I hear many passionate prayers of people who plead with God for the removal of some kind of external trouble or circumstance. I certainly can understand why because these difficult and troubling circumstances are both difficult and troubling! I've prayed this prayer and so have you. Welcome to the human race.
But think about this for a minute. Does your help come from removing the difficulty outside of you, or does it come by strengthening and transforming that which is inside of you? Christians who seek external change before working on the internal transformation of themselves have not truly discovered God's ways. Jesus slept below deck in the ship caught in a raging storm while everyone panicked. Why? Because what was inside of Him changed His response to what was outside of Him. He didn't need the storm to go away because the storm within had been dealt with.
The truth is, you and I can't "pray away" circumstances. Some are within our control and we need wisdom for decision making. God will give us wisdom if we ask. Some circumstances are created for us by others who do not make wise choices. In those cases we need godly responses that seek healing, help, forgiveness, prayer, aide, love and compassion. All of these are birthed from an inward change. Still, there are things we are subject to due to nations and laws. We can respond as non-anxious, godly, fruit-of-the-Spirit bearing people if the inward has changed. God promises to change the inward.
If you find yourself constantly looking to the "waves around you" and wishing you could command them to be quiet so you can have peace, then you need a change of perspective. How quiet and at peace is the "inward you?" To the degree you have inner peace, the outward takes care of itself.
Today, may you be truly at peace, though the world around you be in turmoil.
Where does your held come from? Christ in you... the hope of glory.
Is every sin forgivable? Well, the short answer to this no. The interesting thing about the concept of unforgivable sin is that the sin itself cannot be committed by someone who doesn't know God. The unforgivable sin can only be committed by those who are familiar with God. Follow me here. Take, for instance, this account of what happens to the house of Eli and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas:
How can God forgive the person whose heart is so hard that they have nothing but contempt for the source of atonement? If you so disdain the source of your forgiveness that you loathe, misuse and desecrate it, how can you be forgiven by it?
You can't desecrate something you're unfamiliar with. These two young men grew up "in the church" and they were PK's (priests' kids). They knew better. They were raised with the knowledge and understanding of what these sacrifices were for and yet they desecrated them. To desecrate the LORD's offering is a grievous sin.
How does one desecrate the LORD's atoning sacrifice today? It is by desecrating offerings, holding in contempt the source of atonement. You can't hold Jesus in contempt if you've never heard of Him. Certainly in the time of Samuel there were other sinners both large and small bringing their sacrifices to the Temple at Shiloh to have their sin atoned for. God didn't pronounce any of their sin as unforgivable. The unforgivable sin was committed by the church people who knew better, but used the LORD's sacrifices as a source of personal gain, thereby treating them with contempt.
If you play church with what is consecrated to the LORD, look out.
One facet of this is how people "earmark" their monetary gifts to God. Checks are written with terms and conditions. We want to decide how the money gets spent so we tell the church what to do with it. "Here is my offering, now do what I say with it." No. We should give to the LORD with no strings attached. We give our money, not as an atoning sacrifice, but as a trust sacrifice. We enter the arena of playing church with God's offerings and thereby showing contempt for Jesus who gave all with no strings attached when we supposedly give to Him, yet tell Him what to do with it.
Brothers and sisters this shouldn't be so.
Tithes and offerings are to be freely given from the heart and then released by trust into the hands of God. Remove the strings, mandates, dictates and directions. Do not show contempt for the selfless sacrifice of Jesus by attaching selfishness to your "gift."
Are your offerings to God released and let go freely into His hands?
Me: Jesus, can we talk?
Jesus: Sure. You know I'm always here for you.
Me: Would it be okay with you if I cut back on my time in prayer. I have so much going on right now. I mean, you understand, right?
Jesus: So, what you're saying is that you are really overwhelmed with life's demands right now?
Me: Yes. See, you understand me.
Jesus: I do, but you don't understand Me.
Me: Why would you say that?
Jesus: Because you somehow have missed it that without me you can do nothing. If you understood me then you would think of me first because you would know that I might have a thing or two to say to you regarding your life.
Me: I know.. I know.
Jesus: No, actually you don't.
Me: Yes I do... the whole, "pray without ceasing" thing Paul talked about.
Jesus: Paul understood Me. He did so much, but everything he did was what I asked him to do.
Me: Everything? Seriously.
Jesus: Yes, everything... seriously.
Me: How is that possible?
Jesus: Because we talked every day, all day. He knew I had so much to say to him and he learned to trust me like I want you to trust me. Paul didn't work at doing things for Me, and he didn't hide anything from me, nor did he try to do anything without Me.
Me: That's a pretty tall expectation. How am I supposed to have time and energy to do all of that?
Jesus: There you go again ... you don't understand Me.
Me: (insert puzzled and frustrated facial expression here)
Jesus: Have you not learned that it's not about what you do for Me, but rather what I can do through you?
Me: But You gave us all a will... I have to make choices, decisions, and I'm held accountable to those aren't I?
Jesus: Yes, you are.
Me: So how can I live up to such high expectations. Obey your teaching, spend time I don't have in prayer. Read a Bible I don't always understand. Try to do good to everyone. Hold my tongue around the people who annoy me...
Jesus: Please just stop and listen for a moment.
Jesus: I have only one expectation of you, and if you can find your way to meet that one expectation, then everything else springs up from that.
Me: What is it?
Me: What is that supposed to mean?
Jesus: Just what I said, ... die. You know, if anyone would come after me they should take up their cross and follow me. ... Die.
Me: Can we drop the metaphors and just speak English for a moment?
Jesus: It's not that hard to understand.
Me: Then I must be really dense.
Jesus: You're not dense, you just need to change your perspective and look at things differently. I died for you ... will you die for Me?
Jesus: You keep trying and trying in this life to be something for Me, or to do things to gain approval or live up to standards, but none of that is what I desire. What I want from you is you. If you would let Me in, I'd guide you. I will give you rest. I will speak to you. I will purify you. I will give you power you don't have, wisdom you don't have, strength you don't have, and guidance you won't get anywhere else. But the one expectation is that first, you will die... to yourself.
Me: (after a long pause) That sounds hard.
Jesus: Harder than what you have now? My burden is light.
Me: All I wanted was an answer to a simple question... if I could cut back on prayer. Was that too much to ask?
Jesus: Yes, it was. If you knew Me and you knew the power of prayer you would pray...
Jesus: Finally, you're beginning to understand.
Me: Die, huh?
Jesus: Yes ... die.
Me: I've never been able to trust anyone but myself. Everyone lets me down.
Jesus: I'm not one of those people. I've got this ... I've got you.
Jesus: I'm glad we talked. I'm always here for you. I died for you that you might live.
Me: Okay... I'm in. I trust You.
Jesus: I have plans for you that you would have never imagined for yourself. Paul's life was a great adventure because He listened to Me and went where I told him to go. And when he got to every new place, he learned to trust Me to show up and give Him power and strength.
Me: Sounds like an amazing adventure.
Jesus: It was. Yours is pretty amazing too.
Me: So... tell me all about it!
Jesus: No. You couldn't handle the whole picture right now. What do you say we talk all day, every day, and I'll take the lead.
Me: Pray? ...
Jesus: Still interested in cutting back on your prayer time?
Me: Um ... no.
Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
(Luke 9:23-24 NIV)
Destructive and false self-declarations are holding you back. You know the kind... the voices in your head that repeat lies from the past, lies you've been told by abusive people, and lies you've heard from the devil himself. The truth of the lie is that it seeks to kill, steal and destroy. Perhaps you've tried over and over again to rid your mind of the voices and come to the end of yourself exhausted and frustrated. You don't have to stay there. There is a way to change it all. How?
Declaring the Word of God over your life. Constantly. Regularly. Passionately. Joyfully. Trustingly. Faithfully.
This isn't about positive thinking although we're told in the scriptures to meditate on good, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy things. This isn't about "name-it-and-claim-it" theology where you speak a "prediction" then just believe it will happen. This is about the power of the living Word of God - a Word that is Spirit and Life - being spoken over your life, and like a jack-hammer, it blasts the old foundations to pieces and replaces them with truth. God's truth. Truth that will feed you and guide you. Over time, your mind will recall what it is constantly fed. What are you feeding your mind?
Here's eight truths about what the Word IS and what the Word DOES:
You can fill your mind with self-help books, psychotherapy, and other counseling aides, but the Truth of the Eternal, Living Word of God is the only thing that will cleanse your mind and eradicate the old lies.
But You Must Use Your Voice...
This declaration must be verbal. Why? Because things you verbalize reflect what is in the storehouse of your heart. And the things that get stored the most deeply in your heart are things you verbalize. For this reason, the Bible teaches us in Revelation 12:11 NIV: "They overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."
Dear friends, you must learn to declare... verbally declare the Word of God over your life if that chains will be broken. You may have had thousands pray over you, speak words over you, believe for you... but this is something you must take responsibility for. The words you declare have power, and there is no more powerful Word in the universe than the Word of God.
Here is a document I have compiled that can be used to help you in this process. You must learn to declare the biblical opposite to what you are struggling with. If you are weak, you must declare strength ... etc. May you be blessed and gloriously set free as you declare the Word over your own life.
One alarming fact about people today, both in the world at large, and within the church, is that they feel trapped in some way. People feel trapped in jobs, relationships, circumstances, financial struggles, addictions, habits, thoughts, behaviors, locations, etc. Trapped. Hopeless. Stuck.
In counseling conversations with people who are stuck I hear a common theme over and over again. Stuck people say, "I have to ..." (fill in the blank). They are quite sincere about it too. They believe that they have to cater to the whims and needs of oppressive spouses, bosses, family members, addicts, lazy people, etc. In co-dependent relationships, there is usually one person who seems to get off the hook in regards to being accountable for themselves while the other person takes full responsibility and accountability for two. Both are stuck. Both need freedom. Getting there isn't easy.
Moving toward freedom feels risky and full of pain. That feeling usually tightens the grip of the trap we're in. However, the scenarios we play out in our minds about how bad things will be if we break free from the unhealthy person are entirely imaginary. They are a fabrication of our minds designed to tighten the grip of the trap.
Jesus, Himself spoke of the personal accountability of each individual...
Matthew 12:36-37 NIV (36) "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. (37) For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
Furthermore, the wisdom of Proverbs says this:
Proverbs 29:9 NKJV (9) If a wise man contends with a foolish man, Whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.
While this is certainly not the end of the discussion concerning how to break free from such relational turmoil and toxicity, here are some prevailing thoughts about how to break free and stay free:
Consider this: If you don't change anything about the toxic nature of the relationship, then nothing changes. Making one small change could set you on the course to freedom.
The call of Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves wrestles with the desire to break free. Freedom from dysfunctional relationships feels like we're abandoning someone. You don't have to abandon a person to break free. Even physical distancing, reduced communication or ceased communication, removing of unhealthy financial assistance, etc. does not mean abandoning. Does a mother bird abandon her chicks when they are thrust from the nest against their will? No. She is being a great mom.
Freedom can be yours.
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.
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