“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!
Our family was far from perfect, but I’m thankful to have been born into it. I was a church kid, born to one of those families who believed in gathering for worship…and not just on rare occasions or when something else more interesting wasn’t going on. Whatever else they did or didn’t get right, my parents/grandparents raised us to be Christ-followers, within a larger group of other imperfect believers and families. They modeled putting God first, in their tenacity to carve out Sunday for the Lord’s day (they definitely didn’t confuse us with on-again, off-again faithful attendance). My parents didn’t fight with us or threaten to ground us on the issue…it was just our way of life, so since it was all we ever knew, we kids weren’t really exploring other options. If I may, I would like to just transparently share a little about kids and “grownup” church, and why I believe it’s important that kids experience more than just the nursery and the children’s program alone; we tend to try to keep it all so separate that our kids aren’t integrating into a grownup worship experience. So to keep babies from crying or parents from having to teach a wiggly child to behave for a little while and reverence God’s house, we just never bring them into where there’s grownup church going on.
Parents don’t seem as motivated as they once were with exposing their kids to a very spiritual encounter with God. So when it’s going to put any kind of kink in the routine, or if there’s an inconvenience of any kind; or if it’s not a service where there are kids’ activities running in tandem; or if church night clashes with other activities they like to participate in, the whole family just stays home. And our kids can develop a mindset that church has to be all about entertaining them–if there’s no cotton candy or egg hunt or pizza or face painting–it isn’t really worth the investment of their time. So as soon as they outgrow the games, they just stop coming, period. I grew up in a time when I wasn’t the excuse for my parents to stay home from church at night or during revival. Oh, there might be a sick day factored in there once in a while, but they never kept me out of evening worship services and said it was because I needed my sleep for school the next day. They had me there even when there wasn’t something special just for the little kids. Even if we should have to leave a little early (maybe we did…I don’t remember), they still brought me. Worship wasn’t the obligation we had to hurry and get over with just so we could rush out to go do what we would have rather been doing all along. I got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of my church family from a young age, and you know…it was a healthy thing. So what was the benefit of my parents bringing me to grownup church, too, and not just kids church?
For starters, I learned a lot about Christians in the real world. I saw people who had to deal with some hard circumstances who didn’t give up. I saw others give up. I saw some quit and come back. I saw the saints and I saw the hypocrites. I saw church conflict, and when it was and wasn’t handled properly. I wasn’t shielded from any of it…and it taught me by example what to do and what not to do. I even saw sincere believers and family members whom I loved, who battled to the death with strongholds they wouldn’t break free from. I heard the way parents and grandparents prayed. I watched them forgive hard things. I saw them volunteer countless hours, hammer and saw, cook, serve, teach, sing, and just…be present.
And yeah, sometimes I got a little less sleep on a church night. It didn’t stunt my growth and I graduated in the top five of my class.
As a little girl, I fell asleep on the church pew and woke up in my own bed many a night. I got to stay back and see the things people miss who cut out early to catch their show on tv. I saw people get saved, get demons cast out, be healed, women shout their hairpins down. I remember watching my Grandma make homemade Communion bread, and I remember how that, as a small child, I knew it was serious that we not take the Lord’s bread and cup with unrepented sin or unforgiveness in our hearts. I took turns with all ages washing the saints’ feet (ladies in one room, fellas in another) in that old ceramic washpan, and sometimes the water got a little dirty in my little country church–and how that people often cried, rejoiced, forgave and made up with one another during that humble sacrament. I got baptized in a creek under an old bridge long before I attended a church that had a fiberglass baptistery. Sometimes I got taken to church when I had the sniffles or a cough…and when I did get sick (as kids will do), my parents didn’t hesitate to get me prayed for and even more importantly, they didn’t hesitate to lay hands on me and pray for me themselves. We had a special bottle of olive oil just for that purpose in our house! And they brought me to church…they didn’t just send me. I’m saying these things not to criticize or judge you if you’re a parent who’s raising your kids different from the way I was raised–but to encourage you to press in closer and let your kids have more than just a sterile, disconnected, indifferent, occasional relationship with the entire household of faith.
Don’t shrinkwrap your kids’ church experience in just the parts you think they should see. Please don’t opt to keep them home whenever the service isn’t tailored to their age group! You’d be surprised at what a five-year old understands from a grownup preacher’s sermon, and what he or she picks up when it looks as if there’s absolutely no attention being paid at all. You’d be surprised at what your kids can come to understand about prayer, giving, serving, living with integrity, and sharing their faith.
Believe me when I tell you that world doesn’t dumb down what it shows kids now. Your elementary school kids have probably seen more on tv than you knew on your wedding night. Why, then, do we try to ration their experience of real faith in the lives of real people who need grace and redemption and patience with one another? Bring them to all the fun, memorable, age-appropriate stuff..they need that, too. But be thinking ahead to where you want them to be spiritually once they outgrow puppets and VBS.
Integrate them into a full, multigenerational worship experience. Let them know what it’s like to experience conviction, to get lost in worship, to pray in the altar for the Holy Spirit. Moreover, may they learn from watching how you worship and respond to the move of God, how you give, how you serve, how you interact with others in the church family, how you deal with hard times, and how you pray. Please understand, I’m not undermining the value of children’s Christian education, at all. I am grateful to be a member of a local church that has a phenomenal childrens program. I’m just saying, your kids will learn more from watching your life than they ever could from just children’s church alone. They need both. They’re going to need to know how to bear up under persecution, how to live without compromising their moral ground, how to do spiritual warfare, and how to pray the prayer of faith when sickness, tragedy, or injustice happens. And make sure that, in spite of some occasional inconvenience, their opportunity to witness the church in all its organic guts and glory isn’t lost in just pacifying them with an electronic babysitter to keep them from being bored (yeah, they can make it for 90 minutes without the iPad and earbuds!). It is, after all, us visiting God in His special place. He didn’t just leave us the key and tell us to lock up and turn off the lights when we’re done–He wants to come down among us. If we are excited about meeting Him there, and our kids catch the spirit of that excitement too, talk about some quality family time…
I was seven when I gave my heart to Jesus–and it was in a grownup revival service. I was ten when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit…at night, lingering long in the altar. In both situations, I was a child but yet I knew enough about the presence of God to experience hot tears flowing from a sincere heart who wanted to know Him. It changed my life. Regardless of what your denomination teaches about these things, I’m just sharing with you the precious experience I got to have as a child raised in a Pentecostal church. And just think…had my parents kept me at the house either of those nights, because I was young and because they wanted me in bed at a certain time, or because they reasoned that I would probably encounter Jesus sometime after I got a little older…I might never have made a decision for Christ that translated into a lifetime of rich, growing faith. It was just two church services on the timeline of my life; but oh, if I had missed them…
I’ve had my ups and downs spiritually, have made some good decisions and some unthinkably foolish ones; but I’m 52 and I’m still deeply, deeply in love with my Savior. This didn’t happen by accident. My parents steered me toward a relationship with God–very intentionally–and part of that involved raising me not just as an occasional visitor to His house, but a regular. It was all I ever knew. Sunday was His day, and very few times was it pre-empted for something else. And because I got to experience needing to exercise my faith, worshiping God in a setting of young and old, being encouraged to seek out my gifts and use them for His glory; and seeing the consequences of when things aren’t handled right by believers actually protected me. It kept me from becoming jaded from offenses and hurts and church splits and injustices–because unfortunately, those things happen. Your child needs to be conditioned to deal with the very things you wish they didn’t have to see. I learned that men may fail you, mistreat you, withhold favor, betray you…but that God will not. Ever.
If you will live Jesus Christ before them, and be genuine in your faith, your kids will be ok even if they see others who don’t walk the walk. If you’ll value their spiritual growth as much as you value them making first string on the ball team, you are securing something even more important than whether they get skilled enough to win a sports scholarship and a free ride to college. Your kids need to be able to cope with life in a wicked, wicked world. They will worshipsomething—and if you don’t teach them and model before them how to put the Lord God first in their lives, you may lose them to the world system. If they see you indifferent about your commitment to Christ, don’t be surprised if they grow up completely detached from faith. It’s not going to be enough for your children to say, “Oh yeah…I believe there’s probably a God.” Or, “Hey, I might not be where I ought to be, but I still pray…sometimes”. The time to sell them on the value of that relationship is now, while they’re still impressionable. Your kids need Him for eternal life. They need Him, because drugs and alcohol and debauchery and pornography and crime and suicide are all waiting to grab hold of them.
Some of you prayed that God would bless you with children. Now that you have them, will you truly dedicate them to Him or will you instead teach them that life is all about what they can achieve and get and buy and own and collect and play? Will they encounter His presence or will their lives be all about getting numbed out by newest level of their favorite video game? Don’t raise them up not to know who their Father is, and don’t raise them not to know about a hell that’s to be shunned and heaven to be gained. it’s a matter of eternal life and death.
Being a church kid wasn’t–and isn’t–a bad thing to be. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
In commemoration of God sparing our life on a cold October night, I’m expanding a little devotional I wrote in April 2011. Most of what’s in here is taken from the piece, “Trust and You Won’t Be Crushed.”
It was just at the edge of dusk, 6 years ago this evening, when I woke up to find that I was lying flat on my back on the cold pavement. I remembered seeing the dog run out in front of our motorcycle; and I remembered us bracing and hitting it, then it was like being tumbled in a dark clothes dryer. There hadn’t even been time to be scared, much less avoid the impact. How long had I been unconscious? Someone had already stood up our motorcycle, and a couple of men were looking through the tour pack for some ID. I could see out the corner of my eye that Dana was lying about 10 feet away from me, but I couldn’t hear him speak and I couldn’t see if he was moving. People standing over us were saying things that indicated to me that we were both bad off.
At first I couldn’t even talk, and it was so hard to breathe—I suppose from having had the wind knocked out of me. My helmet was shattered. Later I would find that I had a basal skull fracture as well as a fractured bone in my neck. I vaguely remember a woman holding my helmet and talking about how messed up it was. Someone commented that my head was bleeding. I wanted to get to Dana but I couldn’t raise up; and they were trying to keep me still so they could put me on a backboard. My arm was twisted over my head and I thought it was dislocated, but was told later that the shoulder was broken in two places. In the midst of the confusion and the excruciating pain, reality began to set in about what had just happened. The loud noise of onlookers and emergency workers was making me more and more uncomfortable as I struggled to get someone to tell me whether my husband was ok. A couple knelt on the ground and asked if they could pray with me; and as they prayed, the Holy Spirit rose up inside me and I began to pray loudly in Him. It sounded like an authoritative voice not my own was declaring boundaries around the two of us! As the noise of urgency began to subside in His presence, I could hear, quite clearly, the Lord whisper just one word to me…“COVENANT.” And in that moment, I knew exactly what He meant. I began to cry and say, “Thank you, God, for rebuking the devourer for our sakes!” A peace I can’t even begin to describe rested on me, one that would get me through the longest night of my life.
I’m told for a little while at the first hospital, Dana was conscious, and he was giving them fits; wanting to come and get me and take me home. We were airlifted, one at a time, from Williamson Memorial to St. Mary’s. I begged the paramedics to elevate my head. I felt like I would absolutely smother to death flat on my back, and would feel that way for the remainder of the night. No one would move me though, for fear of a spinal cord injury. I was more afraid of suffocating than I was of being badly hurt. Once at St. Mary’s, my stepson Coby held my hand and coached me to breathe in sync with him while they repositioned my broken shoulder. The only relief I had from the discomfort was to occasionally lose consciousness. Then, as I lay on a gurney in the hallway, waiting to go into a CT scan, a doctor came up and with no expression whatsoever, told me, “Your husband is unconscious and has a serious brain injury. His brain has begun to swell. We’ll do what we can.” With that, she turned and left. I had to make up my mind right then and there…am I going to trust God or am I going to collapse under a weight of fear? I chose to trust God, and that’s exactly what I called out to her back as she was walking away.
For just a little while, they wheeled me into a holding room with Dana. He was lying there, eyes closed, not moving. I reached my fingers through the bars on our gurneys, gripped his hand, and prayed for him. Looking back now, I wonder whether the doctors might have thought he was going to die, and they were giving me a chance to say goodbye. But I spoke to him this Scripture which came to my remembrance, before they wheeled us in two different directions, “(You) shall live and not die, to declare the works of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:17)
That was a long first night in the hospital. Eventually, by the wee hours of dawn, I felt like I could breathe again, but I would have to watch for the next several weeks as a machine did the breathing for Dana. Angels on assignment kept vigil over him, as did family and friends around the clock for the first nearly three weeks. I was too sick and injured to sit up with him for the first week or so, even though I stayed nearby and spent as much time as I could in his room.
There are those times when we have to choose to believe, or be crushed under the weight of despair. And there are times when we can’t just think it or hope it…we have to hear ourselves say it—I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE. I learned to say it out loud, and often, beginning that first night. I stood on the Word and quoted Scripture as I stood in the gap, and prayed day and night over my husband. When anxious or despairing thoughts tried to do war internally in my soul, I smiled on the outside in front of others; and I would privately share my sorrows and fears with Jesus. I bet some folks thought I’d knocked my brains out on that pavement, when I’d counter the negative news with what God’s Word says… but I really didn’t care. This was a battle for my husband’s very life. The Holy Spirit cautioned me to set a watch on my lips. Had I allowed myself to give voice to fear or unbelief, my actions would have followed. Sometimes I actually wanted to let my vulnerability show, to cry on someone’s shoulder, but the Lord made me brave in the face of a lonely secret: my words were declaring what I didn’t always feel in the natural! Faith does it even when we are scared, friends. And God proved faithful. When pneumonia and infections came, He kept Dana from succumbing. When acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) threatened to cause his lungs, one of which had already been collapsed, to just deteriorate and stop working altogether, God was there. When Dana lay so long with his eyes partially open that the whites turned into what looked like pink sponges, God spared his sight. Through blood clots, through huge wounds that were left undiscovered and untreated on the back of his head because of the position he had to lie in, through an unbelievably high fever that could have cooked his already-damaged brain, God kept him. And when they had to bring the crash cart as he came out from surgery for being trached, God did not let him die. When I had to sign consent for them to give him a special paralytic drug that totally disabled his functions so that his body would stop fighting the respirator, God gave me peace that He would keep Dana alive. So many miracles that came, so much blessed assurance just in the nick of time. I still marvel over how the Lord preserved my husband through the next six weeks without a bite to eat or even a sip of water in his parched throat and mouth. He was tube-fed and intravenously hydrated all that time.
When Dana regained consciousness in the second hospital, he couldn’t speak, but because he made eye contact with us and seemed to understand us when we talked to him, we assumed he was ok; however, when at last they capped his trach and he was able to speak, it became apparent that the head injury was affecting his personality and his cognizance significantly. He was hallucinating, saying things out of character, behaving not like himself. I didn’t recognize the man inside the man; and I thank the Holy Spirit for holding onto me and numbing the pain of uncertainty of how long Dana would be this stranger. His behavior begin to grow worse just as we moved him to the rehab hospital, and the brain injury made him very combative and angry and hard to handle. Because he only slept for very short periods of time, so did I. He acted at times like he despised me, but would go into an anxiety mode if I even left to step into the restroom. He couldn’t even walk yet without a walker and a person or two at his elbows; but one night managed to get out of bed and wobble around on that walker, swearing he was going to find the exit and go home…in 6 inches of snow. I had to lie to him (forgive me, Lord!) and tell him they bolted the exits from the outside after visiting hours were over…it was the only way to settle him down and make him go back to his bed! At one point, the hallucinations were so bad, he even thought he was married to two different women at the same time–me and me. He told me, “She’s good to me, but YOU are the one I love.” Folks, this wasn’t a cake walk. At times it has been downright scary and it took every ounce of faith I could muster. If God hadn’t held us in His hand, we couldn’t have made it. I only share these very private memories with you because I want you to understand what God’s brought us from, and how He kept bad situations from spiraling completely out of control. I knew from the start that there were ways this situation could’ve been infinitely worse…yet the Lord was merciful.
The Word and our prayer partners kept me together as I stayed for nearly three months either right there with him or close by. I only left Huntington to come home a few times to catch up my work, to get clean clothes, pay bills, etc., then right back to the hospital. Until he was able to be moved to the rehab hospital in December, I’d stayed at a hospitality house. I’d come come home on a Thursday afternoon, work for 24 straight hours on the parts of my job that couldn’t be handled remotely on my laptop; and then Dana’s dad would drive me back (I was in a neck brace and a sling, so I couldn’t drive for quite some time). At the rehab hospital, I was finally able to move into his room with him. I just set myself an office up in the corner and kept working! And, friends and family kept driving the nearly two-hour drive to Huntington to those three hospitals. We had a steady stream of visitors. I’ll never be able to thank them for being there for us…that they even cared this much for us moves me to tears.
On January 21, 2011, Dana was finally released from the hospital. Even now, he remembers nothing about his hospital stays except for vague little bits the last couple of days or so. Leaving the hospital was another chapter, and another time when trusting God was critical to survival. I still was concerned about his healing brain and whether I’d be able to do anything with him if he had another “episode” like the night he tried to leave the hospital! We weren’t able to go directly home. We would spend the next four months in his dad’s den–him in a hospital bed and me on a couch beside him, because Dana was still in a wheelchair and walker and couldn’t climb the steps to our house. He also still had to have his liquids thickened and his solids very soft, to keep from choking on his food from his damaged trachea. God bless Joe and Thelma for persevering right there with us. We couldn’t have made it through this without them. Near the end of May, seven long months after our ordeal, we got to sleep in our own bed again for the first time.
Dana spent 82 days in 3 hospitals, and couldn’t even swallow an ice chip for the first 43 days. He lay in the ICU trauma ward for 17 days comatose, and running an insanely high fever for several days. He had multiple fractures, multiple brain bleeds, and a series of serious complications; but when Satan tried to take him out, God drew the line and said, “No.”
Though it’s been at times a physically and emotionally exhausting 6 years for both Dana and me, we have not lost our joy and we have not lost our love for life and one another. God has been so good to us. We have adjusted to a “new normal,” and part of it is to lighten up a little and find humor in what would otherwise be frustrating or difficult or just…different. The head injury left Dana’s personality and behaviors a tad changed from before, but mostly in very good ways. I think of it as “Dana’s personality—on steroids.” 😉 Dana has a childlike, literal faith that God can and will do exactly what He says. I’ve watched the Lord transform a lukewarm/backslidden man who’d completely stopped serving God before our wreck into a mighty man of God who prays for hours each day, witnesses to others continually, and encourages folks to believe and speak the Word. (I will draw an exception here however, and I would be remiss in leaving this out: when he had stopped professing faith and attending church before our wreck, he was still diligent to tithe and give. He would repeatedly tell me on payday: “Whatever you do, don’t forget to pay tithe and give offerings on my check. I may not be living right but I won’t rob God!” Could it be that, in the time where our lives hung in the balance, God honored a man’s tenacity in this small thing????). What God has done and continues to do in Dana’s life, inside and out, is quite miraculous. We still confess and believe for the areas of restoration that are yet to manifest. We believe that what still needs to become whole will be whole again– as our friend Cathy had confessed over us repeatedly, “nothing broken, nothing missing, nothing lost.” We have surely come from a mighty long way.
And God proved to me that He doesn’t leave; He didn’t leave me and He won’t abandon you, either! Even on those days when you feel frightened, alone, ashamed of your personal struggles, numb to all emotion or crying uncontrollably, He’s there. He watches over His Word to perform it. Our job is to take that Word and keep speaking it over our lives even when there’s no evidence whatsoever yet that it’s doing a bit of good. We are to speak it even when our hearts are hollow and the words seem to fall to the ground. The answer will come if you and I will pray and not faint; or if we fall, we keep getting back up as often as it takes. There were days when I was so overwhelmed that I wished I’d died that night on the pavement, but God restored joy to my life and a stronger faith in His faithfulness! God helped Dana and me to emerge from a catastrophic situation to become more resolute in our faith, more devoted to one another, and hopefully better people for having persevered during this detour on our journey.
I’m telling you, friends, you need Jesus. You need Him, your marriage needs Him, your family needs Him to carry you through times like this. It’s not a matter of if you’ll ever have to go through hard seasons, but when..and when you do, faith in God can preserve your very sanity. Covenant relationship with God doesn’t mean you’ll never face difficulty. It can, however, mean the difference between you surviving or being mowed down by the enemy. It will keep you when you go through depression, through loss, through grave uncertainty, through the outright unfair happenings of life in this fallen world; and on the other side of your storm, God will pull out a mysterious parcel and hand back to you. You will find that you didn’t lose your joy and innocence after all; He’d wrapped it securely in the Holy Spirit’s comfort and kept it from being annihilated by the tribulation of life.
Sooner or later, we all have to face the most difficult time of our lives. Are you prepared? God can keep you from falling apart. I can say that because, six years later, Dana and I are still held together by the duct tape of God’s wonderful, saving grace. Even these fractured pieces form something beautiful…like a prism of glass that scatters light in every direction, testifying that truly, love never fails.
“But the LORD God keeps me from being disgraced. So I refuse to give up, because I know God will never let me down.” Isaiah 50:7 CEV
Remember watching Gilligan’s Island on tv, the episodes where Professor would rig up an invention to make their Crusoe-esque lives a little easier? My favorite is “Gilligan-powered” ingenuity. Gilligan is seated on a bamboo bicycle, those skinny legs pedaling furiously to generate electricity for a radio transmitter, or to agitate a paddle wheel in a washtub full of dirty laundry, etc.
In the Body of Christ, are we pedaling bamboo bicycles to generate power? Are we mobilizing programs solely on our own strength and ambition–or even worse, based on someone else’s perceived success in harnessing revival?
We are so trend-driven when it comes to our faith, and it ought not be. It’s one thing to come away inspired by someone else’s encounter with God; but we are more than a little foolish if we think there’s some magic formula for revival, soul-winning, and restoring miracles in the Church. We saw in the 60’s and 70’s a variation of this. If Apostle so-and-so wore porkchop sideburns and he had a following, suddenly all the up-and-coming young ministers grew big goofy sideburns. They held the mic the same way he did. Pulled their lapels wayyyy out. They parted their hair on the same side, mimicked his vocal inflections, got the walk down just-so. If the evangelist had people fall out when he laid hands on them, now all the young hopefuls wanted everyone at the altar to fall out for them too! Yep, I’ve had a couple of them try to tip me over when I didn’t fall out on my own.
I’m not trying to mock our Pentecostal heritage, not at all. I celebrate it and walk in the gifts and baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit. Looking throughout the Bible, and throughout church history, however, it looks like every generation has had its bamboo bicycles on deserted islands where the power connection didn’t quite reach. Perhaps it’s not so much laziness on our part, but not actually knowing that we can have our own encounter without having to do it like so-and-so’s church, like Reverend Powerhouse, or like our godly role models. We do want the fire to fall; but we are looking in the wrong direction, hoping someone else to our left or right has perfected the template–hoping some else’s proven method will save us from having to seek God’s revelation for our own prayer and fasting model. We are trying to house the Holy Spirit in recycled plastic milk jugs instead of paying the price to become stretchable wineskins ourselves. We will try on someone else’s armor only to find out it’s too big and bulky for our own frames.
Consider this: although God changes not, He will never make Himself known to us through a boilerplate format for the encounter. When we copy someone else’s method, even if it works for that movement and season, for us it becomes dead works. And if we don’t move with the cloud by day and the fire by night, what DID once work for us will suddenly become dead works, too. How many times has the Body of Christ failed the test when the Lord called us to follow him out of a particular season on to another level? God is never going to share His glory with man. Yes, once He has moved on, we are perfectly free to stay where we are; program it up, to try to keep it all going just as before. He’ll let us. He just won’t be the source generating the energy. He will never prosper our attempts to bottle and patent and copyright His glory!
Not every church is going to be a Brownsville. Brownsville can’t even afford to be labeled a ‘Brownsville-style movement;’ for such a label has the potential to become a judgment against us. If we are blessed to have God’s visitation in a phenomenal, supernatural season, and He chooses to move us out of our oasis and back on the travel path again, there’s great danger in choosing to try to remain in the move that He’s finished anointing. I believe, and I say this with fear and great respect, that even the leaders of these great awakenings which have birthed in these last few years would tell you to keep your eyes on Jesus alone, listening to His directive–and stop trying to market a particular style of worship as being the “next new thing.” If we are blessed to be under the deluge of His outpouring, and His power should suddenly moves in a different direction; or, if we are trying furiously to bring someone else’s revival recipe to our own little corners on the globe, then we’ll just be pedaling our little bicycles like madmen, doomed to fail in our human frailty! God’s will is that all of us have a supernatural encounter with Him; but we don’t get to define the parameters for that encounter. He may manifest as wind in one setting, as rain in another, as fire in yet another, or He may manifest as that still small voice. If it’s from HIM, all of it is good! It’s HIS prerogative to define the visitation; it’s our mandate to be merely, get this, obedient.
I’ve heard some irreverent commentary even in the Body, where this or that particular movement would be rumored to be taken in error in spite of at least a timed visitation from God. Frankly, it hurts my feelings, for I believe these visitations have been very real at least as long as we have remained under God’s directive. I don’t know each individual situation, nor do I want to; but after the rumors of mighty revival movements collapsing or “fizzling out,” suddenly a teaching emerged which warned of the dangers of strange fire. Then the Body of Christ became scared of any manifestation of the Holy Ghost being labeled strange fire, and so we went back to having no fire. Neither of those polar positions is God’s intent for us individually or corporately. I’m not even sure I fully understand what constitutes “strange fire,” but I do know that if something ventures beyond Christ alone, its fruit will not and cannot remain.
I would challenge us all today to radical obedience. Obedience, not as weighed against the methods of others; but drowning out the popular theories of church growth, and getting somewhere alone with the Lord to hear what HE would have us do in order to release that anointing in our lives, in our churches, over our geographical areas. Obedience to GOD, not a new 7-step bullet point program for stirring up an awakening.
Jesus scolded Peter for worrying about John getting an easier ticket to heaven than he was getting. Jesus as much as said, “John’s encounter with me is not your business, Peter. Follow ME.” Peter didn’t want that place of being led where he didn’t want to go, to that untimely demise, that suffering, persecution, that upside-down cross. If John’s encounter involves an easier burden–if it were to be perceived that John has more favor or is looked upon by the other 12 as holier–Peter is jealous for THAT encounter. We can’t busy ourselves with what works in Australia, in Pensacola, or in the big new church on the other side of town with a coffee shop and valet parking. Praise God for moving in such notable ways in those places; we rejoice for them! We will buy their worship tapes, listen to the preaching on our CD’s, read the books and let the zeal for the house rub off on us, too–but our job is still to look to GOD ALONE for our own visitation, whatever that visitation should look like for us. I can almost guarantee that it’s going to look a lot different here in the foothills of Appalachia than it does in Sydney, than it did at Mezuzah Street or at Murphy, NC. But…if God’s the one generating the power, we won’t have to build a single program or training center to keep it going.
Obey the Lord, pure and simple. He will not let it be said that the success of His Body comes from the neck down! Know this: if you obey Him only, instead of trying to power your own movement, you will never ever be in danger of deception. You won’t have strange fire, and you won’t have no fire. You will have HIS fire. And you won’t have to grow sideburns or pedal a bamboo bike! Just saying…
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” –Jesus (Matthew 5:16)
There was a time when the humble little match could be ignited by striking against any surface. You see it all the time in the old westerns; macho cowboy strikes a match from his boot, lights his cigarette, and strolls away with that slow, Joe Cool gait.
Eventually, the original strike-anywhere match was replaced, however, when it was discovered that the highly volatile white phosphorus on the tip could ignite itself just when matches rubbed together in the box. The phosphorus was also poisonous when ingested; when men working in the match plants handled it or breathed it in, it slowly ate away their bones and left them physically ill or eventually dead. Others, learning of its deadly properties, misused the power of the white phosphorus match tips to commit suicide or to kill others. The United States actually forbade the import of the original formula white phosphorus matches early in the 20th Century.
The new match tips were made of a different combustible substance coated in wax, and the ignition key now became red phosphorus, a less powerful chemical than its white cousin. The final difference lay in the fact that the special red phosphorus was the only surface whose friction could ignite the matches. To this day, the little strip of reddish-brown that you see on the edge of the matchbox or match pack is the only friction that can “set it off.” Safety matches. Although you can now buy a different version of a strike-anywhere match, which too is coated to prevent accidental combustion, it only looks like the original. Its properties are very different.
Spiritually-speaking, what kind of match are YOU? Do you catch fire only when you’re in church? Do you only allow yourself to be ignited in a special setting? Do you require the right music, the dim lights, the fog machine to “feel” the Holy Spirit? Outside those conditions, are you coated with a layer of carnality so that you have no potential to erupt into the flame of God without the backing of the Church to set you off?
I challenge you to go back to the original formula! Of COURSE it’s deadly when misused. The Holy Spirit is not to be toyed with. When the flesh tries to “handle” Him, the outcome is never good. His power is to be reverenced, never treated as a common thing. However, when you allow Him to become rich and full and operational in your life, you won’t find yourself restricting His flow when you are outside the box of the church walls. When He fills you, baptizes you, He doesn’t require the music, the stained-glass windows, or the goosebumps to erupt! He IS the fire which can show up anywhere! The Holy Spirit gives us power for service. The Holy Spirit is the “Go Ye” enabler in Matthew 28:19.
Our greatest danger of extinction lies in a watered-down experience with God. We’ve become so politically-correct, so reserved, so afraid of being thought of as obnoxious or weird by others, that we operate in only a very limited capacity. Healings and miracles are down exponentially because faith and the power of the Holy Ghost have had a “cap” put on them by the desire to blend in. If the devil can succeed in corralling that power into a church building and nowhere else, then he succeeds in having dominion everywhere else!
However…there is an awakening happening. A generation of people living in these last days are so hungry for the Holy Spirit to be operational that they are returning to the original formula. As they do, they are discovering that new wine can’t be contained with our “old wineskins” of religious etiquette and tradition. No, the power of the Holy Spirit has to be housed in a place capable of expansion, because He is “working” and needs some room! Not even the restrictions of our nation’s new creed of universalism and tolerance can harness the Real Thing! If others try to operate under a counterfeit, or if they should desire to remain boxed-in and proper, YOU BE AN ANYWHERE CHRISTIAN! Operate in power! We have work to do!
I challenge you today to ask God to fill you with the original, unwaxed, unlimited formula:
“Heavenly Father, I am tired of operating in limited power. There are sick people who need to be healed, evil spirits to be cast out, strongholds to be broken, and lives set free by Your salvation. Most of these people are not inside the church building, so I need to be able to shine Your light other places as well. I’m realizing more and more that a ‘less-volatile’ formula of You isn’t going to do it. I don’t want to have a form of godliness but no power. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit today. Make me dangerous to the works of darkness. Make me so combustible that I’m liable to erupt in the grocery store, the city square, even in front of the drug dealers and dignitaries and others who are kept ‘safe’ from witnessing You at work! I receive You, Holy Spirit, and I will not quench You when You are trying to operate outside the walls of the church. I will not misuse You or treat You as common, because You are holy. I will keep a clean temple and sanctify my mind so that You feel welcome. I will open my ears, eyes, and mouth to Your control. Allow me to hear Your voice, and to hear the silent cries of those who are ripe for the harvest. Allow me to see others as You see, and to discern what isn’t detectable by the naked eye. I will speak Your Word with boldness and not hide Your dominion in my life. I surrender all of me to Your use. Use me to light a huge fire everywhere You want to operate! In Jesus’ name I freely receive, Amen.”
“No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it. No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.” (I Cor. 2:9-10 NCV)
Years ago, my now brother-in-law Tommy had a poster on his office wall that, at first glance, just appeared to be a nice purple-and-blue pattern. I thought it was pretty but really didn’t see anything outstanding there. Eventually one day, I heard some of the others talking about the picture-inside-the-picture…and I was intrigued enough to press in closer. I saw nothing. It was one of those times where you wonder, “Should I be like the people in the Emperor’s New Clothes story, and pretend I see what isn’t there…or do I just admit that I don’t get it?”
Well, I ‘fessed up…I really didn’t get it. So Tommy said, “You’re trying too hard. You have to just relax and let your vision blur a little. When you stop trying to SEE it, you’ll see it!” And he was right. After a couple of tries, it was as if the hidden images materialized out of nowhere. Now, the theme of that particular poster turned out to be Star Trek…but after I discovered the whole “Mind’s Eye” picture series, I just became an instant fan. I sought out other similar pictures to peer into and enjoy.
As believers in Christ, many (probably most) of us breeze, at least in our fledgling years, right past situations that appear one way but have hidden spiritual undertones. It’s not a sin to be unable to read those signs; yet, we can miss some really important, even critical, messages God is trying to show us in the spirit realm. We can live a very superficial Christian life, saved as can be, but still not have a depth of understanding that will mature us and make our walk effective.
Now, to become spiritually-minded, we don’t have to become hermits, shave our heads, or adopt bizarre behaviors! However, our affections and appetites change as we draw closer to God. As we begin to savor the deep things in the Word, and as we spend time in prayer and just fellowship with our Father, a side to us is opened up which we didn’t know we had. Carnal mindsets start dying off, and we begin to understand a greater scope of what’s going on around us.
I’ll give you a little example, because becoming spiritually-minded has been and is an ongoing process with me, too. At one time, I might have looked at face values of situations which need changing, and might have only seen the visible problem instead of the hidden cause of it. The Lord has enabled me, over time, to become aware of the “picture-within-the-picture.” Rather than just seeing a geographical area full of drug-addicted people, and shaking my head at the astounding statistics, now I realize that there are territorial strongholds which exist on a different plane: addictive spirits which acquire dominance in a particular place…strongholds which can only be broken through prayer, through fasting, and through persistence. The problems we “see” in the natural realm are pretty much just the results, and not heart of those problems at all! So when we try to attack that growth from the stem up, it keeps coming back. We cannot do war against a spiritual entity by fighting against flesh and blood opponents! Try to rid your lawn of the clover and dandelions by mowing, and see how long they stay gone!
Now, there will always be a need for support groups,positive changes in the natural, etc., but until we see beyond the visible to the root of the problem, and begin to conduct warfare on the root-end of the situation, we will be at best just maintaining. We can clean out corruption by calling in the authorities, but unless there is spiritual deliverance—unless ground is taken by righteousness where once was wickedness—we will see different faces but the same problem, stemming from that original root.
There is a bit of a price to pay for becoming spiritually-minded. It comes right back around to time spent in God’s presence. You cannot think like God thinks if you aren’t willing to hang out with Him and let the mind of Christ rub off on you! Having His mind won’t make you weird, cultic, eccentric, or “out there;” although, folks may just not get you when you make observations from a perspective they can’t see. Being occasionally misunderstood is a very small investment, when going deeper into your relationship with God empowers you to pray and to see in a much greater way than before.
God doesn’t give us this ability just so we can feel “enlightened” above other people. No, that’s where we could dance a fine line of hypocrisy. It doesn’t make us superior to the average believer, so there’s absolutely no room to gloat in one’s spirituality. God gives us that deeper vision so that we can see as He sees–to respond as He responds, and so that we will be proactive to promote His righteous will on earth. To merely SEE on a deeper level would only drive us to despair, without God’s Word and without His instructions on what we are to do with the revelation He’s given us. Remember, the devil has his own counterfeit spirituality too, and some may confuse being psychic with the kind of spiritual sight I’m talking about. When Satan approached Eve in the garden, he said that God didn’t want them to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because God didn’t want their eyes to be opened to see what He sees. Why, that made the fruit even more delectable…to think, that she could become privy to something God was concealing from her; something with which she might then have a right to disagree! Therein lies the difference. When God reveals a matter to us, it’s to bring us into alignment with His will—not to consume our knowledge on our own greed, or form our own carnal opinions about it. Satan’s intent behind luring people into pseudo-spirituality is to cause them to think independently of God’s will. Eve managed to be duped into thinking that God was keeping her from something good. What she, and so many others have failed to understand over the years (to their destruction), is that outside of God’s will, nothing good exists in the first place.
With more understanding comes more responsibility. God doesn’t grant you the gift of discernment, for instance, so that you can peek into other people’s secret faults and frailties and use those weaknesses to harm them. It’s not given with the purpose of advancing you AT ALL. As a matter of fact, a person with special discernment may very well have to gird himself/herself up in the area of having judgmental tendencies. A person of discernment must also learn to be silent about what God does not choose to reveal to others. We must NOT reveal what God has confided in us, and certainly not with the motive of making ourselves look more spiritual to other people! There’s absolutely no room for a gossiping spirit or a manipulative spirit in the life of a Believer who walks on this level. Conversely, as our awareness of spirit realm is heightened, we must choose to become more humble, more consecrated, more surrendered to God. Our carnal nature, if not put under submission, will only make a mess out of what God’s wanting to give us for His good purposes. We cannot afford to try to use our gifts outside the realm of His Word and His will. We are called to prayer, and on one’s knees is the best place to remain when humility is paramount. Trust me…if you walk closely to God, there may be times when you discern things about other people which are going to disturb you, grieve you. You may enter places and sense the presence of a particular controlling spirit. Without holiness in your life, there are things you can’t bear! With holiness and a totally submitted-to-God’s-authority frame of mind, you’ll not only be able to bear these things, you can pray the prayer of faith against the influence of the enemy in the lives of people and over localities. We are not given the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound, calm, well-balanced mind! Any time God reveals hidden things to you, it’s always either with yours or someone else’s protection in mind, or for you to know what type of prayer must be prayed to bring situations in line with His Kingdom and His will. And it’s not always about identifying the negative! God can use our sensitivity to His Spirit to reveal good, wholesome, encouraging, holy truths. Just as important as not walking through wrong doors is the discernment to walk through the right ones!
God will even test us early on to prove whether we are trustworthy to walk on another plane. He may instruct us to speak out over something we don’t want to address; or He may order us to keep silent about a matter even though we feel we have the “low down” on the situation. In these times, it may be very tempting to try to make ourselves look good in front of others. If we disobey His instructions, we disqualify ourselves from certain realms of spiritual authority. Just as you love some people you wouldn’t trust for a minute, God loves us even when He can’t trust us…but He’d rather be able to trust us! He wants to love you, to bless you, to promote you to do great and mighty things, but much of that depends on your obedience factor. Remember, no matter what kind of pretty pattern we display on the outside, God uniquely sees beyond the window dressing and straight into our hearts. May He be pleased with what He sees…
Pray with me today: “Heavenly Father, I desire to be closer to You, and to want those things which You desire. I have some carnal affections I’m already aware of, and some I may not be aware of. Prune me of those tendencies toward unrighteousness. Mature me in the things of God! Help me to have healthy appetites and goals, and help me to have a pure heart with right motives. There is another level I’ve not attained in my walk with You, and that level is where You will for me to come up to. You created me for purpose, and oh, how I want to fulfill Your will in my life. I want to be a vessel You can TRUST. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit; baptize me through and through, and give me power for service. Help me not to see the world around me through the eyes of the flesh. If I walk after the flesh, I’ll only fulfill the works of the flesh. I ask You to enable me to walk after the Spirit! When I’m confronted with the sin and the despair around me, help me to see through Your eyes. Help me see people, even the most difficult ones, through Your eyes. Prompt me to pray and to intercede for the lost, for the bound, and for the hopeless. I want to be transformed today. Help me renew my mind to Your Word, and help me to bear You much good fruit in this lifetime You’ve appointed me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”