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)

Prayer Over the Emotional Health of Those in Christian Leadership

Kneeling man“Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us.” — The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica  (1 Thes. 5:25)

It’s one of the least talked-about issues in the church, because leaders oftentimes feel an obligation to appear stronger than their congregations; yet some of the greatest pastors and Bible figures have had struggles with anxiety and depression! We’re more than a little naive if we think that our leaders are immune to the struggles we ourselves face. I can tell you firsthand, a mature Christian can absolutely suffer emotional issues. Although we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope, we still suffer sorrow and loss, grief, oppression, and we still have to guard our hearts from the attack of an enemy who definitely doesn’t want leaders to be effective.

Look at King David, man after God’s own heart, who often wrote psalms that revealed despair and uncertainty—on the mountain in some of his songs, and hitting rock bottom in human desperation in others. Paul had a recurring or chronic obscure problem of which that he sought earnestly to be relieved. Jonah fell into depression after he’d completed the task to which God had assigned him. Elijah called fire down from heaven in between declaring a 3-year drought and declaring its end; and in the very next chapter, was hit by anxiety and asked God to just let him die. At age 23, Charles Spurgeon was hit with depression so great he nearly didn’t recover. On and on, the list would just continue to grow. My point? We have a completely saved spirit, but we have a soul and body that are still navigating a fallen world. Whether it’s environmental, trauma-induced, hormonal, generational, too-little sleep and exercise and quiet time, or just an attack of the enemy to derail a person—emotional issues can be just as huge a matter for a leader as they are for his/her followers!

So while we certainly need to pray for one another, we also need to know how to pray for ourselves. Our leaders are indeed there for us; but they are human too, and we all can lean too heavily on them at times. They wear many hats and get very little downtime. The person you’re counting on to listen to your problems and get that prayer through may be encountering an inner battle you know nothing of. That person’s spouse may not even have a clue that there’s a private agony of anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion, burnout from packing a burden the size of a church on his or her shoulders. Ask yourself, in whom can your own spiritual leader(s) confide, go to for honest accountability and prayer, and feel comfortable being real? Leaders want to be bulletproof. Many don’t want to reveal their own struggles because the devil wants them to believe they are incompetent leaders if they’re not always on the mountain; that their followers will lose confidence in them or begin to view them as hypocrites! They don’t want to be judged as weak, out of God’s will, or flawed and unfit for service. So today, while I realize many of you are wrestling with depression and emotional issues of your own, could we just turn our attention away from ourselves and pray collectively for the front line leaders, apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers, ministry workers, and intercessors who are oppressed?

Father, You already know our personal struggles and we trust You to finish the work You’ve begun in us. So in this prayer, we turn to the emotional health of our leaders and ask You to bless them and meet them where they are. Oh how they need Your angelic assistance, Lord! You alone know the agony they feel when they’re under pressure and feel they must put on brave masks in front of their constituents. You know the pressure of feeling as if they can never relax or come out from under the burden of other people’s miseries and suffering. You know the guilt they feel when they get weary of late nights and other people’s drama. You know every time they stand behind a lectern or pulpit or a writer’s pen feeling bankrupt—disqualified to help others because they too are wounded and bleeding. You know the very ones who’ve thought of suicide, who might be self-medicating, and who’ve thought of quitting the very ministries You’ve called them to. Lord, intervene! Teach us how to pray for those in authority over us, instead of expecting the prayer relationship to be one-sided!

O God, we pray, send Your ministering spirits to them! Father, we plead the blood of Jesus around our pastors, teachers, elders, public speakers, and believers who serve You as they work in civil government. Bring laughter and lightheartedness to their weary souls. Let a joy bubble up within, a calm and assurance and a FREEDOM, that actually matches the face they put on in front of others. Give them wise answers to the questions they often take to their pillows with them at night, so that they can sleep in peace. Give them opportunities for recreation and fun and keep insisting in that still small voice that they need to take what You’re making available to them! Father, we ask for special confidantes and mentors and accountability partners, for counselors, and for genuine friends for these in leadership. They need people they can “get real” with to talk about and pray about their private struggles, fears, and failures. Finally, Father, help them keep open doors of communication between themselves and YOU; and as You bring healing for their anxieties, and for the depression the enemy tells them they wouldn’t have if they were walking worthy of their vocation.

Father, ease their financial burdens and their family tensions we pray. Whatever issues are bombarding leaders tonight, we pray angels are released to do war in the heavenlies on their behalf. Give them days and nights where not one phone call fetches them away from needed rest or time with family. Intercept delays perpetuated by the enemy to keep them too busy to pray and invest time in study. Send laborers into the harvest so that they’re not doing all the work themselves; place armorbearers around them who will not bail and betray, and assign intercessors who not only pray daily for them, but who are awakened and sensitive to pray “emergency” prayers when that leader is silently suffering. May You keep those (including leaders on every level) in perfect peace whose hearts and minds are steadfast because they trust in You!

And Lord, for every fallen leader who’s given up, succumbed to temptation, walked away, or departed from the faith, we ask that angels and people You assign will go to their aid and help them regain their bearings. Remind them that it’s time to repent, get healed up, and strengthen others after they themselves are restored. Their latter days CAN be greater than their former ones!

Open up ministry centers geared toward the healing of wounded and weary leaders, where they can get help in a nonthreatening environment. Let this be the year when leaders have healed marriages, restored families, and renewed sense of purpose; not just painted-on facades of how they think they’re expected to look. And Lord, help us to cut the faltering a little more slack! Forgive us for not forgiving them their shortcomings, for judging them inappropriately, for speaking evil of them when we should’ve instead been on our knees in intercession.

We rebuke spirits of suicide, doubt and unbelief, pride, lust, delusion, anxiety, depression, fear, lack, mental illness, confusion, and afflicting spirits of every kind who are trying to take out godly people in authority. The Lord rebuke you and break your assignment off God’s chosen! We speak it in Jesus’ name and we release healing and a time of refreshing over the lives of apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, leaders on every level, intercessors, and godly civil servants. May these last days find Your called ones more determined than ever to make it and to bring in the harvest! Seal it, we pray, with good sleep, much laughter, and contagious joy, in Jesus’ name. Thank You, good good Father!

Running the Backup Plan Aground…for Good

fiashing-netProbably the loneliest day of Peter’s whole fishing career was when he re-launched the S.S. Simon and tried to just be a fisherman again after following Jesus. The romantic call of the sea and the nostalgic smell of the salty nets held little sway over him now. After all, a Simon reed can easily sway in the wind; but now his name was Petra, a solid rock. The wind of recklessness and wavering was no longer his domain. I wonder if his pivotal decision to finally return to the disciples and Jesus came from an instant replay of that day when Jesus asked the twelve whether they, too,  would abandon Him like others who were turned off by certain elements of His teaching. Peter replied, “Where else would we go…YOU have the words of eternal life!” Perhaps it was the memory of this moment that caused him to finally sever all ties with his backup plan and dedicate the rest of his life to serving his True Source.

Once God has expanded your boundaries to accommodate the person He’s growing you to be, you can never quite fit back into your original container. Oh, to be certain, we have to make a living, support our families, and in general, be exposed to the world if they are to be exposed to US and to the Gospel we share. However, if you feel your failures have put you out of commission to serve the Lord and carry the Good News, I beg you to think of Peter and his brief turning away from his calling. His most victorious, passionate days would come after he realized that his success lay in Jesus within him instead of in his own strength.  The pages in his dossier that revealed days of his least savory performance were only left in the file because they were amended to show the amazing comeback in each circumstance. It no longer mattered that there were blotches on his record…the blotches were a setup for an amazing finish of, well, Biblical proportions. Peter’s last half of his journey as God’s “petra man” far exceeded his former days; for just forty days after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Comforter came and Peter got to be one of the first people on earth to operate under this release of power from on high!

So why are you reverting to your backup plan, minister, leader, disciple, pioneer?  If God called you, and you have undealt-with wrongs, right them. Even if it means you have to prove yourself all over again and feel the humiliation of a tarnished reputation, be quick to repent, to forgive, to make restitution, to accept the mercy and forgiveness of the One Who asks nothing more of you than to “feed My lambs…feed My sheep.” You can build character, stability, integrity if you’re willing…and if you can’t return to the place where it all went south, God can absolutely redeem you to a different assignment, with perhaps even more powerful impact!  Eventually your failures will be yesterday’s news to those around you; and even if they should never quite be forgotten, God will weave a victory comeback into even that part of your story. The truth is, whether you’re used in the same way, a lesser way, or a greater way, you’ll never be free of that call to a destiny of His design.  It’s bigger than that small, safe, predictable life you once envisioned for yourself.

Run that backup plan into a sandbar and be done with it.  Put a “For Sale” sign on your escape vehicle.  Boom or bust, go all out this second (or even third or fourth) time around.  Have a Peter kind of finish. Even as a martyr for his faith, he went out on his own terms–better yet, he finished on God’s terms. Come back home, wandering servant of Christ. He still has need of your part….

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