This Lord's Day, I'd like to share with you the message I will be preaching at my church today, encouraging all to be about the work of true evangelism. I pray this truth will inspire and motivate you to be about your Father's business in this world. AMEN.
"Little children, let no one deceive you."
(1 John 3:7a NKJV)
We are little children. Because of this, we need to be aware of our tendencies to blindly follow the duping and deceitful voices of this world. We must walk wisely in the ways of our Lord, weighing carefully what enters our thoughts through the ears and the eyes.
Gullibility (defined) is a failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into an ill-advised course of action. It is closely related to credulity, which is the tendency to believe unlikely propositions that are unsupported by evidence.
Notice that the definition says that gullibility is a "failure." A failure of social intelligence. In the spiritual sense, gullibility is a failure as well ... a failure of spiritual intelligence. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," says the LORD.(Hosea 4:6a NKJV)
It is upon the foundation of Godly knowledge and wise understanding that the spirit of man has witness with the Spirit of God. We know we are to obey God. Yet, we cannot obey what we do not know, but we shall not be excused for disobedience to that which has been set before us, even though we refuse to learn. Are you letting a refusal to learn more of God guard your heart from the devil who prowls through the earth with death on his mind and you in his sights? Are you filling your eyes and ears with what pleases your LORD so that you have a filter of Truth through which to weigh everything else? Do you toy with temptation and the world's ways, or stay as far away from them as possible.
Part of the solution is how we respond to grace. Just because grace "covers" us does not mean it encourages us to go on being foolish. Being foolish is not a heavenly virtue. If we see grace as the safety net or free ticket to forgiveness, thereby giving us freedom to fall into as many traps of the devil as possible, then we are deceived already! Responding appropriately to grace means that we seek holiness and purity, wisdom and knowledge, we build new foundations for our lives in the place of old ones. Grace should lead us to forsake and loathe sin because it was leading us to our death. We should respond by loving holiness and godliness.
We should also be careful not to wander into places where we are too guarded and cynical. It would seem that the easiest way to keep from getting "hurt" or "lured" would just be to withdraw from everyone, but that is not our Father's way. He does not want hermits for children, but rather wise and discerning in all our ways. The ways we interact are what concerns Him. God wants us protected but not isolated. God wants us to want the truth that will set us free. God wants us to love the wisdom that will give us guidance.
Little children... let no one deceive you... ever.
God is not illogical, but tests people from the place of defying logic. Since His power is best displayed through defiance of all things logical, it is actually logical for God to ask us to believe He can defy our logic. Operating outside of the laws of creation proves He is Creator. Doing unthinkable things proves He is all-powerful.
So, why do we question God?
Faith is following God immediately and trustingly wherever and whenever He colors outside the lines. Faith is agreement to participate in the illogical beauty of His Supremacy. Faith comes through knowing God, not outcomes.
When we don't know God we question. When we worry about outcomes we question. When we question, the wheels begin to fall off our assurance and trust. Questioning God is the telltale sign that we really don't know Him, His power, His supremacy, His majesty, His Sovereignty, His Trustworthiness, His purity, His grace. When we call God into the court room to question Him, we begin to disqualify ourselves from the flow of God's greatest blessings for us and others.
So let's say that God answered your questioning plainly and succinctly. Would that satisfy you? Not a chance. Because His calls to obedience teach us of Him by defying logic, even His answers would make no sense to us. Most people who receive those kind of answers from God still find themselves scratching their head. Whatever is a mystery to you is not a mystery to God. He knows what He's doing.
When we trust we reveal the depth of our intimacy with God. We know Him... I mean we know nuances of His nature... and, therefore, we can trust as He leads us into the illogical places of our minds. He leads us to illogical locations, thoughts, relationships, vocations and such to teach us His ways which are far higher than ours, yet not hidden from those who obediently follow.
John 16:28-31 NKJV I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father." (29) His disciples said to Him, "See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! (30) Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God." (31) Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe?
Notice how Jesus draws a direct line between the disciples' proclamation that there is no need to question Jesus, and Jesus' question, "Do you now believe?" Jesus wants to know the very same thing from us. Do we believe? Really believe? Obediently believe in the journey through illogical places to displays of His power and wisdom?
Stop questioning God and enter into the flow of His abundance.
You simply can't have your cake and eat it too.
Jesus will bring you face-to-face with two options, and you must choose one of them. These choices always test our love for Jesus because they always boil down to the question of love. What do you love more? Who do you love more? To what or whom are your heart-strings bound and tied?
Truth be told, we usually want our _________________ (fill in the blank yourself) and Jesus too. We want our way AND His power. We want to be self-destructing yet have His golden parachute. We want His benefits on our terms. We want to dabble in sin and idolatry and have His blind affection. We want to obey self and our internal desires (even if contrary to God) and have His power too. Jesus will only rule and reign in spaces that are not occupied by His rivals. He would have all of me or none of me.
You simply can't have your cake and eat it too.
God doesn't work that way.
The power of Jesus flows through holy, consecrated, devoted, obedient, self-denying, sanctified, disciples who pass the tests of our love, because we love ourselves, our temptations, our desires, our plans, our dreams, our hopes, all LESS than we love the LORD or God who is forever praised! Love is directly linked to obedience. If you are devoted to something or someone, your obedience to it or them is implied... locked in... sure.
The tests of our love are designed to help us break ties with things that should not have our affection, even and especially the religious things we love. God tested His people most often by removing the religion that was designed to lead them to Him. When we love religious forms and activities more than God and pure obedience. When being "present" in our religious form is our worship and we forget how to worship in His "presence" (in the absence of the form) then it's time for the love test to cleanse us. Look at the link between obedience and power:
Exodus 23:22 NKJV But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
Jesus adds to this that to love Him is to obey Him, and that our worship is to be in the Spirit and in Truth.
There is a great deal of conversation today about what distracts us while we're in worship. We get all upset over music and preaching, styles and translations, instruments and songs, etc. What should upset the true children of God is loss of first-love, lukewarm devotion, lack of His presence, and anything that would cause Jesus to say to us, "This you lack..."
You simply can't have your cake and eat it too.
It doesn't work that way.
Stop loving your cake by breaking your obedience to it.
Love Jesus more by increasing your obedience to Him.
Stop loving the thought that God will give you power.
Love Jesus, obey Jesus and you will receive power.
Drag everything in your life into the Throne Room before Jesus and allow Him to ask you, "Lovest thou Me more than these?"
The father of a college-age daughter asks her boyfriend a question: "What are your intentions concerning my daughter?" The father wants to know if the young man is serious or just playing games. Games lead to hurt emotions, damaged relationships and an inability to trust. Seriousness builds trust, builds vulnerability, and builds emotional health.
God also wants to know from us if we are serious or just playing games in our interactions with His Son. He says to us, "What are your intentions regarding my Son?"
The spoke to Isaiah the prophet and posed a general question. The question God asked was not specifically to Isaiah, but rather like a shouted-out call over the land looking for willingness to go on God's behalf, be God's voice, give up all and take up the Word of the LORD.
Isaiah 6:8 NKJV Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
There's a big difference between saying "Here I am" and saying, "Here am I." The first is about location and the second is about intention. God doesn't want to know where you're located. He already knows that. He wants to know if you're willing, by your own choosing, to shift all your intentions away from the world and onto His Son; to love and serve Him, to give up all for Him, to obey and honor Him. Sounds like marriage vows, doesn't it? We could go on... in sickness and in health ... for richer, for poorer ... til death. Yes, that is the kind of intention God is looking for. God wants His name on the title(s) of your property, wants to share your life with you, wants His Name added on your bank accounts, wants to be the named beneficiary of your assets, wants to share every aspect of life with you. But, what are your intentions where Jesus is concerned?
In a day of casual relationships, we've become just as casual with God. We want to live together with Jesus first to test drive the relationship with no solid commitment before we decide. It's like Jesus has to pass our test! Seriously? The truth is you and I already failed the God-test and Jesus is the way we can pass... all because of grace! God doesn't do casual get-togethers. God doesn't work that way. God says, commit first, then live into the commitment. Sell out first, then there's no way to tear up the contract. Die to yourself first, and the rest takes care of itself.
The problem for many long-time Christians is, we've not wandered out into the deep. We've "believed" but never "sold out."
Friend ... Acquaintance ... Co-Worker ... Parent ... Cousin ... Bride ... Boss ... Ruler ... Slave ... etc.
The word God chooses for the church is BRIDE.
The reason? Intentional, full, whole-hearted, sold-out, all-in, unending commitment.
What are your intentions regarding His Son?
Alcohol is not the only intoxicating influencer of your mind. People are interesting creatures. We can justify just about any behavior, any expense, any action, any language we choose to justify. We can twist any motive we want to take unjustifiable behavior and make it perfectly okay in our own little world. When we do that, we are drunk... even though we've had no alcohol. "Non-alcoholic drunkenness" was something Jesus dealt with a lot in people. The only way He could get through the cloudiness and distortion of peoples' thinking was to say the truth plainly and directly. The voice of Jesus coming at them was revealing what was within them. Today, having been given the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, it should be the voice of Jesus coming from within us, revealing what is within us.
Romans 12:3 NIV For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
As we read Paul's encouragement to "do not think of yourself more highly than you ought," most people immediately jump to the issue of pride in this verse, and perhaps that is correct. However, Paul also says "but think of yourself with sober judgment." Sober Judgment leads to sober thinking. Sober Judgment leads to sober behavior. The inclusion of sober judgment to our thought processes leads to the destruction of ill justification. Sober Judgment is the path to freedom. Sober Judgment comes from the voice of the Holy Spirit within.
Signs of "drunk judgment" ...
Don't be deceived. If you are drunk in your judgment it is just as evident to others as the smell of week-old booze on an alcoholic. You may think you've got everyone fooled, but you don't. You may think you have God fooled, but you don't.
Get Sober ... in your judgment of yourself.
Belief in Christ is essential.
Good works are evidence of our belief.
Add them together and you have an incomplete picture of the church. How can I possibly say this, you ask? Aren't there scriptural proof texts to suggest this is all that is needed? Yes, I will give you that. Romans 10:9-10 points us to belief and confession, and James 2:26 points us to deeds. But there's more to the Kingdom of God; more to discipleship, more to establishing the Kingdom in this earth.
Here are some components we've forgotten that make a more complete picture.
INVADERS / INVASION
The missional movement of the church is a movement of invasion. The concept of preaching good news to the poor is literally an act of declaration that the Kingdom of God has come and now transcends every earthly authority. It is a declaration that Jesus is the King above every world leader and our adherence to His law written on our hearts testifies to that face. Today, Christians are being taught to keep to themselves and set boundaries of where it is appropriate or not to share the Gospel. That is a fallacy. We are invaders and the movement of the church is a global invasion.
DESTRUCTION, NOT CONSTRUCTION
To get to Godliness and Holiness requires acts of destruction, not construction. Everything that sin has brought to a person needs to be torn down in the name of Jesus. This is why we are commanded to be agents of binding and loosing. This is why we are to cast out demons ... literally! This is why we are to heal. To help a person be at peace, (shalom) everything that tainted the body, soul and spirit must be eradicated. You can't add holiness to sin and get holiness. You must remove sin from the person first. The devil and his demons won't give up without a fight, but just like the Promised Land had to be cleansed of sin prior to occupancy (destruction prior to peace) so it goes with people.
You ... are ... the ... Temple. You don't go to church. Your very body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. This is hard to believe based on the actions and behavior of most Christians. We go to "temple" (church), but we forget that "temple" is not location-based, it is central to our very being. The Temple of old was about worship, sacrifice, offering, encounter, Word and presence. Is all of this in you? Is the seat of your heart the very throne of the presence of God? Does the Holy Spirit in you change the "you" that everyone else sees?
This is a direct command of Jesus we simply cannot ignore. To make a disciple means that you start with someone who has not heard about Jesus. You declare the good news of the Kingdom of God, work to see that the old is continually destroyed, teach them the Lord's commands and that they are to obey them, teach them to pray, teach them to learn of the Word of God and see it as needed for life, then show them the way to repeat and replicate this process in another person. This is just the beginning of discipleship and yet is so much more than most believers engage in today.
Relational intimacy with God requires that a person is constantly praying and seeking as well as hearing from the Holy Spirit and obeying. This rhythm of life is rarely found in those who merely subscribe to the "believe+do-good" formula. Their purpose is found in the occasional act of good instead of the constancy of relational intimacy with God. Intimacy is about closeness. Intimacy is formed through covenant bonds and relational constancy. As His sheep, are you being led by God or are you still self-led?
Belief in Christ is essential.
Good works are evidence of our belief.
But, to have a complete picture of what our Father intends, there is so much more!
Go, and be so much more. The world is in desperate need of a complete church!
How does your autobiographical psalm read? Does it follow the pattern of David who said, "The LORD is my Shepherd," or does it read, "I am my shepherd?" Who leads? Where are you being led? If we are self-shepherding then where we lead ourselves and how we lead ourselves come from or own untrustworthy resources. We are so misguided by ourselves when we believe we are the only people we can trust. Is this your psalm? ...
I am my own shepherd;
I believe I need nothing.
I make myself to rest in convenient places;
I choose what I think are peaceful waters.
I feed my uneasy soul with ease.
I lead myself down many paths for my own protection
For the sake of my own name.
Yea, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I distrust everyone; For none go with me.
My own strength and ability is all that can comfort me.
I prepare all my own tables, I invite no enemies.
Their presence discourages me.
I fill my own cup and fight to keep it half full.
Surely my own power and ingenuity shall follow me
All the days that it can,
As I dwell in the rat race of earth ... forever.
Sadly, this is the psalm of many Christians. They never quite hand over the authority to Shepherd their lives to Jesus. He is the only One who can be trusted with our lives. The benefits of Jesus are never truly realized until we allow His hand to form the clay ... His voice to dictate our thoughts ... His map to show the way ... His plan to become our plan ... His perspective to reign over ours ... etc. etc. etc.
He's called the Good Shepherd for a reason.
His Pastures are places of trust and provision based on His knowledge of our true need. Our skewed version of our own need makes it impossible to be self-shepherding. Now, read the Psalm of God's choosing for your life, and, by your own choice, adopt it for yours.
Psalms 23:1-6 NKJV
(1) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(2) He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
(3) He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
(4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
(5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
(6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
The nature of human life is that it is one of both inheritance and legacy. The soul (or mind) is likened to a warehouse that stores words, memories, meanings, experiences, and develops patterns, learns lessons, establishes behaviors and the like. This reality makes every human being both a student and a teacher.
God made it this way. He designed the mind to become the storehouse of beautiful and holy memories, wonderful experiences, remembrances of all of His goodness and kindness, etc. But then sin... Since then, the human mind has been a storehouse of the sinful, harmful, negative, unholy, marred, botched, lying, evil, depraved, and perverted twists of God's true reality. This is why we need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. The saved soul, without a transformed mind, will struggle and backslide, as well as experience all kinds of pain and defeat. An unrenewed mind has a hard time staying with Jesus for the long haul.
Generational Sin ... Generational Holiness
"You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20:5-6 NIV)
I prefer to say that "sin is generational." This is true. Non-Christian, secular, psychological organizations will tell you that patterns of thought established through generational impartation are so difficult, even impossible, to break. Today, you will influence many people out of the storehouse of your mind. What is in your mind comes out through your actions. There's a generational curse lurking in the minds of the most sincere believers that, left untended, will influence new generations in the negative. Brothers and sisters, we need healing as much as the next person. Our minds are in danger of handing off the wrong influences.
Changing Directions for a Changed Mind
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV) God is merciful and gracious, God replaces the skeletons in out family closets with new treasures. The revealed things of God are what He always desired to be the contents of your mind. The revealed things of God are to be the "hope chest" you hand down to next generations. We are to hold them like cherished treasures. Dear church, it is time for us to clean out our closets of old experiences and patterns of thought. Time to get rid of the sting of destructive memories and the lure of addictive behaviors. It is time to dust off the shelves and replace their old, depraved contents with the revealed things of God. His Word, His Truth, His Life, Encounters with His presence, remembrances of answered prayer, hope for the eternal and so on. You and I are one decision away from changing our minds and thereby, changing the trajectory of our lives.
God is watching what we offer our Children
"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!" (Matthew 18:5-7 NIV)
One of the revealed things of God to us today are these words of Jesus. He is watching to see what our influence is on the next generation. Are we investing the things of God or the world? What values do we teach with our actions? Are we serving the resources of the skeleton-filled closet, or are we focusing on renewed minds and transformation?
Dear friends, let us be people of transformation. Let us own up to the fact that there is something generational, in the way of sin, lurking in us. Let us seek the Lord with our whole hearts for healing and renewal. Let us take up the role of divine influence to our generation and the next generation. Let us consider what words and deeds we display for all to witness.
We didn't get where we are overnight. The "ceiling" of this generation (albeit holy or sinful) becomes the "floor" on which the next generation builds (more sin or more holiness). Let us run the race toward the ceileing of God's choosing.
Imagine going to an Easter Egg hunt and sitting still in a chair while the host of the "hunt" brought you all the eggs. What fun is that, right? The hunt is part of the process.
Searching for God ... embodying the heart of a seeker ... knowing the value of the treasure you seek ... rejoicing over the 'finds' ... loving revelation and knowledge of righteousness ... uncovering .... studying ... these are the habits of a disciple of Jesus. There is great joy in the seeking and searching. In fact, God likes it when we seek Him.
God loves someone who is "after His own heart." He wants us to want Him more than anything. Which then begs the question of you and I, '"What do we want more than anything?" If our answers are rooted in the things of this world then we should back up and answer again.
You see, seeking and finding the treasure chest of righteousness and holiness and purity is of far more worth than anything on this world. We all want to be blessed by God, but it seems we want to define what the blessing should be. We want the earthly while God wants us to seek the heavenly. We want seats of honor on the earth while God wants us to be seated in heavenly places with His Son. We desire riches and comfort on this earth, while God wants us to find comfort in trusting Him for daily bread.
There is nothing like the things that will be found in the midst of a passionate pursuit of God.
"This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.'
(Jeremiah 33:2-3 NIV)
Seek HIM. Love HIM. Love REVELATION. Pursue HOLINESS. Treasure Godly CHARACTER. Seek His PRESENCE. Hunger and thirst for MORE, and MORE.
Today, I will be teaching "Hunger and Thirst: Passion and Prayer for the Kingdom of God." Please pray that those who hear today will turn their heart's passions and pursuits from the worldly and place them on Jesus and His Kingdom. Pray that Jesus will come, the Holy Spirit will be poured out, and that people will become true seekers of God.
Pastors get asked the craziest questions. People are constantly coming to pastors to find out if they are still "okay with The Man Upstairs" if they engage in a certain behavior, say certain words, consume certain food/beverages/substances, go to certain places, etc...etc...etc. How do I know this? I'm a pastor. I get asked these questions. At times, I'd just like to shout at the top of my lungs, "Don't ask me! As your Father!"
Just like a child that always goes to the easy parent with the difficult request we always go to people to be absolved of crazy behavior instead of to the Father. Why? Because we already know the answer, that's why!
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." (Isaiah 6:3b NIV)
God is Holy. God is holy, holy, holy. His holiness led Jesus to the cross to pay for your sin because of His astounding Grace and Mercy toward you. This was to free you from the powerful grip of the craziness and set you free to return to holiness. If you are actually seeking a way to intermingle the old sinful self with godliness, check again! This should not be so.
Don't ever ask your pastor, or another person, to justify-by-proxy things like:
Then, just be obedient.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)
It seems that many Christians have a hard time expressing the truth to another brother or sister when it is desperately needed for their own good. After all, unsolicited advice is usually unwelcomed. So, how do we grow as Christians to the place where we can speak the truth in love, bringing healing and health to the soul of another person? What skill needs to be acquired?
The art of "speaking the truth in love" requires "on the job training." That is the only way to learn how to do it, and God Himself is the only One who can teach you. If you have never had words of correction spoken to you by the Lord, how will you ever know God's ways when it comes to speaking the truth in love? The only expertise you need is divine correction through the voice of the Holy Spirit... I mean the kind that brings you to repentance and contrition. When that happens, you're on your way to learning "the skill."
Because God IS love and God IS truth, His words and voice are devoid of all carnal add-ons like selfishness, harshness, sarcasm, ignorance, pride, arrogance, and condescension. God says what needs to be said. God says it clearly and succinctly, and He says it directly to you. When God speaks, He gets maximum impact with minimal words. Think of Nathan approaching David. The profound impact of four words left David wrecked before God: "You are the man!" Or Jesus, beyond His resurrection, sitting on the beach with Peter and, again, using only four words to drill down into his heart: "Do you love me?"
Once, when I was praying Psalm 139 God taught me with His truth-filled, love-laced voice. I prayed: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting."
(Psalms 139:23-24 NKJV) I concluded my prayer with a question: "Lord, when you search me, what do you find?" The voice of God spoke four words: "You don't trust Me." I replied, "Lord, how can You say that? I'm going to do what you ask." (You see, I was going to preach a very difficult message full of difficult truth in a couple days... but it had me very anxious and nervous.) God replied, "You are obedient, but your anxiety reveals a lack of trust." Here's the amazing thing, when God speaks difficult truth, you know that it comes from a heart of love, not harm. It comes from a desire to build your character, not wound your spirit. It comes full of opportunity to heal, not to shame. God knows how to do this!
How many experts we have in the Christian world today who have never learned at the voice of the Master?! You can spot them a mile away. They have all of the advice, but only to put a person in their place. Lord God, open our ears to hear Your voice and learn Your beautiful ways! Help us to handle one another as you handle us! Help us to speak four powerful and loving, truthful words rather than excessive advice.
You're a failure.
You're too weak.
LIES. All of them. But these are the things we run to first to believe. Any of these sound familiar? Do you suffer from the internal chaos of internal voices speaking internal lies that paralyze and destroy you? You're not alone, but you're not without help. Every time these voices emerge within you're mind, they are replaying lies. Victims of verbal abuse are particularly vulnerable to the lies. Shame destroys the very soul. Shame is the great prison cell that keeps people believing they have no worth and no value.
Our minds become programmed with the patterns of these lies and they also become used to their messages. The only way to be free is to replace the lies with the truth. The only place we find truth is in the Word of God.
God promises to remove shame from all who seek Him.
"And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs. "For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them." (Isaiah 61:6-8 NIV)
Jesus is the One in whom we find the removal of shame.
For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (1 Peter 2:6 NIV)
Jesus remakes ordinary people into extraordinary servants.
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13 NIV)
Faith in Jesus is the key to understanding limitless potential.
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20 NIV)
If there is any "truth" in all of the lies we've received, it is true that we have chosen to partner with them. Have you every had someone tell you, "That is NOT true about you! You should not believe that garbage about yourself!" I have. Everyone who experiences shame has made the choice to let the lie become their truth. We need God's help to be set free! There is a big difference between an evil-doer and a person who has been immersed in evil-speaking and knows nothing different. Evil-doers don't want God. Those who've been immersed in evil speaking want God, they just don't know how to find Him and think they are hopeless and helpless. There are no human damaged goods beyond repair on this earth. God made you ... God knows you ... God hears you ... He wants you to believe HIS truth as the banner over your life!
"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie..." (Romans 1:25a NIV)
Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32 NIV)
Are you a disciple of "the lies" or are you a disciple of THE TRUTH. All truth leads to freedom. It is time for you to reach out to God and have the all-too-familiar chains of your past broken and have your shame removed. It is time to walk into healing and freedom. It's time to forsake the devil and his vicious, paralyzing lies, and realize that you have LIMITLESS POTENTIAL IN CHRIST! May Jesus be forever praised!
You can. with Jesus.
You are. a beloved person of worth to God.
You'll never. be without help from above.
You lack. nothing because of access to His power and authority.
You're not. limited in any way.
Do try. and trust God for the result.
You're a success. because Jesus is with you always.
Don't bother. with the lies... Go for the Truth!
You're adequate. Because God says you are in Him!
You're too weak. But He is so very Strong!
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 13:14 NIV)
Bishop Leecroft Clarke defines unhealthy / ungodly "Soul Ties" in this way:
Helping someone who has unhealthy and ungodly soul ties is ministry that requires great wisdom and spiritual maturity because of this truth: Most people who have unhealthy soul ties will try to tie themselves to you in the same unhealthy ways. Because of the naiveté of most well-meaning, albeit ill-equipped people, their gracious offer to help soon becomes filled with hurt and pain when they discover they've been "had." To help those who are "tied", those who help need to understand this key principle: Helping to break soul ties is about life transformation, not comfort. The classic enabler is a person who takes over responsibility and accountability for an unhealthy person, therefore enabling them to continue in their illness undisturbed. Meanwhile, the enabler lives a completely disturbed life because they live two lives... their own and the life of the other person. If you are an enabler, you too have an unhealthy soul tie within you that must be dealt with. Wisdom, patience, love and care... but never enabling... this is the ministry of breaking soul ties.
Build Fences, Not Walls
Walls keep people out but fences set the boundaries. Good ministers of healing to those with unhealthy and ungodly soul ties build good fences, but never walls. They don't shut people out, but they know how and when to say "no." Slowly, I see people learning this wisdom. They are learning to say no to enabling behaviors without disengaging from the person's life. Boundaries are actually about clearly defining what you will do more so than what you won't do. Boundaries define for you the options you are willing to provide.
If you're not sure where to build the fences, talk with people who have been enablers. Ask them how others have taken advantage of them. Some classic examples of people learning wisdom comes in dealing with those who ask for money. I once agreed to help someone with a shortfall in their rent. The "fence"? I decided to take the money directly to the person's landlord. Upon arriving at the scene, the one I was helping became incredibly uncomfortable and confessed that the money was not needed for the landlord. Fences help teach trust. The other person cannot learn to stop lying if I just feed their pockets every time the lie to me about a need.
If you can't stand being unpopular with people, or if you are a classic people pleaser, then this will be a tough concept. Helping those with unhealthy soul ties as you lovingly lead them to transformational opportunities, will likely mean experiencing some forms of hot, emotional rejection. I once was asked by someone for money for food. Before we discussed the money, I asked how they ended up short. It turns out they had pawned and bought back an item from a pawn shop three times in the same month. They lost so much money, they came up short. Since I wanted to talk about that behavior first, the other person became angry and hung up on me after hurling some insults in my direction. I decided to just let it be. A short while later, still hungry and short of money, they called back. After I received an apology from them I offered groceries, but not money. I also built this fence: "If this happens again, I will offer you counseling to help you manage your finances better, but I will not offer groceries." The person agreed.
Love is so much more than comfort. Love wants what is best. Love wants spiritual and emotional freedom. Love wants the demon bound and the chains broken. Love cares. Love never enables but guides. Love risks. Love is hard when love must be tough. Love is your choice even in the face of rejection of the other. Love must reign in these relationships. Love must pray without ceasing through intercession.
Have you ever helped someone with an unhealthy soul-tie? Did you get tied up yourself? Perhaps you've vowed to never help again because that is the surest way to avoid being hurt. That is not what God intends for His children. He wants all of us free to give of ourselves. People's lives are at stake.
This Lord's Day, I invite you take a look at the Message God has given me for today. God still speaks to us today. His voice is the heart of the prophetic gift and nature. Please read and be blessed today.
If nothing changes, then nothing changes. When it comes to dealing with our unhealthy soul ties, the journey to transformation through mind renewal (Romans 12:2) only happens through drastic change.
The mind is not our enemy. God gave it to us to be a storehouse of experiences and memories that are fulfilling and life-giving. Like all wonderful gifts of God marked by sin, the mind's beauty has been perverted through sin. It's ability to store information and establish patterns is not bad... but the sinful and perverted things stored in the mind become the hallmark of generational sin. Your mind only has one way to be transformed and that is by giving it back to the God who created it. How do you do that? It starts with disturbing the "dance" to which it has become so accustomed. You have "dance partners" (emotions, habits, patterns of thought, patterns of decision, relationships, etc.) that need to be cut off if transformational change is to have the victory. At the same time you are forsaking old dance partners you must begin to learn anew from Jesus. Jesus must come in and teach new patterns, new ways, new foundational truths, dispel lies and heal. His Word must bring life where the hurtful, lying words of others have been damaging. You must stock-up the storehouse of your mind with His Word.
The million-dollar question is, "What happens when I change the dance steps, or walk off the dance floor?" Well, the short answer is that things become temporarily ugly. How ugly? Any attempt to answer that is speculation. However, both in my own experience and in the experiences I have seen in others through counseling, when you disturb the dances to which you and your unhealthy soul-tie partner have become so accustomed, things get ugly. This is not to say that you should be discouraged by this... not at all! Be encouraged because once things are upset, they are on the way to being settled, and you are on your path to freedom and mind-renewal! That's cause to rejoice! Like James said, "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." (James 1:2-4 NIV)
Two Realities to Prepare for:
One: The Old becomes Louder, Larger, and more Alluring.
If you're dieting, certain foods seem to call your name from the refrigerator. Why? You've cut them off and you have upset the dance partner of your mind. If you've separated yourself from a toxic relationship and you find yourself longing for it even though it is toxic, it is because you've grown so accustomed to it that the change causes you to long for the familiar. Old dance partners bark louder, grow larger, and raise their game of temptation when you walk off the dance floor. Be aware, but not afraid, of these changes. Their temporary and their threats are empty! Press on.
Two: The Old attempts to Leverage Your Mind.
Their second trick is to leverage your mind through lies. You will begin to hear accusing voices, lying voices telling you that you might as well give up, they will heap guilt and shame upon you, you may be told you're a failure or worthless. These are lies of the devil in his last attempt to get you back in the dance. You must remember that it is not temporary comfort you seek, but eternal freedom. You must learn to confront these voices with the Word of God and squelch them through the powerful name of Jesus.
My flesh and mind converse within
Where voices talk with words of sin
They come to steal, kill, destroy
They rob my mind of peace and joy
My habits, thoughts and actions tell
Of what is in my mind's deep well
All this comes not just by chance
I've spent life to learn "the Dance."
I know the dance, I've learned it well
And it's become the gate of hell
What once seemed free now has chains
Where once was joy is only pain
The pain must stop, the hurt depart
I need a fresh and all new start
But if I walk and turn away
Perhaps I'll find a far worse fate
I turn, I sigh, I hesitate
Yet take step one to leave my mate
Accuser, Abuser, distorted friend
The time has come, we've reached our end
Familiar, yes, and though I yearn
The death you bring I must unlearn
Good bye to you, you've served me long
It's time to sing a brand new song
The Lord of Love invites "come dance."
He calls me out of death's dark trance
Now in the mind a tug-o-war
The old begins to growl and roar
Confusion comes in mountainous waves
Am I free or just a slave?
The change is seek is not behind
I must pursue a renewed mind
The bondage of Soul Ties is the direct cause that many people, even those who profess faith in Christ, continually struggle with inner compulsions that are seemingly uncontrollable. Whenever the compulsions have their way, we lose heart and feel like giving up. Worse yet, we may feel that God has some negative opinion of us too.
Today is the third article in our series on Breaking Soul Ties. Click the title to read the first blog in the series, "Conformers Need Only Apply" or the second blog in the series, "Call It What It Is." Today, for those who are ready to make a change, but seem to lack the power to do so, it's time to start charting a course toward freedom. This is a brave step because old thoughts, patterns of thought, beliefs, habits, intellect, etc. need to be deconstructed to make way for new. You would think that it would be easy to say goodbye to things that would seek to destroy you, but no... not at all for most people. The very thing we loathe at times is the very thing that has become so familiar, so ingrained into our identity, that we simply can't stomach saying goodbye. But, if freedom will be the new theme of our life, we must.
Phase Two: Charting Freedom's Course
Step One: Tell Someone and Enlist Them
Previously it was noted that you cannot do this alone. Now is the time to get help. If you are really ready for change then commit it to a person. Find a trusted friend, tell them you have the desire to be free from your old destructive soul ties. Ask them if they will be willing to walk the path with you. Tell them if you are afraid, have any apprehensions, or other concerns. Committing your inner desire out loud to another person is your first act of intention toward freedom. This will be especially difficult if you've had trouble trusting others because of abuse. In the end, take the risk to trust. Fear the results of continuing old patterns more.
Step Two: Tell Jesus
The prayer of submission and surrender from a heart-posture of openness is necessary. It cannot be stated clearly enough that this is about HIS power, not willpower. You simply cannot do this alone. Jesus cannot do His work in you without your willingness, but you will never be free without His power. Psalm 32:1-7 will be your guide for this set of steps:
"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." (Psalms 32:1-7 NIV)
Pray and trust... confess and repent... surrender and submit... and learn the rhythms of prayer and trust as a new daily habit.
Step Three: The Written Action Plan
The act of putting pen to paper is powerful because it acknowledges a level of intention to be free that has not yet been explored. You may think, "why do I need to do this?" Until now you have thought deeply about your freedom, but your thoughts have not set you free. In fact, your thoughts only likely condemn you over and over. Stating your intentions intentionally is one key to getting started. It's one thing to think "I've got to do something about this habit," or "I wish this abuse would end." When you begin to write down your intentions intentionally it's to say "Here's what I intend to do about this habit," and/or "Here's how this abuse will stop." The written action plan details the map toward change. We are all different in terms of experiences, but here are some suggestions to get started.
This phase is about steps to freedom. Jesus is more powerful than your chains and He loves you far too much to leave you in them. Tomorrow the discussion continues as we uncovering awareness of what lies ahead. May you be blessed as you seek Jesus for freedom.
The transformation that comes from the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) is the focus of my next few articles. Why is this so hard? Because our soul has been tied to unhealthy things that want to destroy us. Our bad choices, bad behaviors, bad relationships, unhealthy activities, all embed code into our thoughts, memories, habits, patterns of thought, thinking, intellect and so on. The Soul gets Tied to unhealthy things so much so, that we really don't know who we are without them. Our identity is fully based on destructive associations and attachments.
Here are a few guiding principles to get us started:
1) You can't do this outside of Jesus. The only thing you can bring to this process is your willingness to be healed. Beyond that, all other power to do the actual work of healing and renewal must come from Jesus. This process takes your will and HIS power, not willpower.
2) You can't break your unhealthy soul ties alone. Don't even try. If it were feasible to save yourself, you would have done it a long time ago. A trusted friend is needed because you will need perspective later.
3) You have to be ready for change. When the pain reaches the boiling point of intolerance and the feelings of helplessness peak to the point of utter collapse, you're likely ready to forsake your old destructive friend.
Phase One: Call it out
Step One: Face Your Experiences of Pain
Step Two: Identify the Covenant You Made
Step Three: Critical Decision
Psalms 107:4-9 NIV Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. (5) They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. (6) Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. (7) He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. (8) Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, (9) for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Person X walks into your church. It doesn't take long to discover that person X has a very messy life. They are involved in dysfunctional and toxic relationships, their lives are a financial mess with both bad spending habits and bad financial priorities in the mix, and they have a problem with substance abuse. Person X comes to the church for help because they are desperate and don't know what to do. Person X is needy. What does the church have to offer? Person X has a spirit which is in need of salvation, a body which could use some healthy habits, but they also have a soul. Their soul is the seat of their mind, emotions, thoughts, patterns of thought, intellect and habits. Likely the most desperate need in the life of Person X is soul-work. The Bible would be in full agreement with this since we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
I must ask, however: How many churches are really, truly ready to deal with Person X? Truth be told, most churches gladly welcome people who quickly conform to our ways, but resist the long and messy work of helping desperate people like Person X be transformed through the healing work of the soul - the mind - the intellect - the habits - the thoughts. Person X may even readily reach out to Jesus and confess their sin, accept His salvation, and receive the forgiveness for their sin, but then they go home and struggle... struggle deeply to undo the myriad of things tied to their soul.
We don't like to think of our church as an exclusive place, but if Person X is only welcome through a quick conformation to our ways instead of us buckling our seatbelts and settling in for the long haul of transformation, then we speak blatant exclusivity rather than inclusion. We wouldn't say that out loud, mind you, but our actions become our bylaws.
Person X has unhealthy SOUL TIES.
Person X has a lifetime of experiences that have bound them to unhealthy covenants with people, places and things that are etched in their memories. Person X will likely struggle for a long time trying to undo these nooses which are tightly bound around their neck. Churches will care for the spirit of person X by offering salvation. We may offer them tangible, material assistance when we see their need on the outside. But what about that messed up soul? Hmmm. Most churches offer altars of salvation and checks for groceries, but then what? How many of our ministries are truly equipped for soul transformation?
The truth is conformation church is always easier than transformation church. Person X is not without help, and not without a Helper. The power and presence of God is there to help them, but God calls people to help people. God wants your hands and voice to assist Person X to a new path... to breaking the soul ties that have enslaved them.
But wait! What if we in the church have our own soul ties that we're blind to? Aha! That might be true. What if we are so bound to our ways inside the church, that messy Person X from outside the church is only given the option of conforming to our ways? What if its the insiders that need freedom just as much as the outsider? What if we have come to Jesus too and confessed and received forgiveness for sin and salvation for our spirit, but what if our souls are just as bound to unhealthy things as Person X? Well now, that's a game-changer isn't it?
The Mind of Christ is the only logical place for all people to find unity in the body of Christ. Mutual conformation is never the path to unity. Mutual transformation will bind all people together in perfect love.
More to come on this topic. Be challenged!
One observation of our current in-the-moment culture is that we tend to be forgetful of the past. We live in the present. In regards to the news, no one wants "yesterday's news..." it's like stale, day-old bread to the ears of the modern news watcher. What's happening now is far more important than what happened yesterday.
It's about aftereffects, not current events.
Since January 22nd 1973, in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision that changed our nation, conservative estimates say some 58 million babies have been aborted. This is tragic, but it is mostly tragic for the women who have had the abortion and the aftereffects they must live with in light of their decision. It is also tragic for their extended families and the men who are the fathers of these children. There are tens of millions of people walking around our country who are now forgotten prisoners. They have this experience bound to the story of their life and many don't know what to do with it. Perhaps regret, shame, guilt, unworthiness, haunting memories, haunting questions and the like are likely a part of their everyday life. What is being done for them? For those who are pro-life, we cannot ignore the plight of the forgotten prisoners of abortion.
It's about healing, not legislation.
Abortion did not start because a law was passed and though it may be slightly curtailed, it will not completely go away if a law were to be passed reversing the decision. Should a law be passed? Yes, I'm all for it. However, I'm also in favor of the church rising into its healing work to which it was called. Jesus came to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." He sends His disciples with the same mission. What would it mean to one of the forgotten prisoners if you concerned yourself with healing and restoration rather than activism and legislation?
The forgotten truth: Jesus never changed one law.
Jesus never went to Rome to take part in lobbying for legislation. He concerned himself with the forgotten sick (not healthcare reform)... the lonely outcast (not desegregation legislation) ... the vile tax collector (not the tax code) ... the prostitute and so on. Jesus changed people, not laws. His calling to you and to me is to change people, not laws. You are given power and authority in His Name to do His work. You have been authorized by the King over all nations to proclaim His kingdom wherever you are. You can bring the good news to a forgotten prisoner of sin and help them. That is the task of the church.
Don't forget the Prisoners.
Today, one out of every 10 people you encounter will have been touched directly by the aftereffects of abortion. Count off groups of ten people at the store or office today and say to yourself "which one is a forgotten prisoner, and what am I supposed to do about that, Lord?"
You, O Child of God, are to join your King in His Mission.
· The Missio Dei is Healing that which is sick
· The Missio Dei is Cleansing that which is diseased
· The Missio Dei is Resurrecting that which is dead
· The Missio Dei is Proclaiming Heaven’s Kingdom in an earthly Nation
· The Missio Dei is Breaking chains of captivity
· The Missio Dei is Casting out Demons
· The Missio Dei is Caring for the poor
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.