Archive for August, 2010

Fears Never Faced Are Never Conquered

August 23, 2010

For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:36-39

God empowered an African Pastor to boldly stand for his belief in God. The night before he was killed by rebels who were unsuccessful in forcing him to renounce his faith, he composed the following words. May his words, the words spoken by Esther, and the stand and sacrifice they both made, inspire God’s power within you to conquer fear and live fully alive empowered by God’s love.

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

 My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought , compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or burn up till I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops.

And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.

I’m Trapped in a Bad Situation

August 20, 2010

The Truth:

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

2 Corinthians 4:7

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4:14 (ESV)

The Lie:

Since I have no value, my life has no significance, power, or purpose

The Deception:

I’m trapped in a bad situation (marriage, job, family…)

 Today’s Reading:

 The Book of Esther

Many Christians along with non-Christians have embraced faulty perceptions of the “ideal Christian life.”  This dangerous error creates expectations that, when unmet, leave us disillusioned with life and with God. Queen Esther’s life shows us that living smack dab in the center of God’s will may at times appear more gruesome than glamorous. I absolutely love the way Esther’s life fractures the fairy tale façade that once Jesus is embraced, life skips happily down the Christian yellow brick road.

The life of Esther, an orphaned Jewish girl raised by her Jewish uncle, could direct many women to demand refunds from the products purchased at cosmetic counters. Beauty may have appeared more of a curse than a benefit for this young teen whose pretty face herded her and another 126 young teens in into King Ahasuerus’ corral, or harem. Scripture says that Esther “was taken” meaning no volunteer sign-up sheet was used in the selection process. Esther’s new life would be lived out in a far from a happy home environment.

Whether you believe Esther to be the lucky or unlucky pick as queen, she finds herself married to a king who commentator Frederick Bush says he ruled with “the pride and pomposity of buffoons.” That’s not a desirable character trait for any marriage partner, political leaded, family member, or employer.

To those fighting not to despise their spouse, work or family situation, or the political condition of your government, Esther’s story offers us hope. Esther’s life shows us God is at work in the ugliest of situations and able to develop godly character in us despite our less than ideal circumstances.

Esther’s life reminds me not to assume God is negligent, absent, or unloving when life is unjust, circumstances disappointing, and when my desired outcomes are unattainable. Like Esther, I’m discovering God hasn’t abandoned me, even when life is a daily struggle.

Esther invites me to stop fixating on my desired change of circumstances and people and to instead look inwardly at my need to change. When Esther looked beyond the pain of her life to discover a purpose bigger than her own happiness, comfort, and security, her eyes were open to see God’s bigger need, saving a nation. Esther’s words, “If I perish, I perish,” convey the heart of a young woman willing to release her desires to upgrade for God’s. This decision allowed Esther to receive God’s transforming power to conquer fear, speak boldly regardless of the cost, and become an agent of change for God’s kingdom.

God wants to do the same thing in our life as He did in Esther’s. He wants to transform us through our difficulties while accomplishing His plans through our lives. This doesn’t mean we are to resign ourselves to an empty life. It does mean seeing our lives as a platform for God to work. Viewing our lives in this way allows us to offer our lives to God as they are, not as we think they should be. When we realize He redeems our lives from the pit, and that He doesn’t need to clean up others or alter circumstances before He cleans us up, the change process can begin.

Personal Prayer

Father, I’m thankful that you are not lost in the ideal circumstances that have escaped my grasp, but you are at work in the challenges of my real life.  Help me to surrender my desires for the life I want for your greater plans for my life. I ask you to work in the midst of my challenges transforming me into your likeness.

 

For Discussion and Reflection

Share your thoughts and comments on the following comments:

Some would say when Esther addressed the king her life was in jeopardy (approached a possible death sentence), others say at that moment she was more alive than ever before.

Our problem as believers is really not our circumstances. Our problem is our perspective on our circumstances.

Thought to Ponder

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live.

 

Quotes to Consider

 “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”

Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life, pg 17

From Deception to Redemption (Introduction)

August 18, 2010

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

It’s easy to read about Eve’s deception by the serpent in the Garden of Eden while failing to observe the deceptive thoughts that come to our minds daily. Come learn to recognize the presence of the slippery snake through uncovering and discovering the subtle lies that come as thoughts in our minds. Once those thoughts are accepted and believed, seeds of discouragement, despair, and hopelessness take root in our hearts.

Join me for the next weeks as we examine the deceptive lies we believe about God, ourselves, others, and our circumstances. Allow God’s Word to expose the deception, empower you to resist faulty thinking, and replace deception with God’s truth.

Trusting Trumps Performing

August 16, 2010

But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John 15:17 (NlV)

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

In addition to discovering that my approval addiction was breaking the first commandment (Thou shall have no other gods before me), I’m realizing this culture’s commandment, “Thou shalt perform,” has reeked havoc on my mind and heart and erupted all kinds of insecurity.

The poem of a French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, entitled “Patient Trust” is helping me take down the God of Performance. I hope his words stir a desire for you to replace performance anxiety with trust.

Patient Trust

 Above all, trust in the slow work of God

We are quite naturally impatient in everything,

to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages,

We are impatient of being on the way to something

unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability—

and that it may take a very long time.

 And so I think it is with you,

our ideas mature gradually—let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances

acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow. 

Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing

that His hand is leading you,

And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

So on my life journey I’m discovering…

  • God works progressively and consistently in my life. Realizing this I can see how my timetable competes with His.
  • God’s central focus is the “development of my heart,” not “work production.”
  • Focusing on my work output distracts me from examining what’s motivating my performing.
  • At the times I’m unable to see or measure what God is doing, He remains at work and deserves my trust.
  • Living with a confident trust that God is at work in my life prevents insecurity, impatience, and agitation from consuming me.

 May you be consumed by Him and freed from anything else.

Personal Prayer:

Father, help me to release my expectations of how I want You to work and to stop directing when I want You to work. Instead, help me live in a state of confident trust that You are at work performing your good work in my life.

Approval Addiction

August 13, 2010

For they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of  God. John 12:43 (NASB)

I just made the decision not to view the stats identifying the number of reader clicks on my blog. I’m no longer repeatedly checking in. I’ve stopped until God says to check. I have no idea if God will give me permission to check again in a week, month, year, or ever.

If you’re wondering why I needed to stop, I’ll tell you. When I look to others for my significance, approval, and validation, they become my source of security. Determining my value by the opinions of others is not only risky, it’s a train wreck waiting to happen. This mentality dooms me to living a life of addiction. One needed approval “fix” leads to another and another until my attempts to fill my insecurity with substitutes eventually consumes me.

Until I discover my identity and significance is in God, I literally worship the approval of others. Life as an approval addict breaks the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) There is no biblical support in allowing others to become our source of identity or security.

If God is the source of our life as stated in Genesis 2:7…”The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being,”  then He is also the source of our identity and security. Since God further states, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (meaning Jesus),” then the approval of others is a competitor, really a false god, that we allow to replace Christ’s acceptance.

As Sampson needed to kick the harlot out of his bed, even so, I need to kick this approval addiction harlot out of my mind and heart. As addictive behavior occurs little by little, day by day, until patterns become lifestyle habits, I’m beginning daily rehabilitation therapy. I don’t blindly believe that my deliverance will happen in a day, but today my first step in breaking free is refusing to check my number of reader clicks. I’ve decided that instead of working for the approval of others, I’m working for God and that my writing needs to stir from what He gives me and that’s what I’m giving back to Him. Readership needs to become an irrelevant factor in determining my value, significance, or success.

Realizing that no one’s cured in a day, it’s certain that I’ll be writing more about my rehabilitation therapy. Since addictions are commonly experienced by many, but few openly announce their addiction, anyone seeking to break their addiction is welcome to read along. Knowing someone else is pursuing freedom may make you feel less lonely on your freedom journey.

Just understand that, if you chose to travel with me on my blog, I won’t be checking in to see how many are traveling with me. Instead, I’ll be checking in daily with the One who when He breathed life into me, also breathed in my identity which is held secure and protected by His Son.

Your Family of Origin is God: Accept No Substitutes

August 11, 2010

Let “Us” make man (humanity) in our own image, according to our likeness. Gen. 1:26

The words in this verse and their message are beginning to transform my thinking. They are helping me establish what’s at the core of my true identity and what brings me value. As a result, I’m starting to reject false securities that base my identity on anything other that God.

The youngest daughter of a dear friend joined me for dinner last night. It was our first opportunity to meet. My first glance at her brought an immediate image of her mother to mind. This daughter’s dark hair, captivating ebony eyes, and athletically tall and lean body were the spitting image of her mother.

When Satan sees us, it’s the same. He see’s God’s image whenever he sees His children. Because God’s our blueprint, our original cast, we bear His image. God used more than dirt to create us, He used His very own breath. His breath made us alive. God is alive within us and we display His image. Here lies our identity…in God.

We are commonly asked to identify our family of origin, which typically means the human beings God used to transport His children into the world. These family members have a great power to influence along with the culture we grow up in. I don’t want to dismiss the positive impact of our earthly families and culture or negate the wounding and injury they afflict upon our self-esteem. I simply want to invite us to return to the core source of our identity…God.

There’s a danger of looking to others or to ourselves to establish our significance and value. When we discover God created us with value and significance, we stop trying to use our skills and abilities to establish value and significance and instead live with an awareness that we are made in God’s image and allow that image with it’s goodness to flow out to others. In doing so, we stop striving and start living.

Reflection Question:

  • What am I doing to try to earn value or significance?

Prayer:

  • Father, reveal any false securities that I clinging to instead of you? Free me from looking to others or myself for significance or value.

What’s God Growing in Your Life?

August 9, 2010

Read Judges 16:21-31

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37

Fight the good fight of the faith. 1 Timothy 6:12

When we neglect to identify thoughts, actions, even unhealed emotional wounds, they remain as harlots of the mind and heart distancing us from Christ’s healing and redemptive power. Sampson was blinded and chained by the enemy God had strengthened him to defeat. Like Sampson, what we fail to conquer, eventually conquers us. Instead of delivering God’s enemies, Sampson served as a slave grinding their grain.

Even in prison, God did not abandon Sampson. Once again God used Sampson’s anger and desire for vengeance to bring Sampson to a place of self-sacrifice. We see God working in the rubble and decay of our human error and vain pursuits, turning the tables on the enemy. Our conditions and humiliations may overwhelm us, but they don’t overwhelm God or prevent His redemptive plan from kicking into place.

Sampson, who at an earlier time couldn’t resist enemy enticements, now simply wanted their destruction. At last, Sampson’s desires were aligned with God’s, and the Philistine prison became a place for the hair of Sampson’s head to grow. Strength was returning and victory was stirring.

Sampson’s life reminds us that no matter how unsalvageable your situation appears, when you release your desires to pursue God’s, the enemy thoughts and established plans for your life will crumble in a heap of ruins. What the Philistine’s planned for Sampson’s defeat, God planned as a final victory.

When we recognize enemy thoughts and desires, resist them by replacing them with a desire for God and His word, God will strengthen us to defeat the enemy. This allows us to live victorious lives of freedom.

Personal Response

Ask God to help you:

  • Recognize enemy thoughts and desires
  • Resist them
  • Replace them with God’s desires for your life

Stop Sleeping with the Enemy

August 6, 2010

Read Judges 16:1-20

But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. Genesis 4:7

Like a loving parent, God wants our hearts and minds protected. When we interpret life’s challenges as God’s neglect and our unmet desires as God’s withholding, we distance ourselves from Him, become our own protectors, and satisfy our desires in our own way. In doing this, like Sampson, we cut the relational strands that unite us with God.

Sampson cared more about sex than God’s desire to free His people or his own freedom over sin. What started as visits to enemy vineyards end up in Sampson’s sleeping with the enemy.

Sampson’s life teaches us that God’s sheep should not be living in the pig pen. There are dangerous places that moms don’t let their kids visit, play, or stay. Once our thinking is off, so follows our behavior. Sampson began his descent by placing himself in a lifestyle of temptation. By giving into his lusts and desires, godly character never developed. As a result he was eventually drained of any strength or ability to resist temptation, and was captured and imprisoned by the enemy.

It’s easy to believe that our thoughts and actions are far from Sampson’s cesspool thinking and lifestyle. Those were my thoughts until my husband presented a plan for investing a sum of money. Concerned about the current shaken economy, I began to pray asking God if this was a wise investment plan. Instead of receiving guidance on investing, I sensed God was targeting a heart issue, namely did I trust Him. I realized my mind was lodging a visitor…worry also known as fear.

I find myself sleeping with the enemy anytime I allow my mind to repeatedly dwell on the injustices I’ve experienced. This includes repeatedly turning over and over in my mind offensive or hurtful words spoken by others or actions of others carried out against me. I’m sleeping with the enemy when I’m unable to release thoughts of regret, guilt, and shame. Oh how I hate the enemy repeat thought cycles with their shouldas, wouldas, if onlys, and why didn’t I. These harlots of the mind imprison and rob me from the peace and freedom Christ purchased.

Although Christ purchased our freedom, living free isn’t easy and doesn’t come without a battle. The negative thoughts that breed ugly emotions need to be resisted. Injustices come, think about Joseph’s life, but God uses them to develop godly character in us.

Christ came to save sinners. Calvary alone makes us saints, not our behaviors. Your sins don’t disqualify you from His love, they identify your need for it and for His forgiveness and empowerment to equip you to conquer sin.

Personal Response

When enemy thoughts come, determine to follow God’s instructions for thinking identified in Philippians 4:8. Redirect destructive thinking by redirecting your thoughts to:

  • Whatever is true (thinking on the truth is thinking on Jesus, who is the truth)
  • Whatever is noble (exalted moral or mental character, admirably high quality, excellent)
  • Whatever is right (thinking about what is fair and just)
  • Whatever is pure (thoughts free of contamination)
  • Whatever is lovely (that which is charmingly, exquisitely, or morally beautiful, a beauty that appeals to the heart and mind)
  • Whatever is admirable (things worthy of praise or approval that deserve a good reputation)

Never Underestimate Your Source

August 4, 2010

Read Judges 15:1-17

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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. Ephesians 6:10-12

Sampson insults his bride deserting her on their wedding night hell-bent on vengeance only to return months later with the gift of a young goat. Possibly some sort of make up gift (women today prefer flowers or chocolates over a young goat) to either appease his guilt (assuming he has any) or to diffuse the anger of the woman he abandoned.

Discovering his wife married a man who committed to both showing up and sticking around on their wedding night, Sampson devised an elaborate plan to avenge his loss and retaliate against those who robbed him of his bride. Sampson tied 150 torches between the tails of 300 foxes and sent these terrified animals zigzagging frantically through the Philistine fields. Their four-fold destruction included, first, destroying the standing grain; second, the shocks of harvested grain; third, the vineyards; and fourth, the olive groves. This was a devastating blow to the economy’s grain and wine production and a mockery to Dagon, the Philistine god of grain or harvest.

In pursuing Sampson, the Philistines camped out in Judah. They may have thought they’d have to fight the Israelites to get Sampson, but the Israelites had no desire to fight. They already conceded to Philistine rule and didn’t want Sampson to stir the pot of their compliance. Instead of securing their freedom, in their despondent state they wondered why Sampson hadn’t acknowledged Philistine supremacy.

Planning to continue on with their lives while maintaining the current status quo, they deliver Sampson over to the Philistines. Once again the Spirit of the Lord, which was Sampson’s source of strength, came upon him. With God’s empowerment, Sampson single-handedly killed 1000 Philistines.

The Israelites give us a picture of the error of looking at the enemy, comparing our strength to theirs, and as a result, trembling at our inadequacy. In doing this we fail to see ourselves as soldier in God’s army fighting with His strength and empowerment. When we lose sight of God’s overcoming power, we worship a false god called fear.

Sampson, on the other hand, shows us the deception of thinking of believing we can fight in our own strength and win. Here is another false god called pride. When we see God as an adequate strength and the source of our strength, God becomes our purpose and motivation for overcoming.

Because Sampson failed to see God as his source of strength, he failed to see the battle victory was from the Lord. When his energy no longer allowed him to provide for his thirst, he calls out to God with a request for water but with an accusation of God’s negligence in not providing water. Why do we wait until life’s challenges dry us out until we cry out to our true source?

Personal Response

Are you getting trapped in comparative thinking?

  • Making others a standard of measuring your value. This faulty thinking commonly results in dismissing God’s power and purpose within you.

Have you fallen into the deceptive thinking of interpreting the challenges or conflicts you face as God’s absence or neglect?  Examples of this “Philistine” thinking are:

  • If God loved me He wouldn’t have allowed….
  • If God loved me He would have prevented or changed…

In the Midst of the Mess, God is at Work

August 2, 2010

Read Judges 14:10-20

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. Genesis 50:20-21

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. Psalm 71:14-15

Sampson’s strength and behavior must have been a concern for the bride’s parents. Providing thirty guards to police the wedding festivities wasn’t a typical wedding expense. Nonetheless, peaceful serenity rarely occurs when Sampson is around.

For Sampson, greed triumphed over good sense. It wasn’t enough that he was pursuing a marriage with an unbeliever, partying in wine country, he was now scheming a way to increase his earnings on his wedding day.

Like Sampson, our selfish pursuits blind us. We fail to recognize the compromises we make while grasping what we want. We are clueless to the hurt and injury our words and behaviors inflict upon others. A shot of humility could enlighten Sampson to the danger of living for oneself, allow him to see how his choices impact others, and instead of living a life of self-indulgence, discover the freedom of self-sacrifice.

Since the Garden of Eden, God’s been pursuing us, promising redemption, and carrying out His redemptive plan for the world. Leave it to God to work through our selfishness and disobedience. Although our choices, like Sampson’s, rob us, they do not hinder God from conquering the enemy and accomplishing His redemptive plans. If Sampson wouldn’t develop godly character in his life, then God would allow his self-indulgent lifestyle to become a thorn in the flesh to the enemy.Since Sampson wouldn’t sett himself apart from the enemy, God used enemy betrayal, manipulation, and death threats to stir Sampson’s anger so strongly that he launched an enemy attack.

It’s interesting how God works. Sampson’s battles with the Philistines were always single handed. This was a strategy similar to the Philistines who oppressed Israel, not by great army attacks, but by repeated small party attacks destroying their crops and plundering their villages and homes. Leave it to God to turn the tables on the enemy.

Personal Response

It’s easy to become disappointed and disillusioned with those pursuing selfish desires while living disobedient lives. We all feel the pain and injury that results. Although we can’t avoid being impacted by what we see, hear, feel, or experience, we are never without hope. Sampson’s life shows us that God uses godly and ungodly choices to work His redemptive plans to conquer the enemy.