Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How do you Stand Fast in your Freedom?

This post is dedicated to honor a very important anniversary today, the day God answered my quiet, unsure plea for deliverance.

On the wall, over my fireplace mantel, is the verse Galatians 5:1: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

This verse captures everything that I have gone through in a year of recovery and restoration. 

Stand Fast is to prevail against, to hold one's ground, to remain firm. There are actions to standing firm. It's not just an idea or thought. It's is affirmative action! 
So how do you Stand Firm? 

In Christ. That is all. 

It is nothing you personally do to try and change yourself, change habits or whatever self-help book you read. If you are not absorbing God's Word into the marrow of your bones you will never understand what it is to Stand Firm in your freedom in Christ. Everyday immersion in the Word, deliberate and with the purpose of letting Christ sanctify you through and through is the only way. Let Him have access to every thought, every action and even to transform your wayward emotions.

Did you know that after a word search for synonyms of Liberty I found "birthright"? Oh do I feel that to my core!! My birthright through Christ makes Liberty an inherited promise, a right, a privilege, and a fact! When Christ went to the cross and cried "It is Finished!" to bring my ravaged soul salvation, He provided this birthright so that when I became a born again believer I could live everyday in that freedom! It's right there, in front of us. We have to want it and choose it for it to become a reality in everyday life.

To be entangled is to be in a trap, a snare, a sticky web, to be muddled, puzzled and confused. Second Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. No wonder why we get confused! Do you know how we can avoid being entangled in a sticky, confusing web? To know the Word of God so thoroughly that you can spot the difference between darkness cloaked in a mask of pretend light to the awe-inspiring, majestic and breath taking Truth of Jesus Christ. There is no substitute and there is no other version.

A yoke of bondage is slavery. The Miriam Webster dictionary says it is "an arched device formerly laid on the neck of a defeated person." A slavery we choose. We walk right into it, sometimes without even a question or a pause, just head long running into the yoke of bondage. Shackles and chains that we put on ourselves and allow Satan to turn the lock. We are befuddled and confused in an entangled web of deception. Satan weaves lies so crafty and containing tiny portions of half truths and self gratifying feelings that we hardly realize we've fallen into a pit. 

Someone needs to hear this loud and clear today: 
You are Free in Christ! 

Satan has no rights over you, he doesn't own you, he can't keep you against your will! You are God's child, His possession. You remain in bondage because you are allowing Satan power over you. God is bigger and stronger than anything you've done. His death on the cross was all sufficient and completely covering of all your sins. It is an event that happened in the past tense that provides a present day overcoming power and is the unobjectionable perfect provision for your daily freedom! You have the right, in Christ, to say to your yoke of bondage, NO Longer!

I imagine in my head that when my tiny, timid, unsure plea for deliverance reached heavens ears, Jesus said "Well for goodness sake girl...it's about time! I've been longing to give you what I have stored up for you, I just needed you to actually want it!"

That unsure, timid girl has been growing in knowledge and Truth. For years, I have known God's Word. It was in me, in my head...not my heart. It has been as though God plucked me out of the pit and placed me in seclusion for the one purpose of doing the hard work of restoring my wrecked soul. In doing so, my faith has grown strong, my belief of who I am in Christ has emboldened me to speak it out, and I even had a friend recently tell me she thinks of me as a fierce warrior. Oh, that God would make me into more than twice the foe of hell I ever thought I could be!

Praise you Lord Jesus for the complete redemption and restoration that only You can do!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Am I called into Ministry...?

Am I called into ministry….?

Years ago, I used to admire women's speakers. The motivational, gifted in exhortation-style speakers. I thought... "Wouldn’t it be awesome to be that one day!?" My next train of thought went on to something like..."what on earth would I talk about?" What have I been through in life or what has God taught me that makes me so passionate that I could travel the country speaking life into women's hearts? 

Well, I will tell you, I certainly wasn't ready, both in the level of experience or in the areas of surrender and dependence on God. I was prideful with the little bit I knew, and mostly wanted to be on a stage proclaiming it. 

The statement that God works in mysterious ways is truer than you know. I am 11+ years later in maturity and far more experienced in the grace, mercy and restorative gifts of God. God knew then, unfortunately, the many trips through the pit I'd need to make before I'd believe Him and truly follow Him only.

I found myself going through a trial/temptation that I was constantly getting pushed in an area of life where I was weak and didn't rely on God, but myself. My own will power, my own plan. What I didn't realize is that it was a sifting. A sifter, in baking terms, is something you use to sift the bad out of the good, and are left with chaff so to speak, the garbage. God was sifting me and I didn't recognize it or care. The problem was the thing God kept trying to sift wouldn't come out, I was hanging onto it. Don't you think for one minute God's done with one time of sifting. He will use whatever means necessary to make it sift out. This includes my 11+ years in bondage to sin. I just kept going round and round with God, it truly is amazing watching His never-ending patience display itself.

I am now on the other side of this sifting. Yes, it finally sifted! An extraordinarily painful, but necessary, experience. There was no way I would have ever been able to effectively, selflessly serve the Lord with Kingdom purposes whilst dragging my shackles and chains around with me. The noise alone of my bondage would’ve been too distracting!

So now what?

I find myself having a completely different point of view. Those questions I asked above of what I could possibly talk about to women…well God allowed me to go through the years and years of sifting to show me what I could speak about one day. He literally did take my mess and turn it into His message.

God very clearly has laid it on my heart that He did not free me from bondage to sin for me to be silent about it. Scripture says that if we do not praise Him, the rocks will cry out. This rescuing was so extravagant that the bricks on my house will surely cry out if I don’t obey Him and praise out loud for His restorative mercy and grace!

 I have no desire to stand in front of people and explain my worst failures and describe my years of circling the drain of the pit. The problem is, the message is that you cannot go too far for God to chase you and rescue you, and for anyone to get that message…they have to hear my story of failure to hear God’s glorious message of redemption and restoration.

Satan would love to bury me in absolute terror, doubts and questioning. Also, he likes to tell me that I can just quietly thank God for my rescuing and go on about my life, living as a quiet, good Christian woman. He comes as straight lies and he masquerades as half-truths.

Truly I tell you, the second that message hits my thoughts, it’s like holy sirens from heaven are going off in my head, bright red flashing signs saying “Lies!! Lies from the pit of hell! Do not believe it!!”

So what’s a girl to do with a crystal clear calling from God to speak the truth of His love when there is no real path laid before me? The following scriptures are a balm to my anxious soul right now.

Psalm 46:10: Be Still and Know That I Am God
Isaiah 55:8: Your ways are not MY ways and your thoughts are not MY thoughts, declares the Lord
Lamentations 3:25-26: The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

I have concluded that one day God has a certain something for me to do. He has put that certain something, like a seed, growing in my heart that one day will come to fruition. That time has not yet come. So I will soak in His Word, sit at His feet and worship, sing at the top of my lungs of His great love, and trust His heart and His infinite wisdom. I will be making sure, to the best of my ability, I am in exactly the right spot and aiming at being the exact person He wants me to be so that I will one day be used to my fullest potential. He is Sovereign, He is God and I am not. That is all I need to know. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

To the Christian trapped in sin...

To the Christian trapped in sin…

This is what I wish someone had told me years ago when I was trapped in a web of lies and sin. I was buried in bondage so suffocating that I didn’t know how to draw a breath of clean air from the Holy Spirit.

It was right there, available, the whole time. Only I never knew, or believed...or even cared.

I was in a dark, cold jail cell. Picture it with me. Hard concrete walls, cold, void of any light, joy, happiness, and most of all- void of Truth. The curious thing is even though I was a prisoner…the door to the cell was wide open!

You see, when Christ died for our sins, He died for them ALL. He swung that creaky jail cell door open wide with Salvation and Redemption. Our part is to get up off the jail bed and walk through the door to the freedom He gives. It’s already there, ours for the taking! I was a believer, in that, I had accepted Christ as my Savior, but I had slipped into a season of sin and bondage like none I have heard of since. I literally walked into the jail cell on my own and sat down and stayed.

What kept me solidly on that jail bed was fear, lies and deception. To name a few fears- Fear of complete rejection, fear of devastatingly hurting the ones I love, fear of severe condemnation, fear losing all my friends, fear of failure, to sum it up, it was fear of losing everything in life I loved.

The lies and deceptions are what gave birth to the fears. I was convinced that everyone in my life loved and accepted me based off of my performance, my achievements, because this is how I felt my own worth. I was buying Satan’s lies quicker than he could put a price tag on them. I believed the lies quicker than I believed any of God’s Word and what He says about me. I believed the lie that I was a worthless person and deserved every punishment I got. I believed God was disappointed in me and sorry He ever called me. I didn’t believe the Grace and Mercy preached from the pulpit Sunday was the same Grace and Mercy offered Monday morning. Condemnation was to be swift and sure, I had truly gone too far.

Until that amazing day when Christ ripped open the clouds, came down and dragged me out of that pit, that jail cell, so completely that there was never a fear of ever returning. His redemption and restoration for me was so thorough and comprehensive, down through the core of me, that the new me has no resemblance to the old me, other than my scars. He made very sure I knew He had made a calling on my life and He was finished waiting around for me to use the ladder He gave me to climb out of the pit.

The lies were all smoke and mirrors, a shroud. Satan is after the testimony of the Saints, to soil the bride of Christ. A defeated Christian who believes Satan’s lies is his goal. He is the father of lies and can weave a lie so crafty and well suited to you that it masquerades as truth and light. Until you hear the lock click on your shackles….

What I say to the one caught in sin is stop believing the lie! Christ’s work on the cross is complete provision for all your sins and you cannot go too far. When Scripture says in Romans 5:20 that where sin abounds grace abounds more, it’s as though sin has made a mark and grace runs right past it, covers it and blots it out completely. Whatever lies and deceptions Satan has sold you, there is a way out! Truth is so pure and so right, it will knock the wind out of your lungs and crush you in love and grace. I remember at one point nearly crying uncle over the amount of grace I had been shown. I could hardly take it. The magnitude of God’s love hit me like a Mack truck and kept backing up and running over me until I got it through my thick head.

Don’t remain on that jail bed any longer, the door has been swung open wide and Satan is trembling in his boots waiting for the moment you see through the fog and walk through the door to the light. Be victorious over sin, you were called to it!

I Corinthians 15:57- But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen and be blessed by this great song describing this thing we call Amazing Grace.
Call it Grace by Unspoken

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Have Victory Over Your Thought Life!

2 Corinthians 10:5- We are casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

Many Christians have read this verse. Most have no idea exactly how to do it. It seems like something we should do, seems important.

This article is written with the born again believer in mind. One who has accepted Christ as their Savior and is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. That is the only way this will work, is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The battle field of every human is the mind. It is where you become more like your surroundings and circumstances or more like Christ. It is where pride and self-sufficiency happen or surrender happens. It’s where you decide if you are going to live as who you are in Christ or how you and the world think you should live. You either have a defense built toward Satan and the influences of this world or you do not. Scripture says our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the Spiritual powers of this world.

This verse is revolutionary, especially in today’s world of self-centeredness. Through a heart- wrenching, life changing experience I have learned just exactly how important this verse is. There is a way to do this and based on the circumstances you are in, there are steps to success.
This verse is literally an instruction that will change the course of your life. I am talking big things like, never gossiping again, never picking up a drink for the alcoholic, staying sexually pure for those struggling with lust or impure relationships, not being cold-hearted and mean in your speech, stop swearing, and, in my estimation, a huge one- overcoming emotional trauma from abuse.
I’m going to list the ways I have learned to use this verse as both a guide post, reminder and support system. I will tell you up front, this is not a “one and done” type of thing. It is daily choosing Christ, putting on the full armor of God according to Ephesians 6:10-18. You have to be diligent and look to the future where Christ gets the victory and you are free!

    What it means- Any sinful thing, thoughts or otherwise that sets itself up against the Lord your God. Scripture is full of verses and descriptions of what sin is. If you are a believer and the Holy Spirit resides in you, He will tell you when it’s sin, you need to listen and heed the warning. To take captive the thought is to literally put it into bondage. It doesn’t get to rule, reign and wreak havoc. It doesn’t get to set up house and live in your head. It doesn’t get any control whatsoever. You are in charge of your thoughts and you are responsible for them and what you do with them.

     Recognition and Repentance- When you’ve been involved in something sinful, been abused, or have some sort of an addiction that won’t leave you alone, your thought life can be a nightmare. You can feel like you’ll never be freed from it. You’ve got to recognize what the thoughts are and where they lead you, take charge before they start to control you. Repentance comes when you’ve turned away from sin and do not want to do it any longer. Changing your thought life is exactly that, turning away from something old and changing it to something new.

     The Power in His Name- There is no way to do this without the power of Jesus. He’s the creator and sustainer of this earth and He created your mind, He has the power to change it. Your job is surrender. Believe me, I know it’s not easy and it doesn’t feel good to give up control- coming from a formerly enslaved control-freak. Did you see that first part “formerly”? I can tell you how to do this with some authority of experience because what I have had to walk through to find freedom is no small task and I am here to tell you it’s possible. When my thoughts would overtake me, crash down on me like a tidal wave, I knew in my heart I had to cry out to Jesus for deliverance. It came small and weak at first, but I was open to surrender because I had no other way, nothing else worked. As I practiced day in and day out, sometimes several times an hour, I began to watch the miracle work. I’d say “Lord Jesus, I don’t want these thoughts, I want to have the mind of Christ. I refuse to let them take charge over me, Lord please change my mind. Help me to think new thoughts, I give this to You and ask You to change me”. Sometimes it was more of a short plea “God I can’t do this, I need you to do this for me”. One thing I can tell you for certain, He hears your cry and comes to your aid. It is completely in God’s will for your mind to be transformed to be like Christ and when you ask that of Him, He’s all over it, no doubt about it!

    Do Not Give Up- Honestly, it’s tiresome. Some days I just want to be done and give up, Christ reminds me of how far we’ve come together and that he going to finish the work He started in me. What you will learn is true daily dependence on God. The issue you’ve got is that Satan has had a heyday putting up His wall paper of lies in your head. Your feelings of worthlessness, guilt and shame, hatred towards someone, desire for justice without mercy instead of love, selfishness with your time, talents or treasures, the overwhelming desire to talk about someone behind their back, to justify your bad behavior, make up lies or excuses, shift blame, lust after someone in your head and justify it by not telling anyone or blaming your circumstances, feeling entitled to your feelings no matter what they are because someone caused you to feel that way. ALL of those things and many more are things Satan plays with in your head. I’m telling you in all earnest, if you allow any of those to marinate in your head and you give them any time to ruminate around, you will have a terrible time being successful. This can create a foothold for Satan in your mind. If it stays there and you allow it to remain, Satan will always come back to that area and harass you with it. You have to be diligent to remind yourself you are changing and God’s doing a work in you. Take that thought captive, don’t let it go any further.

     What to do instead- Once you begin to take the thought captive and turn it over to God, you begin tearing down the wall paper Satan has put up. You’ve got to put up the wall paper of God’s Word in place of it or Satan will come back with a vengeance to take back what he lost. All that time you spent in those thoughts, whatever your circumstances may be, you now have to spend time reading God’s Word and becoming familiar with it enough to use it in time of need. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching and reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  You’ve got to read and find verses that help you through your circumstances and that replace the old sinful thoughts that lead to sinful behavior.

     Re-imaging or thinking about it in a new way- Sometimes memories and thoughts are just so powerful and tangible that they bury you. I have learned to renounce the sin that was held in that memory or thought and declare out loud that it has no power over me anymore. There’s something powerful in the spoken word. When you can declare to that thing that you are forgiven and freed it begins to take a new shape in your head from something that was held over you and had power to condemn, to now nailed to the Cross. You can be free and can say so out loud! I have also had to make a new memory in an old place before, or even envision the cross around the memory.

Examples and suggestions- I have had quite a myriad of experiences ranging from normal people problems of selfishness and gossiping to alcoholism, sexual immorality and abuse recovery. I understand exactly how hard this is but I also understand the irreplaceable feeling of being free and victorious. When you need verses for your circumstances, look in your concordance or in a topical scripture guide online. Ask God to help you think how He thinks about that person or thing you went through. Even if being loving and forgiving is the furthest thing from your mind, ask Him to do the work of changing your heart and mind, He will do it. Read the Psalms until you find yours. I promise you, it’ll jump off the page at you when you find it. God breathed those words thousands of years ago with you and your hurt in mind. When I was a struggling alcoholic, thoughts of drinking again would threaten to overtake me, and I’d pray immediately for God to help me and remove the temptation, to help me change my mind. Each and every time God was faithful. When you are overcoming desires to gossip you need to think about that person like Christ does. He died for them and loves them as much as He loves you. When you have been abused and you are haunted by images and memories, you must stop them the second they come into to your head and pray immediately. There is no other way to find victory. Time will be a helper and aid towards you not feeling physical pain at the reminders, but the only way to not allow it to overtake you and gain the control over you is to grab it without hesitation and pray. Pray asking God to change the memory, ask Him to remove it or to lessen the pain, ask Him to give you a new image like the cross around it, or a verse to quote when it threatens you. Sometimes memories are the worst part of recovery and that’s why this exercise is so important. God didn’t put it in the Bible to offer a suggestion, He put it in there knowing we’d need to actively practice it daily in order to allow Him to transform us into the image of Christ. These are the ways I have done this and have found victory. I hope it can be helpful to someone else.