An Angry Spirit and Why We Must Deal with It

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

You will always be enslaved to a bad temper, rage, anger, and offense as long as you coddle the idea that you deserve to be angry and behave badly—or that this is “just the way you roll.” We credit that temper, sometimes with great pride, to our red hair, our family tree, our upbringing or social lot in life, and sometimes even our gender; but in truth, anger finds its place in a soul that has surrendered self-control to the enemy of our souls.  If it stays in us, it stays in us because we allow it a place.  Maybe up until this moment you thought you had no choice, but I beg to differ.  If you want to be free and find some peace to that unsettledness that drives you to boil over at every available chance, read on…

The devil wants you to always be exploding, brawling, quarreling, cursing, flipping people off, in others’ faces giving them what-for. It’s a rush of adrenaline; a high; a bizarre release of sorts for someone who’s got some deep unhappiness issues…a release that’s only momentary but doesn’t heal the anger. It becomes enjoyable to watch people be afraid of you or dreading you, and it makes you have a false sense of empowerment. It becomes the norm for you to think it’s ok to blow up on people only to come back later and say, “but I was just ticked off/didn’t feel well/had a bad day already/etc.; or somehow always shifting blame to the other person’s actions for one’s own unrestrained reactions.  How many abusers tell their victims, “…but I won’t let it happen again,” only to come back and do it again and again?

Yes, there’s an oppressive, controlling spirit that attaches itself to the person who just continually allows his/her temper to run unchecked. It will turn a home into a house of horrors, a school or workplace into a source of dread, and it will kill a thriving church. An angry spirit has a way of developing into iniquity that then transfers to your children and on down the line. Don’t be proud of that “(Your Surname) Temper.” If it runs in your family, you’d better find a way to end it in your generation!

Is it ok to get angry? Sure, it’s a legitimate emotion, and sometimes a little righteous anger will light a fire under us to make needed changes in the world around us. We actually SHOULD be moved by abuse, human trafficking, murder of the innocent, oppression, etc.; but only to the extent that God can use us to right wrongs, not so that we can go out and commit crimes against others in the name of being angry at what they do. Even when others provoke us, believers must remember that it’s not a war on the ground we’re fighting, but spirits of darkness in the heavenlies that compel humans to do the bad things they do. We are told in the Word to be angry but sin not. We are told not to let the sun go down on our wrath. It also says that anger rests (finds a permanent place) in the bosom of fools. We are to exercise self-control, and yes it can be done; but we have to invite peace into our lives and reject strife.

So what happens if you allow anger to find a welcome spot in your soul? At best, you’ll just be hard to live with. At worst, you may wind up in jail or dead, unemployable, alone, alienated, resented, or you may irreparably harm someone you love. Satan’s goal is always eventually to take you to hell, after he’s made your life hell on earth, with you and everyone around you miserable. He wants people to feel as if this is just who they are and that they can’t change. Yeah, it stinks when the soda pop machine steals your money. It’s normal to get aggravated, but not normal if you don’t stop till the machine is on its side with boot holes in it and smoke rolling out. It’s not normal to run people off the road just because you can’t control your anger over their perceived lack of driving skills. It’s not normal to terrorize people with your temper at ballgames, school assemblies, church, the workplace—and the saddest of all, in your home, where everyone should feel safe and loved. If you can’t deal with everyday minor inconveniences and issues without going into a cussing, stomping tantrum, you need help. If you don’t want to die of blood pressure, heart attack or stroke, or be caught up in some costly foolish act from allowing yourself to just explode at everything that fails to go your way, you need delivered from an angry spirit.  I think you know in your knower if I’m talking to you in particular.

Father, we live in an entitled-mentality generation who feels that we deserve to behave however we want to. Forgive us for feeling that we deserve to allow our emotions to become a sinful repetitive way of life. Father, forgive us for enjoying the little bit of power we feel when we bully or manipulate others through fear.  Forgive us for taking advantage of a reputation for being hot-tempered, to use for our own selfish ends.   Forgive us for the stress we have put on others around us and for the words and maybe even the physical altercations which took place because we failed to put a control on anger. It’s become a way of life for some of us and we aren’t sure we know how to undo it.  We cannot shut the door without Your help, so we humble ourselves before You and ask for Your intervention.

We reject the root spirit of jealousy that manifests as anger, hatred, bad temper, and abusiveness. We reject pride that says others aren’t as good as us or that we must always have our own way.  We reject rebellion, lawlessness, and a manipulative spirit.  Lord, would you cleanse our hearts; and pour the oil of gladness and the love of God into us?  Cause us to fall in love with Your nature and desire to emulate the good in You.  Would you help us to change? Us not being able to change is a lie from hell. You can help us. We release You to go to work in our lives and break everything off us which isn’t like You—even the strongholds that we enjoy being bound by. We ask You, in situations where health issues, mental health issues, medications, hormone imbalances, and the like are at work, reveal to us a strategy to manage the physical problems themselves which manifest as ill-temperedness. Heal our sicknesses and help us govern our life choices more wisely.  Father, we release and forgive those who have wronged us, so that unforgiveness doesn’t open us up to a host of bad spiritual repercussions.  Help us say no to what opens a door to violent behavior–the wrong movies, music, influences, or friends. In other words, don’t let us remain content and justified in behaving badly! Don’t leave us alone, until we have a Christlike spirit that knows the difference between a righteous passion for justice and a tendency to always get angry over all things that don’t go our way.  Father, we don’t need to just get better at stuffing down anger only to have it resurface in other unhealthy ways or all at once; heal us in the area of our soul that needs healing, so that anger dissipates rather than just temporarily going into hiding.  O God, show us the people to whom we owe an apology or restitution for the way we have allowed anger to injure our relationship with them.

For those of us with more dominating, aggressive personality types, help us to channel that passionate or forward nature toward good and not evil. Sanctify us and use even our personalities in a positive way to make a difference in this world and bring You glory. Bring balance into our lives so that we aren’t excessive.  Holy Spirit, we invite you into ourselves. Be the dove of peace that rests in our spirit. Displace the spirit of anger which was never meant to occupy the high throne of our hearts. Break up the fallow ground of our hearts and cause gentleness, meekness, peace, love, patience, and every fruit of the Spirit to begin to flourish where the works of the flesh once overran our lives. Baptize our every word, thought, and deed in Your pure love.

In Jesus’ name, we accept Your forgiveness and Your deliverance. We will continue to verbally reject every temptation to explode with anger every time it tries to manifest; over and over, until the habit of overreacting is broken. We will not die prematurely from an undisciplined life that destroys our health and well-being, and we will not allow our behavior to destroy our relationships. We take responsibility now to walk as children of the light! We walk as free people, not bound people!

Strengthening Ourselves Against the Spirit of Offense

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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Make a commitment to yourself and to God for this upcoming year not to be sidelined by a spirit of #offense. Some of you may get huffy on me even just reading that first sentence…but hold on and let me elaborate a little!

In my prayer time a couple of days ago, the Lord cautioned me that the enemy was going to launch an attack on the body of Christ in the way of offenses; an attempt to erode our unity. Not so much one big collective attack where everyone is hit at the same time by the same event, but many small instances. The old “death by a thousand cuts” strategy.

We live in a perpetually-offended society nowadays, and believe me when I tell you that listening to constant bad news on TV (true or not), listening to negative music, reading negative articles and books day in and day out can wreak havoc on your spirit man! That spirit of offense can get all over you if you don’t guard your heart! We worry more about our outward appearance being impacted by a lost culture, than we do about the inward impact of those feelings of entitlement, pride, arrogance, and yes, the tendency to get angry, hurt, and offended by everything that doesn’t agree with how we want it. People are ready to sue or to break ties or to ruin others’ reputations at the drop of a hat. And sadly, it happens even in church too.

So how do we cope and make it through the obstacle course of offense? By renewing our minds daily in the Word. By being honest with ourselves before God and recognizing what pushes our buttons. By praying protection over ourselves and our loved ones and inviting the Holy Spirit to change the atmosphere wherever we are—home, school, church, the grocery store parking lot, wherever.

Our minds are going be full of SOMETHING. We have to set parameters and say no to what the Holy Spirit cautions us to avoid. And even though we feel we shouldn’t have to be careful around others, yes, as believers we have an obligation to walk blamelessly before the world. We need to think before we act and do. And we need to arrest that spirit of offense when we feel it rising in us.

At some point over the coming weeks and months, you may feel the enemy say something like:

  • “You should just leave/quit/resign/divorce/part ways. You’re not appreciated. Your (spouse, job, family, group, ministry, church, etc.) ought to have to suffer a little bit and then they’d see how much you are worth.”
  • “They did that on purpose! Are you going to just stand there and take it?”
  • “God didn’t answer your prayers. He must not really love you after all.”
  • “So and so just gave you the stink eye. That person doesn’t like you.”
  • “They just did you wrong because you are (too young, too old, not beautiful, they’re jealous of you, not the same color as them; or they think they’re better than you).”
  • “Your church takes too hard a stance on that point of doctrine. They act like a cult. You should find a church that agrees with what you consider truth.”
  • “Who do they think they are to judge you for your choices?”
  • “They’re not the boss of you.”
  • “You should just go ahead and (hurt/kill) yourself and get out of the way.  That’d make them sorry.”
  • “That attitude can go two ways. If they’re asking for trouble, you know you can’t back down now.”
  • “If that person were really a Christian, he/she would (look, act, vote, participate, speak) just like you. Don’t trust him or her!”

Sound familiar?

Well friends, we have a choice. We can do the work in our prayer and study time to toughen up, or we can run around constantly wounded and on the defensive. People hate having to always tiptoe around one certain person in their lives! Don’t let that person be YOU! Remember that much of the time, folks don’t even know that their words were inappropriate or caused you to be hurt. And yeah, some people are not going to be fair with us—now or ever. The Word tells us to pray for, forgive, and love them anyway. Sometimes we have to do it (without gossiping about them behind their backs, by the way) from a distance—but near or far, God’s grace can enable us to shake it off.

Pray with me: “Father, I don’t want to be overly sensitive. I don’t want to stumble on the rock of offense, this year or ever. I don’t want to abort my mission or abandon a divine assignment You’ve given me over becoming hurt, mad, or offended at someone else. Jesus, some of your followers even abandoned You when Your words offended their sensibilities.  Please help me!

There are any number of opportunities in a day for me to have my feelings hurt, if I choose to. Crucify the drama queen nature in me! I reject that tendency to want to dramatize and rehearse and nurse and tell others about how this person or that organization or that race or this group was unfair to me. It’s hard, Lord. Sometimes people’s words and actions are downright intentional! I feel sometimes like people who don’t understand my pain are against me. But by Your grace I am rising above offense, in Jesus’ name.

Today I put on the whole armor of God. I protect my mind with the helmet of salvation, my heart with the breastplate of righteousness, my whole being with the shield of faith, my vital organs and private parts with the loinbelt of truth, and my feet with the gospel of peace. I have the Word and Your Spirit in my hand as a sword of defense from the attack of the enemy. You have equipped me to protect my spirit, soul, mind, will, emotions, and entire body. I will not leave the place of prayer improperly dressed to meet my day!

Lord, Your Word tells me in Matthew 18 exactly what to do when a brother offends me—it’s actually a good template for my other relationships too. It starts with personal communication, not a Facebook rant. I will handle situations the way the Bible tells me to. I will not assume that the other person automatically knows, and I will not read his or her every action or inaction as some kind of negative response! I will be civil but honest when these kinds of communications must happen. The object is restoration and forgiveness. Father, in this moment I release and forgive every person who has knowingly or unknowingly offended me!

Lord, I remind myself today that the enemy’s goal is collateral damage. A hit at me is intended to wound and scatter and render ineffective my whole circle of influence. The offense was a weapon not of flesh and blood, but unseen wicked spiritual forces at work. I can’t afford to see this attack in the natural! I will ask what the devil is trying to accomplish if I accept his bait—for that is exactly the post I can’t afford to abandon! I refuse to leave my family, my church, or my assignment over becoming offended!

Finally, I will exercise more caution in the way my words or decisions affect others. When I know I’ve hurt someone, I will man or woman up and go make it right. I won’t just let that person simmer and stew in offense. I won’t just write it off as the other party needing to grow up. Maybe that’s the case and maybe it isn’t; but God isn’t judging me on someone else’s actions. He judges me by how I handle things from my end! I will take the high road. I will at least initiate the conversation that opens a door to reconciliation.

And finally, Father, I thank You for not leaving me comfortless! In a fallen, unfair world, Your Holy Spirit consoles and gives me peace. In the name of Jesus, I go forth today declaring that I AM NOT A VICTIM! I WILL NOT LET THE DEVIL MOVE ME FROM WHERE GOD HAS ASSIGNED ME! I am a Psalm 1 believer who refuses to be influenced by the negatives of others—a tree thriving in rich soil, which bears fruit and whose leaves aren’t withered. I am not ignorant of the devices (strategies, traps) of the devil. I won’t miscarry my destiny because of a vagabond, offended spirit. I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Amen and amen!” 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼

In Whose Shadow?

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“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].”  (Psalm 91:1 AMP)
Do you have a parent, sibling, coworker, spouse, ministry constituent, or friend to whom you feel inferior? Does someone close to you in that way shine so brightly, so talented or gifted or just favored, that you feel there’s no room for you to ever excel and be lent credibility? You may feel like you’re in someone else’s shadow, but I encourage you today to choose WHOSE shadow you’re going to stand in. Choose to stand in God’s shadow. Learn to be at home in the shadow of the Almighty…you don’t have to stand in anyone else’s shadow, but you belong to Him and you need the rest and comfort and protection of His wings! That’s the only place where you won’t be plagued by the temptation and bondage that comes with comparison!
Stop comparing yourself to other people and viewing yourself as less-than (or for that matter, as more-than!). Stop buying into what other people have said or implied about you…a teacher or a parent or boss or someone who may have said, “Why can’t you be more like ____ (a sibling, a peer, or someone else who was/is used a measuring stick)?” You were not placed on this earth to fulfill His plan for their lives, but to fulfill the plan He tailor-made just for you. It is an insult to the power and imagination of our Creator, for us to try to make ourselves signed-and-numbered prints off of some priceless original. No, each of us is a priceless original, and He never runs out of creative power.
Be free from the spirit of comparison, from pride, from inferiority, from any other emotion or mindset that hinders you from living life to its fullest.
Lord, we cast down these crazy imaginations and “high, lofty things” that work overtime, which cause us pain and limitation whenever they run contrary to what Your Word and Your will for our lives has spoken. Forgive us for spending so much time looking at ourselves and comparing and lamenting and walking in fear. Fear tells us we will never be good enough because we cannot excel past certain other people. Fear tells us not to even try because we are doomed to failure. Your Word, however, says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
 
Forgive us as well for carelessly speaking damaging words over ourselves or others out of ignorance. We are not guiltless in the area of having made statements like “He/she sure is no ____” and compared one of Your precious originals to someone else we perceived to be be more skilled or talented or good in some way. You don’t create counterfeit, cheap knockoffs, and You don’t use a cookie cutter to mass produce lives void of authenticity. We are sorry for ever trying to establish the standards for excellence over ourselves or anyone else! We are not the Creator. We submit our words and actions to You again on the potter’s wheel and ask that You give us clean hearts that in turn compel clean words. We will resist the devil when he tries again to make us feel intimidated by the giftings and abilities of others, and if we resist–as often as necessary!–he will flee.  We forgive and release anyone who may ever have hurt us by comparisons, and we ask You to forgive them too, because they knew not what they were doing.
 
In order to stay in Your shadow and to dwell in the secret place, we have to be on the move, as well! You don’t stand in one place with your wing of protection stuck out for us to stand under. No, You are moving and working constantly—so our secret to staying in Your shadow is to move with You, to go where You go, to do what we see the Father do, to speak what we hear You say. What worked for Jesus works for us today–operating under the canopy of submission to You. We submit ourselves to You today and we will stay under Your protection, fulfilling every wonderful thing You have ordered for our lives! We are free from approval-seeking and self-exaltation and self-deprecation and any other tool the enemy would use to shift our eyes onto ourselves and off of You. Be glorified in us today, Father—all of it—You get all the glory and we will gladly stand in Your shadow, we pray in Jesus’ name!
#Psalm91 #2Corinthians10 #callthosethings

 

Unchecking the Excess Baggage

baggage“…let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.  Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2 Voice Translation) 

It is so critical that we put our attitudes and hidden heart issues on the altar, and become so immersed in the Word that we aren’t blind to undealt-with sin and/or weights. We can have every potential to do great things—may even have had prophetic words spoken over us about our gifts elevating us to leadership or notoriety—and negate the prophetic word through pride, narcissism, jealousy, unforgiveness, or fear. Instead of being angry at those we perceive to hold us back, and instead of being envious of others who possess our same potential, we must deal with that pesky hidden man of the heart.

If there are unforgiveness issues stemming back even to our childhood, or healing that needs to happen when we release those who’ve hurt us, we must do the work. If we fail to do so, we will taxi the runway back and forth but never gain the momentum to get off the ground. Still more tragic: we risk imprinting our character flaws on our children by forcefully living vicariously through them, by repeating abuses on them that we experienced, or by failing to desire success for them that exceeds our own. Even very good people can be trapped in a holding pattern, mind you…disqualified over things that could be fixed!

Father, help us not to be our own worst enemy. You are fully-aware of even what we don’t see about ourselves–those damaged, flawed, or underdeveloped matters of character that we haven’t yet recognized or owned-up to. We will stop blaming others for our lack of success and begin to look inwardly, with humility and a quick-to-repent heart, for what needs purged from our character. Even if we don’t aspire to promotion of some kind, coddling wrong attitudes and negative emotions is a behavior not pleasing to You; and as badly as we want not to feel like a failure in our destiny, we want to find favor in Your sight even more. As David prayed after his hidden sin bubbled to the surface, likewise create in us a clean heart and renewed right spirit. See if there be (expose) any wicked way in us; and after the diseased element in our hearts is purged, restore the joy of our salvation. May we bear good fruit—30, 60, 100-fold, unhindered by toxic emotions, attitudes, and behavior.

You discipline those whom You love…and we know You love us too much to leave us messed-up. We don’t want to be those Your Word speaks of whose neck becomes hardened from having to be chastised often. Help us get it right, to learn and be willing to change. Remove the blinders, and after we’ve seen ourselves without the wax coating, make us whole—perfect and entire, lacking nothing. Give us courage to allow ourselves to be overhauled from the inside out. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Adapted from one of my Facebook status posts, 08-2016)

Release and Renew: Prayers for Those with Heartbreaking Jobs

”I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13 NAS1977)

Be deliberate today in your pursuit of the goodness of God. I speak especially to those in careers where you daily see the ugliest side of humanity, or perhaps the most hopeless-appearing situations. Soldiers, law enforcement, social workers, oncology nurses/doctors, ministers, teachers, counselors, and others–at the end of your day you must find a way to disconnect from the despair, lest you become a casualty instead of a catalyst for healing and hope. You can find that in prayer. At the beginning of your day you have to coat yourself in the hope of the Word to shield yourself from what you’re going to encounter. You might say, “why aren’t you suggesting I pray for the people I encounter instead of myself? This feels so selfish. What about their problems?” I’m writing this today to help keep you strong enough to do the hard work you do. You can’t help others if you wind up taken out by despair. It’s time to gear up because we NEED you doing what you do. Please, stay strong! Take care of your spirit!

Our world is sad. It’s bad out there. There’s so much despair and so many wicked activities taking place. There’s so much sickness and tragedy and cruelty. So many children, elderly, weak, innocent who are preyed upon. So many people operating under demonic influence inflicting pain and suffering on themselves and others. So much ADDICTION.

I’ll be honest. I went through my Twitter feed earlier this morning and the bad news was exhausting. I wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. I honestly thought, “Death’s not such a bad thing…it’ll be a relief to leave this world and go on to heaven!” But then I remembered what Paul said about it being more expedient (needful) that he remain behind to help others instead of going on to be with the Lord. I want heaven. I want to go and be with the Lord and be away from all the madness for all eternity…eventually. But what I really want to do first is effectively hold back the worst of evil by collectively offering up effectual fervent prayer. I want to point others to Jesus and be someone who hammers signposts in the ground of life that show a lost world the direction in which to run to find hope. THE ONLY way I can remain objective is to have God’s Word tattooed on my heart and mind, and to stay close enough to Him to hear His voice. Otherwise I just disappear into the sludge of despair with everyone else who’s given up and is waiting to die.

So for all of you who are so bravely doing the jobs I could not do (or rather, don’t necessarily WANT to do), I just encourage you this morning to cover yourself. Even if you’re already well into your shift, there’s no time like the present to start. Pray with me:

“God, thank You for helping me survive all the situations I encountered yesterday. Your Word says Your mercies are new every morning. Today I receive Your new mercy. Clothe me with salvation, with humility, with strength. Just like the “whole armor of God,” I put on my tactical gear. My head’s covered with salvation. My heart’s covered with righteousness. My tactical belt is truth…I can attach every tool I need to do my job to this truth. My feet are covered with peace. My shield is faith. My defense weaponry is Your Word and Your Spirit! That said, Lord, I’m getting ready to walk into the unknown today. I will encounter messed-up lives. I will meet hurting people. My heart will break over what’s not fair. Use me to make a difference, to be Your light bearer in a dark place. Help me to respond not out of anger, but with great wisdom.

Help me to do my best while I’m on the job and then help me to LET IT GO at the end of the day. Lord, help me not to carry these problems home to my family. I need my family and they need me. Help me to appreciate and be ministered to by the innocence of the home I’ve worked so hard to build and protect.

Keep me safe today, guard me against burnout; help me to strategize with the mind of Christ about how I can use my gifts to bless others and my strengths to help those who are in the place of need. Help me not to lose my sense of compassion nor my sense of duty to minister to the disparaged. I don’t want to be callous or insensitive when someone is needing treated gently. Help me to be just and fair with all people, even those who aren’t just and fair with me. Remind me that I represent YOU and can’t afford to let my words and actions go contrary to Yours. Help me not to think as the world thinks, but as YOU think about situations. Keep me from being jaded. Keep my heart tender even as you keep it from breaking in two at the things which also grieve YOU. In Jesus’ name.”

And at night (or the end of your workday, whenever that is 😉 ):

“Father, thank You for helping me to make it to the conclusion of another day. These burdens I bore all day long, these suffering people I worked with, the situations I can’t necessarily fix with an easy button…these worries and cares all want to come home with me. The memories want to invade my ability to wind down, to hear my spouse and children’s conversations, to keep me from the place of prayer and the much needed place of recharging and sleep.

But just like a set of coveralls, I choose to unzip the activities of the day and I step out of them. What I couldn’t fix today, I will deal with tomorrow, but for now I let it go. I’m not God–You are. I trust You to put things on hold, to keep the people I can’t help 24/7, to send others alongside to help, and to keep this world spinning on its axis for another day. In Jesus’ name I reject the effects of constant exposure to negative forces. I will not cope with frustration and sorrow by engaging in substance abuse or destructive relationships. I will seek out things that keep my heart pure and guileless, I will freely laugh at every possible opportunity, and I will give mindful thanks for the simple blessings You afford me, like a beautiful sunrise or the giggles of a small child.

I boldly declare that the helmet of salvation will keep my mind and protect me from becoming a walking case of PTSD. You are strengthening me, You are renewing my mind, You are restoring my innocence, and You ARE my joy, my strength. I will run to You and not be so “tough.” You’re the One I run to when I’m out of my league. It’s ok for me to be vulnerable in Your presence because You heal me and help me. I plead the blood of Jesus now to wash me clean, to cleanse the portals of my mind from what I need to let go of. Thanks now for blessing my family time, my worship time, my downtime and strengthening me to fight another day. I love You and trust You. Amen”

Repentance: Don’t Hide–HEAL

Don’t let the enemy guilt you out of your #destiny. If you have sinned or otherwise failed or fallen short, repent. Yes, I know there’s seemingly nothing profound in that advice, but it’s still true. I didn’t say resign; I said #repent.

#Repentance isn’t just being sorry for something you’ve done (or in some cases, haven’t done), it’s evaluating where you went wrong and making the necessary corrections to keep it from happening again: a change of heart and action. Maybe you’ve done something or allowed something and it’s wrinkled the fender of your reputation and distanced you from God. Maybe you’re just disappointed in yourself and it’s easier to bail than to humbly start all over. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to HIDE. And may I even say, the more we are respected and admired, the harder it feels to get back up when we stumble because the accuser wants our shame to be very public.

Yeah, Satan’s goal is to take us out and damage as many people as he can in the process…but friends, when we’ve taken a faceplant, the world needs to SEE us recover, even if a few folks (and particularly some who are supposed to be on our “side”) hurl a few insult-and-accusation stones as we are picking ourselves up. Sometimes we privately recover, but truthfully, sometimes what we resolve to just do in private enables us to wallow a little longer in the mess–and kept hidden, sometimes we fix it, but sometimes we just choose to stay broken. Don’t stay in that place. It’s a rat’s nest.

There may be shame in failure but there’s no shame in turning to God to fix us when we have failed. Last night before I went to sleep, this verse went through my mind and I just meditated on it as I drifted off: “So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free from the law that brings sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NCV) The KJV says there’s “therefore now no condemnation.”

Because of our trust in the redemptive power of the cross, we can machete our way through the choking, dense growth of sin’s effect on our lives and emerge back onto the right path intact. Paul realized the possibility of preaching to others but himself becoming a castaway–so he held himself accountable. So should we.

It’s just where we are. Sharing the good news is relatively easy. Being the “living epistle read of every man” part, not so much. The best thing to do is to keep ourselves holy, on guard, prayed-up, free from bondages. It’s a lot easier to maintain than to break down and repair. But if you are reading this from the cave where you went to hide after your embarrassing fall, please know there is HOPE for you. Sure, there’ll be a few who would remind you of your inadequacy, but there is a whole host of witnesses crying out just beyond your earshot, “Get up! Try! Finish! Keep going! You’re almost home!” There’s a Father checking out the window, pacing in the roadway, wanting to put a ring on your stinky, stained hand and restore you with full privilege instead of demoting you from sonship to servitude.

I remember once when I was still in school, one of my schoolmates wound up getting badly burned when he threw gasoline on a bonfire. The kid was ashamed/afraid to tell his parents because it was a foolish act of disobedience, messing with fire and flammables; and because he hid the terrible burn under his clothing without getting help, the burn got badly infected and became a serious, dangerous problem much worse than a parent’s chastisement for disobeying. No doubt the scars are still on that leg, decades later. We hide our burns too, sometimes, don’t we?

Peter had to repent when he fell. Yep, one of “the three amigos” whom Jesus kept privy to His most important missions actually betrayed Him in a most contemptible way when things got too dangerous. But Jesus WANTED him back. He even said to him, “when you’re restored, strengthen the others.” See, your recovery is never just about you. Jesus didn’t choose to just gloss it over and strengthen them Himself in Peter’s absence; He in essence told Peter, “YOU do it.” There’s going to be a visible restoration of the part of you that needs healed, friend, and the people who’ve been let down by your absence are also going to be strengthened…by YOU. It is this action that will bring you full circle and it will keep you accountable in the future because of its humbling quality.

As much as it feels to the contrary, you aren’t expendable. God needs you on that front line. Replacing you is not His ultimate will — redeeming you, however, IS! He saw in ages past where a you-shaped piece of the puzzle needed to go, and He created you to fit exactly right there in the big picture. He doesn’t have a bunch of spare you’s just lying around in case you malfunction! Repentance says you are willing to let Him rebuild you to keep doing what He created you to do. And sometimes, we need rebuilt not only because of our sins, but also even from just being battle-weary, worn-out, and hyperextended. Let Him.

Lay aside what’s holding you back. Phooey on what anyone might say or think, don’t you wallow in condemnation one more day. Your destiny is right where you left it, and Jesus can recalibrate the driving directions from WHEREVER this moment finds you…to make sure you arrive safely. Come home.

File Thirteen: The 490 Principle

IMG_4775“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”  Matthew 18:21-22 (New Living Translation)

I’m going to share a personal insight on the above Scripture that may or may not get a round of applause from seasoned theologians; but for those of you who struggle in this area, it may be what you need to help set you free.

I went through an ordeal once where, for about 5 years, I was done terribly wrong by someone very close to me.  I was hung in an endless loop of hurt and self-permitted abuse, and one of the biggest tethers which had me bound was my own inability to let it go.

You see, often when we deal with a deep-seated or long-term hurt, it becomes as much our “friend” as it is our enemy.  Our hurt becomes our identity, something we nurse and justify and protect.  Without it, we no longer know who we are…why, what would we have to talk about with others if not for “it?”  Without it, on whom or what could we blame the weight gain, those pesky gray hairs, or that once-in-a-lifetime dream gone down the tubes?

During this season of my life, I was faced with a crossroads and not much time in which to choose.  On the one hand, I had a lifetime ahead of me to continue carrying that overloaded briefcase of offenses, stuffed haphazardly with the file folders of my memory.  I might be humpbacked from straining and dragging it behind me, but at least I’d never be alone as long as I had my hurt!  I’d never have to reinvent myself because at least I recognized and had learned to co-exist with the long, pitiful face staring back at me in the mirror!

On the other hand, there was a clean slate and a pure conscience; there was love and opportunity and peace of mind waiting through a narrow passage…only I couldn’t squeeze through that passage with my knapsack stuffed with past hurts.  What if I got to the other side and missed being able to thumb through the pages and pages of things gone wrong?  What would I have left if no one else were made to remember the martyr I’d been for having gone through all that hurt?  What glory was there in people suddenly forgetting my sacrifices and longsuffering?  What IF?!!!

Perhaps I’m being overly illustrative, but I truly was struggling and I wanted desperately to do the right thing.  Deep in my heart, I was tired of being sad, and tired of having an excuse for not rising above that series of incidents which kept me stuck in first gear.  It was at this point that in my prayer time, God began to not only edge me toward a new level of maturity, but He also began to reveal something simple yet profound enough to help me actually want to be free.  He’s a really merciful Father…He loves us too much to allow us to stay the way we are!

I had read the Scripture many times about forgiving 490 times in a day, and had a whole different idea of what it meant.  Although my offender at times came pretty close to meeting quota by my estimation (smile), I never actually had to release 490 separate sins committed against me in one day EVER.  But, this Scripture came to life and began to grow with greater revelation when I suddenly made the course-altering move to speak the words that very first time, “I choose to forgive.”

I had thought all my life that, once you forgive someone, you forgive…and the forget part comes automatically.  Well, eventually perhaps, but not always.  For situations like what I overcame, and what you’re getting ready to become free from, there comes “File 13.”

Beginning today, I want you to set a goal to get out from under that one hurt you’ve babied and protected.  Jesus had your situation in mind when He commanded to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven–or–as often as it comes to your mind.  Our memory can be pretty active when it comes to instant replay, and unless we discipline ourselves to shut that button off, we can consume entire days with reliving hurts over and over.  What a waste of a perfectly good life!

Get serious about this thing, because not only is it toxic to your spirit and to your physical body, but if you want to receive forgiveness from the Lord, you’re going to have to learn how to dish it out.  Right now, say out loud with me, “I choose to forgive __________ (name).”  That person can be dead or alive…doesn’t matter…you’re doing this in obedience to God, and you’re doing it for YOU.  You need to let him or her off the hook more than your offender needs to be let off!

It will feel almost like a self-betrayal at first–and your carnal side is going to kick and scream for retribution and that proverbial pound of flesh–but stick to your guns!  Oops, you just now thought of it again…so say it again:  “I choose to forgive _________.”  Don’t be surprised that, since thoughts seem to travel at warp speed, you may have the occasion to forgive the memory of one act 490 times in a day.  Your mental trashcan will probably have wadded up papers flowing out on all sides.  Keep confessing forgiveness and tossing the offense into the garbage.

Know this:  if you have to re-do the act of forgiveness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t truly forgive in the first place.  That doesn’t make you a failure any more than having to die to sin each new day makes you unsaved.  Don’t give up and say, “I just can’t forgive!”  You CAN—with work.  It’s as much a process as it is an action, and sometimes you have to speak with your mouth and then let your attitude follow your intention.  The power of life and death is in the tongue, and you’re in a battle for the quality of your life!  You may not even feel your heart 100% in what you’re saying, but keep saying it anyway.  Trust me when I tell you that for every time you say it with as much faith as you can muster, that hurt has less and less a hold on you.  Eventually the day will come when you really will forget to hurt!  You may not forget the incident, but you will forget to let it control your life. That’s freedom indeed.

I’ll never forget an object lesson Debra Catron taught on a Wednesday night at our church several years ago, when she recounted a difficult season in her own life.  She said, “There’s a little trunk of painful memories in the attic of my mind.  Now, I can open that trunk and go through the contents at any time, or I can leave it locked.  I simply choose not to go there anymore.”

©2011  Lisa Crum.

Please feel free to share, but if reprinting, please use acknowledgments!

Letting Go of the Past…Three Times

fishnet“Peter, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord, You know I love You.”

“Feed My sheep.”

That conversation was deeper than we realize. Peter had messed up in a moment of panic, fear, and haste. He had denied the Lord 3 times, cursed, and swore with an oath to hide his identity and save his own skin. And then he had to make eye contact with the very person he had betrayed, and have the realization hit him…everything Jesus said would happen, did happen. Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. There was nothing left for Peter now. The crowing of the rooster may as well have been a bugle sounding Taps over Peter’s dying ministry.  He just fled the painful scene, wept bitterly, and separated himself from his band of brothers and any association with what it meant to be a follower of Christ.

Go back to what you did before, Peter. Go get the boat. Launch out there in the deep, where you don’t have to talk to anyone, look anyone in the eye, feel others looking at YOU, judging. You didn’t mess up with the boat…it was YOUR boat. Even though…you were catching nothing that day until Jesus told you where to toss that net!

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me” three times. I like to think He did so because He was giving Peter a VERBAL chance three times to undo those three denials. Peter, normally the loudest mouth of the twelve, couldn’t bring himself to say “I love You” on his own, not after what he had done.  The outspoken one, overcome in his guilt and deep shame, now needed help from the Master just to say what was bursting in his heart.  How could those mere words ever undo what he had done?  So, Jesus, Who knew exactly what Peter was wrestling with, showed him where to lower the nets once more. Jesus proved to Peter that He could forgive without humiliating and ostracizing.  He could restore him without putting him on probation, without demoting him, without dismissing all those times when Peter was part of the inner circle of His circle.  And that command, “Feed my sheep?” He was saying, “You don’t belong back in the fishing business, Peter. Your heart is to serve Me. I can see right through your weaknesses, and I know that in your heart, you would rather be close to Me than anything in this world. Come back. There’s still very much a place for you here. You belong in ministry. You belong to me. I forgive you. Let’s turn a page and finish this thing better than the chapter we’re on now.”

Have you made some mistakes that make you feel as if you are unworthy to receive Jesus’ forgiveness? Do you feel disqualified to follow Him, or specifically, disqualified to lead others to Him? Jesus is asking YOU today, “Do you love Me? Oh, I already know the answer, but I want YOU to think long and hard, past the guilt, past the self-loathing and regrets. You KNOW you love Me, and I know you love Me. Let’s turn a page. I’m far from finished with what I am going to do through you, and I want you to know that you are NOT damaged goods. You are not going to be left on the reject pile, forgiven but left broken. I am fixing you and I want you walking close to Me again, as My friend, as My confidante, as someone that I TRUST (yes, I TRUST you!) to love others like I’ve loved you!”

Pray with me: “Father, I’m putting aside my own feelings and the urge to run away. There is no place else I’m at peace but in Your presence. I can’t even go back to life as before and do it the way I did before I knew You. I need You! Forgive my sins, my mistakes, blot out anything that stepped between us. Fix me and if You want to use me, I’m here. Lord, You really DO know my heart. You know I’ve always loved You even when I let my flesh do the decision-making. Help me rise above my own will. Cleanse me and help me say no to whatever causes distance between us. I don’t want to feel like I can’t come near You anymore. I receive Your forgiveness and I am going to have a good finish–like Peter! In Jesus’ name.” Amen.

Owning Our Words

OffendI know that there are a few folks in this world who are chronically offended about anything and everything, but we can never use that as an excuse to just be reckless with our words. Part of the last days’ trend will be increasing offenses. Some of it we will just have to deal with…especially in matters of truth; but I caution us as believers to weigh out our words–right down to our motives for speaking them–before we let them fly. That goes double for me!

The Word tells us that we will give account of every idle word. That’s not just telling us to clean up our language…it’s telling us to weed out whatever doesn’t bear good fruit. We can go about business as usual, and say, “Well, so-and-so just needs to grow up,” or we can choose to be better stewards of our communication. Corrupt ‪#‎communication‬ isn’t just dirty words and cursing; it’s anything that breeds confusion and opens the door for the devil to make a mess of things. We don’t have to go around fearful and reluctant to speak to people; but I’m just saying, give no place to the devil! Why should I have to qualify what I say? you may ask. Well, you can wound people and determine to just let them be wounded–that’s their problem–or you can take just a little more care in the area of reconciliation and consideration.

It’s not just a matter of being better communicators to a lost world, but it’s also a matter of being better communicators among our brothers and sisters in Christ. Leaders to leaders, leaders to followers, followers to other followers, and all of us to the world–our speech will either be fruitful or it will be like spraying Round Up on everything we work to produce. Know when tough love is needed, but know also when you just need to stake up the weak branches and pour in the oil and wine. Be honest with people if you have a problem with them; but do it in love and humility. Don’t show partiality, be clannish, or ignore the feelings of those who look up to you. If you do, you will lose them.

The Lord spoke to my heart in prayer a few months back and He told me that we are to beware of reckless offenses in the Body of Christ. The enemy is going to try to erode our unity not by big church splits, but by little offenses. Little day-to-day misunderstandings, lack of proper communication, suspicions, distrust, hurts, unforgiveness, disrespect, ignoring one another, backbiting, gossip, incorrect assumptions, “digging” at one another (does your kidding around with others ever go just a little too far?), and failure to prefer our brothers and sisters over ourselves. Even as a local body, my own church has maintained a great strength in unity over the years, and I would say, “turn up the dial even higher to safeguard against the devil’s schemes! Be ready to extinguish any spark of disunity you see trying to ignite!”  Yes, Satan will even try that strategy in the strongest of churches.

Listen to the Holy Spirit like you’ve never listened before. I believe that if we will remain humble and open to His voice, He will caution us when we are about to make a blunder. Don’t override His urging when He’s saying to you, ‘That’s not your business.’ ‘Nope, don’t go there.’ ‘You don’t know that to be a fact at all.’ ‘This is where you need to end the discussion.’ ‘Don’t be part of that conversation.’ ‘Walk away.’ ‘Apologize…I don’t care if you’re right or wrong…I am telling you to be the one to reconcile.’ ‘I don’t care if you do think it’s funny, you are giving the devil a chance to cause someone else to get hurt.’

Another reason to show sensitivity and meekness toward your brothers and sisters in Christ is this:  in doing so, you are discerning the Lord’s Body.  I wonder how many times, in ignorance, we have taken the Holy Communion after mistreating or holding a grudge against someone right in our congregation.  I don’t want to be weak or sickly…or asleep (whether it is spiritually or just plain dead!) over failing to discern the Body of Christ.  Only recently did I gain a deeper understanding of that Scripture.  I’d always assumed that it meant just not to partake of the Sacrament without repenting for our sins, asking for forgiveness if we’d wronged someone, or granting forgiveness in kind.  What if we simply have secret contempt toward another in the Body, and we nurse that contempt and allow it to take root?  Is our God not also offended by those things we mutter under our breath about others whom He created?  How important it is to Him that we love others as He does, and that we speak to them in a way that reflects His goodness!

Proverbs 18 tells us that a brother offended is harder to win than a strong city. Jesus, however, goes even farther to say that the Father doesn’t want our gifts if we bring them covered with the filth of offenses! “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23-24 ESV). He doesn’t say for us to go make it right only if it was our fault, He says to go and be reconciled, period! Choke down that pride and take the high road! It may take some work to break down that wall, but you do your part and with a right heart attitude…and then come back and finish your offering to God. He will receive it gladly if it’s tied with the ribbon of reconciliation!

I have a long way to go on the highway of holiness, but one thing I never ever want to do is to cause someone else to reject Jesus because of a flaw he or she sees in my attitude. We have heard that phrase that we are “the only Bible some people will ever read” until we no longer grasp the depth of its meaning. Don’t lose your ability to be salt and light just so that you can “be yourself.” Speak as if the whole world is listening…because it is.