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Posts tagged ‘lies’

THE SEARCH FOR FREEDOM: Demolishing Strongholds

(Adapted from the The Search for Freedom by Robert McGee)

Strongholds are those things which control us –they are compulsions.  Compulsions are those behaviors that we regret doing, but continue doing.  No matter how negative these behaviors are to us and no matter how we hate them, we still do them.  When we were very young, we developed patterns of responding to two worlds: our inner world and the outer world.  For most of us, the inner world of our thoughts, dreams, feelings, fears, and imagination is even more powerful than the outer world of people, places, and things.  As we move through each world, we encounter pain and pleasure.  Although we gravitate toward that which gives us pleasure, pain is usually a much greater motivator.  This is especially true of emotional pain.  The way we respond to emotional pain creates the most important behavioral patterns we have.  It is, in fact, these patterns that create the core relationship problems in our lives.  I can tell what I really believe by how I respond to life, not what I say I believe.  Here’s how the process usually works:

1) We are born and know little if anything about truth;  2) As we’re growing up, the people around us teach us what life is all about – Who I am, Who to trust, What’s good or bad, What I’m worth, What life and this world is all about…and so forth;  3) The things we are told become a system of beliefs upon which we evaluate all new incoming information accepted or rejected as we compare it with our basic beliefs (i.e., Basic Beliefs vs. New Information); 4) Our definition of “truth” becomes whatever it is that we have been taught, and our beliefs begin to dictate our behavior.  Then, as other people respond to our behavior, their responses tend to reinforce what we believe to be true.

In John 8:32, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Is it possible to hear truth and not be free?  Sure it is!  It’s not enough to intellectually know truth.  We must know the truth experientially as well.  Intellectual knowledge can become dangerous if it is not put into practice.  Many people think their intellectual knowledge of Scripture makes them more spiritually mature than others.  Yet such people are not always better off for all their so-called knowledge.

God’s Word can be profitable only as the Holy Spirit provides understanding.  Scriptural principles that are learned and applied apart from direct interaction with God may be worthless and perhaps even destructive. But when we include God in the learning process, He helps us know and experience the truth.

God makes it clear that freedom is possible if we only put what we know into practice.  Although strongholds exist and hold power over people, they are problems that can be overcome.

In 2 Cor 10:3-5, God’s promise is:  “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  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.”

Contrasted against the ineffective weapons of this world, God’s weapons wield His power.  And because His power is infinitely stronger than the power of the flesh, only His weapons are capable of destroying strongholds.  These strongholds are so named because they are stronger than the flesh.  It takes a higher power to destroy them. The flesh is no match for the power of any spirit – God’s or otherwise.  Strongholds exist because of the influence of ungodly supernatural forces.  They can only be destroyed by God’s Spirit, Who is not only infinitely powerful but also is motivated by love.  God is Truth.  Satan is a liar.  As long as we believe Satan’s deceptions, we will not experience the freedom God intends for our lives.  We will live instead as slaves to the strongholds that are built upon false beliefs.  So many of the false beliefs we suffer from are negative messages we learned as children that continue to control us.  That’s why it is so essential to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).  This is a key step.  It is one of those specific truths that must be experienced – not simply absorbed intellectually.  Spiritual maturity means consistently conforming one’s own thought life to the thoughts of God.

THE C.R.O.P. PROCESS – CONFESSION,  REPENTANCE,  OBEDIENCE,  PRAISE

Confession. To confess literally means “to agree with God.”  We need to agree with God that our strongholds are evil.  We need to acknowledge our sinful behavior as a major obstacle on our road to freedom.  True confession of sin is more than agreeing with God about the actuality of sin.  It must go beyond and help us to realize the reality of sin’s destructiveness.  Until we see evil for what it is, we will never understand the full depth of God’s forgiveness.  In addition to helping us see the destructiveness of our sin, confession helps us by revealing the connective ness of our sins.  We may confess the sin of lying, and God may show how the lying is connected to pride or a need to keep everyone pleased with our performance.  Our sins are usually connected to other sins.  If we allow God to show us the connections, we can clear out a network of evil from our lives.

With confession we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to show us: (1) our surface sins, (2) how each sin might be connected to other sins, and (3) the extent of destructive evil in our lives due to our sins.  Attempting to discern these things apart from the Holy Spirit will only lead into morbid introspection and the unveiling of hurts that will not be comforted.  The Holy Spirit knows exactly what and how much we are capable of handing.

Repentance. The concept of repentance is one of “turning back.”  Through repentance we turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus.  We often think repentance involves promising to do something to become more worthwhile to God.  By focusing on our performance, we miss out on what it really means to be in a relationship. When we truly relate to God, we can do no less than relate to Him as LORD.  We must accept His leadership and lordship in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Some of us find it hard to accept a complete yielding to God, especially those who have lived with great hurt in their lives.

Ironically, the more we need to control this yielding process, the less control we have.  Fear begins to rule because we feel if we lose control something bad will happen to us, something hurtful, so we refuse to yield to anyone – including God.

Trust is a precious commodity.  The Lord challenges us to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”  (Ps 34:8).  Through repentance we “turn back” the control of our lives to God.  He’s the only One capable of handling it without all the hurts and fears that would otherwise result.  Associated with repentance is reliance.  For too much of our lives, we have relied on the patterns of childhood.  We cannot be in a state where we are not reliant on something or someone.  We will rely either on the patterns of our flesh, or the guidance of the Spirit.  Scripture states this clearly in Galatians 5:16 when it says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (NAS).  Unfortunately, we often try to turn from something without turning to the God who can set us free.  Pray for the courage and exercise of faith that only God can give so that you can repent and rely on God.

Obedience. In the step of obedience, we need to turn our attention to God’s power.  By the time we discover strongholds in our lives, we also see that we are incapable of doing away with them using our own power.  If we are to discover what God can do through us, we must learn to respond to Him differently than we have in the past.  If we have failed to respond to Him, or have responded in wrong ways, we need to change how we relate to Him.  If our confession and repentance are genuine, we should see things from God’s perspective.  Obedience shouldn’t seem like an unpleasant alternative.  It’s a change of response that we should be more than willing to undertake.  If we have prepared through true confession and repentance, we have tapped into God’s power to confront the darkness of our souls.  Does this mean our battle against evil is won?  Not by a long shot!  That’s why obedience is such an important step.  Continued obedience results in continued victory.  But it’s easy to revert to our old, self-centered ways. When we seek to take back the control of our lives, we set ourselves up for failure.  Yet God is quick to forgive us when we see the error of our ways and turn back to Him.  When it comes to obedience, we can learn by trying even if we fail.  A far worse mistake is to refuse to change how we respond to God and fall back into the same patterns that have always controlled us.

Praise. We are commanded throughout Scripture to offer praise and give thanks to God.  Probably praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare.  After genuine confession, repentance, and obedience, praise is not optional – it’s automatic.  The first three steps will produce freedom from our strongholds and an overriding sense of freedom in our lives.  As we experience this freedom that only God can provide, our hearts will praise Him.

 

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE C R O P PROCESS WORKS  (With Bitterness) –

Confessing Bitterness. We need to pray that God will search our hearts and find anything that might be there which would trace back to bitterness.  As we yield to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we might recall events we have not thought of in years.  Allow the Holy Spirit to bring the truth to light.  It’s also important not to argue with the Spirit when such things are revealed.  Our first instinct will be to defend our actions.  Often, we give ourselves permission to react in destructive ways – rebellion, drug use, sexual activity, withdrawal, self-will, or passivity.  Things such as these can be connected to bitterness, and we need to deal with each stronghold.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how these responses have destroyed or limited your life.  Take your time.  Unless you experience with God what these improper responses have done to your life, you will not be ready to go forward.  When God says you have seen enough and you have confessed these things, then you are ready to go to the next step.

Repenting of Bitterness. Bitterness and its related behaviors are the products of a self-willed life.  The thought of living any other way will be frightening.  You may have heard about, talked about, and sung about the lordship of Christ for most of your life.  But at this stage, when you actually begin to experience it, you may experience a sensation of death within your soul.  You are, in fact, putting to death your old ways of responding to life.  This will feel uncomfortable and frightening at first.  As we repent and turn back toward God, there will be an awesomeness about the experience.  We clearly see who we are only by first seeing clearly who He is.

Obedience as a Replacement for Bitterness. Much of our behavior is not what it should be due to the bitterness we have harbored for so long.  God has shown us the problem areas and we have repented of them by agreeing that they are wrong and seeing the extent of their destructive influence.  But now we have to replace each of those errant behaviors with obedience to God.  In some cases, we already know what we’re supposed to do.  In other instances, however, we might need to continue to search God’s Word and seek His will for how to stop being so bitter.  Again, take your time.  God does not reveal problems without also revealing solutions.  As we begin to conform to His will in the ways we know how, we will begin to see what we need to do in the other areas as well.  It is through obedience that you see God’s complete power over the stronghold of bitterness.

Praise for Victory over Bitterness. The struggle against bitterness has been a long and difficult one, even with God’s help.  It has taken time and energy to see the extent of the effects of bitterness in your life.  It has been painful to repent of each of these things.  Replacing improper behaviors with godly ones has taken a lot of effort as well.  When you experience release from the devastating weight of bitterness, joy will fill your soul.  Praise will flow from your lips.  This newfound feeling of freedom will affect everything you do.  You don’t have to understand it.  You can’t understand it.  Just enjoy it and appreciate it.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER –

Going through the C.R.O.P. process will be difficult at first.  But as you begin to use the steps of Confession, Repentance, Obedience, and Praise on a regular basis, the process won’t seem nearly as cumbersome.  Since you are following the same pattern, you’ll quickly become accustomed to going through the steps.  When handled correctly, these steps are weapons.  No stronghold – not even Satan himself – can stand against them.  Strongholds can only be formed when you let a problem go unattended for a long period of time.  When you were younger, you didn’t know any better.  Your strongholds took advantage of your childhood patterns, your fears, and your desire to avoid pain at any price.  Now that you can see things a bit more clearly, you can eliminate those strongholds.  They will try to come back.  However, you will have destroyed the power of Satan in those stronghold areas.  So as long as you continue to draw on God’s power to face down your strongholds, they should never regain control.

AVOIDING COMMON FAILURES AND SETBACKS –

“I’ve tried this before, and it didn’t work for me.”

Some people don’t give it a chance.  These doubts are what Scripture calls “fiery darts” or “flaming arrows” (Eph 6:16, NAS).  Go back through the process and see where you may have gone about it in an ineffective manner.

“My case is worse than other people’s.  God can’t fix me.”

This excuse limits God’s power.  You will remain in bondage if you think God is not strong enough or willing enough to set you free.

I’m afraid.  What happens if I try and fail?”

Many people continue to do nothing because they fear the solution won’t work.  What do you have to lose?  It’s as if one has lost most hope of getting well and isn’t willing to risk the little that remains.  As long as you do nothing, you can hope your problem will go away by itself.  The thinking is if I try something else and fail, the little hope I have will be lost.  However, without overcoming this passivity by taking some kind of action in God’s power, the problem will never go away.  Indeed, it will only get stronger and harder to deal with.  If we direct the little bit of faith we have toward God, He will provide us with “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).

“I don’t want the responsibility of freedom.”

While some people are afraid of seeking freedom and not succeeding, others are reluctant to risk freedom because they fear they will succeed.  They realize their strongholds are a prison, yet they’ve learned to cope with them.  They now know their way around. The pain is intense, but they are managing it…so far, at lease.  They may even realize that it’s a fairly sick way to operate, but it’s gotten them this far, hasn’t it?  It scares them to consider change.  If they become free of this stronghold, what will happen? The thought of freedom is just too scary.

“I gave it a shot, but forget it.  I quit!”

Some people simply quit too soon.  The pain generated by trying to break free seems too much for them.  Jut when they get to a breakthrough point, they give up.  Quitting before acquiring freedom makes it very difficult for a person to attempt the C.R.O.P. process again.  Patience and perseverance are required to get all the way through.

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.

The Devastating Power of Lies in a Relationship

SOURCE:  Donald Miller

I’ve only had two friends (that I know about) who’ve looked me in the eye and told me lies.

Both of them were trying to cover up mistakes. I certainly had grace for their mistakes, but I’ve wondered looking back if I didn’t have grace for their lies. Neither of these two friends are in contact anymore. We don’t talk. Being in a relationship with somebody who lies is tough. It’s not that you don’t love them or care about them, it’s just that you can’t connect. Without trust, there’s no relationship.

Henry Cloud and John Townsend say that people lie for one of two reasons. The first is out of shame or fear. Somebody may believe they won’t be accepted if they tell the truth about who they are, so they lie. (You can see how religious communities that use shame and fear to motivate might increase a person’s temptation to lie, then.) People who lie for this reason can get better and learn to tell the truth. Until they do, however, it’s impossible to connect with them, all the same.

The second kind of liar is less fortunate. Some people lie simply because they are selfish. These liars are pathological. They will lie even when it would be easier to tell the truth. Cloud and Townsend warn that we need to stay away from these people. Personally, I think people like this are pretty rare, but I agree, we simply can’t depend on them emotionally or practically.

Still I wonder if people who lie understand what they’re doing. I think some people want grace and certainly they can get grace, but when we lie, we make the people we are lying to feel badly about the relationships and about themselves. We like people who make us feel respected, cared about and honored. Lying to somebody communicates the opposite.

Here are the things that lies did to my two relationships:

  1. • When my friends lied, I felt disrespected and unimportant. They didn’t seem to care about me or trust me enough to tell the truth. This made me feel bad about myself, as though I were not important or trustworthy enough to be told the truth.
  2. • When I found out the extent of one of the lies, I felt like a fool. Technically, my friend didn’t really lie. She just told me “part” of the truth. It was as though she were testing out whether she was safe to be vulnerable. (She told many other lies, but this was just one of them.) But it backfired. When I found out things were worse than she’d made them seem, I felt tricked and deceived. Again, without meaning to, she’d made me feel bad about myself because I felt like somebody who could be conned.
  3. • I thought less of my friends. I knew they were willing to “cheat” in relationships. When we lie, we are stealing social commodity without having earned it. People can lie their way into power, and in one instance with a friend, she lied her way into moral superiority. Still, none of the authority or moral superiority (such a thing exists, and while it’s misused, it’s not a bad thing not unlike intellectual superiority or athletic superiority. It just is. An appropriate use of those two examples of superiority might be to lead a team or teach a class.)
  4. • I felt sad and lonely. When we think we are getting to know somebody, we are giving them parts of our hearts. But when they lie, we know they’ve actually held back their hearts while we’ve been giving them ours. This made me feel lonely and dumb.
  5. • I felt like I couldn’t trust them. The only thing more important than love in a relationship is trust. Trust is the soil love grows in. If there’s not trust, there’s no relationship. When my friends lied, our trust died. As much as I wanted to forgive them, and feel like I did and have, interacting with them was no longer the same. I doubted much of what they said. Sadly, I think both of them began to tell more and more of the truth. But it didn’t matter. Once trust is broken, it’s extremely hard to rebuild.
  6. • If they didn’t confess (and in one relationship lied in their confession) I felt like they didn’t care enough about me to come clean and make things right. They were still thinking of themselves.

Here’s what didn’t happen.

I didn’t think less of them, and while I was angry, I wasn’t angry because I thought they were a bad person. The person who lied probably assumed I felt such things, but I didn’t. What really happened was I felt terrible about myself and when somebody makes us feel bad about ourselves, we tend to get hurt and move away.

To be sure, somebody who lies has a lot of other stuff going on and it’s not so easy to come clean. For a liar to change, they need a lot of help. Lying is manipulation, so if a person is a manipulator and gets caught lying, they are most likely going to keep manipulating. They may tell more lies to cover their lies, or manipulate by playing the victim. They may try to find things other people have done that they see as worse and try to make people focus on that. What they will have a hard time doing is facing the truth (which would be the easiest way out of their dilemma. It’s just that they don’t know how to do it. (They’re survivors, scrappers and have learned to cheat to stay alive socially.)

If you’ve lied in a relationship, though, and are truly wanting to LEARN to live on the up and up, what can you do? Well, there’s plenty. Life isn’t over yet. Here’s some places to start:

• Confess. And don’t half confess (just another lie) but actually confess. This may take some time for you. You may have to sit down with a pen and paper and write it all down. Your mind will want to lie, but you have to tame your mind. It may take you some time to even understand what the truth really is. You’re going to feel ashamed and at risk, but you have to go there anyway. People are much more kind and forgiving than you think. And if they’re not, you should confess and find people who are more safe.

• Accept the consequences. You’re going to have to pay for your lies. People will not and should not trust you as much as they did before. However, getting caught in a lie and confessing a lie are two different things. The former will cost you a bit, but you can rebuild quickly. The latter will cost you everything. Another thing to consider is that the truth might have lost you a small battle, but you’d have won the war because in the long run people would have trusted you. From here on out, be willing to suffer the slight, daily consequences of telling the truth. You’d be surprised at how much less tension there is in your life when you walk openly and honestly.

• Don’t expect the relationship to be the same, but if the person doesn’t forgive you, just know you can move on. You’ve confessed and hopefully apologized and you aren’t beholden to them anymore. They need to wrestle with forgiving you and that’s now their burden. It’s an unfair burden, but we all have to face such things.

• Don’t lie anymore. It’s not important that everybody like you or approve of you. Allow people to get used to who you are. Telling the truth may mean you don’t get to be in control anymore or that people won’t like you as much. That’s fine. At least they are interacting with the real you. The deep connections you’ll make from telling the truth are worth it.

Q & A: Husband says he’s sorry and will change, but doesn’t. Now what?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My husband has had two affairs, he throws things when he’s angry, abandons me for days at a time after an argument, and now has just completely detached himself from our family. He also lies about his whereabouts. I want to be the wife God has called me to be, but I can’t continue this way. My husband always says he is sorry and will change, but these behaviors continue to resurface. Please help.

Answer: I think the first question you must settle is what kind of wife do you think God wants you to be for your husband? Is it a wife that allows herself to be abused, abandoned, lied to, and cheated on with no consequences?

You say I can’t continue this way. I don’t blame you. No one would want to be married this way. But I think your dilemma is that although you can, with God’s help, be the wife that God wants you to be, that doesn’t guarantee that your husband will become the husband God wants him to be or that you want him to be.

But the question remains, what kind of wife do you think God wants you to be here? Do you think he wants you to be passive and continue to live with a man who lies to you, cheats on you, leaves you, and scares you when he’s angry? Or, might God be calling you to love your husband in such a courageous way that you boldly confront his sinfulness, refuse to accept his excuses, and, if he wants to remain married to you, require him to show through his behaviors that he’s repentant and truly wants to change. His words are meaningless. He lies. If he wants to be married, it’s time that he takes specific and consistent action steps that demonstrate that he’s serious and willing to work hard to change.

What might that look like? For starters, he needs to get some accountability partners that will help him stay honest, engaged, and sexually faithful. He needs a plan to help him learn how to manage his emotions when he’s angry or hurt so that he doesn’t get destructive, deceitful, or disengage for long periods of time. Obviously he hasn’t been able to change these habit patterns by himself, so he will need to get professional or pastoral help to learn how to deal with his emotions and understand why he does the things he does. These changes do not happen quickly or painlessly but, with God’s help, are possible for the person who is committed and teachable.

I think you fear that if you hold your husband to these necessary changes and he refuses, then what? I’m going to tell you the unvarnished truth. Your relationship is broken. You may stay legally married, you may even still live together, but you cannot have a good marriage if your husband will not change.

Hear me. You can make a bad marriage better all by yourself (by not retaliating or repaying evil for evil), but you cannot make a bad marriage a good marriage all by yourself no matter how good a wife you are. We only have to read through the book of Jeremiah to see how God longed for Israel to repent, to come to her senses and change, but she would not. God loved Israel, but He could not and would not have a close and intimate relationship with her until she was willing to change her sinful, adulterous, deceitful ways.

God knows what you’re going through. Let him empower you to be the wife he wants you to be and the wife your husband most desperately needs. You don’t have to live this way.

We Are All ADDICTS !

SOURCE: Taken from an article at Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

We are all addicts.

Every one of us is addicted to comfort.

We all struggle to deal with discomfort, especially emotional or psychological pain. Even though we say “no pain, no gain”, it’s amazing how quickly we run from discomfort and pain, or need to quickly soothe it. You see, we are all born separated from God … and that is the ultimate pain. A temporary separation on the cross is what prompted even Jesus to ask God to have this “cup” pass from Him.

As kids, we develop strategies to deal with pain. Unfortunately, we aren’t mature and our “teachers” aren’t perfect. So developing coping mechanisms for physical, psychological, relational, emotional, and spiritual pain is random, faulty, and very short-sighted … not very effective for the long haul.

Our solutions are usually flesh-driven options, knee-jerk reactions, or immediate relievers. These “solutions” are the Addiction Objects … things we go to and rely on in a repetitive way to fill needs instead of looking to God for His answers. Now God could directly soothe us or He might choose to provide appropriate objects to fill our needs. But each time we need to look to Him first, not the object.

Addiction objects can be drugs, alcohol, food, or pornography. But they can also be anger (or any emotion), work, productivity, security, our intellect, kids, money, spending, “martyr complex”, exercise, our looks/physique, sports, TV, hobbies, fighting, control, a relationship, sex, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If it is something that comforts you or relieves some negative feeling, Satan will use it as an addiction object. People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything.

One of the great lies that Satan perpetrates on us is that addiction objects offer self-protection. The truth is they are really self-destructive. Just look at Solomon’s experiences in Ecclesiastes, as he pursues everything under the sun for comfort, while leaving out God. He becomes overwhelmed, lost, and depressed, hen finally declares all objects to be vanity or meaningless when God is not pursued first.

When you are uneasy, lonely, stressed, etc, what do you go to first? Bingo! You found your addiction object. Next time, try to look to God first and see what He prescribes for your pain. He is the Ultimate Physician and Healer and is always available for drop-ins.

 Prayer

Dear Father God, for many years I struggled with the pain of needing to be needed, accepted, valued. I turned to my addictions for comfort, but they caused more pain. You have freed me from my bondage to all addictions, but I still struggle with a need for control. Help me tolerate discomfort, because your grace is sufficient. Help me to grow the Mind of Christ and to look to You as my ultimate Lighthouse of refuge and sanctuary. In Christ’s freeing name.    AMEN!

The Truth

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:1-3

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9,10

 1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:1,8,10,13

Unbelief is Ever Present

SOURCE:   J. C. Ryle

Unbelief is one of the most common spiritual diseases in these latter days.

It meets us at every turn, and in every company.

Like the Egyptian plague of frogs, it makes its way into every family and home, and there seems no keeping it out. Among high and low, and rich and poor, in town and in country, in universities and manufacturing towns, in castles and in cottages, you will continually find some form of unbelief.

It is no longer a pestilence which walks in darkness, but a destruction which wastes at noonday. Unbelief is even thought clever and intellectual, and a mark of a thoughtful mind. Society seems leavened with it.

He who avows his belief of everything contained in the Bible, must make up his mind in many companies to be smiled at contemptuously, and thought an ignorant and weak man.

~ J.C. Ryle

———————————————————————————

John Charles Ryle [1816-1900] was a prolific writer, vigorous preacher, faithful pastor in England.

Everyday IDOLS: Have One? You Bet!!

What competes with God for your affections?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Stacey Padrick

Riiinnngggg !!!

The doorbell outside the lobby of my apartment building alerted me to an unexpected visitor. I suspected it might be the man I had been admiring for some time. But my immediate thought was, Whoever it is, I can’t answer it! My apartment and I were both a mess, and I was not prepared for a Saturday morning visitor.

After much deliberation, I finally pushed the buzzer to allow him into the building. But by then he had already gone. I felt awful about not answering the door. As I expressed my regret to the Lord, I sensed that something more significant than a mere lack of hospitality had motivated my actions.

“Why was I so reluctant to welcome him in, Lord?” I questioned. Having recently studied the topic of idolatry, the answer hit me hard: I had made my image into an idol. What people thought of me had become too important. Though I could have given 100 softer-sounding explanations, I knew that only this one revealed the root of my response.

“Idolatry? That sounds a little extreme,” one might argue. “Isn’t idolatry about pagans in the Old Testament bowing down before gold or wooden images? We don’t prostrate ourselves before statues; what does idolatry have to do with us today?”

To answer these questions, we must look at the essence of idol worship: the spiritual posture of a worshiper’s heart. When we do so, we will discover that everyday idols are still a strong temptation for believers.

God’s View of Idolatry

In the Old Testament, people looked to idols for provision, meaning, significance, and identity. Worshipers bent their knees in submission and devotion to the idols they believed could save them. When the unfaithful Israelites turned to idolatry, God asked, “But where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah” (Jer. 2:28, NASB). But God made it clear that only He could save them. “You were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me” (Hos. 13:4, NASB). His people were to worship Him alone.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol. . . . You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.

Ex. 20:2–5, NASB

So abhorrent was idolatry in His sight, God commanded the Israelites not to leave even a remnant of the pagan peoples they conquered:

Tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars . . . and burn their graven images with fire. . . . And you shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

Dt. 7:5, 16, NASB

Yet despite these clear commands, book after book in the Old Testament drips with the tears of those who strayed to follow false gods. When the Israelites failed to destroy the pagan altars as God instructed, the idols of those nations ensnared their hearts. Though the prophets entreated God’s people to repent many times, Israel continued to live in rebellion. In righteous wrath, God ultimately responded by destroying Jerusalem with plagues, famine, war, and captivity (Ezekiel 6–11). Clearly, God took His people’s infidelity very seriously, and His response was severe.

Promises, Promises

“But that was in the Old Testament. Do we need to be concerned about idolatry today?” some might ask. We, too, fall prey to serving other gods by sacrificing the best of our time, energy, and attention to them instead of the Lord. Idolatry today takes many forms, from careers, entertainment, technology, and relationships to physiques, fashion, stock portfolios, and cars.

Though the shapes of contemporary idols may differ from those in the Old Testament, the temptation of idolatry—looking to something other than God for what only He can provide—remains strong. In the New Testament, Paul admonishes, “My beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14, NASB). No matter what the century, idolatry threatens to ensnare God’s people.

But we must go further than simply identifying the typical idols in our culture. For the sin of idolatry does not lie primarily in the object we worship, but in the act of worshiping anything other than God. The root of idolatry lies within us, for we set up idols in our hearts (Ezk. 14:3).

God created us with hearts that long to worship. Ever since the fall, Satan has corrupted our passion to worship the Creator and redirected our hearts toward created things. The problem, then, is not that our hearts are prone to worship, but that they are prone to wander. “Thus says the Lord to this people, ‘Even so they have loved to wander'” (Jer. 14:10, NASB).

When we allow anything apart from God to rule us, compel us, or control us, we have created an idol.

For example, does God want us to love our family and children? Yes! But when we allow these God-given gifts to define our worth and value, we make them into idols. Martin Luther pointed out, “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, that is your God.” We worship idols when we look to something other than God to fulfill our deepest needs, satisfy our longings, give us hope, or define our identity.

Many idols are not inherently “bad.” Money, for example, is not a bad thing; the love of money is (1 Tim. 6:10). God’s blessings—love, family, hard work, exercise, food, sex, ministry—become idols when we begin to set our hearts on them above God. John Calvin observed, “The evil in our desires typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.”

Idols promise everything we desire: love, acceptance, worth, happiness. But they deliver bondage. Glistening like a spider’s web, idols intrigue and lure us but ultimately ensnare our hearts and lives. The lie of the idol hisses: “You cannot be truly fulfilled or have significance unless you have _____.” We begin thinking, Unless that person esteems me, I am of little worth. Unless I am married, I cannot be fulfilled. Unless I graduate with honors, I’m not valuable. Unless I have a date to the prom, I am a nobody. Unless I work at a well-known company . . . Unless my children excel at school … Unless I am financially successful. . . . But these idols can never deliver us or save us; God alone claims that privilege, and He asks us to set our hearts upon Him, not the things of this world (Col. 3:1–3, 1 Jn. 2:15–17).

Destroying the Destroyers

Our enemy diligently seeks to keep us enslaved to idols. Satan will whisper that our idols are harmless and insignificant, certainly not worth the effort it takes to destroy them. But when God’s people did not totally destroy their idols and those of their captives, idolatry plagued the Israelites for generations. When we allow anything to usurp God’s place in our hearts, we estrange ourselves from Him (Ezk. 14:5).

God wants to set us free from enslavement to false gods. Following are some ways we can begin to unshackle ourselves from the idols in our lives.

Unveil them. As we have already begun doing, we must detect and expose the idols in our lives. Prayerfully consider the following list of questions. They are designed to help you unmask any idols in your heart.

  • What preoccupies or rules my heart? Thoughts? Time?
  • What compels me? Controls me? Drives me? Motivates me?
  • To what does my heart cling?
  • What competes for my time with God?
  • What gives me a sense of worth? What defines my identity before others?
  • What do I crave?
  • If everything else were taken away, what is one thing I could not bear to live without?
  • Am I looking to something or someone to provide what only God can?
  • What do family or close friends think may be idols in my life? (Often others can see more clearly what we are too close to see.)

Remember, idols are not necessarily “bad” things. We can make idols of good, even “spiritual,” things. The Israelites worshiped foreign gods not only on pagan altars but even on altars within God’s own temple (Ezk. 8:16). Similarly, we may also erect false gods on altars within our churches and ministries. Consider the following potential idols:

  • Our strengths. Our culture and pride tempt us to rely upon our own strength, yet God calls us to depend wholly upon His strength.
  • Our gifts. We are often prone to rely more upon our God-given gifts than upon God’s Spirit to empower our ministry.
  • Our ministry. No matter how worthy our ministry, if we make it our central focus, we’ve created an idol.
  • Our productivity. We look to our achievements and accomplishments to validate our worth before God and others.

Repent of them. “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Repent and turn away from your idols'” (Ezk. 14:6, NASB). Isaiah instructs us in what to do with our idols: “Throw them away like a menstrual cloth!” (Is. 30:22). For some, that might mean throwing away (or at least fasting from) the things that hold sway in our hearts: TV, a leadership responsibility, a form of entertainment, a material item, coffee, a relationship. For others it may mean limiting the amount of time, money, thinking, or energy expended on potential idols. Dedicate the time previously devoted to an idol (such as working overtime, watching sports, surfing the net, serving on a church committee) to the Lord. Sit at His feet and delight in Him.

Again, none of these pursuits is necessarily wrong, but if we find ourselves serving them with the best or the bulk of our time, energy, and devotion, we may be worshiping them as idols.

Return to unadulterated fellowship with God. “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hos. 14:1, NASB). God is jealous for our hearts and devotion. Just as a husband would grieve if his wife desired another man, so God grieves when we turn to false gods and become enamored with them: “How I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes, which played the harlot after their idols” (Ezk. 6:9, NASB).

Yet, knowing our waywardness, God reaches out to restore our fellowship with Him.

“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the Lord. “I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious. . . . I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God. . . . Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.”

Jer. 3:12–13, 22, NASB

And again in Hosea, He promises, “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely” (Hos. 14:4, NASB). In His ultimate act of love, God took the initiative to reconcile us through Christ while we were yet sinners (Ro. 5:8).

Vigilantly guard against new idols. Just when we think we have forever banished false gods, idols in new clothing will arise to tempt us. John, like Paul, warned his readers, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21, NASB). When we move to a new place, develop a new relationship, or enter into any new circumstance, dazzling idols lure us to worship them.

For example, when I moved to England to pursue graduate work, an air of intellectualism pervaded the university. I found myself prone to overly esteem well-known scholars in my field and to base my self-worth upon my academic performance.

More recently, I moved to San Francisco, a very image- and fashion-conscious city. Here I must guard my heart against allowing my appearance to become a god that I serve with my time, money, and energy. I must also be careful not to trust in my appearance to establish my sense of worth as a person.

At Rest in God

On any given day, our hearts are prone to wander. We must continually ask ourselves, “Who or what is ruling my thoughts and behavior: the Lord or an idol?” Idolatry drives us to seek life from false gods; they are never capable of providing it. As we devote ourselves to knowing God more intimately, we will be less likely to buy into the lies of false gods when they promise what only He can deliver.

We are a worshiping people, created to freely worship and serve God. He abhors idolatry because He knows that when we serve anything else, it will enslave and ultimately destroy us. Only worshiping Him will satisfy our soul’s deepest hunger for the food we’ve been craving in idols. Only in worshiping God, and God alone, can our hearts finally rest.

Satan’s Favorite Lies: Five Ways The Enemy Deceives Believers

SOURCE:  Douglas Wendel/Discipleship Journal

During my years in the air force, the government spent a lot of money training us to understand and recognize the tactics of our enemies. Why? Because in warfare, you must know your adversary. What weapons does he have? How, when, and where will he use them? This information provides a critical edge in battle.

As Christians, we wage war against a spiritual enemy (2 Cor. 10:3–4, Eph. 6:12). Although Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, the devil still wreaks havoc in our lives, knowing that his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Peter described him as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan loves to trip up our walks with God, tempting us to dishonor His name. How does he attempt to derail us? With his tricky lies.

Jesus said that when Satan lies, he speaks his native language (Jn. 8:44). Just as we all speak one language that comes naturally to us, so Satan is a natural liar. In fact, Jesus called him the “father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). If we hope to resist the enemy’s attacks, we must realize that Satan doesn’t fight fair. He is a master of the guerrilla warfare of deceit.

Here are five of Satan’s favorite lies and the truths of God’s Word that can empower us to stand firm when the enemy attacks.

Lie 1: “God is holding out on you.”

In Genesis 3, Eve stood at the crossroads of temptation and obedience. Satan had tempted her to eat the fruit God had forbidden, saying, “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, knowing good and evil” (vv. 4–5). What was Satan saying to Eve? “God is holding out on you. He has something good He’s trying to keep from you!” Unfortunately Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s first lie.

Throughout most of my college years (I started college in my mid-20s), I struggled with being single. I knew God had my best interests in mind, as Jer. 29:11 describes: “For I know the plans I have for you …plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Yet at times my strong desire to marry tempted me to doubt God’s goodness, just as Eve had done. I wondered why His plans for me did not seem to include a good thing like marriage.

One lonely night I cried out to God over my inner struggle. Sitting among the dark, empty track bleachers of my university, I told Him about this temptation and then recommitted myself to doing His will—even if it meant staying single. A year later I found myself at the marriage altar, thanking God for the grace to believe in His goodness instead of Satan’s lie. I experienced His perfect timing in this area of my life as I trusted Him.

Sometimes our circumstances don’t seem to make any sense and fail to meet our expectations of life. In these moments, Satan tempts us to believe that God’s goodness obligates Him to gratify our desires immediately. But we must intentionally recall that God’s plans are always aimed at our best over the long term.

Lie 2: “Trust yourself.”

David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7). Yet even the author of these words fell victim to another one of Satan’s lies: the lie of self-reliance. In 1 Chron. 21:1, Satan “incited David to take a census of Israel.” David responded to Satan’s suggestion by commanding Joab to count all the fighting men in Israel. Why did David give this order? He had begun to believe his security lay in the size of his army instead of the strength of the Lord. Satan tempted David to trust in numbers instead of God’s provision. Though he was a man after God’s heart, David failed to recognize Satan’s deception.

Because of David’s self-reliance, the whole nation of Israel suffered through a terrible plague. Likewise, when we rely solely on our own insight, it damages our walk with God and our relationships with others.

When I came on staff with The Navigators, I had to raise my salary by asking friends and relatives to give regularly to my ministry. But asking people for their financial support was not something I wanted to do. For months I resisted the idea of earning a living this way while I investigated other sources of income. My unwillingness to ask others for money kept me from moving forward in my calling.

Then one day God clearly spoke to me regarding my hesitance to trust Him. A college friend I had led to Christ years earlier was killed in a car accident. At his funeral, I realized the eternal impact God had allowed me to make in this man’s life. It was clear He was calling me to do the same in the lives of others. To pursue that mission, I needed to trust Him—not myself—to provide an income for my family.

That day I began to believe that God would meet our financial needs as He promised in Phil. 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Today, I wonder how well I would be fulfilling my calling if I had continued to believe Satan’s lie of self-reliance instead of depending upon God.

Lie 3: “You will never suffer as a Christian.”

Another one of Satan’s favorite lies tells us nothing difficult will ever happen to us as Christians. When we believe this lie, it sows seeds of self-pity into our hearts that bloom into bitterness when trials overwhelm us.

In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples He would suffer and die in Jerusalem. When Peter heard these words, he emphatically rebuked Him, “Never, Lord! …This shall never happen to you!” (v. 22). Jesus replied,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.—v. 23

Jesus recognized Satan’s seductive suggestion in Peter’s words because He knew God’s plan for His life included suffering.

Several years ago, my wife gave birth to our premature son, Jonathan. Our hearts ached for Jonathan as he fought for life in the weeks following his birth. After five long months, we brought him home from the hospital. Our house became an intensive care unit full of oxygen tanks, beeping monitors, and medication. We cared for him around the clock, enduring months of little sleep.

Yet even in our exhaustion, we never questioned God or quit. Why? Because we sincerely believed Paul’s promise in Ro. 8:28: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even in our difficult circumstances, we trusted God would accomplish His good purpose in our lives.

God doesn’t promise that suffering will never touch our lives. In fact, He says the opposite. In Jas. 1:2, we are told, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Notice James says “whenever,” not if we face trials. Difficult circumstances will sift all of our lives. But God allows these trials so that we may be “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4).

God uses trials to shape our character and conform it to His own. That process equips us to reach out with compassion to a lost and hurting world.

Lie 4: “Money is the key to happiness.”

Satan knows the powerful lure of riches. He promised earthly extravagance to Jesus in an attempt to turn Him from the Father (Mt. 4:8–9). Jesus replied, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (v. 10). Satan is well aware of how greed takes our focus off God. The Apostle Paul verified this when he wrote, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).

Recently, we sold our home for a profit. Though I had intended to tithe from the additional income, moving to another state delayed my giving. Instead, I put the money in an interest-bearing account until we could buy a new house.

But temptation crept in, and I began to think about how I could make the money grow faster. Periodically I thought of making the tithe, but the idea would slip away with my lack of action.

Finally, God spoke to me one morning through Mal. 3:10.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this …and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Within a few days the Lord showed me how much and where to give. I released the tithe I should have given months earlier. The next week we got a phone call. Some Christian friends outside our city had suddenly decided to move and wanted to sell their house and small acreage to us if we were interested. They thought the property might be a great place for our ministry and family. We were amazed. God wanted to bless us in a greater way but did not do so until I gave back to His work. Listening to Satan’s lie of greed could have short-circuited God’s plan for blessing.

God may bless us with earthly riches. If He does, we need to hold them with an open hand before Him. But when we say yes to the enemy’s lie and no to God, Satan’s promises will certainly be accompanied by a load of heartache. A lifetime of mammon is not worth shipwrecking our faith on the reef of earthly riches (Mt. 6:24).

Lie 5: “You can never forgive them.”

Finally, Satan attempts to derail us with the lie that we can’t forgive those who’ve wounded us severely. A respected Christian leader recently said that with the exception of sexual immorality, he’s seen more men and women drop out of the Christian life because of unforgiveness than any other factor. In the early days of the church, Paul also understood how unforgiveness separated believers. In 2 Cor. 2:7, 11, he urged believers to “forgive and comfort [the offender] …in order that Satan might not outwit us.”

How does Satan outwit us through unforgiveness? Someone once said that bitterness is a poison you drink hoping the other person dies. Refusal to forgive invites bitterness into our hearts, poisoning everything in our lives. It eats away at our souls and robs us of the joy and satisfaction God gives through our relationships with Him and others.

Unforgiveness divides people. As long as forgiveness is withheld, a wall of separation exists between two parties. Satan uses festering grievances to kill fellowship among believers and to thwart the work of God.

Several years ago I lost my job. The pain and humiliation left me bitter toward my former supervisor. Whenever she came to mind in the months that followed, anger flared up within me. One day the Lord spoke to me through Eph. 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” As I meditated on how much Christ had forgiven me, I realized I needed to let go of my bitterness and forgive her. Although the healing process took several years, today I can think of her with peace and genuine concern for her welfare.

The road to forgiveness begins by remembering how much we have been forgiven ourselves. When we recognize our own unworthiness before the Lord, the sweet love of God can flow again from our hearts toward others. Forgiveness is the oil that keeps our souls from burning up in the friction of our relationships.

Truly, our battle is “not against flesh and blood, but against …the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). The Bible promises God will have the final victory over Satan and his demons. Until that time, may we resist Satan’s lies by standing firm on the truths in God’s Word.

God’s Positive Answers

For all the negative things we have to say to ourselves, God has a positive answer for it :
 

You say:  “It’s impossible”
God says: All things are possible (Luke 18:27)

You say:  “I’m too tired”
God says: I will give you rest (Matthew 1:28-30)

You say: “Nobody really loves me”
God says: I love you (John 3:16 & John 13:34)

You say: “I can’t go on”
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: “I can’t figure things out”
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say: “I can’t do it”
God says: You can do all things (Philippians 4:13)

You say: “I’m not able”
God says: I am able (II Corinthians 9:8)

You say:  “It’s not worth it”
God says: It will be worth it. (Roman 8:28)

You say:  “I can’t forgive myself”
God says:  I FORGIVE YOU (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say:  “I can’t manage”
God says: I will supply all your needs
(Philippians 4:19)

You say:  “I’m afraid”
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
(II Timothy 1:7)

You say: “I’m always worried and frustrated”
God says: Cast all your cares on ME (I Peter 5:7)

You say: “I don’t have enough faith”
God says: I’ve given everyone a measure of faith
(Romans 12:3)

You say:  “I’m not smart enough”
God says:  I give you wisdom (I Corinthians 1:30)

You say:  “I feel all alone”
God says:  I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)

SOURCE:  Author Unknown


 


 

5 Myths About Suffering: See Your Pain From God’s Perspective

SOURCE:  Stacy Padrick/Discipleship Journal – NavPress

“Your blood pressure is fine,” said the nurse, leaving me to wait for the doctor.

“Oh, Lord,” I prayed, “please help the doctor find out what is wrong with my body.”

After leaving numerous doctors’ offices with no answers over the course of 18 months, I was desperately seeking a cure for the mysterious virus that often confined me to home and bed. I longed to reclaim my active lifestyle, resume working full time, and eventually return to the mission field.

“Hello, Stacey,” the doctor’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “How are you feeling?” As I began describing my symptoms, she nodded as if already suspecting the answer. When lab results confirmed her diagnosis, my hope of simply “getting over it” vanished, leaving me to live with the daily limitations of an incurable disease. As a previously energetic and ambitious 27 year old, I watched in fear as this illness crept into every area of my life, threatening my work, my ministry, my finances, my dreams, my relationship with the man I loved, and even my walk with God. I cried out to Him, groping to know His presence in the midst of my pain.

Suffering. Just hearing that word can make us cringe. Under the influence of a society that abhors even the thought of suffering, we seek to escape the reality of pain in our lives any way we can—television, busyness, entertainment, drugs. Suffering doesn’t fit with the world’s notion of success or with the theology of God’s goodness and victorious living in Christ we often espouse. Never mind that Jesus often spoke about suffering. Like Peter and the disciples to whom Christ revealed His imminent suffering and death, we, too, are tempted to respond, “Oh, that will never happen to you!” (see Mt. 16:22).

Yet is it possible that our view of suffering has been colored by pervasive myths we have unthinkingly accepted? As I’ve faced pain in my own life and turned to God’s Word for consolation, I’ve identified five myths that tempt us to shrink back, doubt God, or experience despair during times of suffering.

Myth 1: Suffering is negative and to be avoided at all costs.

How often do we pray to know Christ better? Quite often, most of us would say. How often do we pray to know Him better through suffering? If you are like me, seldom, if ever! Shortly after my diagnosis, I read Paul’s words in Phil. 3:10: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” I passionately prayed, “Yes, Lord, I want to know You better!” But as I came to the words that followed—”and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”—my tongue froze. The idea of praying for suffering made me shudder! Why would Paul pray for fellowship in Christ’s sufferings? I began to wonder if he knew something we unknowingly miss in our rush to avoid or “get through” suffering.

Scripture clearly teaches that affliction and tribulation work to make us complete and mature. James wrote,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

—Jas. 1:2–4

For the believer, suffering works on the seeds of faith in the same way manure works as a fertilizer. We abhor the stench of manure and, similarly, the agony of pain. Yet though it seems like waste material, suffering nourishes and feeds the growing fruits of faith and maturity in the garden of our lives. God does not waste any experience in our lives when we willingly surrender it to Him. Even Jesus, although He was God’s Son, learned obedience from the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8).

Truth: The spiritual fruit for which we often pray is fertilized by adversity.

Myth 2: We can only experience joy and peace when we are not experiencing pain.

Knowing that suffering develops character only partially comforted me at times. Though I tried to “consider it pure joy” as James advised, my emotions often swayed from peace to anxiety when my body battled unpredictable symptoms. How could I experience joy when I was losing my health, my independence, my dreams of returning to the mission field, and a love relationship?

The psalmist wrote: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5–6). When God gave me the seeds of sadness and brokenness, I wanted to cast them aside and implore Him to give me seeds of joy and peace instead. But then it struck me that joy and peace are fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), fruit which is often mysteriously born from seeds of suffering. Only as we willingly accept these uncomely seeds and allow Him to sow them in our lives will the lasting fruit of joy and peace bloom.

In 1873, Horatio Spafford, a prominent American businessman, waved good-bye to his wife and four daughters as they boarded a ship for Europe, where he was soon to join them. Days later, he received the shattering news that the ship had collided with another, and his four daughters had drowned in the Atlantic. Journeying to Europe to meet his wife, his ship sailed over the waters where his daughters had perished. As his tears poured forth, he returned to his cabin, committed his immense sorrow to God, and wrote the following: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: It is well. It is well with my soul.”

Not only did he experience God’s peace for himself, but with the seeds of his suffering, he sowed a five-stanza hymn that has brought comfort and peace to countless people in pain for more than a century.

Truth: Suffering and sorrow, when willingly accepted, become the seeds of joy and peace in our lives.

Myth 3: Suffering is a sign of God’s displeasure or judgment.

As months passed and God did not answer the many prayers of friends and family for my healing, I began to wonder, Did I do something to invite this? Is this a sign of God’s judgment of me? Then the enemy, prowling about for an opportunity to attack when my spirit and body had grown weary, tempted me to believe that God had condemned me or, at best, overlooked me. Yet turning again to Scripture, I found truth in Paul’s words: “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29, NASB).

Rather than a sign of God’s disapproval or neglect, adversity is a sign of God’s work in our lives. My pastor once said, “In God’s economy, sometimes the measure of our hurt is the measure of our success.” Why? Because suffering makes us more like the Author of our salvation. Allowing us to suffer is actually a sign of His grace! He cares so deeply for us that He will do whatever is necessary for us to know Him better and to become more like Him. God does not test us, as the enemy would have us believe, simply to see how much we can stand. Earlier in this century, an anonymous writer penned these words:

The very fact of trial proves that there is something in us very precious to our Lord; else He would not spend so much pains and time on us. Christ would not test us if He did not see the precious ore of faith mingled in the rocky matrix of our nature; and it is to bring this out into purity and beauty that He forces us through the fiery ordeal.

Truth: Affliction allowed by God is a sign of His grace in our lives and His love for us.

Myth 4: Only voluntary suffering “for the sake of Christ” has spiritual value in the kingdom of God.

To sustain my spirit during the most difficult times, I meditated on Scripture about tribulation and claimed the promises and hope they offered. Initially, I found comfort in Peter’s words:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.

—1 Pet. 4:12–13

However, the enemy soon began tempting me with thoughts such as, These verses don’t apply to you! They are for those who suffer voluntarily for the sake of the gospel. Your affliction just happened; it isn’t a result of your obedience to God. As I read verse 14—”If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”—I had to concur that I was not being reviled for the sake of Christ. Perhaps the deceiver was right, and my affliction lacked real spiritual value.

Yet one night as I anguished over the apparent lack of purpose in my hardships, I stumbled upon a statement in C. S. Lewis’ Letters to an American Lady that challenged my narrow definition of suffering for Christ. Responding to a letter from a woman who laments about her many ailments and trials (from toothaches to budget problems), Lewis wrote: “Always remember that poverty and every other ill, lovingly accepted, has all the spiritual value of voluntary poverty or penance” (emphasis mine). What comfort these simple words brought!

As I committed my illness to God and asked Him to accomplish His will through it, my struggles no longer seemed in vain. Thomas À Kempis wrote, “Do not despair or be discouraged but accept God’s will calmly, bearing all that befalls you for the glory of Christ.” My disease, as frustrating and limiting as it was, could still be used for God’s glory.

Truth: All suffering can be used for God’s glory when we willingly accept and surrender our hardships to Him.

Myth 5: If God were truly good, He would remove this suffering from me.

As another year ended, I prayed once again, “Lord, may this new year be one of healing.” Even knowing the maturing benefits of affliction, I grew weary of the struggles. “Enough, Lord!” I wanted to say. “Haven’t I been pruned enough for a while?” How desperately I longed for Him to deliver me from the trials and bring restoration of the losses I had endured. If God was God, He could do that, right? If He were loving, He would do that, right? How tempted I was to believe that if God truly cared about me, if He were all powerful, He would take away the pain.

Yet as I continued praying, I stumbled upon a treasure I would have easily missed had I looked to healing as the only sign of His love. More often than not, God does not remove our suffering. He does something better: He enters into our suffering. The Lord Jesus enters into the fullness of our pain and bears it with us. He is the God who is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18).

I finally understood why Paul prayed to know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. The path upon which we come to know Him better winds through the valley of suffering. If we seek a detour around the valley, we forfeit a chance to walk alongside the Suffering Servant. To know Christ more intimately, to more fully identify with Him, I must share in His sufferings by experiencing it myself. Whatever the nature of our affliction, sharing our pain with Him forges a deeper bond of intimacy. Nothing—not healing, not restoration, not success—compares with the comfort and sweetness of this fellowship.

The jewels of suffering abound: maturing faith, growing obedience, increased fruit. Yet the greatest treasure I have found is deepened intimacy with Christ as I fellowship with Him in the midst of my suffering.

Truth: Suffering helps us identify with the Lord Jesus more fully and deepens our intimacy with Him.

The Mythmaker

Where do these myths originate? I believe they come from none other than the father of lies. The tempter has thoroughly duped us into believing that suffering is negative, a sign of God’s neglect or of our own failure. Why would Satan be so determined to tempt us to avoid suffering (and sadly, sometimes to avoid those we know who are suffering)? Because he knows that suffering is one of the greatest means to draw us closer to Jesus and teach us increasing dependence upon Him. Thus, he will do whatever it takes to entice us to run from it  . . . until God, in His grace, allows suffering from which we cannot run.

When Peter refused to accept Jesus’ imminent suffering and death, He responded, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mt. 16:23). In the midst of our pain, we must refuse to accept Satan’s lies about suffering. When we believe that God loves us perfectly and that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18), we need no longer submit to the fear of suffering.

We live in a fallen world where the prince of darkness rules. Trials, hardships, and adversity are more normal in this life than abnormal. If this life were absent of suffering, we might begin to mistake it for the real thing. Suffering makes us hunger for heaven, our real home, where God will wipe away every tear. Though we may never fully understand our suffering, we can rest in the hope that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Ro. 8:18).

Are “Inner Voices” Real? Yes!

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Radio Bible Class

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Hearing voices has to be the most haunting of all the mental disorders. After all, which voice do you listen to? Talk about massive confusion! But before you think that you are among the blessed ones who don’t hear voices, think again. Today will be full of voices that compete for a piece of your life. Your boss, your spouse, your children, close friends, advertisements, and talk shows all will bombard your psyche with conflicting advice or demands.

It’s not just the voices on the outside. No matter how sane you think you are, we all have inner voices that compete for control; voices that are not always positive. I confess to hearing the compelling whispers of the dark side of my heart on a regular basis. Whispers that advise and plan ways for me to live for my own advantage. Whispers that convincingly argue that a life lived by the lure of my desires is life at its best. Whispers that tell me I am clever enough not to get caught, that nobody is perfect, that God understands my weakness and will forgive me. Tell me that I am not alone and that you can identify!

I have learned that when those kinds of inner voices dominate, I often look back in regret and shame for letting them grab the control levers of my life. They promise me life at its best but consistently leave me empty, disappointed, guilty and embarrassed.

That’s why I am forever grateful that there is a voice within that I can trust. A single voice that puts all the other voices into perspective. A voice that speaks wisdom clearly and confidently. A voice that has my best interest in mind and wants to lead me to life at its best.

Over the years as I have followed the advice and counsel of that voice, I have never been disappointed. It hasn’t always been easy advice, and sometimes it hasn’t made a lot of sense—like telling me that I should forgive someone who has hurt me or that I need to die to myself—but it has reliably been the right advice.

It’s the voice of Jesus. When you get on line in your heart to hear His voice and His alone, you will be liberated from the conflicting voices that in the end you really can’t trust. Thankfully, He has given you all the equipment you need. Talk about high tech! The indwelling Holy Spirit actually lives within you to decode God’s Word as you read it. He speaks to your mind, heart, and conscience as your eyes scan the lines of the bestselling how-to-live book ever written.

So put the “earbuds” in and tune to the one frequency where you are loved and led to life as God meant it be—life at it’s best!

Remember, His is the only voice you can finally and fully trust. He loves you and died to prove it!

Divorce Begins With Deception

Lies lure us away from God’s plan for marriage, as we depend more on what our culture says rather than what the Bible instructs us. This being the case, why are we so surprised by the number of divorces?

by Cheryl Scruggs (Author of: I Do Again)

Marriages ending in divorce are at a pandemic level. Lies lure us away from God’s plan for marriage, as we depend more on what our culture says rather than what the Bible instructs us. This being the case, why are we so surprised by the number of divorces?

Many types of deception lead us into the hands of divorce. Again, John 10:10 reminds us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy … “, and Satan desires to destroy your marriage.

What types of deception are we talking about?

When we begin to feel disgruntled in our marriage, negative or faulty thoughts begin to formulate about our spouse or our marriage. We begin to believe the lies swirling through our head. We convince ourselves that “the grass must be greener on the other side”; that “this is not the same man or woman I married”; or that “I must have married the wrong person.” When this begins to happen, it is important to remember 2 Corinthians 10:5: “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.”

Many times, blinded by love, we falsely perceive the object of our affection as nearly flawless. Yet in marriage, our weaknesses, and our spouse’s, eventually surface.

Deception #1 – We married the wrong person

Instead of accepting these “less than attractive” things about our spouse, we often feel duped. We may begin to convince ourselves we married the wrong person. Warning: Allowing these thoughts to fester and penetrate your heart could cause your thoughts to spiral out of control and can set your marriage up for failure! You might begin to pull away from your spouse emotionally and/or physically, without even knowing it. I experienced this. Part of the deception, for me, was not addressing my thoughts properly, and not realizing how I was pulling away. My heart was growing hard, yet I was oblivious.

We all, at one time or another, wonder if we married the right person. We must guard our hearts when feeling disconnected from our spouse. If disconnect happens, we often convince ourselves that we somehow messed up and missed out on marrying our “soul mate.”

Is there such a thing as a soul mate? A soul mate is someone with whom we can share deep feelings and attitudes. Marriage takes work, and learning to share deep feelings and attitudes is part of the work necessary to enjoy intimacy in marriage. Jeff and I frequently remind other couples that when they got married, their spouse became the right person! According to Scripture, when you said “I do,” you became a one-flesh union, and, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6).

Deception #2 – We misunderstand love

Often we think we understand what love is supposed to look like, and enter marriage with our own definition. This definition may have been influenced by the examples we had growing up, the shows or movies we watched, the music we listened to or even relationships we’ve experienced. We tend to spend a great deal of time comparing our fabricated definition of love with the love we think we are experiencing – or not experiencing – in our marriage. How we judge love is often based on our own definition, rather than the Bible’s definition.

Deception #3 – We believe we deserve to be happy

Focusing on our own happiness is a shallow approach, especially compared to God’s greater plan for our life. God is OK with us being happy, but His greatest desire is for us to seek Him and glorify Him in all that we say and do. With this in mind, as we seek to glorify God with our lives, joy and contentment become a byproduct of this obedience.

I prefer the word contentment over “happy,” because I believe discontentment prevails in our culture. Is it realistic for us to be content in all circumstances? Philippians 4:11(ESV) says: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” It is possible to be content, but it takes hard work.

How does this play into your marriage? When you feel discontent or unhappy, what do you do with it? Do you start making a laundry list of all the things your spouse is doing wrong? Do you emotionally and/or physically disengage? Do you try to fix things by passively addressing it without your spouse knowing of your discontent? Have you ever entertained the idea that you need to examine your own heart? Do you ever go to God with your discontentment and ask Him what He is trying to teach you?

Asking yourself these questions can help you discern your own heart and confront these lies before they potentially destroy your marriage. Why do we believe these lies? Many times, it is because we want to. Romantic movies, TV shows, music – and our sinful thoughts – cause our thinking to become distorted. Many people (yes, Christians) convince themselves that they are hearing a message from God telling them to get out of their marriage, or that there is a better spouse out there for them. They often feel they deserve freedom and happiness. Yet where in the Bible does it say we deserve anything?

When and how do we succumb to deception? We are capable of giving way to temptation at anytime. When we do not understand God’s plan for marriage, are not reading God’s Word, are not in healthy Christian community, are feeling unloved, or are emotionally or physically deprived, we can succumb very easily.

Lastly, we must guard ourselves into thinking we are incapable of being deceived.

FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: A BROADER VIEW OF ADDICTION

SOURCE: Adapted from Helping Troubled Families by Charles M. Sell

Helping Troubled Families: A Guide for Pastors, Counselors, and Supporters

For practical reasons, many experts are taking a broader view of addiction, a biopsychosocial one.  They view substance abuse as a complex condition and endorse multiple strategies for dealing with it.  Using drugs and alcohol may serve any number or purposes – avoiding responsibility, medicating emotional pain, dealing with a difficult relationship, etc.  These behaviors are inadequate ways of coping with the underlying problems that sustain them.

*God in a Bottle – If there were one reason above all others for people becoming addicts, it would be a spiritual one.  People worship their addictions.  Ironically, for them, spirits replace the divine Spirit.  It is a form of selfishness or self-idolatry.  The feeling of power and exotic excitement in addiction is an attempt to rise above the routine of living.  For this reason, many label addictions idolatry.  It is obviously so, since the addict’s center of life has become the substance/behavior to which he or she is addicted.  Addicts testify that nothing else mattered to them once they became hooked – not family, health, pleasure – nothing was more important to them than satisfying their craving for a fix.

The Old Testament describes idolatry as putting something in front of God.  When God commands that we “have no other gods before” Him, idolatry/addictive behaviors consist of putting something/anything in front of God, disguising and distorting God’s true face.  Every sin emerges from the fact that God is no longer first in our lives but is concealed by something created.

Viewing addiction as a form of idolatry should encourage us as Christians to be confident of our own spiritual resources to treat it.  Salvation through faith in Christ and sanctification through reliance on the Holy Spirit strike at the heart of idolatry.

*For Pleasure or Escape – Addicted people are crippled by their past experiences, unable to choose and exercise responsibility for their behavior.  Some use addictive behaviors as a way to escape emotional hurt sometimes sourced in their troubled childhood family.  People often use addictions not to make their hearts happy but to put their souls to sleep.  When people use addictive behaviors to escape suffering, they fail to cope with their problems in functional ways.  This only compounds their problems, which don’t go away but remain to keep nudging them to return to their “drug” of choice to escape.

Dependence is learned as a result of living in a family where a behavior is rewarded one time and punished the next.  Children learn to be dependent on cues from their environment to know how to act.  They are often not taught to follow their feelings but rather to follow the actions of another – to react as opposed to act.  The perceptive child grows to learn how to watch the family so that under each changing set of circumstances he or she will know how to act.  When the cues keep changing and the consequences for mistakes are severe, the child becomes dependent on these external cues to know what to do.  By training themselves to trust only external cues, not only do children learn dependency but they also perceive that feeling good can come only from a source outside of themselves.  This helps explain why children of addicts learn to depend on others and not themselves in a relationship.  Once addiction becomes a problem for them, addicts will continue to use the substance/behavior not so much to obtain enjoyment but to blot out the pain of the disastrous effects their heavy use is causing them.  They then search for more relief from the addiction moving farther into the process of addiction.  Sobriety means giving up their maladaptive way of coping with their emotions and their troubles.  Recovery must include making major life changes.

*Relational and Trust Issues – Sometimes addictive behaviors are blamed on others and other relational factors can be involved in addictions.  One’s acting out might keep the focus of the problem on the addict rather than other family members.  Some use addictive behaviors to draw attention to themselves and excuse themselves from their responsibilities.  Addictive behaviors can be used to control others through manipulation or as a way of not being controlled by others.  Addictive behaviors can be used to avoid intimacy and the threat of self-disclosing including the risk of rejection.  Because of not having healthy relationships, those involved in addictive behaviors may not have learned to trust people.  Their emotional isolation from others eventually leads them to establish an emotional relationship with some substance or activity.  They turn to it because it is dependable – they can trust it to give them the lift that they need and the nurture that they are unable to receive from others.  Addictions are dependable; people are not.

*Stinkin’ Thinkin’ – The thinking of one involved in an addictive behavior is distorted.  One’s life can be falling apart, health deteriorating, family in ruins, and job in jeopardy, but he/she seems unable to recognize this.  Family and friends may even be taken in by this “addictive thinking” because the addict sounds convincing to friends, pastors, employers, doctors, and even counselors.  It is difficult to understand if this perverted reasoning is the cause or the result of the addiction.  For example, “Am I addicted because of my intolerable life, or is my life intolerable because of my addiction?”  Once the intense craving begins, it affects the person’s thinking in much the same way as a bribe or other personal interest distorts one’s judgment.  The addict’s need will be so powerful that he or she will think anything that will justify the next fix. Addicts’ illusion of control is part of these rationalizations.  Although their lives have become grossly unmanageable, they steadfastly insist they are still in charge.  They falsely claim they can quit anytime they want.  They do this because they think in terms of minutes, not hours or days.  Recovering addicts must patiently stay sober moment after moment.

HEALING, HELP, AND HOLINESS IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

SOURCE:  BILL BELLICAN

A lot happens in life in the present moment.  Anything (good or bad) can happen at any given moment.  What’s even more real (and amazing) is how God desires that we grow in our ability to engage with Him about all things in all moments.  In other words, He desires to have a vibrant, interactive, moment-by-moment fellowship with each of us in each present moment of our lives.

Concerning the more painful side of life, God constantly invites us to commune with Him, to discuss with Him the hard realities of life as we are affected by and experience these realities, and to depend upon Him more.  As we do these things, we learn how to wait on and watch for His wise and loving involvement in all our life needs and situations.

Among the hard realities of life are that we are responsible for and experience the consequences of our own personal sins, we suffer at the hands of others who sin against us, and we live in a fallen and broken world that sometimes comes crashing down on us.  As a result, we encounter hurts, wounds, engage our own unhealthy coping behaviors, are subject to the attacks of Satan, and find ourselves constrained by various strongholds of negative thoughts and emotional responses. This all makes life, at times, exceedingly miserable and difficult.  Furthermore, any unhealthy or dysfunctional responses we make to these hard realities hinder our progress toward holiness and being made Christ-like which is God’s will for us.

As we learn to take full advantage of our present relationship with God and invite His involvement in every present detail of life we encounter, we learn how to talk with Him more deeply, intimately, and honestly and to trust in His good and loving ways to deal rightly and compassionately in our lives and makeus into the person He intends us to be.

The following are just some examples of various interactions I have with God in the present moment as I bring before Him my genuine needs for healing, help, and holiness in my life:

— I ask the Holy Spirit to help me acknowledge to the Lord any specific strongholds of thoughts — things that “feel” true to me in an unhealthy, negative sense.  I offer these strongholds up to the Lord  trusting Him to begin displacing them with His truths.

— I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any lies or untruth unknown to my conscious mind that I am believing in the present moment.  Then I choose to bring this lie-based thinking into the healing presence of Jesus for Him to renew my mind.

— I ask the Lord for His Lordship over any specific behavioral strongholds (i.e., destructive coping behaviors and habits) that affect me.  I request He demolish the strongholds as I faithfully look only to Him to do what I am powerless to do.

— I ask the Lord to make it possible for me to hear and sense only His truth that I might receive it in place of lies and distorted thinking.  I willingly choose to dedicate my all (i.e, everything good and bad about myself) to the Lord, and I reaffirm my current situation/thinking/feelings belong to Him along with my desire to be enslaved only to Him.

— I confess to the Lord any aspect of actual sin or compromise on my part that occurs to me including my awareness of and regret about my fallenness and potential to sin.

— I realistically share with the Lord the hurt, wounds, pain, bitterness, and unforgiveness I feel as a result of what others have done to me.  I request His Power to release to Him these wounds/hurts trusting Him to take them away and deal with them as He will.  I ask for the ability to trust that He will right every wrong done to me in His way and timing.  I also ask to receive His ability to forgive and release others for what they have done to me. I even boldly tell Him about any anger or hurts I have toward Him and ask for His perspective about these while trusting He will lovingly carry my distorted perspectives away as He cleanses me.

— I recall who I am to and in Christ and ask that the Holy Spirit remind me about my God-given position, rights, and privileges as a member of the family of God that I might proclaim and experience the reality of these truths.

— I choose to proclaim (in the Name of Jesus) that I resist Satan, his demons, their influence, and all lies as I obediently seek the Holy Spirit’s filling/control and the empowerment to put on the spiritual armor  of God.

— I choose to rebuke (in the Name of Jesus) Satan, his demons, and their lies, and I ask the Lord to rebuke these, also.  I reaffirm that God chose me as His own forever.

— I proclaim to the Lord how I choose to rejoice in Him (with His enablement) regardless of what my circumstances, struggles, failures, feelings are, since Who He is and What He allows are rooted in His Goodness toward me.

— I ask the Lord to show me what obedience to Him looks like, to train me in obedience, and to motivate me to obedience as a way of expressing my love for and faith in Him as He demolishes strongholds in my life along with the unhealthy thoughts, emotional responses, and behaviors attached to these strongholds.

— I praise God for Who He is,  because of His total involvement and interest in every minute detail of my life, and for His indescribable love for me as He works within these details.

May these be of help to you as the triune God — Father, Son, Holy Spirit — engages you in a deeper, more intimate, real, more constant communion with Him in the present moment as He brings to you: healing, help, and holiness.

Scriptural References:  Pr 23:7;  Zec 3:1-2;  John 8:32, 36;  Ro 8:29, 12:2;  2 Co 10:3-5;  Php 4:8; 1Th 3:13, 4:3;   Jude 9

Do You Recognize The Darkness?

(Source: Lighthouse Network Devotions — http://www.lighthousenetwork.org )

Transformational Thought

What is darkness? We all have really bright and shiny days when everything goes great and we feel on top of the world. But darker days, those are a lot tougher to describe and identify. You might be thinking, “What is he talking about? I know the dark days and can identify them pretty easily.”

Dark days can also be days that are “neutral” days. Nothing great, nothing earth-shattering, nothing memorable. Those are the days that Satan starts to play with our head, getting us to think or believe we are nothing special, that God doesn’t really love us, that God isn’t interested in our wellbeing, that God is really just waiting up there with a scorecard to keep track of our mistakes.

Why do we fall for Satan’s tricks?  Because, at our core, we are insecure, feel inadequate, and have a consistent and constant need for approval and to be important to someone. Noticed. To be making our mark on each day.

Growing in God’s grace is all about trusting Him above all else, particularly in the darkness, whether it is a for-all-the-marbles darkness, or those neutral days that set us up on the slippery slope for a big darkness. When you are in the dark, reach for His hand with confidence. Turn to Him. Resist the hollow earthly solutions and addictions. Reaching for His hand in the dark is a display of magnificent trust and greatly weakens the spiritual forces of evil, the very forces that have tricked you to pursue the darkness as a solution.

When your world is dark and you trust God, His light will shine brightly through you for all to see…for His light shines brightest in the darkness.

Today, if you are in the dark and feel on the brink of giving up, cry out for His assistance and pray: “Help me, Holy Spirit.” Really look for the hand that is reaching out for you….it is there. This brief prayer is a beautiful display of trust and a simple way to tap into His vast power. Learn to recognize the lies that take you from a neutral day to a dark day.

Prayer

Dear Father, I am completely in the dark today – scared, disoriented – don’t know which way to turn. Help me, God; help me, Holy Spirit.  You have designed me to seek light…I crave all kinds of light—sunlight, even artificial light—but especially the light of Your holy presence. I want to walk in Your light, Father.  It is easy for me to trust You when there is plenty of light in my world. But trusting You in my darkness is another matter. But I am desperate, Lord.  I am reaching for You in the dark. I know, Lord, that Your light shines brightest in the dark. I pray that even in times when I cannot see the illumination of Your light, that Your light shining through me is visible to those around me. I pray in need through Your Son, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

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

1 John 1:7

Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:10

WHAT’S YOUR BODY IMAGE?

Source:  Adapted from Lighthouse Network

Transformational Thought

We need God. We won’t enjoy life, be fulfilled in life, or attain our God-given potential without closeness to Him. God desires it as well. Unfortunately, so many factors and forces keep us from this closeness to God. Eating disorders are one of those forces. 30-35% of our society struggle with significant eating issues that disrupt their lives.

“Eating Disorder” basically means unhealthy habits of restricting nutritional intake, overeating (yes, this is a large part of our American society), or being obsessed with or spending too much time focusing on or actually worshipping elements, rituals, or the results of eating.  It really becomes an addiction. People tend to get so preoccupied with body image, and what others think, that they develop a distorted view of themselves. Their concerns, or lack of concerns, about food, diet, body, and weight even begin to affect their health, relationships, and their ability to function in day-to-day life.

Like almost everything in life, God gave us food to use in moderation. Too much isn’t good, but not enough isn’t good either. Our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit to reside in and God wants us to be good stewards of our body and health. But more importantly, we need to look at the psychological and spiritual aspects of our eating habits.  If you are in this situation, determine not to let your focus on your body or food keep you from closeness with God and with others.  Decide how you wish to spend your energy: pursuing the “perfect” image, or focusing on your spiritual growth and your personal and interpersonal needs.

The outside, what man sees, or the inside, what God sees.  Society changes its view of what is beautiful…styles come and go.  But God’s view of beauty never changes. Identifying and challenging your distorted thoughts and feelings about your body and food, and keeping God’s view in mind are essential to accepting yourself and your body. We all have feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Don’t let food or your body image be your soothing mechanism. Let God and His grace and love bring you the peace you really are hungry for and crave. He is one buffet where you may eat all you can without consequences!

Today, as you approach food and eat meals, examine the importance you put on these elements. What do you get out of it?  Are food and your eating habits a coping mechanism for you?  Are you getting healthier, or are you harming your health?  Remember, your value as a person is not based on how you look or what you do.  Your value is based on the unchangeable fact that God loves you so much that He gave His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you.  Eating issues are about believing lies.  Seek the truth.  Your decision, choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve been pretty confused lately.  I’ve been so concerned about food or used it to comfort me that I’ve ignored You…and relationships with others I care about have suffered.  Please help me begin thinking more clearly…to see things from Your point of view.  Thank You for loving me just the way I am.  I pray this in the name of the One who loves me as I am, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.  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 12:1-2

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

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