Who’s talking to you?

Young woman thinking with blackboard

When I was introduced to my Savior, and He truly became the Lord of my life, making sense of the Scriptures and finding a community of like-minded individuals became a priority. My husband and I sought out more than the Sunday message and joined a “life group” as we desired to have mature Christians around to keep us focused on forging a solid relationship with our Father.

The years we spent with the incredible members of this group were blessed. The depths of faith, the wells of hope that sprang up, the encouragement and gentle teachings were exactly what we needed during a rough yet exciting season.

One night there was a discussion on how vital it was to consult God on every single decision. Some gave the impression that even in the simplest of choices, such as what to have for dinner, they pressed into the Lord. I remember this conversation well because it was one that the enemy grabbed hold of to use as an accusatory weapon. Comparison was tormenting me trying to convince me I was not “Christian” enough. It made sense to consult God on major decisions. We had been pressing in to get clarity on whether to do IVF or wait on God to heal me to conceive a child on our own. I also wanted God’s direction on His plan for my life. But truthfully, I had not on a daily basis asked God to advise me in meal planning. I had not asked Him whether to take the highway or go the back roads to church.

Consumed with worry that I was not doing this whole “Christian” thing right, I believed the negative voice that said I was going through the motions of a believer, but in reality, I was a fraud. I desired to be like the those I admired in my group, so I made the decision to ask God permission to do anything and everything. I was determined to see Isaiah 30:21 ring true in my life. It would be my ears that would hear a word, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

I am not trying to trivialize or belittle the fact that the Lord first and foremost be our counsel in our everyday lives. I was in a prison of my own making because I allowed some ridiculous comparison to warp my thinking. I was acting crazy asking God ludicrous questions, and when I heard no answer, I got upset. Why couldn’t I hear God? As time went on, I was convinced that something must be wrong with me!

­­I can’t remember how long it was before I finally heard Him, but when He did, the words spoken were ones I would never forget.

It was lunchtime – a perfect time to ask for guidance! There was a PotBelly and a Pei Wei next door to each other. I asked, “Father, where should I eat? Whatever parking spot is closest to the restaurant, I will know that is where you desire me to go.”

As I pulled into the lot, there was one spot available. It was literally between the two locations. (Smack dab in the middle!) I took the spot, threw the car into park, and asked the Lord, “Why?”

I sat there for a few seconds when I heard a soft voice say, “Child, I gave you a mind and a will to make choices that make you happy. You decide what you want to eat. You’ve missed the whole point. I don’t need you to ask me about every trivial thing. I want you to commune with me and trust me with your life.”

I couldn’t help but smile and laugh. I learned that day that I can and do hear His voice. I also learned that I needed to stop comparing myself to other Christians and focus solely on my relationship with God. And by the way, I enjoyed every bit of that PotBelly sandwich!

Not long after that tasty lunch, God would teach me how important it is press into what He is saying. Right after my daughter turned one, she was scheduled to have some blood work and x-rays done. She had been chronically ill, and we were trying to figure out why. The doctor requested we go to Cooks, and I heard the Lord caution me, “Wait seven days.”

I remember thinking this seems like a nutty thing to do, but I was really focused and hearing God and receiving what He was saying.

The morning of the seventh day, Averey woke up with a high fever. I spoke to the doctor who cleared us to go to the hospital and proceed with tests. Not a pleasant afternoon, but we got through it.

We were home about 15 minutes when the phone rang. It was the allergist calling with instructions for us to immediately take our daughter back where the emergency room staff would rush our daughter into CT and then possibly surgery. She explained the x-ray revealed a possible Peritonsillar Abscess, which is typically fatal in babies.

After the CT, the doctors were stunned. The abscess was at the very beginning stage and could be treated with a short hospital stay and a long course of high-dose antibiotics. No surgery would be required.

God gave me instructions to wait. I could have ignored the prompting, but waiting saved my daughter’s life. I learned one valuable lesson: If He is asking me to do something… Do it no matter how odd it seems.

God’s desire is to have a deep personal relationship with each one of us. God can comfort, guide, warn, caution, advise, counsel and commune with us on a daily basis, but we must understand the ways God speaks.

Whether you are new in your faith or attend a church that does not teach about hearing God, I am going to let you in on a little secret: God is always talking. We just have to tune in and adjust our frequency so that we can hear. Here’s how:

  1. Reading the Word. God speaks through His Word. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” I had been given a word from a stranger that I would have a natural child. I was battling with doubt after multiple miscarriages. God knew I needed an anchor – something to keep me grounded. That lifeline would be Luke 1:45; “Blessed is she who believes what is spoken will be accomplished.”

    God spoke volumes through that Scripture and kept me focused on the promise and not my natural circumstances. I declared those Words daily until God healed me with no medical intervention and blessed us with our beautiful daughter.

  2. Be still and know I am God. It is recorded in the Gospels that Jesus would wander off to spend time with His Father. He would withdraw to places alone and hear His Father’s instructions (Matthew 26:36; Mark 1:34; Luke 5:16).

    I’ve learned that God likes me a lot and wants to spend time with me. “Quiet time” is simply being intentional to have talks with God just like I have coffee and conversation with a close friend. There are no hard and fast rules to what this looks like. How I spend time with Christ is up to me. If you want to hear the voice of God, make the effort to talk with Him and then allow ample time to sit quietly so you can hear Him speak.

  3. Pray without ceasing. Billy Graham said, “Prayer is simply talking to God, and the most important thing I can say about this is that God wants you to talk to Him! He loves us, and He has promised to hear us when we pray.”

    In the years of waiting for a child, I learned the value of consistent, intentional prayer. Praying became a part of my daily activities as much as bathing and eating. Praying is what draws God close, so the more you pray, the more opportunity there is to hear His voice. Some ways I use prayer in my life include:

    • Offering God my day first thing in the morning is a daily surrender by inviting Him to have His way in my life.
    • Giving praise for the blessings I see happening around me.
    • Seeking His guidance on matters that arise and making petitions when needed.
    • Asking for and accepting forgiveness daily – repenting of my sin and giving God the opportunity to give me the loving correction.
    • Thanking God for the daily bread I received all day and for the sweet sleep and pleasant dreams that will come.

If you are struggling to hear God’s voice, here are five steps to help tune in:

1. Expect a gentle wise spontaneous thought instead of a loud booming voice

The Holy Spirit speaks directly to our souls bearing witness to the truth, convicting us and encouraging us. These thoughts often sound like our own voices yet the wisdom and knowledge go beyond spiritual maturity.

2. Not your will but His will be done

I had to lay down my pride and controlling nature and get over myself. Once I came to Him with a posture of surrender and told Him I desired to have His will in my life, I was transformed. Ask God to talk you about His perfect plan, and then follow His instructions.

3. Connect with the Holy Spirit

While the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, we constantly need to be made aware of His presence. This is the key to enjoying the overflow of His peace, joy, and love. I connect with the Holy Spirit by first entering into a time of praise and worship. Others meditate in the Word of God while some prefer to go into an extended time of prayer.

4. Free your mind from the drama of the day

It’s hard to hear the voice of God when there’s a grocery list rattling around in our minds. Replaying the events of the day or forming tomorrow’s task list won’t do it either. But shifting away from stresses and to-dos of the day allows us to quickly feel His presence and tune into His voice.

5. Keep a journal and reflect on what was written

I love to journal and taking time to ask if what I hear lines up with Scripture. If it doesn’t, I throw it out because it is likely that I heard the voice of the enemy.

Keeping a journal and reflecting on what you hear is a great way to develop your discernment. The Bible tells us we are to take all of our thoughts captive into the obedience of Christ, which is not easy because we can often get tripped up in our own fleshly desires, emotions and feelings.

If you are not sure your word was from the Lord, ask Him to give you confirmation through a friend or even a stranger in the church. You’d be amazed at the ways God will let you know what He needs you to know.

Most importantly, remember this… you do not have to be an elder, pastor, prophetic voice or leader in the church to hear God. Every one of us is capable of hearing God’s voice. Give it a try and see for yourself what a blessing this can be in your life.

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God Loves Ugly

Young woman in heart shape cave towards the beautiful sky

Do you ever feel that you were not good enough, smart, strong or beautiful enough? Do you think you are too much of a mess, and your “stuff” is just too much for God? Maybe you believe you’ve done too much in your life that God won’t forgive, so why bother? Have you ever felt God didn’t love you?

So many of us are walking around thinking that we are not worthy of God’s love, He takes those disgusting parts of our lives and creates new opportunities for His glory to shine. It’s like taking lemons and turning them into the sweetest lemonade. God takes all our deception, the guilt-ridden, shameful places that none of us wants to talk about into wondrous testimonies for us to be able to help others.

I learned this truth so many years ago, as I was once bound up by the shame of having multiple marriages. Even as writing I am thinking, “Do I want to tell the world my dirty laundry?” The purpose in telling you this is to expose the enemy’s grip and put God’s glory in its place!

I was attending a prophetic training where a women said, “You are the woman at the well.” My first thought was questioning how did she know my shameful past? Even though I knew that the Bible teaches that prophetic words are meant to lift us up, and yet all I felt was shame. She went on to say “You drank the Lord’s living water and have felt His unconditional love. You will share this love with many to glorify God.” This word has been instrumental in my sanctification. I am guided with the Spirit of God and completely feel the unconditional love of the Lord.

The Biblical woman at the well was very instrumental in sharing the Gospel. There are similarities between our two stories. Scripture doesn’t tell us how she might have felt but the Lord brought beauty, hope, acceptance and restoration to her even though she felt so much shame for her transgressions. Let’s see how Jesus interacted with her in John 4:10-26.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

At that moment, Jesus reveals the truth about Himself to this woman. He was just as vulnerable as she was, and I want to believe that Jesus didn’t want her to feel alone in her transparency. The Son of God knew she was a lovely woman who deserved the truth to know God loved her, and that she wasn’t just the woman with five husbands. He chose her to go and tell the people about His goodness by sharing their encounter, and she went down in Biblical history as an evangelist. The prophetic word I received revealed that our stories don’t end in the test, but live on in the testimonies of God’s goodness we get to share with those in our path.

I can remember broken pieces of my childhood. I suffered from a lot of painful heartache and trauma that left me wide open to find relationships with incompatible people. It was like the song “Looking for love in all the wrong places” was written after my experience. It goes something like this:

“Well, I’ve spent a lifetime lookin’ for you; singles bars and good time lovers were never true. Playin’ a fools game hopin’ to win; I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, Lookin’ for love in too many faces, searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreamin’ of.”

I was destroyed from this grief, trauma and damage from things in my past. I desperately wanted to be filled up with wholeness again, to have the shattered pieces of my life go back together, but I didn’t know how. I felt defective, fractured, injured and crippled. I believed a man’s love could repair my dismembered self. If only I could be loved, be married and have that “Ward and June Cleaver” relationship with 2.5 kids, everything would be normal, and the pain of the past would cease.

My warped thinking took me many years to work through, and I endured the pain of suffering through several failed marriages. I believed the lie that I was suffering the consequences of my actions. Divorce, more hurt, more pain and, of course, the shame of this echo blemish called multiple marriages. I suffered along with my children and family from my choices. I cannot take back the fact that I chose to marry several different men and the baggage that came with them; however, with God’s help, I could learn some valuable lessons and restore my hope for a bright future. God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you and they are not to harm but to give you a hope and a future.”

God didn’t stop loving me and wanted me to know it. Even in my darkest moments, He kept on pursuing me and still does to this day. God worked all of my messes into valuable tools used for His purposes, and if you let Him, He will do the same for you.

You might think of your mess as the end, but God sees it as merely a detour. When you have veered off track, the Holy Spirit guides us right back to righteousness in Christ Jesus. When at first we don’t succeed try, try again, as the old saying goes. God works all things for good according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God is always waiting at your front door desiring to have an intimate relationship with you. It’s your choice to open the door. God loves you and is smitten by you. He is wooing you this very second because of who you are not what you’ve done.

God loves you like good parents love their children. Even though children are not perfect and often break the rules, parents love them unconditionally. The same is true for God. He simply loves us unconditionally. This is beautifully illustrated in the Bible when Jesus loved the woman at the well.

God’s love for each one of us is unstoppable and unshakable; His love penetrates tribulation, distress, persecution, pain, difficulty or any crises that we might face. Our job is to invite God into every area of our lives. Sometimes is easy to compartmentalize our lives. For example, we can invite God into areas of our lives that are all neat and tidy, but when we haven’t dealt with a painful area, we are not ready for Him (God) to be involved because it looks a little messy. But God loves us no matter what, and the reality is that He sees and knows all anyway. You actually have nothing to lose by asking Him into a bad situation; however, you have amazing things to gain if you will trust Him with your mess.

Psalm 36:7 says, “How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.” Can you imagine what it would be like to find shelter in the midst of your storm? What about letting Him guide out of your wilderness? Or what would it be like to be released from the prison of our mess?

The truth is that I am not the guilt and shame from my past. I have been sanctified by the love of God and was created in His image. I am a new creation in Christ Jesus, and the great news is that you can be too.

God loves me when I’m beautiful or ugly, happy or sad and in spite of anything I ever could do or say. I am His beloved daughter. I am His royal princess, and you, my friend are also a cherished member of God’s extended family. Beloved, It is my prayer that you will let this blog take root in the hurt places in your heart. May you come to truly know that God’s love is unconditional.

Beloved one, if it is time for you to truly receive God’s unconditional love to strengthen you, simply repeat the prayer below, have faith in God’s truth and trust that God’s word will never condemn or harm you in any way.

Prayer:
Father God, I thank you that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I recognize that I have come into agreement with the lie, I take responsibility for believing that ______________ (fill in the blank). When I believed the lie, I felt _______________ (fill in the blank). I repent for entertaining negative thoughts and renounce the lie. Father God, I ask you to replace the lie with your truth. I thank you for your forgiveness and for your unfailing love. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I break any agreements I made with the enemy and ask for a fresh revelation of my identity in Christ. Amen.

Questions to pray and ponder:
Have you felt that God couldn’t possibly love you because of past mistakes? If yes, ask the Lord to lead you to some Scriptures that you can memorize to understand God’s immense love for you.

Has guilt and shame caused you to feel unwanted, unworthy unlovable? Remind yourself of God’s sacrifice. Meditate on all that Jesus did for you when He went to the cross. Let this example of unconditional love you fill all your heart wounds.

What are some ways God has shown me that He loves me?

Divine Encounters

tired passenger

I had just taken a sip of my Starbucks tea when a young woman plopped down beside me. I could immediately tell this girl had a good heart, was full of mercy and had a call on her life to help others.

We were both patiently waiting for our planes to board. There was some idle chatter going on among the others in the waiting area, but there was something about this woman… I knew this was going to be a divine appointment.

Not long after the Holy Spirit began speaking about this girl, she looks up at me and says she’s been in Peru volunteering at a children’s school. I feel like God is showing me her heart as she talks about how these kids suffer from disease and poverty. I’m impressed at this young lady who sees through all the bad circumstances and can tell the children are happy, despite their environment. Exposed now is her mercy and heart for others. What would the Holy Spirit do next?

She’s a pretty girl, black hair, little to no makeup. Behind her glasses, I begin to see there’s sadness in her eyes. Something deep inside of her that is dark and haunting. I knew right then I was supposed to talk to her about the love of God.

I inquired, “Are you a Christian?” She answers, “yes,” but I can tell she doesn’t know Him well. She’s from the North, and she shares with me her thoughts that people from the South are more Godly than those from the North. I’m giggling inside when she says, “I wish I was a better Christian – like my good friend who I deeply admire.”

I smiled and said, “We will both spend our entire lives growing and learning how to be like Jesus.” I explained that the beauty of being transformed into the image of Christ – is that until we take our last breath, we will stay in the process of being “sanctified.”

She was only nineteen. She began to share details of her life with me, and I am in awe of the bravery and courage she displayed. She pours her heart out to me, and God showed me He created her to be a warrior. She was fierce. I felt strongly she’s been through some serious battles in the natural, but also in the supernatural. She’s come face to face with the enemy… she just didn’t know it.

She was telling me about being bullied in school. Her self-confidence and self-esteem suffered and then was obliterated by her parents who told her she was weak. She had watched me tell my daughter she was amazingly smart and savvy, and she said to me, “Don’t ever stop telling her that she is smart.” My heart broke.

She confessed she’d gone through a depression and had a stay in a mental hospital. I shared that the Lord was telling me she was bipolar… just like my husband was. Shocked, she looked up at me and asked, “Was bipolar?”

I smiled, and said, “Yes. Was bipolar. God healed my husband a couple years ago.” I explained how Scott had gotten better as we trusted and declared the truth of God over our lives. She’s staring at me. I could tell the enemy is telling her I am totally full of it, so I explained that Scott went from needing a high-dose cocktail of multiple medications to now being on a tiny dose of an anti-anxiety pill.

Before she could say a word, I went on to say, “I know the Lord has healed you too!”

I can tell she’s puzzled as the enemy is in her head. She asks, “God made your husband and I this way, so don’t we just have to accept it?”

And with that, I shared with her the good news of Jesus Christ, and how God secured our healing and perfect health when He sacrificed His son. I told her there was nothing about her that wasn’t perfect in God’s eyes. I praised Him for He was a good Daddy who would never purposely make anyone sick. I asked her, “Do you feel your depression is a part of you?” She nodded. She’s resigned herself to thinking it’s just who she is… depression defined her.

I looked her dead in the eyes. Quietly I told her our meeting was a divine appointment because God wanted her to know something, and as sternly and as seriously as I could I rebuked that lie off of her in the name of Jesus. I declared, “God loves you,” and shared the wonderful news that because she was created in God’s image, she was not wired to be depressed. God created her and each one of us to be happy, loved and full of peace. I went on to say that Satan was tormenting her with sadness to keep her from walking into God’s plan for her life.

I continued, “You’ve got a great call on your life. You’ve got a heart for others and will one day serve God in a major way.” She lit up. She would be a teacher. She would touch many kid’s lives. She would make a difference.

Then I shifted topics to explain how Satan operates. He is sly and subtle, dropping thoughts in our mind – negative, destructive thoughts – designed to hinder us from being close to God. He sneaks around waiting for his opportunity to strike, and his weapon of choice is the nasty thoughts that pop into our mind. I cautioned her to the fact the voice sounds like us. She’d never hear a scary male voice, and because of that, it’s easy for us to claim the lies and make them our truth.

She’s listening. She’s interested. So I continue.

“Do you believe we are made in God’s image?” She nods. “Do you believe the Word of God is true?” She nods. “Then you accept that you were created in His image?” Her response was, “I guess so.”

“Is God capable of being evil in any way?” She looks at me. I ask again. “Is God capable of being evil in any way?”

After a slow pause, she says, “I think, No.” So I continue, “So if He is not capable of any evil, then how could He be responsible for your depression?”

There’s another slow pause. I can see her mind churning. She’s zeroed in on me – Am I for real? Am I going to crack? But as I sit there with a peaceful smile on my face, the light bulb begins to come on.

To drive the point home I explained how Satan torments with unloving, critical thoughts – ones that demean and devalue us, that divide us from God and that destroy His plan for our lives. I also warned her the enemy uses accusing thoughts to get us to blame God for the bad things that happen to us.

I spoke against the lies that filled her thoughts – the ones breeding life into her depression. I declared over her that she had been given the power to trample over all evil, and I told her the Word is clear when it says in Luke 10:19, “Nothing by any means shall harm her!”

She looked up and said she wanted to be healed. I explained that all she had to do was have faith Jesus was her Savior, and fully believe in the power of the cross! I said, “You have been fully equipped with the Spirit who dwells in you to defeat all evil. While the battle against the devil would always be in your mind, God has all ready given you victory by the sacrifice of His Son.”

I went onto to explain that our job as Christians was to discern good thoughts from those needing to be instantly trashed. “2 Corinthians 10:5 advises us to take all thoughts captive and bring all negative thoughts into obedience with God’s Word,” I said.

I asked her if she had ever heard the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7 that says, “I have not been given a spirit of fear, but have been given spirits of love, power and a sound mind.” When she said yes, I encouraged her to declare that loudly over her life every day.

Knowing my time was now short, I encouraged her to get into a good church and said, “Dive into reading the Gospel, and let the Word become the lens to which you view life through.”

When the time came for my family to board the plane, I stood up. I told her God loved her, and if she listened God would talk to her in many different ways… a stranger in the airport, a paragraph in a book, a conversation with a friend, or through a Bible verse.

I ended by explaining that God had more to say to her about who He created her to be and encouraged her to spend some time listening. I prayed a quick blessing over her and said goodbye.

Just before we walked off, she grabbed my hand. She looked at me and said thank you. And as I tailed off, I said, “Don’t thank me… thank God.” I wished her well and headed to the gate.

I love God encounters. I’m always on a treasure hunt when I am at the mall or at the airport. I love watching God’s light shine in a dark place in someone’s life. I’ve had many of these conversations over the years. There’s always a common theme as each person believes something about God and/or about themselves that has warped their thinking. I take no credit for what happened this day, but I so do love getting to be a truth bomber. I love opening someone’s eyes to God in a new way. I love watching Him come forth to touch someone’s heart. I love witnessing the moment there’s a shift in their thinking… whether it’s a lie that’s just crumbled, or it’s a shift in their perceived identity.

Treasure Hunt Challenge:
Next time you are out buying groceries, ask the Lord to highlight someone in your path that you can encourage. Take that leap of faith and watch God use you in mighty ways to bring Him glory!

More on Depression:
I also feel it is important to speak to the many who struggle with depression and sadly accept this fate as God’s plan. You feel defeated and believe you’ve been left to deal with this hurt all on your own. I’m here to set this straight.

The exciting truth is God has a plan for you. Plans created to prosper and not harm you! Plans that are designed to give you hope and a future! (Jeremiah 29:11)

The Word is clear in that you will face trials, but it is never God who causes the trial. John 10:10 warns the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but also encourages because Jesus Christ came to give you life abundantly!

It’s important if you are struggling right now with depression, that you understand God wants you set free. Depression is oppression. It torments and is NEVER from God.

The Bible is also clear that victory is all ready yours. Isaiah 53:5 says, “It was by His stripes we were healed.” Jesus healed every one of us when He died on the cross. It’s not something we are waiting for. You do not have to beg and plead for God’s will to show up. Healing is a finished work.

This is great news! You can be healed. You can be happy. You can be free. You can be all that God has called you to be, and that’s a promise that can never be broken!

 

Prayer:
Father God, I thank you that you have great plans for each and every one of us. I thank you for creating us to do your good works and creating us in your image. Father, I am not encouraging anyone to abandon treatment or stop medication, but I know your Son died so that each and every one of us can walk in health and wholeness. I am asking you, Father, to show those who are struggling with depression and mental illness that way out of this bondage. I pray that the enemy can be defeated in this way from being able to torment those who deeply need to feel your love and joy. I pray this truth will resonate with those who are hurting and lost, and they will begin to seek you out in new and exciting ways. I pray you receive all the glory for those who receive healing and for those who are out sharing your truth with this in communities they live. Giving you all thanks and praise… in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

From Chaos to Refuge

Man hand with lifebuoy ring over blue sea water

Have you ever asked God where He is in the midst of a storm? In a crisis situation, have you ever had trouble discerning the voice of God with the enemy’s lies of deception? Have you ever heard a voice prompting you, almost desperately harassing you, to do something irrevocable that does not line up with God’s Word? Do you believe in principalities?

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world,” 1 John 4:1-3

It was a beautiful sunny day at the lake, and little did I know I was about to test the spirits. I was there with my daughters and one of my daughter’s friends. The day started out pleasant enough just like every other day at the lake. We borrowed a blow-up air raft to relax on the cool water. Remember this is a blow-up raft.

After unpacking the car, carrying a heavy load down the long hill, we noticed the anchor and two life jackets were missing. It was a hot day, and the water looked inviting. Nicole quickly chimed in, “We do not need the anchor and the life vests. We are only going to be in the shallow end of the lake.” Famous last words!

There was a lovely breeze blowing across the lake with the sun glistening like diamonds. The sky was so blue and clear. We were all excited with anticipation to relax and float on the water. We put the raft into the water and took turns taking the rope and walking the raft around the shallow end of the lake.

When it was Nicole and her friend’s turn, they decided to go out just a bit, then a little further, and the next thing I see is the water is now up to their necks. The waves came rushing. I yelled for the girls to get on the raft. There was to be no more playing around, but both girls ignored my command. Within seconds, the raft drifted out where they couldn’t touch, and we were now approximately 30 feet from shore. The waves were raging as I pleaded with the girls to get onto the raft. They had other plans and decided instead to swim to shore.

I was very worried and filled with fear! The waves were strong. We were very far from shore and getting further away with every passing second. My other daughter, Heather, quickly grabbed the two life vests and decided to swim toward the girls to give them a life vest to hold onto.

One question kept badgering me. Are you going to let your children drown or are you going to try to rescue them? The voice was taunting me as the waves got stronger and I drifted further into the abyss of the lake. The taunting in my mind felt like I was being bullied. Are you going to let something happen to your children or are you going to do something about this?

Just as soon as panic began to set in, I heard another voice. This one was calm – a still small voice, peacefully telling me to stay put on the raft. I sensed that I was to stay put because I was older and not in any shape to fight the lake. I felt like the best thing I could do for my children was to call 911.

I was hearing conflicting voices at the same time. One was filling me with peace by speaking life over this terrible situation, while the other was cunning, full of chaos, and confusion spouting probable death.

I was not strong enough to swim against the turbulent waves of this lake because I wasn’t well. I was drifting further away with every passing second. I had a choice to make. I decided to listen to the still small voice and help my girls the most effective way I could.

The girls had their cell phones in a compartment on the raft. I grabbed one and immediately dialed 911. A nice gentleman answered the call and asked for my location. I pleaded to please help my children, and I began to explain landmarks of where I was.

This was extremely dangerous as this was a blow-up raft. I am now in the middle of the lake with no life vest. Normally, I would have panicked, but there was a peace, a shalom peace, that came upon me. It says in Philippians 4:7, “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I believe that was what was happening to me.

By the time the fire department arrived on the scene, they found the girls on the shore, but I had drifted so far they couldn’t locate me. (I’m glad I didn’t realize this at the time.) I focused on the truth that God was with me through the Holy Spirit that dwells in me. I was taking comfort in what 1 John 4:4 says, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

I had a choice to make in the midst of this storm. Would I trust that still small voice telling me I’d be okay or the one that was desperately seeking to steal, kill and destroy? My emotions were all over the place but I knew the turmoil I was feeling was not from God. I could feel the Holy Spirit guiding me, gently pursuing me with peace and love to make the best decision for all involved, but more than that, this voice kept soothing my wearing soul so that I would break down in panic. It would be roughly an hour later, I was rescued, Glory to God!

Looking back now, I am convinced God was keeping all of us in His secret place. Psalm 91:1-3 says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.”

I learned that day that the spiritual realm is not a fairy tale like Cinderella or Snow White. There are principalities in this world. There are forces of good and evil. The evil of the world tries to fill and cloud our judgment with deception and lies, while God’s voice tries to fill us with peace and joy even in the midst of scary circumstances.

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome.” It says right in the Bible we are going to have trouble, but we are to trust Jesus. Can you say that you trust Him in the middle of your struggles?

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” That verse is so encouraging and inspires me to listen to God and to see the future He has planned for me.

I will be honest. I faced fear, but I also had enough faith to see me through all the dread. Faith is key to combating the lies of the enemy and to seeing victory in your life. It only takes a mustard seed of faith to believe what the Word says.

He takes that seed, waters and nurtures it, and faith begins to bloom. I learned that day that it’s vital to have confidence in God and His promises. The lies were trying to lure me to attempt to swim when I wasn’t physically able. But God was peacefully pursuing me, encouraging me to stay put.

No matter what you are facing in your life right now, know that God is a stronghold in times of trouble. God alone is your mighty deliverer and champion. God was my anchor, my life vest, and my refuge that chaotic day on the lake. He alone delivered me from the evil one’s trap, and friends, I am certain through my story, He wants to encourage you. You too can hear His voice in the middle of chaos. Instead of tuning into fear, zero in on that quiet voice… the one telling you no matter how bad your circumstances seem, you will be okay.

Beloved one, if it is time for you to truly trust God’s love to find your place of refuge, simply repeat the prayer below, have faith in God’s truth and believe that God’s Word will never condemn or harm you in any way.

Father God, I thank you that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I recognize that I have come to an agreement with the lie, I take responsibility for believing that ______________ (fill in the blank). When I believed the lie, I felt _______________ (fill in the blank). I repent for entertaining negative thoughts and renounce the lie. Father God, I ask you to replace the lie with your truth. I thank you for your forgiveness and for your unfailing love. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I break any agreements I made with the enemy and ask for a fresh revelation of my identity in Christ. Amen!

Questions to pray and ponder:

  1. Has there been a time in your life that things were going along smoothly then suddenly something unexpected happened that caused you to feel out of control but you weren’t sure what direction to take? What voice did you listen too?
  2. Recall a time that you felt bombarded with accusations and condemnation stealing your peace. What are some verses that you can lean on next time so that the enemy doesn’t rob you?
  3. What are some steps can you take to nurture and water your mustard seed of faith so that you can start discerning God’s voice while drowning out the enemy?

“Stop It Right Now or Else!”

When we were kids, my parents had this small car. It was a two-door, and five of us piled in this automobile everywhere we went. In the back, the three kids were crowded together like fish in a tin can. And every so often I’d get tired of my little brother poking me or invading my space, and I would begin to yell at him. From the front, I’d hear my mom scream, “Stop it right now or else!”

I think every adult can still remember what it felt like when they heard the stern calling of their name. Hearing the loud firm, “Kimberly Anne” coming from the downstairs was enough to send shivers down my spine. It was in those moments that I would swallow hard in a state of panic, as I knew punishment was coming my way.

My parents were awesome, loving people. They were trying to teach us rules were ways to keep up protected. They also wanted us to understand breaking rules had consequences because we could get hurt or something worse. They wanted us to be happy and be safe, and I always knew that was their motivation.

But as soon as I heard my name being yelled, an intense wave of fear would wash over me… the fear of punishment. No kid enjoyed psychological warfare of a parent letting you know you were in trouble but saying he or she needed to think about what the consequence would be. There’s nothing worse than spending the day fretting the inevitable with a giant knot in your stomach.

Would it be the belt to my behind? Would I be locked in my room like Rapunzel never to be let out of the house again? Would I be forced to eat liver and onions for the next month? Yep, my mind could really drum up some pretty awful scenarios as the enemy would try to convince me that my parents were the absolute worst, and I was the poor little victim of the mean, bad mom and dad. Dread could create some pretty awful scenarios… the lectures, the disappointment, and punishments, most of which never happened.

I can remember daydreaming about running away because the horror that awaited me would surely be far worse than living on the streets forced to eat crawdads from the creek down the road. The best part was imagining my parent’s regret. I could see it playing out just like The Christmas Story when Ralphie shows up blind from soap poisoning after his parents punished him for having a foul mouth. My parents would someday grovel for forgiveness too when they realized the error of their wicked ways.

In truth… I was a pretty good kid. I very rarely got in trouble, but my sister broke the rules a lot and would cause my parents to make some strict boundaries with her. She was three years older than me and watching the trouble she’d be in made me scared to do anything wrong.

The sad reality of this style of parenting was that while it did in lots of ways ensure compliance, it also came at a price because it was only out of fear that most kids followed the rules. It wasn’t because the child wanted to be a good person, respected their parents or just had a passion for the law. No… the truth was that no kid wanted to have a red sore bottom if caught. I was good because I wanted to be at the skating rink instead of grounded, so even as a young girl, I knew being good and following my parent’s orders were the means to get to my desired end.

The sad thing is though that this way of parenting mixed with no real solid Biblical teaching growing up led many, like my husband, to think the Big Man upstairs was a harsh punisher just waiting for us to screw up. Scott knew God loved him like his parents did, but the fear of being struck down by thunder for his sin was a bit overwhelming.

For me, this warped thinking in adulthood led me to believe all the bad things going on in my life were the result of God punishing me. It was a warped old testament view of life that kept lots of distance between us, and Satan liked that. The enemy had accused God of being a mean, harsh and scary dude, and I bought it like I’d bought a cheap, knock-off purse. So when I struggled with infertility and recurrent miscarriages, I blamed God and that led me to a point in my life where I hated Him.

When I was finally introduced to Jesus Christ and had my eyes opened to the truth, I saw the error of my warped thinking. I had been duped into believing a terrible lie when the reality is that God is anything but a punisher. In fact, he is nothing but a protector and redeemer!

With the coming of Easter and the celebration of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior of the World, I am reflecting on God’s ultimate sacrifice and how much He must have loved us. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I can’t even wrap my head around such unconditional love. The pain God felt, the tears shed and the agony of watching every drop of blood and the drawing of His son’s last breath. I can’t process how painful it must have been for Abraham to haul his son up the mountain believing he was being told to offer his son as a sacrifice. I am not debating whether God was testing him or not. I am merely putting into context how it must have felt to be a parent forced into choosing to watch their only child die. Being the parent of one child… I don’t know how I could make that choice.

But our Heavenly Father did. Romans 3:25 tells us God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin and watched his Son die a horrible, terrifying death. And because of this ultimate act of grace, we are set free from sin’s ultimate punishment… death.

God is a good parent. His rules and laws are for our protection. He wants us to be safe just like my mom who yelled at me to keep my hands away from the hot stove. If I disobeyed her and touched the burner, my finger would pay the price. This is the same with sin. God knows that sin opens the door to the enemy to come steal, kill and destroy. He takes our peace, robs our blessings, causes us to get sick and destroys our hopes and dreams. Let’s not get it twisted… the enemy is the real punisher.

The most amazing benefit of God’s ultimate sacrifice is the victory we now enjoy. We do not have to fear the enemy, nor do we have to dread making a mistake because Jesus took our place and received the punishment for our sin! We just have to look up to our parent and say, “I’m sorry.” When we do that… there is no penalty or punishment to pay because Jesus paid it. There is no need to run and hide or continue to sit the stronghold of dread. There is also no need to view God as harsh. Rather view him as a God filled with grace and mercy. For His sacrifice and His Son’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven conquered sin and the devil for good!

I like to imagine God said to Lucifer, “Stop it now or else!” And when he didn’t, Jesus stepped in and rendered the devil the ultimate punishment.

Happy Easter!

Tug of War

school children playing tug of war with rope in park

I was twelve years old the first time I can recall being introduced to God. It was one summer when I was visiting my grandparents. It was one of those times in your life when your whole world would change, and that was just the beginning of something new, but was I ready for this change? You see my grandfather was an Assembly of God minister. This was my first encounter with God with the church.

It was a Sunday night service when my grandpa asked me if I was ready to accept Jesus as my personal savior. I wasn’t really sure what this meant, but out of respect, I told him yes. I began to recite after my grandpa – I repented for my sins and asked Jesus to take over my life. At twelve, I really didn’t understand what I was doing. I remember the whole church rejoiced in this decision I had just made and made publically. Why was everyone so happy? Who exactly was Jesus in my life? How was I supposed to navigate from this place?

I didn’t feel any different at that moment. Honestly, I had no understanding of what I was truly doing. I had been in church, but who was Jesus and Father God?

In John 14:6 Jesus tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Truthfully those were just words – the Gospel would not come alive for me until much later.

Summer faded, and we returned home and started school that fall. I began to realize I felt different. Something was missing…where did my relationship with the Lord go? I had gotten saved, but as we were settling into our classes, the enemy began to put doubt and unbelief into my mind.

Sadly, my family didn’t attend church, however; there was a church at the end of our street. Confused, lost and feeling alone, I would go to that church and look around. I was definitely searching for something… or someone. I liked being in the sanctuary because I always felt peaceful while there. Sometimes I’d bring my sister and we’d hang out in that empty church.

A few short years later, my little sister got terribly sick. When she died, I felt justified in being angry with God. Through my mind ran so many questions that couldn’t be answered. How could He take my precious Lisa and gobble her up in a grave? God, where were you? Are you even real? Why did Lisa have to die?

I blamed God, and when I wasn’t blaming, I would doubt His existence. The enemy used my precious sister’s death to deceive and distort my view of God. A part of my longing to believe in God and the things I learned from my grandparents so much, but I just couldn’t make sense of this terrible tragedy.

1 Peter 5:8-9 gives us a firm warning. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.”

As a young girl, I didn’t know this verse nor did I know I was under attack by an enemy trying to steal, kill and destroy me. I was ripe for the picking because I was just a baby Christian without a support system. I tried to stay strong, but I was a wounded soldier out on the battlefield.

I wanted to believe in God, but doubt and unbelief plagued my mind. I was a baby Christian soldier trying to believe, but the whispers by the prince of the darkness as well as the non-believers in my world spoke so much negativity and confusion set in. I was disoriented, wandering in the wilderness. My thoughts were consumed with insecurity and instability.

The next several years were extremely difficult for me. I was lost – migrating from one bad relationship to another. I was looking for answers and love in all the wrong places. I wanted immediate gratification and would seek out God when things would get hard. As soon as things took a turn for the better I would go about my merry way.

I didn’t understand that I needed God – every moment of every day. I thought I could do things on my own, but my life was spiraling out of control.

The worse my life got, the more I began to question if there really was a God. A part of me wanted to believe, but how do I believe something I cannot see? Back and forth I went. I believed, and then I was deceived and lacked the faith – only to swing back to believing. I felt exactly like it says it would in James 1:6, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

Over the years I would have amazing even miraculous encounters from time to time with God. Through these experiences, I know God has to be real and tangible. The Love I felt from God was warm and comforting in the depths of my soul. I felt God tugging at my heart to come back to Him. Could I just let go of my life, give it to the Lord once and for all and let Him reign and rule in my life?

Matthew 16:24-26 says, “Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?'”

Wow, was I trying to gain the world by doing things myself?

One night I had enough of the world; I dropped to my knees and never looked back. I thanked Jesus for carrying the weight and torture of the cross for me. I could not continue on the path of confusion and chaos of the world. I wanted to be in God’s presence a place of all-consuming love and shalom peace. It was one of those pivotal moments that would change my life forevermore. I finally took that mustard seed of faith that Jesus promises us to use to grow our faith. I was going to take that seed water it and make it grow. In Luke 17:6, He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

I decided to give my life to God and stop listening to the accuser of doubt and unbelief. I was going to start listening to God’s voice. I started reading the scriptures and began seeing the living Word. The Bible became alive as I saw scripture differently than I did in the past. I would read and ask the Holy Spirit what He wanted me to know about the scripture. I wrote down what I thought I heard. It was beautiful what the Lord was speaking to my heart.

As a result, I fell in love with the Lord. A deep love because I understood finally God is my heavenly Father, Jesus is my Lord, and the Holy Spirit lives and dwells within me. I finally got the revelation of who I was in Christ. I was sold out! I believed, and my mustard seed was growing! I made a choice to reject the doubt and unbelief that had plagued me for years. When the whisper of darkness would start to creep in I would cry out to God and ask Him to help me.

He did help me because the truth is that even though we are not ­–­ God is faithful. I was consistently reminded He is in charge. Think about it… if He created the heavens and the earth – He had this!

Are you a believer who loves the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, body and spirit? Or are you struggling because, like me, you believed a lie that God wasn’t real? The truth is that God is real and tangible! God loves each of his children and is wooing us right this very minute.

If you are struggling in this area, may we kindly encourage you to every day get in front of a mirror and declare out loud in your own words, “God loves me? I am a child of the Most High God. I have inherited a rich legacy and am co-heirs with Jesus. I am enough. God is pleased with me.”

In time, those declarations will become the extinguisher needed to snuff out your doubt and unbelief.

Courageous one, if it time for you to stop playing tug of war with God completely give your life to Him and receive His love, to be assured that you will be His forever, simply repeat the prayer below, have faith in God’s truth and trust that God’s word will never condemn or harm you in any way.

Prayer:
Father God, I thank you that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I recognize that I have come into agreement with the lie, I take responsibility for believing that ________________ (fill in the blank). I repent for entertaining negative thoughts and renounce the lie. Father God, I ask you to replace the lie with your truth. I thank you for your forgiveness and for your unfailing love. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I break any agreements I made with the enemy and ask for a fresh revelation of my identity in Christ. Amen!

Questions to pray and ponder:
Can you remember and describe a time in your life when you decided to turn your life over to God and then couldn’t completely commit?

Are there any lies you can think of about God that you might be believing that could be causing distance between you and the Father? What Bible verse could replace the lie with God’s truth?

What can you do to stay devoted to God and not follow the ways of the world? Challenge yourself to ask God a question, sit quietly and wait for Him to answer. Make this a regular practice and watch Him draw near to you as you pursue Him.

 

The Cavities in Life Are Not God’s Fault

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When I was young, I got a cavity. I wasn’t nervous sitting in the chair with all the silver tools around me. After a few deep breaths of nitrous the nurse swabbed some numbing cream on my gums. A flash of anxiety washed over me as I glanced at the large needle heading towards my mouth. There was the stick, the sting, and boom – the worst was supposed to be done.

Moments later I noticed a look of concern on my dentist’s face. The room filled with tension as he began to shake my right cheek.

My face went numb, my tongue was double its normal size and my right eye was now closed. My cheek, now swollen to the size of a large softball, was sadly turning black and blue.

Apologetically, the dentist explained to my dad that I had a tiny mouth, and for the first time in this seasoned dentist’s career, he accidentally shot the Novocain into a vein.

The result was I couldn’t enjoy solid food for a couple weeks. From my forehead to my neck, it looked like I had been beaten up and the relentless teasing at school took its toll on me. This trauma took about a month to heal physically, but the emotional hit would affect my life for decades.

Dr. Bettis didn’t mean to cause such trauma as he only wanted to care for my teeth. This was an oddity, not a planned attack, but I blamed him and now feared every dentist in the world. They couldn’t be trusted and wouldn’t protect me. I would battle irrational anxiety that, by my 20s, kept me from being able to walk in an office for a routine cleaning for nearly a decade.

I finally went to the dentist, and much later I realized I saw God how I viewed the dentist. It’s easy to point the finger and blame God for the bumps and bruises, the hard times and the things that happen to us that just are not fair. It’s easy because the voice of the enemy is relentless in his pursuit to get us to doubt God’s goodness.

Accusation is a nasty evil that if not careful, can warp the way we view God. It can be very subtle often using an element of truth to set us up to believe a counterfeit truth. These lies hinder your relationship with God, work to tear down your identity in Christ, and open the door to other strongholds like bitterness, anger and fear.

I fell victim to the enemy because I was not cemented in the Word. I didn’t truly know God’s character or my identity in Christ. I saw Him as a punisher and accused Him of making me pay for mistakes.

I thought of God as I thought of the dentist ­– unsafe and not to be trusted. Why? Because I believed God was responsible for all the good and bad that happened in life. This lie absolved me of owning the poor choices I made, but worse, it took the blame right off Satan. It was God who looked like the bad guy. By all appearances, He was against me, but nothing could be further from the truth.

These accusations would nearly destroy me by the time I hit 40. Satan blamed God for all he was doing to wreck my life. And I ate up every bit of it and grew disappoint in God. This also kept me in denial because I couldn’t see where I bore any responsibility for the mess.

I stewed over all the unmet expectations I placed on God. I wanted what I wanted and when I didn’t get it in my timing, accusations against God surfaced, such as:

  1. He did not hear my prayers
  2. He was not for me
  3. He wasn’t a good father
  4. He was a punisher

So many lies swirled in my mine because I didn’t understand it was my job o take the destructive thoughts captive and defend the Father. The negative thoughts fueled my pain and kept me from forming a solid relationship with God. I was convinced He was responsible for all that was wrong in my marriage, my job, my health, etc.

We had just lost our fourth child, and accusation led me to develop a fear of the Lord that was ungodly. I also felt abandoned by the One who said He’d never leave or forsake me.

I held God responsible for killing my babies as I had come into agreement with the accuser’s grandest lie: God is responsible for all that happens in life. I felt like He didn’t protect them to punish me, and I thought I must not be worthy to be a parent. This destroyer was killing my dream of raising a child, crushing my spirit, attacking my relationship with God and slowly tearing up my marriage.

As a result I rebuked God. I was so angry at Him that I no longer saw a good Daddy, but only saw perceived abuse. Accusation was stealing my peace and joy, making me an explosive mess in my home and robbing me of enjoying the pleasures that come from a man and wife creating life. Accusation was opening door to many other strongmen to come and wreck me. Envy, bitterness, rejection, complaining, control and manipulation… Those were just a few.

One day I found myself on the floor of our church crying to God to take my pain away. I had heard our pastor declare, “What grieves God most was bitterness and iniquity of sin.” He made an alter call, and I flew out of my chair. I was dying inside and wanted a way out. As I walked to the front I felt like a voice was telling me my iniquity was bitterness, and it needed to be ripped out of me. Then I was smacked with the reality I was guilty of accusing God because I didn’t trust His timing.

I repented and renounced all the agreements I had made with the devil. Bitterness with God stemmed from the lie that He killed my babies, but the Word says the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Envy was the result of the accusation that God was blessing everyone but me because I was a bad person. Anger was the by-product of placing expectations on God when Satan twisted the verse that says, “Ask and it will be given to you.”

It was wonderful getting set free. The Lord showed up in a mighty way and filled me with peace. He plucked that envy right out of me, and I was no longer afraid of Him.

This was the beginning of a journey that culminated in the holding my daughter in my arms a year later. It was the full expression of Phillipians 4:4-7.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

If you think you are being attacked by an accusing spirit but are not sure, take a look at the following checklist and if these characteristics apply:

  1. You are suspicious.
  2. You project fear and analyze others motives, including God’s.
  3. You are bitter.
  4. You do not trust others.
  5. You consistently believe the worst.
  6. You are easily offended and/or can create an offense.
  7. You make rash judgments based on limited knowledge and misunderstandings.
  8. You turn away from relationships and fellowship even after there has been repentance.
  9. You zero in on the flaws, weaknesses and evil in others while tending to exclude the good.
  10. You live in denial and always find someone to blame.

If you feel like you have been participating with accusing spirits after reading the list above, simply repeat the following prayer out loud:

Father God, I thank you that there is no condemnation to those who are in Jesus Christ. And it is in His mighty name that I recognize and take responsibility in my life and in my generations for all accusation. I repent for and renounce participating with all spirits of accusation against God, self and others. I release all my guilt, shame, fear, mistrust, judgments and offenses and ask God that you fill me with your peace, love and truth. I ask for forgiveness and receive my forgiveness for participating in and serving accusation. I thank you Father for your mercy and grace. Give me the wisdom to discern your voice and the ability to recognize accusing thoughts so that I can take them captive. In Jesus name, amen.

Next steps:
If you’d like to learn more about Satan and how he can use spirits of accusation to cripple you in your life, click here and listen to the teaching on accusation.

Your Grace Is Enough

Blue shoes standing at u-turn point

There’s nothing sweeter than listening to your child rocking a car seat concert as she’s belting out “Your grace is enough,” along with the Veggie Tales. It’s a precious moment to absorb her unconditional love of God as she’s squealing through the verses. I am consumed with her child-like faith, and I’m pondering what grace really means.

As the song draws to an end… Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber are talking when Bob announces “grace means unmerited favor.”

No offense to Bob the Tomato as I do believe God’s grace is enough, but his declaration seems off. A check in my spirit tells me that definition was not right, but sadly I didn’t understand why.

It wasn’t long after this drive I sat in some healing training from a well-known west coast pastor. I was taking in every word, and he blew my mind when he declared, “When we are born again, we are made brand new.” Yes! That lit me up!

He continued comparing believers to top-of-the-line Mclaren bikes proclaiming “we are not re-furbished models when born again.” It made sense to me – everything from the past, present and future was wiped clean. We are now spotless and righteous. Perfect in God’s eyes. Yes! I was now out of my seat!

But then he continued. He said there were no generational iniquity, no curses and no strongholds affecting our lives because we were born again. He said all of this had been taken care of on the cross. And I thought to myself… this is clearly unmerited favor. This must be grace.

A month or so later, I was teaching a group of women about healing when I literally felt a punch to my gut. One question went through my mind… If what that man said is true, then why are we in need of healing?

I’ve been a sold out, hard core follower of Jesus Christ for nearly the last decade. But this “new model” battled with high blood pressure, infertility, recurrent miscarriage, massive female problems including PMDD. I also dealt with bouts of insomnia, a blood clotting disorder, acid reflux, serious stomach problems, chronic sinus infections as well as bone issues that had led to two major surgeries in five years.

How was this possible if I was a “new model” when I gave my life to Jesus?

September 2014 was a real low for me. Instead of traveling to Japan on my first mission trip, I ended up in surgery to repair a badly damaged left foot and ankle. My arch fell, tendons shredded and my ankle was nearly out of its socket. I had spent the better part of a year praying for a miracle – living with chronic pain – determined that this “Mclaren bike” would be healed. I would see that unmerited favor and have my healing miracle.

Instead I sat on my couch for the next six months mad as a hornet. Where was my unmerited favor? Where was my new foot? Why did I now have metal screws and a fake arch in my body?

It became a mathematical equation I just couldn’t solve. A plus B just never added up to C. I was no longer buying what Bob the Tomato (or that pastor) was selling.

Unmerited favor. That’s a great concept in theory, but Satan, the father of lies, has done an excellent job penetrating into the church body at large a misconception that is leading many to perish to due a lack of knowledge.

Here’s why: If grace is automatically given to me when I accepted Christ, and if God showers me with favor no matter what I do, then it stands to reason that I do not have to do anything to receive it. I do not have to read the Word. I do not have to pray. I do not have to follow God’s laws. I do not have to rid the sinful patterns in my life. I do not have to do anything more than raise my hand in church and declare Jesus is my savior to be guaranteed a one-way ticket to eternal life.

I realized sitting on my couch that I expected a lot from God. This idea of grace being unmerited favor had warped my understanding to the point that I was pulling a Janet Jackson with God… constantly asking him “what have you done for me lately?” Not literally… but deep down… that’s exactly what I was doing. I wanted His portion of the Covenant, but I had no real idea of what my part of the equation was supposed to be.

By the end of 2014, my life was spinning out of control. My health, my marriage and my finances were all a mess. I was struggling in my church chasing after emotional experiences. I felt like my world was collapsing around me. I knew something had to change and so did God.

A family friend suggested my husband and I visit Son Rise Church and Ministries. There we met a pastor who would begin to open my eyes to the true Gospel and what was missing in my life.

I was gently shown how Satan had me convinced I was not bound by Jesus’ teaching (repent and sin no more). It was okay to fudge the rules – because God was full of grace! This lie was undermining all that Jesus did for me on the cross. I, without knowing, was belittling the sacrifice God made because I assumed we are not guilty no matter what. I tried to be a good person, but I was in no way living a life of repentance.

See, this hyper-grace message, being taught all over the world, emphasizes the grace of God with the exclusion of vital components such as confession of and turning away from sin. Because we have been forgiven, there is no need for a believer to ever confess sin. This warped concept says, “When God looks at us, He sees only as a holy and righteous people.” It completely leave out the truth that our choice to sin opens the door to the enemy and places us under his law.

This hyper-grace lie blinds many just like me to the damage of generational iniquities and curses in their lives. This lie tells believers they are not responsible for sin, and sets up what we are dealing with today – A world full of supposed legalism. Even worse, a day and age when to stand up for your religious beliefs turns you into a hater. It is causing a generation of God’s children to say, “If I live my life how I want but am a good person, surely I will go to Heaven.”

Sadly, this unmerited favor idea of grace is nothing more than the fulfillment of the prophecy in Jude 1:4 that said, For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

The Bible also warns us against this messed up idea of grace. Romans 6:23 says, the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Dont you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6)

But if grace is not unmerited favor, then what is it?
The Word does teach us that it is by grace we are saved. But Paul also said that it was by faith that we were saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Grace, as un-deserved favor of God, rests in the truth of Colossians 1:27 which says “Christ in us. The hope of glory.”

True New Testament grace is not unmerited favor. It is someone (Jesus Christ) or something (Holy Spirit) that provides help – That someone or something that gives you a reason for hoping. It is through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit living in us that we can do that which, in our own strength, we would not be able to do.

Merrium-Webster defines grace as unmerited divine assistance given humans for their sanctification – a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.

Grace is the power of God working in us giving us the ability to turn from sin, to defeat iniquity and strongholds and to courageously defeat the enemy. In our own strength, our flesh has no ability to overcome sin. But the grace of God, that is His Son Jesus Christ, found us not guilty, paved a way for us to be with the Father, provided an inheritance for us full of riches and fruit and restored the ability for us to live a Garden of Eden life.

Paul explains this gift of grace, as the ultimate sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, which reconciled us to God. Jesus did not cancel the laws His Father wrote. He did not say go and live an immoral, wretched life while tasting and eating my good fruit. Rather He gave us the Holy Spirit, by way of His Son, so that we could keep His Commandments – ultimately defeating the sin that is destroying so many of our lives.

Grace is the vehicle by which God strengthens the church. Our job is to seek at all times to become like Christ, having faith that while our works can produce nothing, the Power of God working in us will help us attain the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. On a daily basis grace conforms us more and more to the image of Jesus.

This sanctification requires Christians, as Paul commands, to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). And Romans 6 tells us how. We are not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies or to be tempted to evil desires.

“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).

God is the one who does the work of making us more like Christ. We participate in that work by continually turning away from sin and demonstrating faith by obeying God’s commands. The Holy Spirit plays a vital role because as we walk in the power of the Spirit we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).

Having my eyes opened to this truth made the Bible and especially the Gospel come alive in my life. For the first time, the equation had an answer that added up to something amazing – summarized in Galatians 2:20.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

The more faith I had in dealing with my mess and the deeper I delved into daily practice of repentance, the more I was able to rid the bitterness, anger, accusation and fear from my life. For the first time in my life, I found true freedom. When I got out of my own way, took up my cross and began to follow Jesus rather than chase an emotional experience, miracles sprang forth in every area of my life.

I’ve been healed of everything I listed earlier in this blog. I lost 40 pounds as I shed the weight of carrying around the shame in my life. My relationships with my daughter and key family members improved drastically and my marriage… well let’s just say that a couple on the brink of divorce, both of whom would admit that there was no love left, are acting like newly weds. The fighting in my home is gone and in its place is joy and peace.

I am honestly blown away at the work the Lord has done in my life. Both my spouse and I have seen major increase in provision. I’ve grown in ministry and seen some incredible miracles spring forth in the lives of those around me.

The more I repent, rebuke and resist sin, the more I am willing to stand up to the enemy and say, “No, you have no claim on me or my family,” the more I am seeing the blessing of Abraham manifest in my life and in my family’s lives. This is the true product of grace.

If you are struggling in any area of your life – in your spirit, soul and body, in the work of your hands or in your relationships – I urge you to ask yourself one important question. Are you seeking repentance on a regular basis? If not, I invite you to seek God and give it a try. If what you are currently doing is not working, step aside and allow grace to finally come in and work on your behalf. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Pray and Ponder:

  1. What are some areas you are currently struggling with? Ask God for forgiveness and watch Him go to work on your behalf. If you are not sure what true repentance looks like, click and listen to Pastor John Aldridge’s Eight R’s to Freedom teaching.
  1. Have you been operating under the idea of hyper-grace? If so, ask God what true grace is and let Him speak to you.
  1. Do you need healing or freedom in any area of your life?  Click and listen to parts 1 and 2 of Biblical Foundations for Healing.

 

 

 

 

When Drivenness is Destructive

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From a very young age, critical voices influenced how I viewed myself. I was drowning in a river of negativity with thoughts that began with “You’re not (fill in the blank)”.

Good enough. Smart enough. Talented enough. Pretty enough. Qualified enough. Creative enough. Innocent enough. Skinny enough.

Enough. Enough. Enough.

I recall hearing this voice for the first time when my family moved. My parents were proud to call themselves homeowners while I felt forced to leave the life I enjoyed to start the last year of elementary in a new school filled with strange faces.

Fifth grade was a hard year for me. This school was night and day different from my old one, and I felt like a fish out of water. While I did make friends, this was a lonely year.

I think this is where I began to strive for perfection, as I believed I would be liked if I was the best in class, a great Girl Scout and a stand out on safety patrol. I was driven to make the best Valentine’s Day box, get straight A’s and excel at skating. I worked hard at being perfect, but in the quiet of the night, the voices in my head seemed to get louder. “No one will like you.” “You are boring.” “You will never fit in.”

Sadly the very next year, I started junior high, and the cycle repeated – a new school across town, kids that could reject me, and a new set of fears to deal with. These thoughts devalued myself until one day I believed the negativity. “I’m a hag.” “I’ll never be popular.” So many lies filled the pages of my diary. I began to feel tortured inside.

My way of dealing with the lies in high school was to prove them wrong. I was driven to be the best in everything – newspaper, drill team and honors classes. No matter what I did, I excelled at it. I fought to silence my mind, trying to convince myself of my worth, but I felt the only way anyone would notice me, like me, and/or love me was if I exceeded expectations in every area of my life.

Sadly college was more of the same. No matter what I did, I’d hear the nagging voice devaluing me even though I was a sorority officer and yearbook editor, making good grades and sustaining great friendships.

My third year in college, I experienced love at first sight. We began dating, and I twisted myself into knots to be exactly what I thought he wanted me to be. I was frustrated because I was becoming someone I didn’t like as I devalued myself – crossing many boundaries I didn’t really want to. Eventually, my heart was broken when this man cheated on me. Rejected and heartbroken, I shut down emotionally. While I was cool on the outside, I was a raging mess on the inside.

The worse the thoughts got, the more driven I became. I graduated and began a job working for a magazine. I twisted my stomach in knots, stressing over the pressure to write that perfect feature. Not only that… I excelled at graphic design even though I had no formal training.

I quickly rose in my career, but despite the success, I only saw what I lacked. I defined myself by my job title but wasn’t satisfied until I was promoted. The pressure I put on myself to exceed expectations led me to have stomach problems and insomnia.

My personal life was worse. I had no concept of value, which set me up for heartache and pain as I tried to be someone I wasn’t. My self-esteem and confidence dove to an all-time low as the next man I loved told me I was fat, alienated me from his friends and often took his bad moods out on me. The more I tried to please him, the more I got hurt. This was a toxic relationship – a cocktail of mental and physical abuse.

For several years I endured the highs and lows of this affair. It tragically ended when he slammed his head into my car windshield, but you’d think I was the one cracked as I was destroyed. I should have been happy to see him gone, but I believed no one would ever love me.

My shattered heart and desolated self-image could not handle another trauma. But sadly, I was date raped by the very next guy who came into my life. I was in such bad shape that I actually thought this was my fault as I had put myself in a bad situation that I should have known better.

Shame consumed me. I was plummeting into a deep depression – trapped in a cycle of people pleasing and performance anxiety as well as unhealthy attempts to meet the expectations of another. I was making co-dependent decisions based on my need to be needed, to be validated and feel worthy. But all I was getting out of it was destroyed.

Eventually, I spent time in counseling and found a measure of healing. My life would ebb and flow between the peace that came with being alone and the chaos that came with dating someone that was no good for me.

It would be another 15 years before I would summon the strength and courage to silence the accuser for good when I began to sit in a Bible church pew instead of sitting in another’s expectations of me and began to let God’s Word permeate through my heart and soul.

I meditated on the reality that I was saved by God’s grace and not on the basis of works. Romans 11:6 began to open the door to freedom as I realized the truth –God loves, accepts and values me… just the way I am.

My Heavenly Father desires a relationship with me and has great plans for me based on His heart and His view of me. I could not be perfect enough or good enough to ever deserve such a gift.

This was revelation! My value was no longer dependent upon other people’s opinions. My worth would no longer be defined by men or by job title. What I thought about myself was not based on how skinny I was, how long my hair was or by the expensive purses I carried.

Worthy by definition means having merit, or value; good and deserving of respect, praise, or attention; having enough good qualities to be considered important and/or useful.

It’s sad all the years I was tormented. The more I strived for anyone to define me as worthy the worse my life got. Sadly I failed to realize God’s Word had plenty to say about my worth.

Once I knew that His view of me was the only one that mattered, I began to flourish and grow comfortable in my own skin.

I was made in the image of God who said I was more precious than silver and gold. God wrote about the days of my life before I was born. God chose me as His child before the foundations of the earth were formed to serve an important purpose in His Kingdom.

Coming into this reality changed my life in profound ways as some health issues and high blood pressure disappeared. My marriage improved as I stopped the co-dependency and the need to be “right”.

I discovered a piece of wisdom that has transformed my life: while it is okay to pursue excellence, any drivenness or perfectionism bread out fears, low self-worth and other negative reasons should instantly be recognized and dealt with.

 

Are you looking for love in all the wrong places?
Just like I did, there are many determining their self-worth based on what other people say. This results in us developing unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drivenness, perfectionism and people pleasing.

Here are signs you might be struggling in this area:

  • You believe if you excel at home, at work or in life, others will accept and love you. This belief causes self-doubt and frustration when expectations are not met.
  • You are careful not to hurt someone’s feelings and place everyone’s feelings above yours.
  • You tend to look around and compare yourself to others. You can be super critical of yourself and typically believe you are less than, not good enough or will never measure up.
  • You have a difficult time opening up, being vulnerable and sharing your feelings with others due to an intense fear of perceived failure and rejection.
  • The word no is not in your vocabulary, and as a result, you resent and harbor bitterness when others say no or you engage in things you didn’t want to.
  • You have a lot of one-sided relationships and can tend to feel used.
  • While extremely critical of yourself and others, you often take criticism poorly by getting offended, defensive and angry.
  • You often feel like nothing you do is good enough, feeling continually dissatisfied, depressed and stressed.

 

You can be set free!
Healing begins when you can recognize these destructive patterns in your life and begin to allow God’s truth to replace the lie that you are not valuable enough to be loved. When you can accept God’s love based on grace and let go of the destructive “works” mentality, God can begin to heal the tender places in your heart.

Accept the truth that your value and worth were determined by God when He sacrificed His Son. It was this price (Jesus on the cross) that makes you worthy. In fact, it’s this ultimate price that makes you (and me) priceless.

When you know your worth through the eyes of the One who loves you completely, no one in the natural or the spiritual can make you feel unworthy.

Unfortunately, the enemy will continue to chip away at your value. When you begin to hear the negative whispers again, speak the truth of Galatians 2:20 out loud.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

If you are ready to silence the accuser by tuning into the loving whisper of God, simply repeat this prayer. After, be encouraged to dive into the Bible and ask God to highlight verses that define you!

 

Pray loudly:
Father God, I thank you that you are the Lord of All. I thank you that you gave me my identity. Daddy, I only care about hearing all that you say I am. I ask you would silence the negative, condemning voice in my mind and change my frequency to hear your voice clearly. Father, I desire to seek approval from only you… not from my friends or family. Keep my eyes focused on your plan for my life. Help trigger me to stop when I begin to fall into my old patterns of drivenness and perfectionism. I ask Father for you to forgive me for engaging in codependent behaviors that have been destructive in my life. Father, I thank you that you sacrificed your Son. Thank you for showing me just how valuable I am. I thank you for healing my heart, my soul and my spirit as I come into more of your loving truth. Father, I declare – You are my source… the only One I need. My life is yours to have your will. May my life bring you honor and glory, in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Questions to pray and ponder:

  1. What do you think about yourself – honestly? Would these thoughts line up with God’s view of you?
  2. Are you able to discern when Satan is invading your thought life trying to convince you that you are not worth?
  3. Do you struggle with perfectionism and drivenness? What are some ways you can stop this destructive pattern?
  4. What are three Bible verses confirming your value that you can declare loudly every day?

Father Against Father

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“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)

As a father, I see this as my duty to our daughter. It is my responsibility to give her the knowledge, discipline and advice she needs to have a good life as well as a healthy, whole life.

In reflecting on how I was raised, I believe this is how my own father felt. Life was often hard in our house. As the child that was a “surprise” and much younger than my other siblings, I often felt alone. It didn’t help that my father would face medical issues when I was young that would change the dynamics of his world forever. With the challenges and woundings my father dealt with, I suffered much, and I don’t think he in any way rose to the challenge above.

There was no open communication in my house. I was struggling in many ways to understand who I was and who I was created to be. I sat in church, but didn’t understand God or what His plan for my life was to be. I was expected to be what my parents wanted me to be. I wanted to make my parents happy and not create waves, but I was confused about many things.

There was very little nurturing in my home. I don’t remember hugs or being told that I was loved. I am not saying it never happened, it just happened so sparingly that I was desperate for affection. I began at some point in my teens to look for some kind of emotional connection, but often found nothing but sadness and despair as it always seemed like I was not enough or couldn’t measure up to the expectations placed on me.

Sadly, during my high school years, I excelled at many things but couldn’t feel any sense of accomplishment. I wasn’t happy even though I was in the top of my class academically. I was the starting tight end of the varsity football team and pursued many other extra-curricular activities but still felt such a void inside.

I had rarely dated or pursued girls at my school. My dad had made it firmly clear that girls were not my priority. However, during the summer days leading into my senior year that all changed.

I met a girl, and tried to do and be everything the way I thought she wanted me to be. Against my father’s objections, we began to date.

I remember one night we went to the beach for a night out. It was a cool summer’s night, yet we heated up the car in lust-filled passion. On my 17th birthday, we had sex for the first time. It was not safe to talk about sex in my home. As messed up as this sounds, I thought sex was something I had to do as a man – like it was expected. This was a subject that was not safe to discuss with my dad. So sadly, I cared about having sex, not the girl it was with.

Whether she was “the one” or not was not relevant… I was enjoying my manhood. That was until one day, she confessed she was pregnant. Instantly, waves of fear washed over me. What was I going to do? What would my father do to me? What was going to happen to my future and her future? I was feeling alone and desired to simply cover up the problem.

This was a problem no teenager should have to deal with. Here I was trapped in one tense moment in life where people have two choices – rely on our own judgements or ask for help.

Unfortunately, I had a father that I did not trust for many reasons. He did not condone me dating, much less the sex he did not know I was having. Riddled in fear and shame, I decided I had to rely on my own decision, which was to cover up my mess. I didn’t talk about this with anyone.

I felt trapped because I didn’t want the baby, but I didn’t necessarily believe in abortion either. But I had no one to confide in. No one was there to help advise me. Therefore when she announced that she wanted to have an abortion, I didn’t fight her choice. I didn’t stand up for what I believed, nor did I support her at all. I left her alone to make this enormous decision, and I left her to deal with this all on her own.

Although I gave her the money, I had other priorities during the football season. On a Friday afternoon, my baby died while I played a high school football game. See I couldn’t miss practice or a game for fear of dad finding out. So I dumped all of this on her and felt relief that she took care of the problem. I only wanted to save my own skin as I was riddled in fear.

I have spent a large portion of my life filled with guilt and shame. When my wife and I struggled to have a baby and suffered through a bunch of miscarriages, I truly believed that this was my punishment for the dirty secret hidden in my past.

There’s lots of freedom that has had to come from this painful time in my life, but one lie that I believed was that because of the relationship I had with my dad, I had no authority to turn to in my distress. I felt lost and alone.

I had been in church all my life, but I will admit that I had let the relationship with my earthly dad define how I saw God the Father. I didn’t see him as loving, but I saw him as the same unloving distant, punishing dad. But sadly that was just not true.

I would hit the age of 40 before I would finally discover the truth… the truth explained in 2 Corinthians 1:3. God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is also my Father… is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.

I am still to this day wrapping my head around the unconditional love God the Father has for me. As I grew up thinking that my dad’s love was conditional on so many things.

But honestly, I’ve had a rough time even accepting that I have two fathers. I have an earthly father, whose job it was to guide me and point the way for me to accept and get to know who I am in Christ as well as a heavenly Father who comforts me, consoles me, protects me, provides for me and loves me no matter what.

I wish I had understood at 17 years old, that if my earthly father was not going to or able to guide me, my heavenly Father could and would do it. For Jesus said, “… If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him,” (John 14:23 KJV).

I wasn’t getting what I needed at home. I didn’t receive what I needed from God sitting in the pews of my Catholic church, nor did I get the emotional fulfillment I desired from the girl I was sleeping with. But I was getting filled with a lot of lies… lies I believed because there was no one else showing me a better way. Sadly Satan devoured my relationship with my father, my virginity, my child and me. Why? Because the devil “…was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not the truth, because there is no truth in him…He is a liar, and the father of it,” (John 8:44 KJV).

See Satan is the father of lies, and even though I felt I followed no father at all, I listened to, believed and sadly followed the father of lies. I was convinced in my sin that it was easier not to deal with the pain in my home, to make my own poor choices, to lie, cover it up and deflect when those choices bit me. I learned at a young age that I didn’t have to take responsibility for my life or my choices. It would be costly to tell the truth and deal with an issue, so I grew to be passive aggressive and manipulative. This way of living would have devastating effects – costing me one marriage and nearly costing me my second. Luckily, I was able to seek help and get some much-needed freedom to save the family I now hold so dear.

As I dedicated time to build a stronger relationship with God, Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I am thankful to have such a forgiving, loving Father who has given me the grace and mercy necessary to lay down my past and reshape my future.

I didn’t start out being a good father to the one child I have. I used to wonder what will my daughter think of me when she reflects on Proverbs 22:6 and compare it to the way I loved her. I knew I cared for my child but wasn’t sure I really loved her or not those first several years. I wasted time scared I was doing everything wrong or living in the anxiety that I’d end up like my dad.

God is so faithful and mighty to save. I’ve moved past the past. I’ve forgiven my dad, myself and released my guilt and shame. I am still working on letting go of the passivity by actively seeking to be present and involved with my daughter. I’ve learned to love unconditionally using God as my model as well as to be the kind of parent that will allow my daughter to thrive in who God created her to be. I imagine this to be the way my dad had wanted to parent me.

I can’t look backward as God encourages us to move forward. The past is gone. I’ve done all I can to repent and let go of the painful parts of my past that set me up for failure. But, t9here’s still one desire that remains for me: I look forward to the day I hold the hand of the child I loved, yet never met.

 

Next steps
Did you struggle in your childhood in a dysfunctional relationship with one or both of your parents? Difficult relationships with parents can cause emotional wounds that can hinder our ability to develop a healthy identity and cause us to view God in ways that conflict with His true nature and character. If you struggle to feel a sense of belonging, have difficulty in making decisions or taking initiative, have a rough time receiving love or even compliments from others, or feel rejected often, maybe its time for you to pray and consider doing the following:

  • Recognize and repent of any bitterness, grudges, resentments, anger or hatred towards one or both of your parents.
  • Ask God for his forgiveness and accept His forgiveness.
  • Invite Him to heal the hurts and wounds of your past and be open to receiving the unconditional love your Father has for you.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to begin to speak to you about your identity in Christ.
  • Give thanks and praise for the work God is doing and will continue to do in your heart.
  • Begin learning how to take the destructive thoughts captive and form new thoughts about God in order to replace Satan’s lies with God’s truth.
  • Enjoy the freedom that comes from soaking in your true Father’s love.

Want to learn more about the Father’s love? Click here to listen to a powerful message from Senior Pastor John Aldridge of Son Rise Church and ministries.

 

About the guest author
Scott Slater grew up as the last of five children in a military family. Scott spent most of his formative years trying to understand his identity in God. Twice, he almost joined the priesthood, both from high school and college, but could not reconcile his deep desire for a family.

After 10 years of wandering through a failed marriage and broken relationships, Scott met his wife, Kimberly. With God by their side, they built a family despite many attacks on their marriage and the devastating loss of many unborn children. Through faith in Christ and the healing of his broken heart, Scott delights in the Word of God and enjoys delivering that message to those who open their hearts.

Scott has spent time as a men’s mentor and member of the alter team at Gateway Church. Scott resides in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, with his beautiful wife, 6-year-old daughter and three rescued shelter dogs.