucifixion.

A familiar story took new life.

“In the Luke account, one of the last things Jesus says to His crucifiers is, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,’” Haines recalls.

That moment became the “touchstone” in Haines’ recovery. He knew what he needed to do. And so he journaled, “Father, teach me to forgive the faith healer.”

This September marked a full year since Haines’ last drink. And, yes, he’s a little nervous.

“I don’t like to think about what this looks like in five years,” he says, “because today, I’m dry. Tomorrow I’ll be dry. And then we’ll see what happens. ‘One day at a time’ is a real thing.”

The key, he says, is to believe God, and then to lay his anxieties at the Creator’s feet: Titus. The thirst for alcohol. The desire to be a better husband, a better father to his children.

As a part of his daily recovery, Haines says a simple prayer: “Lord, forgive my unbelief.”

Anxiety: UNDER PRESSURE

SOURCE: Cameron Lawrence/InTouch Ministries

We might be people of faith, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to anxiety.

It’s a weekday morning, and the coffee shop fills quickly, a line snaking around tables from the counter to the door. The machines answer back to their handlers—hissing steam, grinding beans—in a kind of waking song. I watch patrons sip from the day’s first cup, souls once again easing into their bodies.

And yet, I am drinking decaf—an unpardonable sin, I realize—just as I have for a decade. Not as a demonstration of dietary conviction or some obscure religious observance, but because of how years ago caffeine became a destructive force in my life. No, let me try again: I gave up caffeine because it revealed a destructive force already latent within me—a propensity toward anxiety of the sort that overtakes the mind.

It started in the weeks leading up to my wedding and then intensified after the honeymoon. Beneath my usual calm demeanor, irrational thoughts were inexplicably taking over my interior life. It was as if I had been walking through the familiar landscape of my existence, when suddenly I discovered a solitary door in the middle of an open field. I walked through, and at first nothing seemed different. But then I sensed them—specters creeping among the tall grasses, rustling the high branches. The world of my mind had become populated with shadows of my hidden fears. I looked for an exit, but the door had disappeared.

I prayed. I read the Bible. I went to church and talked with my pastors. Still, the anxiety persisted, affecting my work, relationships, and faith in God.

After several months of this, my wife had an idea. “Why not try giving up caffeine?” I’d been drinking a lot of coffee, and it hadn’t occurred to me that the daily intake might be exacerbating my condition. As a solution, it seemed too simple, too small to matter. But what did I have to lose?

I cut out caffeine, and within a week something was different. My mind was becoming clearer. After two weeks, thought patterns that had possessed me were weakening. In a few months, I felt more myself than I had in a long, long time. Since then, I can’t say I’ve ever been quite the same, having by grace passed through terror and found what I didn’t know lived in me. In truth, it lives in me still, even if not in the same ways. I feel anxiety flare up from time to time, trying to intrude. Trying to push me out of my own life. And what I’ve learned is that I’m not alone.

Just the other day, I was having dinner with a friend, when he confessed that he’d been suffering from panic attacks. Work had been tough—tougher than ever—but the anxiety he was experiencing transcended typical job stress. This easy-going, happy guy had found himself crippled by fear that had come with a suddenness and severity that left him sobbing in the morning’s wee hours. Medication has been helping, but the fear is still there, lurking. And a few months ago, I was on a retreat with some fellow writers, only to discover that due to all manner of hardships, several of the group were taking pills of their own.

No, this isn’t about coffee. This isn’t about caffeine or whether I think you should consume it. This is about the simultaneous strength and fragility of the human mind, and how powerful it is in shaping our lives for better or worse. This is about the problem of anxiety we each face in our own way. This is a conversation about faith.

Yet I hesitate to write that last line, because far too many Christians have abused their brothers and sisters struggling with anxiety. “Just have more faith,” people say, not comprehending the complexity of fear. Faith is more than the mental assent to a tidy system of beliefs. It requires more than a list of affirmations we repeat to ourselves, as if mantras can overcome our deepest existential crises. These fears, these anxieties, often lurk beneath the veneers of our theological systems and churchly behavior. We can’t always identify them, but they’re shaping our lives, guiding our reactions and decisions, whether we realize it or not.

Faith is an encounter—sometimes with a presence, and sometimes with an absence. Underneath all our apprehensions is one fundamental fear: that there is no God, or that if there is one, He isn’t good—despite our biblical training or the inspiring testimonies we’ve heard. Despite our own mysterious experiences, even if intermittent, of Love Himself. Deep down, we are often still afraid. So what to do?

Praying, reading Scripture, confessing sin, attending services, speaking with professionals—and yes, even taking medication—can all be redemptive. And we should submit ourselves to wise counsel, whether pastoral or medical. But in the end, the ultimate solution must be an encounter with God Himself, an ongoing communion we struggle toward—not through works that any man should boast, but through a humble, repentant heart.

This is how we open our hearts and minds to Him: We call out from within our desperation, and say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” and wait for Him, who in due time will come shining in—liberating our plains and forests, rivers and oceans, of every haunting ghost.

Suffering From REJECTION ?

SOURCE:  Excerpted from Rejection by June Hunt

Favoritism can be extremely painful.

Children catch on quickly when there is a “favorite” in the family. The favored child often comes late in life—late like young Joseph in the Bible, the beloved son of Jacob. In his heart, the father not only favors Joseph over his ten brothers, but also flaunts his favoritism by giving Joseph the infamous “coat of many colors”—a coat Jacob himself has made! Meanwhile, the older brothers seethe with anger at the sight of this richly ornamented robe, which has now become a symbol of their father’s painful rejection. Little did Jacob know that his own favoritism would be the breeding ground for jealousy—the spark that would create a climate of hurt, hostility, and lasting hatred.

“Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” (Genesis 37:3–4)

WHAT IS Rejection?
Have you ever wondered, What was the very first rejection on earth? The first rejection is recorded in the first book of the Bible. God gives Adam and Eve everything they will ever need. He also gives one warning, “Don’t eat from that one tree.” And what do they do? They eat from that one tree! Their direct defiance means that they reject not just God’s Word, but also God Himself (Genesis 2:15–17; 3:6).

• Rejection is the act of refusing to accept or consider a person or thing that is not wanted or not approved.1

▆ When you experience rejection, you feel unloved, unwanted, unacceptable.
▆ The Greek verb apodokimazo means “to reject as the result of examination and disapproval.”2 (apo = away from, dokimazo = to approve)
▆ Jesus felt the pain of rejection. The Bible refers to Christ as the “Cornerstone”—the vital, the most essential stone of a major structure—yet He was the cornerstone (or capstone) the builders rejected.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” (Matthew 21:42)

• To be rejected is to be cast aside, cast off, cast away—to be thrown away as having no value.3

▆ When you are rejected, you can feel useless, abandoned, worthless.
▆ The Greek verb atheteo means “to do away with, to set aside, to cast or throw away as useless or unsatisfactory.”4
▆ Jesus challenged the Pharisees and teachers of the law because they were rejecting the laws of God.

“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:9)

• To reject someone means to despise, refuse, shun, turn away from.5

▆ If you reject others, you use your attitudes and actions to reveal the condition of your heart.
▆ The Hebrew word maas means “to reject, refuse, despise.”6
▆ Because God has given each of us free will, we may choose to reject the Word of God and even God Himself.

“The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9)

QUESTION: “My father died six years ago, but I’m still having trouble dealing with the anger I’ve had toward him. He was partial to my brother, but treated my sister, my mother, and me like second-class citizens. I tried to please him with my achievements, but we never communicated and he never recognized my accomplishments. How can I stop being so controlled by my anger?”

ANSWER: Anger has four sources: hurt, fear, frustration, and injustice. The anger you describe comes from at least three of the four. The rejection you experienced is very hurtful. Seeking to please him and never achieving recognition is extremely frustrating, and being treated in a negative way simply because you are a female is most unjust. The truth is that his treatment of you had nothing to do with you, but everything to do with him. He was the one in the wrong. His inadequacies let you down. Recognize this truth and turn loose of your expectations regarding him. Admit that your father was unable to be loving and accept him simply for being your father. Choose to forgive and release him to God so that your anger does not produce bitterness in your own heart.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15).

WHAT IS Acceptance?
Joseph understood rejection. Although he was his father’s favorite son, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. Imagine Joseph as a teenager—he suddenly finds himself jerked out of his comfortable home, only to be carted off to a foreign country to live as a stranger, to live as a slave! The grief of losing his family must have been frightening.

Still, Joseph accepted the will of God in his life, which enabled him to accept the sovereignty of God over his life. In spite of one betrayal after another, Joseph refused to become bitter. Instead, he accepted his circumstances by humbly entrusting himself to God.

As years passed, Joseph rose to a position of highest respect and power. When his brothers journeyed to Egypt in search of grain, they found themselves at the mercy of Joseph. Immediately, he knew who they were—but they didn’t know who he was!

Did he take revenge and refuse to give them grain? Did he send them off with grain, but not acknowledge them as brothers? Did he extend his hand of help, but insist they bow before him?

No. Joseph refused resentment—he accepted his brothers despite their past betrayal. By inviting them to become part of his life once again, they knew his acceptance was not merely conditional, but rather unconditional. And, in truth, his acceptance was possible only because of the condition of his heart—his heart of true forgiveness, which allowed him to focus on the future, and his heart of true commitment, which enabled him to let the past stay in the past. (Read Genesis 37:12–29 and chapters 41–45.)

• To accept someone means to approve or to receive that one favorably or willingly.7 We should receive and value others because of their God-given worth.

▆ Your acceptance of others is based on the disposition of your heart, which, in turn, is expressed through your attitude and actions.
▆ The Greek word proslambano means “to accept, receive, welcome.”8
▆ Jesus Christ provides the supreme example of acceptance. The Bible says we are to accept others the same way Christ accepts us.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7)

WHAT ARE Three Levels of Acceptance?
When we reject someone, if we look closely, we may find that we are repeating the same rejection that we ourselves have received. The same is true of those who have learned to be accepting of others. Typically, we give what has been given to us. However, your past rejection need not determine your future. You can grow in your ability to become more and more accepting—even when you yourself have been rejected. The Bible says …
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18)

The Three Levels of Acceptance9

1 Zero Acceptance

• “No matter what I do, I’ll never be accepted.”
The person who totally rejects you harbors deep hurt and bitterness and extends no grace and mercy. But the Bible says …
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31–32)

2 Performance-based Acceptance

• “I feel accepted only when I perform perfectly.”
The person who accepts you based only on how you act demands, “You must meet my requirements,” and rarely offers grace and mercy. But the Bible says …
“Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13)

3 Unconditional Acceptance

• “No matter what I do, even when I fail, I always feel accepted.”
The person who accepts you—especially when you fail—lives with a heart of grace and mercy and reflects the heart of God. The Bible says …
“Show mercy and compassion to one another.” (Zechariah 7:9)

QUESTION: “Can an authentic Christian be rejected by God?”

ANSWER: No. Based on various verses in the Bible, an authentic Christian who has truly trusted in Christ will still sin but will never be rejected by God. If you find yourself fearful of being forsaken by God, claim the following truth from God’s unchanging Word:
“For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.” (Psalm 94:14)

CHARACTERISTICS OF THOSE FEELING REJECTED10
The teenage years can be replete with life’s most painful rejections. Because of severe insecurity, young people crave acceptance from others and often overreact to any rejection.
By age seventeen, Joseph felt the sting of rejection from his older brothers. But, in truth, Joseph played a part in causing his brothers’ jealousy. Although God had given Joseph a special ability to interpret dreams, Joseph unwisely disclosed a certain dream to his older brothers which implied that one day they would all bow down to him. Speaking these words was not smart on Joseph’s part!

“Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’” (Genesis 37:5–7)

How insulting! How impertinent! How arrogant! Resenting the implication that Joseph would “lord” over them, his brothers continued to be filled with an animosity that eventually reached a boiling point. These brothers, who felt such intense rejection, in turn took revenge and made sure that Joseph would pay dearly. Joseph’s brothers did not realize that although some say, “Revenge is sweet,” it can also leave a bitter aftertaste. That is why the Bible says …
“See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

ARE YOU Controlled by the Fear of Rejection?
If your sense of self-worth is based on the approval of others, you are on a runaway roller coaster with no ability to control when you are up or down. Your feeling of value is at the mercy of what others think about you. Your sense of identity is determined by how others respond to you. To get off this uncontrollable roller coaster and conquer your fear of rejection, allow the Lord to control your life. He created you and established your worth when He made you in His image. As you put your trust in Him, He will turn your fear into faith because …
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

Messages of One Who Is Addicted to the Approval of Others
If you think you may be living for the approval of others, honestly evaluate the following statements to see if they reflect your self-talk.

• “I am not good enough.”
• “I have to try harder.”
• “I have to earn your love.”
• “I have to be perfect.”
• “I can never please you.”
• “I always feel stupid.”
• “I am always the one at fault.”
• “I am not acceptable in the eyes of others.”
• “I know that what I think isn’t important.”
• “I know there is nothing likeable about me.”
• “I don’t deserve to be loved.”
• “I don’t feel anyone could really love me.”
• “I don’t feel that God could ever love me.”

Even though you may think these thoughts are true about yourself, they don’t reflect God’s truth. The Bible says …
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

The Fear of Rejection Test11

If we feel controlled by the fear of rejection, then our focus will be on being “people pleasers.” However, we need to say what the apostle Paul said:
“We are not trying to please men but God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

If you are uncertain whether or not you are living for the approval of others, answer the following questions honestly to see if you live with the fear of rejection.

• Do you avoid certain people out of fear that they will reject you?
• Do you become anxious when you think someone might not accept you?
• Do you feel awkward around others who are different from you?
• Do you feel disturbed when someone is not friendly toward you?
• Do you work hard at trying to determine what people think of you?
• Do you become depressed when others are critical of you?
• Do you consider yourself basically shy and unsociable around others?
• Do you try to see the negative in others?
• Do you find yourself trying to impress others?
• Do you repeat negative messages about yourself to yourself?
• Do you look for clues as to how others are responding to you in order to avoid the pain of rejection?
• Do you say “Yes” when you should say “No” to others?
• Do you expect others to respond to situations and conversations in the same way you would?
• Do you hear people saying that you are a “codependent person”?
• Do you experience hypersensitivity to the opinions of others but insensitivity to your own emotions?
• Do you often feel overly controlled by others?
• Do you struggle with anger and resentment toward others?
• Do you seem to be easily manipulated by others?

If you conclude that you have been controlled by the fear of rejection and you have lived for the approval of others, take this verse to heart:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

WHAT ARE Inner Symptoms of Rejection?12

What are the ramifications of rejection? Perhaps you’ve been unaware of its subtle impact on your soul (your mind, will, and emotions). One obvious assault that rejection makes on your soul is an altering of your own self-perception and the inevitable insecurities that seem to arise out of nowhere when someone painfully turns away from you. That rejection can sear the deepest part of your soul and at the same time “mess with” your mind, taint your thoughts, and make you question your ability to function normally. But God, who knows every rejection you will ever encounter, never planned for you to be emotionally or spiritually disabled. Although you will be rejected, the Bible says …
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The following are many of the classic symptoms of those who have been rejected in the past and as a result have a fear of future rejection.

• Ambivalence—“I have difficulty making decisions— if I make the wrong decision, I could be rejected.”
• Anxiety—“I have real apprehension when someone says, ‘Trust me.’”
• Bitterness—“I harbor bitterness toward those who rejected me and toward God, who allowed it to happen.”
• Depression—“My heart feels so heavy. The pain has pushed me down.”
• Distrust—“I can’t really trust others not to desert me.”
• Escapism—“Life hurts. I just need to numb the pain.”
• Fear—“I live in fear of being rejected again.”
• Flat emotions—“My heart is so deeply hurt that I can’t seem to feel excited about anything.”
• Guilt/false guilt—“I feel so bad about myself. No wonder I was rejected.”
• Inability to accept love—“Even if others say that they love me, I know it’s not true.”
• Inferiority—“I know I’ll never measure up!”
• Insensitivity—“I can’t feel for others who are in pain.”
• Introspective—“I’ve got to keep analyzing what’s wrong with me.”
• Low self-worth—“I know I’m not worthy of being accepted.”
• Resignation—“Whatever will be, will be, so why try?”
• Self-condemnation—“I feel terrible. I know I’m to blame whenever I’m rejected.”
• Self-pity—“I’m always ignored. No one reaches out to me.”
• Self-rejection—“I wish I’d never been born!”
• Withdrawal—“I’m not willing to be vulnerable again.”
• Worry—“I’m afraid I’ll be scarred for life.”

WHAT ARE Outer Signs of Rejection?13

The unseen pain of rejection can sabotage your soul and shatter your spirit; however, the outer signs of rejection are easily seen and even felt by others. When someone special walks out of your life, the joy of living is snuffed out like having a wet towel thrown on a lit candle. The darkness of desertion can discolor your perception of others and do untold damage to your relationships. The saddest part of it all is that rejection breeds rejection!
In truth, no one can avoid being rejected or treated unjustly at times. However, when you remember that your identity is in the Lord, because of your relationship with Him—not in your having been rejected by others—you will experience the truth that you, like Paul, can be …
“ … hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9)

Many of the outer signs of rejection are:

• Abuse—Mistreating others and even yourself
• Addiction—Seeking solace in addictive behavior in an effort to numb your pain.
• Anger—Feeling bitterness toward others and even toward God
• Apathy—Giving up on life—not caring about anything
• Arrogance—Acting superior to others
• Competitive—Assuming, I have to be the best
• Critical spirit—Being condescending toward others
• Defensive—Arguing with others for self-protection
• Dominant—Controlling others and situations to an excess
• Exaggeration—Bragging to impress others
• Hatred—Loathing (primarily directed toward yourself)
• Isolation—Becoming a loner as a means of self-protection
• Jealousy—Resenting suggestions and successes of others
• Legalism—Complying with rigid rules based on black-and-white thinking
• People pleasing—Trying too hard to please others
• Perfectionism—Feeling like a failure unless you do everything perfectly
• Performance-based acceptance—Believing your acceptance is based only on how well you perform
• Rebellion—Resisting the authority of others
• Subservient—Cowering in the presence of others
• Undisciplined—Lacking self-control and boundaries around others
• Vengeful—Getting even with others

WHAT ARE Thoughts, Feelings, and Vows?14
When you experienced painful rejection in the past, do you remember rehearsing repeated thoughts, feelings, and perhaps even “vows”? Unfortunately, these repetitious thoughts (I’m not accepted) and emotions (I feel unwanted) lead to an illogical conclusion (I vow that no one will hurt me again).
How we live our lives is based on what we believe. Therefore, if we believe we are rejected, we will live a life of rejection in our minds, our hearts, and our emotions, even when we are not outwardly rejected by others.

• Repeated Thoughts:

▆ “No one loves me.”
▆ “No one cares about me.”
▆ “I don’t really matter.”
▆ “I’m not good enough.”
▆ “I don’t fit in.”
▆ “I’m not accepted.”

• Repeated Feelings:

▆ “I feel empty inside.”
▆ “I feel all alone.”
▆ “I feel insignificant.”
▆ “I feel like I’m not worth anything.”
▆ “I feel unwanted.”
▆ “I feel excluded.”

• Repeated Vows:

▆ “I’m not going to get close to anyone again.”
▆ “I’m not going to let anyone be important to me again.”
▆ “No one will ever hurt me again.”

This progression demonstrates the importance of taking your thoughts captive, training your mind, telling yourself the truth. You are accepted by God; therefore, allow Him to heal your heart from the pain of the past. If you will cancel the vows that are contrary to God’s Word, you will experience perfect peace in your life.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

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Hunt, J. (2013). Rejection (june hunt hope for the heart). Torrance, CA: Aspire Press.

What is the TRUTH about me?

SOURCE:  Living Free/Martha Homme, MA, LPC

“I have to be perfect.”
“I must have everyone’s love and approval.”
“I’ll be a social outcast unless I lose weight.”

Irrational beliefs like these can lead to unhappiness, depression and eating disordered behaviors. These misguided beliefs often come from basing truth on our own thoughts, feelings, experiences and expertise … or on what other people say and think.

There is only one place we can be sure to find truth: in the Bible. Jesus said that he is the truth. We can never know the truth of our worth, our circumstances, our wants and needs, our rights and responsibilities, or our purpose unless we first hear truth from Jesus, the author of truth. “Jesus told the people who had faith in him, ‘If you keep on obeying what I have said, you truly are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” John 8:31-32 CEV

Have you accepted Jesus as truth? Are you looking to him for truth? You can find the truth by reading the Bible. By talking to God. By inviting Jesus into your life.

What is the truth about you?

The Bible says that you were designed by God … you are his treasure … you are loved unconditionally by him … Jesus died for your sins and you can be forgiven, no matter what you have done. God has a good plan and a special purpose for your life. And that is real truth.

Father, please forgive me for looking everywhere except to you to find the truth about me and my life. Help me to stop basing my beliefs on my emotions and on what other people think about me. Teach me to look to you and to learn the real truth in the Bible. In Jesus’ name …. . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia by Martha Homme, MA, LPC

Letting God’s Truths Replace the Lies We Believe

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

MIND GAMES

To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. -Charles Stanley

If your mind is filled with the Word of God, then it can’t be filled with impure thoughts. -David Jeremiah

Crazy thoughts… we all have them from time to time.

Consuming thoughts… those are the ones that won’t be denied.

Unrelenting thoughts… that won’t let you sleep.

Private thoughts… that stubbornly fuel emotions of lust, anger, fear, sorrow, and even hopelessness.

Infected thoughts… that are often destructive in relationships with those closest to us, even our relationship with God.

“Anxious thoughts (that) multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19 NAS)

The scary part? When we start believing them. “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS)

The antidote? “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

However, we must not miss vs. 8 which begins with the word “Finally”— a word which could be translated “From this time forward”.

“Finally, (from this time forward) brothers, (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

That’s a bunch of “whatevers” to think about.

What you fill your mind with will largely determine what type of thoughts you have. What you put in — comes out…

And there is a challenge; the “evil one”, known as the “father of lies”, constantly and consistently bombards our minds. And his mind games become a battlefield.

Paul said we should take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS) Knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Speaking of war, when Paul delineates and lists the “full armor of God” used to“stand firm against the schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6, he only records one offensive weapon“And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (v. 17 NAS)

The spiritual weapon given to us by the Lord, to battle the formation of these debilitating and controlling thoughts, is God’s word.

Flip back a page to Ephesians 5. Paul says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the body of Christ “by the washing of water by the word” (v. 26 ESV)

Our thought life can, and will be washed clean by soaking and meditating in His written word.

Spend time reading the Bible. Study it. Memorize it. Saturate your thoughts with it. Immerse your soul in it. Drink deeply of its truth. Let the word of God dwell in you richly.

As you do this, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

It will turn your thought life around.

What God Says About Me is the FINAL Word

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

We Say …, But He Says …!

What words come to mind when you’re asked to describe yourself?

Funny, cute, talkative, athletic, active, tall, caring, hardworking?

Sometimes we define ourselves by listing our failures and our negative traits. Shy, can’t catch a break, short, bald, never have enough money, not so smart, average. But God has a different perspective!

When we are followers of Christ, here is the contrast between our view and God’s.

  • We say: I’m a failure. I can’t do anything right.
  • God says: You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
  • We say: I still feel guilty about things I’ve done in the past, even though I’ve confessed it all as sin and don’t do those things anymore.
  • God says: If you confess your sins, I am faithful and just and will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
  • We say: Sometimes I feel so unlovable. How can God possibly keep on loving me?
  • God says: Nothing can separate you from My love.
  • We say: I always seem to be worrying or fearful of losing my health, money, security, control.
  • God says: The righteous are as bold as a lion.

So, why is there such a difference between God’s perspective and ours?

It’s all between our ears. The good news, God gave us a powerful mind. The bad news, God gave us a powerful mind.

Unfortunately, Satan prowls like a lion, and his aim is to steal, kill, and destroy. No, we don’t need to guard against physical danger and harm.  It’s much worse. Satan is executing a psychological assault to brainwash you so he can win the more important, powerful spiritual war. And if you let Satan in, you will lose. You’ll be devoured. Don’t let him in. Don’t take part in his activities. You know what is sinful most of the time. Don’t buy into his lies. Only God’s truth will set you free.

If we follow God’s leading, our mind can do powerfully positive activities. If we follow the world’s or Satan’s guidance, our mind will go very negative places. Most of us are a mixed bag, wallowing way more than we want or need to. The problem really is this simple.

The Solution: As people who have accepted Christ as our Savior and have made a commitment to follow Christ, God sees us as righteous and forgiven. He sees us as His treasures, as His children, as the heirs to His kingdom. We have the mind of Christ and the Holy Spirit in us. We have to learn to submit to and use these valuable resources, not set them on a back shelf, squander them and use cheap, ineffective imitations instead. Christ bought the redeemed life for you through his death and resurrection. The least we can do is pursue it on a daily basis.

Today, plan to stop a couple times, especially when you are struggling (little struggles or big ones – makes no difference). Assess how you are viewing yourself.  Search the scriptures to learn more about how God sees you. Ask Him to help you see yourself through His eyes. Only then will you understand your God-given identity. Then you can really be all you were created to be.

Dear Father God, Thank You for clothing me in the righteousness of Christ. Help me not to think too lowly … or too highly of myself, but to see myself as You do … and for the reasons You do … and to be grateful everyday for all the blessings of amazing grace You extend to me. I know I let Satan and the world trick me. Help me be more diligent with how I direct my thoughts and where and who I direct my worship to. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who teaches me how to see myself, Jesus Christ;– AMEN!

The Truth
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels. Isaiah 61:19

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3

Persevering through Pressure

Hebrews 6:18

Doubts often steal into our lives like termites into a house. These termite-like thoughts eat away at our faith. Usually, we can hold up pretty well under this attack. But occasionally, when a strong gale comes along—a sudden, intense blast—we discover we cannot cope. Our house begins to lean. For some people it completely collapses. It is during these stormy times, during the dark days and nights of tragedy and calamity, that we begin to feel the destructive effects of our doubts—running like stress fractures through the structure of our lives.

For me, there are three times when the intensity of doubt reaches maximum proportions.

One such time is when things I believe should never happen, occur. There are times when my loving, gracious, merciful, kind, good, sovereign God surprises me by saying yes to something I was convinced He would say no to. When bad things happen to good people.

I once received a letter from a woman who heard a talk I had given entitled “Riding Out the Storm.” Little did she know how meaningful it would be to her. Just as she was entering into the truth of that message, she arrived at home to discover that her young, recently married daughter had been brutally murdered.

Why did God say yes to that? Why did that bad thing happen to that good person? The effect of such termites within our soul is great. They eat away at us, and doubt wins a hearing.

Doubts also increase when things I believe should happen, never occur (the other side of the coin). When I expected God to say yes but He said no. Numerous parents of young men and women have said good-bye and sent their children away to war, convinced God would bring them home again. But sometimes He says no.

Joni Eareckson Tada (and a thousand like her) trust confidently for awhile that the paralysis will go away—that God will say, “Yes, I’ll get you through this. I’ll teach you some deep lessons, and then I will use you with full health in days to come as I heal you completely.” But God ultimately says no. When we expect Him to say yes and He says no, doubts multiply.

The third situation in which doubts grow takes place when things that I believe should happen now, occur much, much later. Of all the doubts which creep into our soul perhaps few are more devastating than those that happen when we are told by God, in effect. “Wait, wait, wait, wait . . . wait . . . wait!” All of us have wrestled greatly with His timing.

These “pressure points” provide a perfect introduction to the verses in Hebrews 6. This is that great chapter that begins with a strong warning, continues with words of affirmation, and closes with words of reassurance and ringing confidence. It addresses the Christian hanging on by his fingernails as he feels himself sliding down the hill. It shouts: “Persevere! Hang tough! Be strong! Don’t quit!” Even when God says no, and you expected yes. Even when He says yes, and you anticipated no. And especially when He says to wait, and you expected it now.

If you’re in that painful space right now, my word for you is: persevere! Hope in God—this is not the end.

A Source of Why We Think and Do As We Do….

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

An Identity We Received

Identity is not something that falls on us out of the sky.

For better or for worse, identity is bestowed.

We are who we are in relation to others. But far more important, we draw our identity from our impact on those others—if and how we affect them. We long to know that we make a difference in the lives of others, to know that we matter, that our presence cannot be replaced by a pet, a possession, or even another person. The awful burden of the false self is that it must be constantly maintained.

We think we have to keep doing something in order to be desirable. Once we find something that will bring us some attention, we have to keep it going or risk the loss of the attention.

And so we live with the fear of not being chosen and the burden of maintaining whatever it is about us that might get us noticed and the commitment never to be seen for who we really are. We develop a functional self-image, even if it is a negative one.

The little boy paints his red wagon a speckled gray with whatever Father left in the can after putting a new coat on the backyard fence. “Look what I did!” he says, hoping for affirmation of the wonderful impact his presence has on the world. The angry father shames him: “What do you think you’re doing? You’ve ruined it.”

The boy forms an identity: “My impact is awful; I foul good things up. I am a fouler.”  And he forms a commitment never to be in a place where he can foul things up again. Years later, his colleagues wonder why he turned down an attractive promotion. The answer lies in his identity, an identity he received from the impact he had on the most important person in his world and his fear of ever being in such a place again.

God’s View of YOU!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT

We are valuable to God.

How could he have expressed his love for us any more than to send his only Son to die so that we might have life?

Focusing on these scriptures–and others like them–can remind you who you are in Christ Jesus …

  • You are forgiven. 1 John 1:9
  • You have been made right in God’s sight. Romans 5:1
  • You are righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:26
  • You are loved. 1 John 3:1, John 4:10
  • You are a member of God’s family. Ephesians 2:19
  • You are known by God. Matthew 10:30
  • You are God’s child. Romans 8:14
  • You are an overcomer. 1 John 5:3-5
  • You are his masterpiece–designed for a purpose. Ephesians 2:10

Have other people said or done things that make it hard for you to see yourself as God sees you? 

You can’t do anything right. … You are ugly. … You are stupid. … You will never amount to anything. 

Or maybe you won’t forgive yourself for past failures or sins.

Bring all the self-doubt and self-condemnation to Jesus. Receive his forgiveness … and then walk tall. Meditate on scriptures like these that tell you how important you are to God. . . how much he loves you. . . how complete forgiveness in Jesus really is. . . and what great plans he has for you.

Father, thank you for your great love for me. Thank you for forgiveness. Thank you that I am special to you. Help me to view myself not as others do, not from my own perspective, but the way you see me. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W. 

Should Christians Have Doubts?

SOURCE:  Jonathan Morrow/Think Christianly

Real Christians don’t doubt. 

Or at least that’s the unspoken message you’ll find in many churches today.

Well, if that’s true then I guess I’m not a real Christian because I’ve had (and still have) my share of doubts at times. By the way, your parents, youth pastors, and parents have them too!

Pastor Tim Keller offers helpful insight:

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.

As humans, we all have limitations. We all experience doubts simply because we cannot know everything about everything. So be encouraged, you are not alone. But in order to live with our doubts in a spiritually healthy and faith-building way, we need to be clear about what doubt is and isn’t.

First, as J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler point out, there is a difference between unbelief, doubt, and lack of belief.

Unbelief – someone willfully sets themselves against a biblical teaching (e.g., Jesus is not the Son of God).

Doubt – someone has an intellectual, emotional, or psychological barrier to a more secure confidence in a biblical teaching or in God Himself (e.g., I believe God is always there for me, but when bad stuff happens I struggle to believe this).

Lack of belief – someone doesn’t believe a biblical teaching or idea, but wants to (e.g., I need some help to believe).

Also, all doubts aren’t created equal; there are different flavors.

The two most common are intellectual and emotional doubts. Given a Christian understanding of faith as “confidence or trust in what we have reason to believe is true”—as opposed to ‘blind faith’ or wishing—the recipe for overcoming your doubts is not to somehow dig deep and crank out more faith by holding your breath and concentrating really hard. What you need to do is have the courage to “doubt your doubts.” Investigate. Seek the truth.

Here’s a place to start:

(1) be specific about what your doubts are—write them out and list reasons for / against

(2) start your investigation by reading the articles in this study Bible

(3) remind yourself that you are not the only one who has ever asked this question, and that 99.9% of the time a reasonable answer exists.

Sometimes emotional doubts look like intellectual ones. But the root cause turns out not to be unanswered questions at all. Some sources of emotional doubts:

(1) experiencing disappointment, failure, pain, or loss

(2) having unresolved conflict or wounds from our past that need to be addressed

(3) letting unruly emotions carry us away for no good reason

(4) being spiritually dry

(5) fearing to really commit to someone.

Also, it is crucial to remember that emotions are good and normal but they aren’t always right. They need to be examined.

I may be emotionally down, but that may have nothing whatsoever to do with my confidence that the New Testament is reliable, Jesus was who he claimed to be or that God really exists. When encountering emotional doubts, the best thing to do is to (repeatedly) tell ourselves the truth from God’s Word, invite God in to this by prayer, and then tell a trusted friend that we are emotionally struggling.

If you find yourself with doubts, you’re in good company (cf. Mk 9:24). But having the courage to doubt your doubts in the context of a thoughtful and caring community and investigating the root of these issues over time will lead to greater confidence as a follower of Jesus. That is what the journey of faith is all about.

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*A form of this article first appeared in a contribution I made to the Apologetics Study Bible for Students, published by B&H.

Hurts, Wounds, Lies: Getting Below The Waterline

SOURCE:   / Conversations Journal

 Getting Below The Waterline: The Role of Inner-Healing Prayer in Spiritual Transformation

In the days following my husband’s death, I desperately sought God’s comfort in the Scriptures. After an eleven-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis and all the humiliation, fear, hardship, and losses that go with it, my faith was on the fragile side. I needed solace, the kind only God could give.  So I went to the Psalms. Isn’t that where God’s children always find consolation?

But I found no consolation there. On the contrary, in fact. One day I was reading Psalm 91, the psalm just about every Christian turns to in times of fear or discouragement:

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.[1]

I didn’t want to admit it, but the psalm made me feel angry. My husband had not been saved from the deadly pestilence or the destroying plague. My whole family had experienced plenty of terrors by night, and plenty of arrows by day. Disaster had come near our tent. More than just near, it had invaded our tent, taken my husband’s life, and left my son and me wounded and bereft. God did not feel like a refuge. Actually, reading the psalm made me feel as if God were mocking me.

Hadn’t I loved God enough to deserve His protection? I wondered. Had I failed Him and in the process, nullified His promises? If God had allowed so much pain and suffering to happen to my family and me already, how did I know there wasn’t more or even worse to come? I felt as if I were just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Mind you, I admitted these thoughts to no one, hardly even to myself. I was a leader in full-time ministry, after all. I’d been serious about my walk with God for decades. I invested myself in helping others to grow spiritually. How could I possibly admit such thoughts and feelings? They seemed almost blasphemous to me. I didn’t want to jeopardize the faith of others.

About that time, a man in my church whom I’d only met on a couple of occasions mentioned a healing prayer ministry he was part of. With no knowledge of my spiritual crisis, he offered, “If you ever want to have somebody pray with you and help you listen to God, we have people who do that. Just let me know.”

At that point in my spiritual journey, listening to God was something that was still relatively new to me. For much of my Christian life, I didn’t know how to hear God speak to me personally. Although I had puzzled over Scriptures like John 10 that assured me that Jesus’ sheep hear His voice,[2] my prayers had been mostly one-way monologues. And the impersonality of that seemingly one-way relationship left me feeling lonely and detached from God. But during the hardest years of my husband’s illness, God had mercifully taught me how to listen to His voice. Through experience, He proved to me that I could call to Him and He would answer me,[3] and that I could come to Him with my ears wide open and in listening, I would find life.[4] He helped me to understand that He really does call me friend,[5] and that He enjoys it when I invite Him to have conversation with me, Friend to friend.[6]

I don’t think I would have survived the years of illness, loss, and relentless caregiving if I hadn’t learned to hear my Father’s tender voice. Time and time again I was amazed by His almost unnervingly personal care for me as He patiently responded to my anger and fear, and gently comforted me and fathered me. As my ability to discern His voice grew, so did my relationship with Him. God became more personal and intimate—and thus more indispensable to me—than He had ever been before.

But in spite of having heard God and even dialogued with Him in deeply personal, relational ways, He seemed pretty silent in those dark days after my husband’s death. The warm conversations we’d had previously seemed like ancient history. So when Jack asked me if I would like somebody to listen to God with me, I was open. I wasn’t hearing much from God on my own, but maybe listening with others could help me to re-connect. I had no idea what to expect, but I set up a time to pray with him and a woman from the church’s healing prayer team.

Healing prayer, it turned out, was different from any other kind of prayer I’d ever been involved with. But even though it was a stretch for me, it made complete sense. Using listening prayer as a foundation, it is a way of asking Jesus to do for people now, in our generation, the kind of ministry that Isaiah 61 (and Luke 4) describe Him as doing—binding up broken hearts, freeing captives, releasing prisoners, comforting all who mourn, exchanging despair for praise.

My prayer partners explained that they had no agenda except to ask Jesus to do His healing work. They said they would focus our prayer time on asking God what I needed and how He wanted to meet me. They asked me a few questions, equivalent to a medical doctor asking, “Where does it hurt?” Then they explained to me that they would ask God a question and invite Him to respond to me. He might bring up a memory or impression, perhaps He would stir up a painful emotion. He might bring to mind words that had been spoken to me, or maybe a verse of Scripture. Maybe He would give me a picture. Whatever came to mind I was to report. If we weren’t sure if it was from God or not, or if we didn’t know what it meant, we would simply ask Him to confirm or clarify.

In the process of listening to God in that manner, He did speak. He revealed early memories—long before the ordeal with my husband—of times when I had felt unprotected and vulnerable. He helped me to see that long before adulthood I had come to believe that those who are supposed to protect me, won’t. That if I don’t look out for myself, no one else will. He helped me to see how, subconsciously, I’d transferred these beliefs to Him, too. Without even knowing it, I’d come to believe that God would not protect or help me, that I had to take care of myself. Was it any wonder that when I needed God the most, I couldn’t find Him? I’d built my life around those devastating, isolating lies, so that I had no real expectation that He would rescue me. Sure, I “believed” Psalm 91 intellectually, but in my deepest heart, I doubted.

When those lies were exposed, I was able to confess them and ask God’s forgiveness for doubting His love and care. I was able to see and declare the truth that God is for me and He helps those who call to Him in faith. Over time, I was able to forgive the ones who had failed to keep me safe and had set me up to believe awful lies about God and life.

Healing for me wasn’t one quick prayer session. It involved a series of times similar to what I just described in which God revealed to me the obstacles that were standing in the way of my trusting Him. Over a period of months, as one by one I dealt with them, my confidence in God’s loving care grew so that now I can read Psalm 91 with peace and hope.

Inner-Healing Prayer’s Part in Spiritual Formation

My personal experience with inner-healing prayer, both offering it to others and receiving it, has prompted me to believe that it plays a helpful, if not critical, role in spiritual formation. In my case, I desperately wanted to trust God. I was miserable when I dreaded the future because I couldn’t bring myself to trust in His care for me. My struggle filled me with guilt and shame. I hated feeling suspicious of God while all the while professing my faith in His goodness. So I read books on faith. I memorized Scriptures about His goodness. I confessed (over and over and over) my fear. I gritted my teeth and tried to “just do it.” I learned so much about what it meant to trust God that I suspect I probably could have given a convincing inspirational talk or written a powerful devotional about the faithfulness of God. But no matter how firmly my head was convinced, my heart still struggled.

As others have invited me to pray with them for inner healing, I’ve discovered that I was by no means alone in my spiritual frustration. Many of us have deep-rooted wounds that get in the way of our spiritual transformation. My issues of doubting and distrusting God are far more common than I realized. But there are many others: inferiority, shame, perfectionism, addictions, obsessive and compulsive behavior, anxiety, gender confusion, people-pleasing, body image issues, and more. All of these are serious barriers to our ability to experience God and grow in Jesus’ likeness. And all of them are nearly impossible to address by conventional means of discipleship such as Bible study, Scripture memorization, or petition-based prayer.

Rusty Rustenbach, director of pastoral care and counseling for The Navigators and author of A Guide to Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places, describes how, as a seasoned counselor, missionary, and disciple-maker, not only was he unable to help the people he ministered to get past these obstacles—he could not get past them himself. As a boy, he had not received from authority figures the affirmation he needed—which led to insecurity, people-pleasing, and periodic overreactions to triggering events that continued into adulthood. He wanted to be free from those inner attitudes and weights —but the spiritual disciplines he tried weren’t setting him free. Then one day he read Psalm 18:9: “He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”[7] Yeah, I’ll bet God delights in me,Rustenbach mused, cynically. No, He puts up with me because He’s stuck with me.”[8]

A friend talked to Rustenbach about listening prayer (in 1997, before much had been taught or written about the inner-healing aspect of listening prayer) and Rustenbach reluctantly agreed to try it. He really didn’t expect anything to happen, but God surprised him. “Rusty, I am for you… for you and not against you. You belong to me I chose you to belong to Me because I love you with an everlasting love. You are Mine!”[9] That intimate encounter with God was deeply healing to Rustenbach; as he relates the story today, fifteen years later, his eyes still fill with tears. And now, listening and inner-healing prayer has become the foundation of his fruitful ministry with The Navigators.

“As our global society increases in complexity, size, and brokenness, growing numbers of people struggle with issues that seem impervious to traditional ministry methods.”[10] Rustenbach says. Spiritual disciplines are useful and necessary, but inadequate to deal with issues that are hidden “below the water line.”[11]

Often a person is not even aware of these below-the-surface wounds. Nevertheless, he or she may feel trapped by unwanted but automatic reactions, unhealthy habits, and negative thought patterns. In persons who have walked with the Lord for a long time these are especially troubling. After all, intellectually, they believe the right things. They have good theology. But there is a head-heart schism. What they believe in their heads does not work itself out in their lives, in spite of counseling , effort, or traditional forms of prayer. These kinds of wounds require a touch from Jesus, a manifestation of God’s grace. We need God to show us where the problem is rooted—and we need Him to bring the healing.

This process does not require a person to probe deeply into his or her past. Such introspection, as many of us have learned the hard way, often isn’t helpful, and can even be harmful. Through difficult experience we understand that “the heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”[12] But God is able to lovingly, gently, objectively sort out what we cannot. “I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”[13]

Assumptions and Principles of Inner-Healing Prayer

There are different models of inner-healing prayer, most of which rely on some variation of these assumptions and principles:

  • A person experienced an emotional wounding, often in childhood (e.g. abandonment by a parent, real or perceived rejection by significant people, sexual, verbal, or physical abuse, loss, deprivation, etc.).
  • Lies about God, self, or the way the world works were believed as a result of that traumatic, painful or disappointing experience (e.g. “If I let people know who I really am, they won’t like me”).
  • Vows may have been made in an attempt to protect the person from future hurt (e.g. “I’ll never trust a man again”).
  • Generational patterns may have been inherited (such as patterns of fear, a poverty mindset, and so on).
  • As we practice listening prayer, the Holy Spirit speaks in our minds or hearts, through pictures, the stirring of emotions, words, symbols, or other creative and very personal means.
  • Usually God takes us back to memories from childhood where the wounding took place. He helps us to see what happened to our souls at that time, exposing lies we came to believe, unbiblical vows we made, faulty strategies for living that we adopted, and perhaps the pronouncements others made over us.
  • We confess these lies, vows, and so on, to Him and ask Him to reveal truth. As we embrace the truth He reveals, our minds are renewed and we are freed from the emotional bondage that hindered our spiritual growth and freedom. We stand with Jesus, Way, Truth, and Life, and declare our independence from the father of lies.
  • Sometimes we see Jesus with us in the memory of the painful event.  He may speak words of truth or offer comfort that usually is deeply moving and penetrating.
  • With His help, (sometimes over time rather than immediately) we forgive the ones who wounded us, both for the actual offense, as well as for the consequences we have experienced as a result of that offense.
  • By replacing lies with truth and forgiving those who hurt us, we close off areas of access to the enemy. He can no longer energize those places for us.
  • We adopt our true identity in Christ rather than the false identities we assumed because of the lies we believed and the wounds we were compensating for.
  • We expect that the Wonderful Counselor actually will meet us and touch us when we invite Him into our wounded places. When we invite Him, He will come, and He will heal.

Recently I had a conversation with a young Christian medical student who is seeking to understand God’s role in healing. He cited research that supports the efficacy of prayer for soul healing. That wasn’t surprising, he told me, since prayer is a form of catharsis, allowing for the release of painful emotions so that healing can occur. I agreed with him that pouring out our hearts to God is indeed cathartic. What kinder, wiser Listener could we ever have than our Abba, Father, who made us and redeemed us and constantly watches over us in love? But there’s more, I told him. Inner-healing prayer is supernatural. God actually does something when we invite Him to heal our hurting hearts. Somehow, He enters into our pain with us and releases us from it with no less power than when He healed 2,000 years ago.

As Richard Foster so aptly puts it, “Don’t you know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives in the eternal now, can enter that old painful memory and heal it so that it will no longer control you?”[14]

Healing Prayer Resources

Inner-healing prayer can be a helpful adjunct to spiritual direction, counseling, discipling, and pastoral care, although depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find a good practitioner. This form of soul-care, as in any other, should be left only to those who are reliably trained, spiritually and emotionally mature and healthy themselves, biblically sound, in accountability relationships with other Christians, and with a proven record of helping others find healing and freedom. If you cannot find someone like that in your community, you may want to consider receiving training yourself. There are several options:

The Pastoral Care Team of The Navigators (Rustenbach’s organization) offers listening and healing prayer seminars several times a year in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and elsewhere, by invitation.

Ministries of Pastoral Care (founded by Leanne Payne, who has since retired) offers training each summer at Wheaton College, in Illinois.

The International Association for Theophostic Ministry (founded by Ed Smith) offers comprehensive training resources for individuals or groups (such as a church prayer team).

Christian Healing Ministries (founded by Francis MacNutt) offers conferences, seminars, a healing prayer school, and internships, along with printed and video resources for basic or in-depth training in healing prayer of all kinds.


[1] Psalm 91:3-10, NIV

[2] John 10:3-4, 8, 16, 27

[3] Jer. 33:3

[4] Is. 55:3

[5] Jn. 15:15

[6] Rev. 3:20, NLT

[7] NASB

[8] Rusty Rustenbach, teaching at the Listening and Healing Prayer Seminar, The Navigators, Colorado Springs, May 18-19, 2009

[9] Rusty Rustenbach, A Guide for Listening & Inner-Healing Prayer, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2011, p. 22.

[10] Ibed, p. 165

[11] Ibed, p. 103

[12] Jer. 17:9, MSG

[13] Jer. 17:10, MSG

[14] Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York: HarperCollins, 1992, p. 205.

Cynthia Hyle Bezek facilitates inner-healing prayer through her local church’s prayer ministry. She is author of Prayer Begins with Relationship, former editor of Pray! magazine, and blogs about prayer at cynthiaprayblog.wordpress.com. She currently serves as editorial director for Community Bible Study.

10 Poor Excuses (about doing/not doing what God says)

SOURCE:  Susan Nikaido/Discipleship Journal

We’ve all done it—thought of reasons why doing the opposite of what we know God says is OK … this time.

Here are some common excuses for disobedience, and why they won’t fool the Father.

Excuses For Not Doing What God Tells You To Do

Excuse 1 “I’ll Do It Later.”

When God prompts you to do it now—tell a friend about Him, deal with a persistent sin, send an encouraging note, spend time with Him—telling Him “later” is the same as saying no. “Later” may be too late for the good that God intended when He urged you to act.

Excuse 2 “It’s Too Difficult—I Would Fail.”

Jeremiah tried this one. When God told him He was calling him as a prophet, Jeremiah replied, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” (Jer. 1:6). God’s response to Jeremiah is His response to us: “Don’t make excuses; just obey. Don’t be afraid, because I will be with you in everything I ask you to do.”

Excuse 3 “I’m Too Busy Doing Important Things.”

What can be more important than what God is instructing you to do? Claiming, “I’m too busy” is putting your agenda ahead of God’s.

Excuses For Doing What God Says Not To Do

Excuse 4 “It Won’t Hurt Anything.”

God told the Israelites that His commands were “for your own good” (Dt. 10:13). Only He knows the chain of results our disobedience will set in motion. We need to trust His judgment, not our own.

Excuse 5 “No One Will Find Out.”

God will know. Every sin damages both our relationship with Him and our own conscience.

Excuse 6 “I’ll Do It Just This Once.”

God never said sin was OK if you only do it once. Besides, submitting to the flesh rather than to the Spirit strengthens the wrong forces in your life, making it more likely that you will do it again.

Excuse 7 “God Let Me Down.”

When we’re disappointed with our lives, we can begin to think, God didn’t come through for me, so why should I come through for Him? We may stop doing the things we know He wants us to do, and not worry too much about breaking His commandments.

God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5); He will always remain faithful to us (2 Tim. 2:13); and His plan for us is for our good (Jer. 29: 11). We need to acknowledge that our perspective is limited and that our painful circumstances and unanswered prayers are part of a larger, grander plan. Learning to trust His Word when it contradicts our perceptions, feelings, and experiences can keep us from excusing our disobedience by blaming Him.

Excuse 8 “I Deserve A Break/Reward.”

When we’ve been working hard on the job or in ministry, it can be tempting to justify taking something that’s not rightfully ours—whether it’s money, goods, or time that belongs to our employer but is spent on personal projects. Or, we blow off something God prompts us to do because we’ve “paid our dues.”

In 2 Kings 5, the prophet Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, figured he was entitled to a little reward for ministry. His master had turned down a gift from a wealthy warrior, but Gehazi returned, behind Elisha’s back, and requested a few “perks” from the man. God struck Gehazi with leprosy.

God never “rewards” obedience by allowing disobedience.

Excuse 9 “At Least I’m Not As Bad As _____.”

Sometimes we try to make ourselves feel better about our sin by comparing it to someone else’s. “I may flirt with my secretary, but at least I’m not sleeping with her.” “I may ‘fudge’ a little on my taxes, but I would never embezzle money.”

Jesus tells the story of a Pharisee who compared himself to others. The religious man prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers.” Yet Jesus commended instead the tax collector who prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:9, 14). Repentance is the only attitude toward sin that God accepts.

Excuse 10 “Everyone Else Is Doing It.”

It’s tempting to violate our consciences, to give in a little on our convictions, when we see others doing things we feel uneasy about. It’s especially tempting when “others” are believers we respect. Yet what is right and wrong is never determined by popular vote—”It is the Lord who judges” (1 Cor. 4:4). We must listen to the inner voices that tell us what is right and wrong, not the outer ones.

Three lies we might believe

SOURCE:  Ray Ortlund

It is very much in the devil’s interests that we despair.

If he can get us to believe these three demoralizing lies that he loves to whisper into our thoughts, our powers for Jesus are greatly diminished.

Lie #1: “You’re a hypocrite.  Sure, you’re serving Jesus.  But you don’t really mean it, you phoney.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).  “I do not even judge myself. . . . It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Lie #2: “You’re a loser.  You’ve ruined your life.  You’ll never amount to anything for the Lord.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “. . . the poor, . . . the brokenhearted, . . . the captives, . . . that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations” (Isaiah 61:1-4).

Lie #3: “You’re small.  You’re so buried under the debris of our complex and crowded culture, you’ll never make an impact.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29).

This “try, try again” approach will ruin you.

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Try, Try Again?  No.

Maybe it starts when you make a mistake: yelling at someone you love or not doing what you promised to do.

Or it starts when you see someone who seems light-years ahead of you: they grin at people who dismiss them; they praise someone who beats them out of a job. You feel so far behind! Your lack of character really shows.

Then we think: When am I going to get it? When am I going to stop being lazy, stop showing off, quit being depressed, no longer withdraw from the people I love, stop worrying over something that didn’t happen or cease trying to control my co-workers or family members? It’s easy to sink deeper into it: Why can’t I overcome this? Especially if our shortcoming is considered a “big” sin among the people we hang out with.

These questions keep our thoughts spinning and often lead to despair and hopelessness. We believe the answer is: Try harder. We’ve heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try – try again!” No. If I’ve lost my way back to my car, I don’t keep going back to the same space, thinking my car will magically appear. I pause. I stop and think. The saying should be: If at first you don’t succeed, ask God for help. I consider that God will show me a wiser, (usually) gentler approach.

First, we ask God for a “next step,” which doesn’t have to be huge. In fact, a smaller next step usually works better and leads to many more. A wise friend or spiritual director might suggest a better and different next step we haven’t thought of.

But we also look deeper. We ask the Spirit to show us the source of the problem (anger, exhaustion, boredom)? What am I afraid of? What (perhaps wise) caution is blocking me? These questions usually have to percolate with the help of the Spirit. Out of these questions may come a few small “next steps.”

This “try, try again” approach will ruin you.

Such spinning of thoughts is (I believe) a favorite method of the enemy to divert our attention from focusing on the Indwelling Christ. Going over and over our performance (How am I doing?) focuses us on ourselves, not God. When we focus on ourselves this way, we make ourselves the “star” of our spirituality instead of letting God be the “star” of our spirituality. Instead of asking, How am I doing? we ask, What, O God, are you leading me to be? To think? To do? Show me. Walk with me.

True humility involves relying on God all day long, moment by moment. “I can do all things through Christ who strengths me” . . . for the next ten minutes (Philippians 4;13, altered).

My inadequacy in this situation or my character flaw is clear to me and I’m not disturbed by it. I can’t overcome sin. “I do nothing on my own,” said Jesus (John 5:30). So I ask god, What are you leading me to be? To think? To do? Show me. Walk with me.

In humility we accept that growth is about progress, not perfection. Abraham journeyed on by stages (Genesis 12:9; 13:3). Israel was led “day by day continually” (Exodus 29:38). As we also do this, we can embrace the One who accompanies us on this journey, who loves being with us, who invites us to abide in Christ as Christ abides in us.

What you put in — Your Mind — comes out…

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

Mind Games

To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. -Charles Stanley

If your mind is filled with the Word of God, then it can’t be filled with impure thoughts. -David Jeremiah

Crazy thoughts… we all have them from time to time.

Consuming thoughts… those are the ones that won’t be denied.

Unrelenting thoughts… that won’t let you sleep.

Private thoughts… that stubbornly fuel emotions of lust, anger, fear, sorrow, and even hopelessness.

Infected thoughts… that are often destructive in relationships with those closest to us, even our relationship with God.

“Anxious thoughts (that) multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19 NAS)

The scary part? When we start believing them. “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS)

The antidote? “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

However, we must not miss vs. 8 which begins with the word “Finally”— a word which could be translated “From this time forward”“Finally, (from this time forward) brothers, (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

That’s a bunch of “whatevers” to think about.

What you fill your mind with will largely determine what type of thoughts you have. What you put in — comes out…

And there is a challenge; the “evil one”, known as the “father of lies”, constantly and consistently bombards our minds. And his mind games become a battlefield.

Paul said we should take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”(2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS) Knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Speaking of war, when Paul delineates and lists the “full armor of God” used to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6, he only records one offensive weapon — “And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (v. 17 NAS)

The spiritual weapon given to us by the Lord, to battle the formation of these debilitating and controlling thoughts, is God’s word.

Flip back a page to Ephesians 5. Paul says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the body of Christ “by the washing of water by the word” (v. 26 ESV)

Our thought life can, and will be washed clean by soaking and meditating in His written word.

Spend time reading the Bible. Study it. Memorize it. Saturate your thoughts with it. Immerse your soul in it. Drink deeply of its truth. Let the word of God dwell in you richly.

As you do this, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

It will turn your thought life around.

8 Lies That Destroy Marriage

SOURCE:  Bill Elliff/Family Life Ministry

Imagine meeting with an engaged couple a few weeks before they are married. With excitement they describe how they met and how their relationship developed. The husband-to-be proudly describes how he set up a perfect romantic evening so he could pop the big question.

Then they surprise you by saying, “We want to get married and have some children. At first we will feel a lot of love for each other. Then we’ll start arguing and hating each other. In a few years, we’ll get a divorce.”

Who would enter marriage intending to get a divorce? And yet, divorce is occurring at alarming rates. A large number of people in my church have been hurt deeply by divorce—they’ve been divorced themselves, or they’ve felt the pain of a parent or relative divorcing.

As common as divorce is, I’m convinced that most of them could be avoided. Mark this down on the tablet of your heart: Every wrong behavior begins with believing a lie. Our culture promotes many deceptions that can quickly destroy a marriage. Here are eight:

Lie #1. “My happiness is the most important thing about my marriage.”  

As a pastor, I can’t tell you how many people have justified breaking up their marriages by saying, “I have to do this. God just wants me to be happy.”

But according to God’s Word, a spouse’s individual happiness is not the purpose for marriage.

The Bible says in Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed,” do for the glory of God. While all parts of creation are to glorify God, mankind was made in God’s very image. Through marriage, husbands and wives are to reflect His character and have children who will reflect His character … all the way to the end of time.

Every marriage knows unhappiness. Every marriage knows conflict. Every marriage knows difficulty. But everyone can be joyful in their marriage by focusing on God’s purposes and His glory instead of individual happiness.

Lie #2. “If I don’t love my spouse any longer, I should get a divorce.”   

It’s a tragedy to lose love in marriage. But the loss of human love can teach us to access a deeper love—the very love of God Himself. That love is patient and kind … it never fails (1 Corinthians 13). It even cares for its enemies.

When human love dies in a marriage, a couple can enter into one of the most exciting adventures they’ll ever have: learning how to love each other with God’s love. Romans 5:5 tells us that this very love “has been poured out within our hearts, through the Holy Spirit.”

Lie #3. “My private immorality does not affect my marriage.”

A lot of people think, I can view pornography in the privacy of my home. It’s just me and my magazine, or computer … it doesn’t affect my marriage.

Oneness in marriage is hijacked by sexual immorality. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?”

In the 21st century, there are many ways to join oneself with a prostitute: physically, through the pages of a magazine, on a computer’s video screen, etc. Paul’s advice is the same today as it was thousands of years ago: Flee immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).

If you take your emotional and sexual energy and spend it on someone else, there will be nothing left for your spouse. Those who continually view pornography or engage in sexual fantasies are isolating themselves.

Lie #4. “My sin (or my spouse’s sin) is so bad that I need to get a divorce.”

The truth is God can fix our failures—any failure. The Bible says to forgive one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us (Colossians. 3:13).

“But,” you ask, “Doesn’t Matthew 19:9 say that God allows divorce in the case of sexual immorality?” Yes. I believe that it does—when there is an extended period of unrepentance. Yet, nowhere in that passage does God demand divorce. When there is sexual sin, we should seek to redeem the marriage and so illustrate the unfathomable forgiveness of God.

Some of the greatest life messages I know are the marriages of people who have repented from sexual sin and spouses who have forgiven them. Their lives today are living testimonies to the truth found in Joel 2:25: “… I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”

Lie #5. “I married the wrong person.”

Many people have told me, for example, that they are free to divorce because they married an unbeliever. “I thought he/she would become a Christian, but that didn’t happen. We need to get a divorce.” They recall that they knew it was a mistake, but they married anyway—hoping it would work out. Others claim that they just married someone who wasn’t a good match, someone who wasn’t a true “soul mate.”

A wrong start in marriage does not justify another wrong step. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good,” says Romans 8:28, “to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

God tells us not to be poured into the world’s mold. Instead we are to be transformed and that begins in our minds. By doing this, God will give us exactly what we need for our lives. God’s will for us is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).

Here’s the key for those who are now married: The Bible clearly says do not divorce (with the exception for extended, unrepentant sexual immorality). God can take even the worst things of life and work them together for good if we will just trust Him.

Lie #6. “My spouse and I are incompatible.” 

I don’t know a lot of husbands and wives who are truly compatible when they get married. In marriage, God joins together two flawed people.

If I will respond correctly to my spouse’s weaknesses, then God can teach me forgiveness, grace, unconditional love, mercy, humility, and brokenness. The life of a person who believes in Jesus Christ is developed by responses to not only happy things, but also to difficulties. And those very difficulties include weaknesses.

That is why we are told in Colossians 3:12-13 to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.” My spouse’s weaknesses are not hindrances. Instead, they are the doorway to spiritual growth. This is a liberating truth.

If I will respond to my spouse’s shortcomings with unconditional acceptance, my love won’t be based on performance. I won’t say, “You need to live up to these expectations.” I will be able to accept my spouse, weaknesses and all. And that acceptance will swing open the door of change for not only my spouse, but also for me.

Lie #7. “Breaking the marriage covenant won’t hurt me or my children.”

When divorce enters a family, there are always scars. I know this firsthand; although I was an adult when my father committed adultery and divorced my mother, decades later there are still effects. Many consequences of divorce never go away.

Blake Hudspeth, our church’s youth pastor, also understands the pain of divorce. He was 5 years old when his parents divorced, and it was hard for him to understand God as Father and to trust people. “The people I trusted the most split up.” He also found it difficult to accept love from others “because I didn’t know if they truly loved me.” And Blake developed a fear of marriage. “Am I going to follow the trend of divorce, because my parents and grandparents divorced?”

Blake’s father even wrote him and said, “This was the worst decision I made in my life. It was bad. It hurt you. It hurt our family. When I divorced your mom, I divorced our family because I broke a covenant that we were a part of.”

Blake says that his parents (who both remarried) have embraced the gospel, resulting in him readily accepting advice and encouragement from them. “Watching the gospel play out … with my mom and dad was huge,” he says.

Lie #8. “There’s no hope for my marriage—it can’t be fixed.” 

This may be the most devastating lie of all. Because in more than four decades of counseling couples, I’ve seen God do the seeming impossible thousands of times. In a dying marriage, He just needs two willing parties. God knows how to get us out of the messes we get ourselves into.

I tell these couples about people like Chuck and Ann, who were involved in drugs and alcohol before God restored their home. Or Lee and Greg, who were engaged in multiple affairs. God brought them back to Christ and to each other. Now they have six children and a marriage ministry. Or Jim and Carol who had taken off their wedding rings and were living in separate bedrooms and about to live in separate worlds when God redeemed them.

If you begin to think, There is no hope for my marriage, realize that, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

We must combat the lies about marriage. The truth will set us free (John 8:32). God can fix anything!

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.

Lord, Why Can’t I Change?

The Necessity of a Renewed Mind

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Have you ever vowed to put an ungodly habit behind you, only to fall again soon after? Feelings of guilt can lead to a renewed commitment to never do something again. But the very next day, the cycle repeats itself as we give in to the same temptations. Our defeat leaves us wondering, What’s wrong with me? Our despair at repeated failure produces a sense of hopeless resignation and confusion. We want to know, Lord, why can’t I change?

All of us have experienced the problem of wanting to honor God and yet reverting back to old, sinful ways almost immediately. Isn’t the Christian life supposed to be more liberating and victorious than this? After all, the Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Why, then, does habitual sin take hold of us? Wasn’t Christ supposed to change all this? If we are new creations, why do we still act like old ones? We feel as stuck as a ship run aground.

So how do we shake free from our sinful behaviors? First, we need to examine the way change occurs in the Christian life. Salvation is an instantaneous work of God, which happens the moment we receive Jesus as Savior. But from that point on, we enter a continual process of transformation called sanctification. The Lord’s goal is to mold us into the image of Christ, but this process requires our cooperation. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). If we neglect this responsibility, we’ll find ourselves struggling with the same issues over and over again. But if we submit to the Holy Spirit, He’ll exert His influence in every area of our lives. Old sinful habits will pass away and be replaced with new godly behavior.

The path to transformation

Becoming the people God created us to be is an inside-out process. Because our thoughts govern each area of our lives—emotions, decisions, actions, attitudes, and words—any lasting transformation must begin with the mind. If all we want is to modify our conduct, we’ll never experience long-term success. What we need is a new way of thinking.

This can be accomplished only by what the Bible calls renewing the mind(Rom. 12:2). It’s not a sudden transformation but a lifelong process. At the moment of salvation, the Lord doesn’t erase all our negative and sinful thought patterns any more than He automatically removes our physical imperfections. If you had a scar on your arm before you received Christ, most likely you will still have it afterward.

We are all a reflection of whatever we’ve been thinking throughout the years. From early on, we are taught to respond to situations in a certain way, with a particular response pattern, and this impacts every area of our lives. In some cases, we can see how people’s expressions reveal the way their minds have developed throughout their lifetime—etching continuous worry, pain, and guilt on their faces.

Take a look in the mirror. Do you see the joy of Christ in your eyes? Or are the destructive effects of sin betrayed by your appearance? The good news is that whatever your thoughts have been in the past, God can teach you to think differently. He gives His Spirit to lead you through a process that produces real healing and lasting change.

Where thoughts originate

So, what triggers negative thought patterns? The Lord has given us physical senses so we can interact with each other and our world. The capacity to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is an amazing gift from God, which affects how our thoughts develop and what we think. However, because we are continually being influenced by the fallen world around us, we don’t always use these abilities in a way that honors Him. We experience a sight, sound, smell, flavor, or touch that gives us momentary pleasure and we begin to think, What would it be like if I…? This begins the downward spiral—our senses trigger thoughts, which elicit destructive patterns of behavior.

James 1:14-15 explains, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” That is why we must be discerning about what we listen to and watch. It is also why the apostle Paul tells us to lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted, and instead be renewed in the spirit of our minds—to put on the new self which is created in God’s likeness (Eph. 4:22-24).

A second source of sinful thoughts is from the Enemy of our souls. Have you ever been thinking about some plan or task, only to have a vile, ungodly idea pop into your mind? You may wonder, Where did that come from? These are Satan’s attempts to distract us with his ideas and twist the truth, inciting us to disobey God. His purpose is to destroy our character and lead us astray.

The way we respond determines whether we fall to his enticements or stand strong against him. Will we, as Paul says, dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute” (Phil. 4:8), allowing our minds to be transformed by these things? Or will we take the bait?

No matter how our minds are bombarded by unwanted temptations, we must remember that as believers, we do not have to be enslaved by sin. We are not helpless victims, but sons and daughters of almighty God. We have within us the Holy Spirit—a positive, powerful influence that is mightier than the Enemy can ever hope to be. Because we are indwelled by God’s Spirit, we have the power to extinguish the Enemy’s flaming arrows (Eph. 6:16). We are also able to know the mind of Christ, take our thoughts captive to Him, and have victory over every temptation.

How your mind is renewed

God calls us to be watchful and guard our minds at all times. If we don’t, worldly values and purposes will subtly creep in and influence our lives. Whenever we allow ourselves to be conformed to the world, the Enemy gains a foothold in our thinking. And the more we yield to those thoughts, the stronger his hold becomes.

We must wisely choose which thoughts we will accept and which ones we’ll reject. It’s not enough just to resist the Enemy’s lies; we must also deliberately fill our mind with truth from God’s Word. Jesus used this technique when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He countered each challenge with Scripture, saying “It is written . . .” When we are ready with a verse that refutes one of Satan’s falsehoods, we have the most powerful spiritual ammunition possible.

So consider: How diligent have you been about guarding your mind? Have you permitted the world to influence your thoughts? Or are you allowing God’s Word to shape your reasoning and values? You cannot coast through the Christian life. An unengaged mind is an open invitation for sin. If you’re distracted, having trouble praying or reading the Bible, your thoughts are not where they should be.

Perhaps you feel as if you’re the rope in a tug of war between God and sin, constantly being pulled in two opposing directions. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail. Rather, confess and repent as quickly as possible (1 John 1:9). During those times, remember that you are engaged in a long process, and that you cannot renew your own mind. Trying harder and making promises to God will only discourage you, because in your own strength, you will never be able to change. True transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit—and it takes time. Therefore, submit to His leading, heed His warnings, and obey His voice.


Four Requirements for a Renewed Mind

  1. Fill your mind with Scripture—focusing on the Lord’s character, ways, and commands.
  2. Resist temptation and flee from it by understanding the thoughts and feelings that trigger a sinful response in you.
  3. Check the source of your thoughts—are they from God, your flesh, the world, or Satan?
  4. Rely on the Holy Spirit to empower you to resist sin and break free from its bondage.

Begin today

As believers, we can expect this process of transformation to continue until we reach heaven; however, the important issue is that we begin today.

Just as your area of struggle began with one act of yielding to temptation, so your path to victory can begin with one act of submission to God. Through the power of the Spirit, start saying no to thoughts that don’t belong in a believer’s life. At the same time, say yes to appropriate thoughts. When you fill your mind with truth from God’s Word, you’ll gain discernment and be able to more readily identify the thoughts and feelings that cause you to sin.

As you persevere in choosing which thoughts to allow, the bondage of sin will diminish and your mind will be renewed. This transformation, which began internally, will now be worked out externally as behavior changes. When you think right, you’ll act right. Areas of your life that you were powerless to adjust on your own will be refashioned. And Christ’s victorious life will be beautifully demonstrated through you so that others will see and be drawn to Him.

Drifting Away [From God]

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Genesis 3:1

SOURCE:  Strength For The Journey/RBC

On a recent vacation, Tom was casually bobbing around on a raft just offshore. He closed his eyes, basking in the warm sun. Before he realized it, he had drifted too far from shore. He hopped off the raft to get back to the security of the sand, but the water was now over his head. He didn’t know how to swim.

The drift of our lives away from God is just as subtle. And just as dangerous. We drift one thought at a time, one small choice at a time, and often one damaging doubt at a time. In fact, our adversary is delighted to help our rafts drift from the protection and presence of God by casting doubt on God’s goodness to us. If you sense that your life has been set adrift—that God is not as close and precious as He used to be—then you may have just been in the riptide of an old trick of the enemy of your soul. The same trick he used to sever Eve’s heart from the joy of her relationship with her Creator.

Satan’s opening volley was not a blistering attack on God; it was a simply a question that he wanted Eve to think about. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). Actually, God had said that she could eat of every tree but one. But Satan twisted the facts to suit his purposes and to lead Eve’s mind to the conclusion that God was not the generous God she had known Him to be, but rather a stingy, restrictive, joy killer. Once she had let her heart drift to the wrong conclusion, it was easy for her to believe Satan’s lie that God just wanted to keep her from being as knowledgeable as He is and that the threat of them dying was just God’s way of scaring them into compliance with His stingy ways.

Satan still sets us adrift by planting doubt about God’s Word and spinning the facts to his own evil advantage.

Once we begin to suspect God instead of trusting Him, we inevitably drift away from Him. So, beware! Your life is full of scenarios where Satan can put his deceitful twist on your experiences. He is the spin-doctor of hell, and as Jesus said, “When [Satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

With that in mind, keep a lookout for some of Satan’s favorite spins:

  • Lie #1: God is to blame for the evil that Satan has inflicted on our lives.
  • Lie #2: God has not rewarded me for being good. I’ve been used, not blessed!
  • Lie #3: God’s rules are restrictive and oppressive. He just wants to take the fun out of my life.
  • Lie #4: God is good to others but not to me. He must not love me!

And there are many other lies, all custom-made for your head and heart. If you believe them, you have begun to drift away from the safe shores of God’s love and protecting provision. You’ll soon discover that you are adrift in the middle of nowhere, bobbing dangerously over your head. And count on it, as Eve was soon to learn, Satan won’t stay around to make you happy and fulfilled. He’ll be slithering off to more interesting company, leaving you in the deep waters of shame and regret.

Our Soul Enemy

SOURCE:  Tom Eisenman/Discipleship Journal

The first rule of war is to know your enemy.

When the satellite TV company offered us—their “preferred customers”—a three-months-free package of movie channels, my wife, Judie, and I said, “Sure, sign us up.” If nothing else, we’d save a bundle on movie rentals while the kids were visiting us over the holidays.

What were we thinking?

Judie and I had known we’d need to make discerning choices about what we watched. But we totally underestimated the tsunami of violence, nudity, bad language, and unabashed affronts to a godly lifestyle that would flood our home once we got hooked up. Two days later, we called and cancelled.

This experience brought to mind again the Apostle Peter’s warning: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). In this case our relationship with God was at risk of being devoured with each image and sound bite.

Devilish Tactics

The Bible clearly teaches that a powerful evil being called Satan rules over dark powers in this world and also over forces of evil that inhabit the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). He appears to be motivated largely by anger and envy; he was banished forever from the very paradise to which we, as God’s children, are now heirs. And so he aggressively opposes both the people of God and the work of God (1 Thess. 2:18,Mt. 13:37–39).

Satan’s aliases suggest the typical strategies he employs against us. He is called the tempter (Mt. 4:3), the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), and the accuser of God’s people (Rev. 12:10). He is always looking for ways to wreak havoc in a believer’s life and will employ any or all of the above tactics—tempting, deceiving, accusing—to diminish or demoralize God’s people. Knowing his tactics will help us stand against him.

How tempting! First, let’s look at Satan’s role as tempter. How does Satan entice us? James describes the evil process this way: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (Jas. 1:14).

James leans heavily on fishing imagery in this verse. We are like hungry fish, lured by the bait. The evil fisherman knows us well: our appetites, our obsessions, the potentially dangerous power in our suppressed angers. His lure will be personal and powerful. Whatever our particular desire, he will dangle it in front of us to entice us and drag us away from God.

If you are captivated by sex, Satan will make certain that opportunities to satisfy your fantasies are readily available. If your battle is with envy or jealousy, you will meet people at every turn who have more than you do or who have succeeded in areas where you have failed. If you are susceptible to anger, you will struggle to forgive a person who has offended you, finding it nearly impossible to get the incident out of your mind.

Weapons of mass deception. One can visit the Garden of Eden for a revealing picture of Satan’s next role: deceiver. The entire entrapment of Adam and Eve is a network of lies, deception, and half-truths (Genesis 3).

Satan asks Eve what God said about the tree in the center of the garden. She says God warned them not to eat of it or they would die. Satan responds,

You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.

—vv. 4–5

In two brief lines he calls God a liar and implies that God has ulterior motives for withholding His best from the first couple. Further, Satan deceives Eve by suggesting that she can gain equality with God by taking things into her own hands.

Satan will similarly engage each of us. He will subtly invite us into dialogue about what God actually said or, more slippery yet, what God might have meant by what He said. We may find ourselves rationalizing why something we’ve always considered to be wrong might be acceptable in this particular case. Or an inner voice will convince us to indulge in something that will ultimately deliver only grief and pain. I deserve it, we reason, as hard as I’ve been working lately. Besides, everybody else is doing the same thing, and it doesn’t seem to be hurting them.

Remember, the devil has been around aeons longer than we have. He has been studying human nature and behavior from the beginning. He knows what lies we are most likely to believe. And he will not hesitate to use them against us.

I stand accused. Accusation is Satan’s third attack strategy. He uses this tactic to demoralize us and make us feel unworthy of a relationship with God.

Satan moves to the “accuser mode” after he has succeeded at tempting and deceiving us. In his roles as tempter and deceiver, the evil one whispers how sweet sin will be. “After all,” he reminds us, “God is a God of grace, mercy, and love. Nothing to worry about! You can always repent. Forgiveness will be easy.”

But once we take the bait, Satan changes his tactics. We’ve sinned, the glow has dimmed, and now reality hits. In that moment when the shame and emptiness of sin strikes, we’ll likely also hear a sneer within: “And you call yourself a Christian!” Now Satan is all over us about what losers we are, how unworthy we are to name the name of Christ, how undeserving we are of His costly love.

Have you noticed the common thread in these three strategies of the enemy? Whether he is acting as tempter, deceiver, or accuser, all these assaults are launched as attacks on our minds.

Messing with Our Minds

Let’s look at some specific ways Satan may try to invade the territory of our minds.

Commandeering our imaginations. Imagination is a wonderful gift from God. I believe it is given to us so that we can envision all we might do and become according to God’s power at work in and through us. But our imaginations are also vulnerable to Satan’s enticements, lies, and accusations.

Consider Eve. Satan shrewdly set her up to fantasize about grasping equality with God. The image was powerful, exciting, irresistible; any thought of following God in obedience and devotion paled in comparison. She ate, and then she became the devil’s advocate by inviting Adam to join her.

Fostering obsession. Another common strategy Satan employs to keep us off-balance is to feed our tendency to obsess. He will do anything to get our focus off of God and onto ourselves or our problems.

For instance, one person’s obsession might be guilt. As Satan keeps the image of her failures vividly alive, a healthy, active conscience is usurped by obsessive thoughts about how bad she has been. Remember, Satan is the accuser. His barrage of condemnation locks her inside herself and blinds her to the light of God’s forgiving grace.

One of my weaknesses is out-of-control worry. When my concerns are infected by the evil one, it’s like I have a video tape in my mind that won’t shut off. Over and over I replay an ugly list of what-if’s: What if this happens! What if that happens! Satan is playing on my fears, and fear always takes my focus off of God and places it on myself.

We are all vulnerable in some area. The evil one is prowling around, looking for host cells in which to plant one of his powerful obsession viruses.

Confusing our sense of what’s right. As we have seen, the deceiver loves to convince us that taking an action that is against God’s will can actually produce something good.

A person may conclude that it makes perfect sense to murder the doctor at the abortion clinic to save the lives of unborn children. Another might slip into a sexual encounter with a coworker, thinking that a temporary fling is just what’s needed to recharge the romance in a lackluster marriage.

Supersizing the initial pleasure. Satan also messes with our minds by ensuring that a first foray into sensual sin yields the greatest possible pleasure. By supersizing that initial experience, he hooks us into a pattern of committing the sin again and again in an attempt to recapture that first-time intensity. When indulging in the same experience doesn’t do it any longer, we up the ante.

A friend of mine started down this road when she tried marijuana. Over time she wound up addicted to heroin, which gave her the rush she could no longer get from other drugs. Finally clean after years of struggling with the addiction, she described her experience to me as “one big high, and the rest was killing pain.”

This is the nature of bondage to Satan: He works to produce in us a greater and greater appetite for a steadily decreasing pleasure. In the end, there is no pleasure at all. Only the raw hunger remains.

Encouraging isolation. In another mind-messing tactic, Satan tries to convince us that we can deal with our struggles on our own. Once we buy into this deception, we are less inclined to seek help and prayer support when we need it most. So we fail, and fail again, and fail again—and tell no one. Ashamed, we slip away altogether from fellowship with other Christians. Finally, isolated and alone, we pose no threat to the evil one’s deadly devices.

Distorting the truth about the reality of evil. The most effective mind trick of all is to downplay the truth about evil. If we don’t believe we have an enemy, we will spend no time preparing for spiritual battle. The truth is, as soon as we name Jesus as our personal savior we pick up enemies—all those evil beings pitted against the purposes of God. A spiritual battle is raging, and we are in the thick of it. If we refuse to believe it, we play into Satan’s hands.

Master Minds

Though these tactics may sound harrowing, we haven’t been left defenseless. Following are a few biblical strategies for defending ourselves against these attacks on the mind.

Guard your thought life. The Apostle Paul was apparently no stranger to assaults on the mind. He wrote,

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

—2 Cor. 10:5, emphasis mine

In Phil. 4:8, Paul urges us to fill our minds with those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. This is strong encouragement to make choices that strengthen and guard the territory of our minds.

This strategy helped me recently with a man I have struggled to forgive. He pretended to be my friend but behind my back was spreading rumors about me that helped advance his career. The evil one loves to use a situation like this to plant anger and bitterness. Yet I remembered Jesus’ admonition to love and pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:44). Praying for an enemy is a powerful way to stake out the territory of our minds for the Lord.

Every time ugly thoughts about this man popped into my head and I felt anger rising again, I chose to pray for him. More than once, right after praying for the man and his family, I ran into him in a store or saw him drive by. Encountering him in person helped me sense immediately and thankfully how my thoughts had changed for the better.

Remember who you are. Often we don’t realize the full range of spiritual resources that has been passed on to us. In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that Christians will

know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

—vv. 18–19

If we know the truth about our victory in Christ, nothing the evil one does can steal our hope. A growing knowledge of our heavenly inheritance will sustain us when Satan loads on the doubt or tempts and accuses us. And if we know and really grasp the fact that the very power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to each of us, we will not fear the enemy’s attacks.

I have found it helpful to fill my mind with the truths in Ephesians 1. I’ve not only read this chapter repeatedly, I’ve also committed it to memory so I can carry it with me at all times. When temptations, doubts, or accusations assail me, my immediate response is to choose to remember who I am in Christ and all the heavenly resources that are at my disposal through my relationship with Him. When compared to the reality of God’s truth, the counterfeit pleasures of Satan grow dim. Instead of a one-time supersized thrill at the front end, the pleasures of true intimacy with God keep growing through time.

Give and receive prayer. Nothing will keep our minds more focused and actively engaged against evil than intercessory prayer. Prayer for one another was the mainstay of the early church. For instance, Paul mentions Epaphras, saying, “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12). Intercession is the primary ministry through which the community of faith can stand shoulder to shoulder with each other while joining with Jesus in our mutual struggle against the powers of evil.

Never give up.

It is important to remember that, no matter how much we learn about Satan’s strategies, we will not be victorious in every struggle against temptation, deception, or accusation.

As I wrote this article, I was often aware that I had—again—fallen short in some area. As always the evil one was right there to accuse me: How can you write about guarding your mind? Look what you’ve done. Yet I did not stop writing.

Yes, I’ve sinned. Yes, I still sin. But I get up, dust myself off, and keep going because I know my security does not lie in a perfect record. I take comfort in God’s promise through Paul: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). The Spirit gave Paul this breakthrough insight as he was lamenting his own repeated failures (Ro. 7:14–25).

So yes, it is wise to know the tactics of our enemy. This knowledge will help us stay in the fight and make headway. But the enemy should never be our focus. Our focus needs to be on Christ, who saves us and in whom we have our victory. We finally and fully rest our minds and hearts in the truth that “the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).

Healing Prayer: A Definition

SOURCE:  Adapted from Healing Care, Healing Prayer by Terry Wardle

Healing prayer can be defined as a ministry of the Holy Spirit, moving through a Christian caregiver, bringing the Healing Presence of Jesus Christ in to the place of pain and brokenness within a wounded person.

A ministry of the Holy Spirit: Healing prayer is thoroughly dependent upon the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit. He initiates, directs and empowers the entire process.  Thus the recipient of healing and the caregiver must not only understand the work of the Holy Spirit, but be surrendered to His infilling and empowerment each step along the way.

Moving through the Christian caregiver: Healing prayer is not a technique controlled by the caregiver.  It is a transformational ministry of the Holy Spirit, with the caregiver serving as an instrument of His activity.  The spiritual vitality and emotional maturity of the caregiver are important and integrated aspects of this healing process, and must be submitted to the Holy Spirit.

Bringing the Healing Presence of Jesus Christ: People need more than solutions to their problems.  They need to experience the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives.  His Transforming Presence strengthens and satisfies as nothing else, the one true Source of healing for broken people everywhere.  Through healing prayer, the Holy Spirit uses a caregiver to position hurting people for what Jesus alone can give.

Into the place of pain and brokenness: Life experiences often leave deep wounds that compromise personal well-being.  Left undressed, these hurts give birth to false beliefs, emotional upheaval, and behaviors that are ultimately destructive.  During the process of healing prayer, both the source and symptoms of core woundings are brought into the light of Jesus Christ, where He alone can set people free.

The Basic Steps of “Healing Prayer”

SOURCE:  (Information compiled from work by Dr. Sian-Yang Tan, Professor of Psychology – Fuller Seminary Graduate School of Psychology &
Dr. Ed Smith, founder of Theophostic Prayer Ministry; other articles: http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1039&context=ccfs_fac_pubs)
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Healing prayer is a  (Christ-centered) Spirit-led, counselor involved, and counselee consented spiritual intervention with the specific intent of healing and breaking the chain of past traumatic, historical memory events that contain lie-based thinking/feeling still influencing present day thinking-feeling-acting.  (NOTE: Healing prayer as outlined in this article is not associated with hypnosis or guided/directed imagery.)

A goal in the use of healing prayer is that it become another important spiritual weapon or tool that you add to your repertoire and use throughout life.  Healing prayer will be useful to you along with other spiritual disciplines such as worship, prayer (conversational, traditional, listening), Scripture reading and study, fasting, meditation, solitude, etc. as you continue to cultivate your faith (Phil 2:12), seek truth and freedom (John 8:32), allow transformation through renewing your mind (Rom. 12:2) and demolish compulsions and strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Sessions incorporating healing prayer involve the following steps:

NOTE:  Initially, this process will include a counselor who interacts with you and the Holy Spirit, as you continue to “practice the Presence of the Lord” and are comfortable interacting with the Lord in this aspect, yourself.

1) The session begins with prayer asking for God’s grace, power, healing, truth, and protection from the evil one.  The understanding is the Holy Spirit is present and leading, and this will be a time of interaction between you and He (and a counselor as present).

2) Within the safe confines of the counseling room (or a quiet, calm place you choose at other times) in the Presence of the Holy Spirit, you allow yourself to relax as you become receptive to God anticipating (but not demanding) that He will move in a curative way.

3) You will focus intently on the emotions you are feeling, a statement (of self-talk) that feels painfully true, or a known traumatic event.  This may surface painful imagery or memories.  Ask yourself the question, “What are the emotions I feel about myself in this present situation which triggered these emotions?”  Feel for the statement(s) that best describes how the situation made you feel and couple the statement with the emotions you feel.  For example, “I feel stupid.  I feel used.  I feel rejected.  I feel hurt.  I feel violated.  I feel abandoned.  I feel inadequate.  I feel unloved…..”

4)  With the emotions and/or lie statement in focus, allow yourself to disconnect from the present and let the Holy Spirit enable you to drift back to the origin and source of the emotional pain.  Ask the Lord to lead you to the place where you need to be to find complete release of the lie statement that feels true and is causing the pain. The Lord may have you recall an uncomfortable event from your past childhood, He may keep your focus on the lie statement, or He may have you focus on a more recent troubling event.  Regardless, let your attitude be one of, “Lord, I trust You to take me to the starting point at which I need to be.”

5)  Just let the past memories come to you.  Keep your focus on the feelings and lie statement that feels true.  Do not try to analyze memories or attempt to pick which memories are important or unimportant.  Whatever memory comes to mind, focus on it.  Feel your way through the memory being careful to examine every part.  Sometimes the memory will begin to open up and unfold, revealing things you had long forgotten.  Find out why this memory has an unpleasant feeling about it.

Ask yourself, “How does this memory make me feel?” or “Why do I feel this way in this memory?”

6)  Allow the intensity of the emotions in the memory picture to increase as you face and embrace this lie statement (that feels true) as the truth.  When it is strong and uncomfortable, invite the Lord Jesus to come into the memory.  Simply say to the Lord Jesus something like, “Lord Jesus, I invite you to come into my memory, and I ask You to reveal Your truth to me in whatever way You choose.  What is Your truth, Lord Jesus?”  Don’t prescribe anything for the Lord or try to help Him in any way.  Don’t try to make anything happen.  Let the Lord do what He will.

Allow the intensity of the emotion to increase as much as you can.  In the midst of this darkness, continue to ask the Lord to reveal His truth to you.  He may speak a word to you, give you a visual picture, or simply bring a realization of truth to your awareness.  Whatever you hear, see, or sense from Him, confess it out loud. Even write down your awarenesses for further reflection.

7)  If Jesus does not reveal truth to you fairly soon after focusing on the lie statement and emotional pain, it is most important to remember that, by faith, you can be assured of God’s Presence and intervention.  Remember, that while experiencing God is a wonderful result of this kind of prayer, an experience is not the goal.  Should you not receive a result you thought you might, remember that God invests value in your letting go of control and embracing trust in God, who truly cares and works things out in His good timing.

Additionally, sometimes, emotions such as anger, hate, rage, offense or revenge will be present in the memory or an aspect of what you are dealing with.

If this is the case, ask yourself these questions:

a) Why do I feel these emotions in this memory?  b) Do I really want to be free from these feelings?  If you truly want release, then confess your anger, rage, offense, etc., to Him and admit your powerlessness to overcome it on your own.  Ask Him to release you completely.

After this prayer, go back into the memory or to the lie statement and engage the process again.  If He still does not speak, you may not have discerned the core/main lie.  Look around in the memory for clues to what it might be and continue through the process.

Finally, sometimes there can be an evil presence inhabiting the memory. In such case, you will need to rebuke it and take authority over it as a believer in Christ who has been born anew into the family of God (John 1:10-13) and who serves as a member of a holy and royal priesthood (1 Pet 2: 4-5, 9).

8)  After the Lord has revealed His truth to you, go back to the memory or lie statement and search for any residual negative feelings that might remain.  Make sure there are no bad emotions left.  If you sense some evidence of unpleasant emotion after the Lord has provided truth, there may be another lie still present.  This is not uncommon.  Go back to step one and process this new lie the same way you did the other.  Once you can revisit a past hurtful memory and/or stir up the lie statement and find that a sense of calmness and peace is present based on the truth revealed by the Lord, that core lie has been dispelled.

Additionally, even after the Lord applies His truths to overcome lie-based thinking and negative emotional upheaval, feelings of sadness or grief can remain.  This is normal and healthy given the reality of past losses suffered and not necessarily part of harboring past lies.  If you discern this is the case, bring the sadness and grief to the Lord; allow Him to comfort you and walk with you through this time of healing (Ps. 119: 50, 52; 1 Pet. 5:6-7).

Remember, healing prayer is a time of faithfully calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ for His truth to dispel what has been operating in our lives as a distorted “truth.”  Healing prayer is not just a technique whereby God can be manipulated or the right formula that will bring results.

The Basic Principles of “Healing Prayer”

SOURCE:  Adapted from Healing Life’s Hurts Through Theophostic Prayer by Edward Smith

Principle OneOur present situation is rarely the true cause of our ongoing emotional pain.

More often than not, the emotional pain we feel in the present tense has been triggered by lie-based thinking, which is rooted in memory.  Lie-based thinking is the false belief one holds in memory learned during a specific life event.  For example, a man raised by an alcoholic parent might believe the lie that he was somehow the cause for the chaos in his home and responsible to resolve it.  This might in turn play out by his being stressed, anxious and over-reactive to life situations in which there was perceived lack of order.  If we blame the present situation for the emotional pain coming from the earlier memory event, we will be trapped in an irresolvable cycle of emotional pain and defeat.  To believe that other people or circumstances are the cause of our emotional upheaval is to empower them to control us emotionally until they change.  When we find freedom from the lie-based thinking, we will no longer be triggered by it and can walk in peace, content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves (Phil. 4:11).

This is a common scenario in marital conflict.  Each partner in the relationship assumes that the pain he or she feels is being caused by the other.  When in reality, each one is merely triggering the other’s lie-based pain. It is difficult to admit that one’s mate is not the source of the pain and that he or she is only exposing what was already there.  It is easier to make someone else the cause than it is to choose to hold myself responsible for the emotional pain in my life.  This is not to say that what the other person may have done was inappropriate or justified, for it may not be.  However, our emotional response often goes much deeper than the current moment.  If what I am feeling is rooted in my own lie-based thinking and I blame another, then I am doomed to suffer in this pain until the other person changes.

Principle TwoEverything we presently know, feel or are mentally aware of has its roots in a first-time experience.

Everything in my brain got there at some point in time.  Therefore, anything that I access in the present tense from my thinking had a point of entry.  When we react negatively to a present situation, our mind is automatically transferring the negative feelings stored in the memory of the original experience to the present moment that is similar to the original experience.  This is a natural neurological process of association that is active during all thinking moments.  Our minds are continually networking and linking our present moment to the information learned in earlier places.  Our minds provide input as to how to respond to a current situation based upon how we have responded to similar situations in the past.  Actually, we respond to the present based upon what we have come to believe to be true within the past events.  This automatic superimposing of past emotional responses onto later similar situations will have great bearing on what behaviors we choose to act out.  We tend to act out the way we feel.  If we act out our present pain, we will likely manifest sinful behavior.  This is not to say that some people will deny the pain and choose to act rightly as opposed to acting out their pain. It is merely suggested that many people, much of the time, tend to act out of the pain that has surfaced.  For those who choose rightly, they just feel bad while doing the right think.  Both places feel pretty miserable.

Principle ThreeIf we try to resolve our present conflicts without resolving our historical lie-based woundedness, we will find only temporary relief for our emotional pain.  However, if we find healing for our past, we can redeem our present.

Some of today’s counseling and ministry methods typically try to change the present behavior of a person by providing new insight and steps of action to modify the behavior they are to carry out.  This is often only a stopgap measure and may not result in true and lasting victory if the underlying lies are not addressed.  This is not to say that discipleship and teaching are not important, for they are.  However, some have been led to believe that controlled behavior is equated with spiritual maturity when in fact many unbelievers are doing a good job of performing in this same arena.  True victory is a work of Christ in us.  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

It is not based on my effort, determination or willpower but is a natural overflow of His work in me.  This does not negate obedience, repentance, discipline or effort on the part of the believer but rather puts all of these practices in a divine perspective.  Salvation is by faith and grace, and so is the walking it out. The apostle Paul declared that we should walk in Christ in the same manner that we have received Him (see Col. 2:6).  Self-control that is provided and maintained as a by-product or fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Gal. 5:23) is different from controlled behavior that is a fruit of man’s effort.  When I know the truth and reside in the peace that Christ gives, my “self” is under control as a work of God in me.  When I am walking in falsehood and experiencing emotional duress, I have to control myself to keep from acting out on the painful urges.  Controlled behavior is better than sinful choices, but self-control provided by the Holy Spirit is best.

Principle FourSince many of the negative emotions we currently feel are reflections of the past, they provide opportunities for the wounds of our lives to be exposed and thus for healing to occur.

It is difficult to address that which has not been identified.  God will either allow or orchestrate our surroundings to bring us under duress and testing in order to expose what is our true core belief system (see 1 Pet. 4:12-13).  It requires little effort to perform at a high level of “spirituality” when things are going well with us.  However, when the fire comes, our impurities are made evident and whatever is on the inside (our true belief system) is made evident.  These impurities, falsehoods that we believe, will express themselves through our emotional state and consequential behavior.  What we truly believe is made evident through our feelings.  As I have already stated, we will feel what we believe.  If we choose to follow the smoke trail of our stirred-up emotions back to their original memory source, we may discover the lie-based belief causing the emotional pain.  It is here we can find complete freedom from the emotional pain produced by these lies as we receive truth from the Spirit of Christ.

Principle FiveTo facilitate emotional healing, we need to identify the three basic elements in the healing process:  (1) the present emotional pain, (2) the original memory container and (3) the original lie(s) implanted in the memory container.

The present emotional pain is the feeling that surfaces in our current situation when a memory-based lie is triggered.  The original memory container is the original event in which the lie-based pain was implanted and stored.  The original lie is the belief that was implanted in the original painful memory causing the present pain.  Each of these three elements plays a part in our thinking, feeling, and behavioral responses to life.  The present emotional pain is an indicator that a lie-based belief is being exposed.  All lies have their original root in a memory source.  When the lies contained in these memory sources are identified and exposed to the light of Christ, freedom can follow.

Principle SixPeople are in emotional bondage due to two basic factors – belief and choice.  These two factors are rooted in the context of deception.

This is a very important concept.  Belief and choice are the foundation of everything about me.  Because I believe the things I do, I make choices.  These choices maintain the perpetual cycle of bondage in which I suffer.  However, freedom also involves these two primary factors.  As I come to know God’s truth (belief), I am able to make different choices.  Freedom occurs as I receive the truth from the Lord and then choose to walk in it.  The one additional element in this truth process is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. For it is God who grants us new thoughts, leading tot he knowledge of His truth that allows us to come to our senses and escape the snare of the devil  (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

Principle SevenWhen we believe a lie, the outcome will often have much the same consequences as though it were true.

The power of a lie is such that if we believe it to be the truth, it will play itself out in our lives as though it were true.  Our belief dictates much of our present reality.  Therefore, as my thinking changes, so does my reality.  When the Spirit of Christ brings truth into my thinking, He replaces the lie with truth, and I find genuine release and peace where I once only knew pain.

It is common for a person to contain opposing beliefs at the same time.  I can believe that I am forgiven for a sin in my life (logical truth) and still feel shameful when I think about what I have done (experiential knowledge).  The belief producing the shame has the real power in my life and is also that which will produce the most consequence.  My emotional state will point you to my true belief system.  It does not matter that what I believe is false; it will have much the same outcomes as though it were true.

Principle EightTo be free of the lies we believe, we must identify and own the lies rather than suppress or deny we believe them before we can be free from them.

Our natural inclination is to deny that we believe lies and to bury the apparent pain they are producing.  If we do this, however, we will maintain a cycle of perpetual defeat in our lives.  As long as lies remain embedded in our minds, they will continue to surface as pain every time they are triggered by situations similar to their original implantation.  If I believe that I am worthless and this lie causes me to feel such, I may choose to deny this belief and perform with “confidence” and become an overachiever with notable success.  On the outside this appears to be a good thing, but the purpose of the behavior is to deny and bury what I rally hold to be true, thus keeping me in bondage.  Freedom requires that I acknowledge and take responsibility for what I believe and feel its corresponding emotional pain.  I must choose to lay down my feeble defenses and attempts to deny my pain or to project the pain onto others or onto life circumstances.  In this honest context, God is released (by my will) to free me.

Principle NineIn the midst of our “darkness,” we must come to realize how utterly bound we are to the lie and how helpless we are to overcome its debilitating grip on our lives apart from God’s divine intervention.

As we experience the emotional pain in the memories, we realize that we are helpless, we are trapped in our emotional bondage and we cannot make the pain go away.  This is the same place people in the New Testament were when Jesus healed them physically.  It is the same place Paul found himself when Jesus spoke truth into his painful circumstance when He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

When we try to break free through self-effort and working hard, we will eventually fail.  We have no more ability in ourselves to overcome the sin and lies in our lives today than we did before the Cross.  Christ in us is our power to overcome, not self-effort.  Freedom is not a “you and me, God” process, but an “I am weak, but He is strong” realization.

Principle TenNo person, including ourselves, is capable of talking us out of the lies we believe.  We will be free only when we receive the truth from the One who is Truth (see John 16:12).

God is not limited in the ways he chooses to deliver His truth to us.  Inner Healing (Theophostic) Prayer Ministry is but one method He uses.  However, much of the training seminars and self-help books being written are based on the idea that if a person can be helped to see what is wrong in his or her thinking and be provided with truth, he or she can then choose to replace false thinking with the truth and change his or her life.  Cognitively receiving truth may have little or no impact on releasing a person from the lie-based emotional pain in his or her life unless it is delivered to the heart by the Holy Spirit. It is incorrect to assume that people can walk in victory by making right choices and trying hard.  Self-effort and controlled behavior can achieve moment-to-moment abstinence but not true victory. Such thinking lies at the heart of works-sanctification and is the basis for most other world religions.  The truth is, most people already logically know why they are in pain and logically hold the truth they need, yet they are still in emotional misery and still cannot find their way to freedom.  However, when the Holy Spirit is speaking to people who are listening, glorious things always happen.  Inner Healing (Theophostic) Prayer Ministry simply encourages people to listen as the Lord reveals His truth to their hearts and minds.

One of the clearest passages in the Bible that describes this process is 2 Timothy 2:24-26.  Here the Apostle Paul gives instruction on helping someone who is believing falsehood.  “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, [if God perhaps will grant them repentance.  The original meaning of repentance being a change of thinking], so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

Notice that we as ministers or “servants of the Lord” are called to teach and correct those who are in opposition (this is discipleship), but it is God who accomplishes the task of setting them free.  For until “God grants them repentance [change of thinking]” they cannot come to “know the truth.”  It is important to note that the word translated “repentance” here is not necessarily “turning from sin” as it is often understood but rather the changing of one’s thinking.  The Dictionary of Biblical Languages, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon all define repentance as “change of mind which results in change of life (style).  The word “know” here means to embrace experientially as opposed to having just logical mental assent.  This is the same word that Mary, the mother of Jesus, used when she said to the angel that she had not “known” or had intercourse with any man.

We ministers have an important role in leading people to the place where they are willing to submit themselves unto God and receive from Him.  However, unless He grants them repentance or a change of thinking, they will never be free.  When God grants new thought, people come to “know the truth” and “come to their senses” and thereby “escape the snare of the devil” (the snare is the lie-based thinking).  The words translated “coming to their senses” can also be understood to mean to “sober up” or see clearly.  As the Lord grants “change of thinking” the raging swell of pain becomes a placid calm.

Principle ElevenWhen we know the truth experientially, having received truth from God in our memory experience, we can walk in genuine maintenance-free victory in these areas of our lives.

The areas of our minds that are renewed with truth will no longer be stirred up with lie-based pain.  Since our emotional pain is a primary motivator for our inappropriate behavior, we are able to walk in permanent and maintenance-free victory in these specific places where our lies and painful emotions are no longer present.  Knowing the truth experientially frees me to walk in my present righteousness so that I might experientially agree with the Apostle Paul who declared, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; [which I tend to do when I am emotionally stirred and in pain] but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God [which is effortless when I am walking in the truth and peace of the Spirit]” (Rom. 6:12-13).  When I say maintenance-free victory I am referring to the fruits of the Holy Spirit that are produced not through my self-effort but as a natural by-product of the abiding truth of Christ and His residing peace.

Principle TwelveIn times of crisis or in emotionally charged life situations, our experiential knowledge tends to override our logical truth.

Experiential knowledge (not necessarily truth) is that which I have come to believe through experience.  This knowledge is primarily my interpretation of the experience more so that the details of the event.  For example, if I was abused as a child, my experiential knowledge may be that I believe that I am dirty and shameful.  Logical truth is that which is confirmed truth learned through cognitive processes such as personal study and biblical instruction.  The power the experiential knowledge holds over the logical truth is in the painful emotion, which is often attached to the knowledge learned in experience.  I can know logically that God loves me and has forgiven me of my sins and yet not be able to shake the bad feelings of worthlessness, rejection, self-hate or shame attached to the lie-based thinking in my experiential knowledge held in memory.  When these lies are triggered, I have no choice but to feel their pain.  Some suggest that we should just deny these feelings and walk in victory.  Although some practice this, most would confess that this approach is lacking joy and fulfillment.

It is difficult to appropriate logical biblical truth if what we have learned experientially is contrary to our logically held truth.  But as we go to the lie-based sources, discern the lie and receive the experiential truth God has for us, we can readily appropriate the logical truth of Scripture we comprehended only cognitively before.  It is easy to logically believe that we are loved and fully accepted by God when we experientially hear Him tell us “I love you” in our painful memory experiences.  This is not to say that we should not choose to obey the truth and do what is right even while in the midst of our emotional pain.  However, while obedience in the midst of lie-based pain has merit and is praiseworthy, it is better to be able to obey from the heart without having lie-based pain in our face.  This is effortless victory that comes when the knowledge of our experience lines up with what we already know logically.

Principle ThirteenLie-based pain can only be removed as the lies causing the pain are replaced with truth, whereas sin-based pain can only be dealt with through the Cross of Christ.

The only cure for sin is the Cross.  This pain is different from the pain one carries as a consequence of lie-based thinking.  Inner Healing (Theophostic) Prayer Ministry does not minimize the role sin plays in the life of a person.  If we sin, we will and should fee pain. However, it is not an either-or but a both situation.  The writer of Hebrews said that we must “lay aside every encumbrance [weighty things and lie-based pain] and [both] the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1).

I am not suggesting that Inner Healing (Theophostic) Prayer Ministry is the only way to accomplish this.  But this is a systematic way of leading people to the place where God has always been.  He resides in truth and rewards those who seek Him.  This is nothing new in relation to what God has been doing within His people all along.  Inner Healing (Theophostic) Prayer Ministry is merely an avenue or process for effectively appropriating one aspect of God’s process of mind renewal and sanctification.

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