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How to Get Unbent

unbent

I have some very specific struggles in life. They stem from a childhood where I started out being raised by hippy parents who were barely able to acknowledge they had children. One day, those same parents just ran off and left me and my little sister – I was 5 and she was 2. Thankfully, we were eventually adopted by our great aunt and uncle, but it was still a difficult time for me.

I’ve felt alone, unwanted, unneeded most of my life, so life for me has always been about proving my worth, working harder than others, trying to worm my way in and then getting there and still not feeling like I belong – I’ve always been an orphan, and no matter what, I always bend back toward that feeling – I’m not enough, I can’t be enough, how can anyone love me – how can even God love me – worthless, abandoned and alone.

I say all that in the present tense, but it’s mostly past tense. I say I struggle with these things and in that I mean this – freedom ministry has helped tremendously. When I begin to feel that way, as I tend to do, instead of wallowing in it I push back. I fight! I’ve been handed the raw materials to fight a war and I’ve figured out a way to use them so the way I was bent by life no longer defines my life.

We are all bent a certain way. One of the most graphic, vivid verses I know on this subject is Proverbs 26:11 – “like a dog who returns to its vomit, so is a fool who repeats his folly.” My foolish, repetitive, unrelenting return to my folly led to so many years of heartache – but it doesn’t have to be that way. What happened wasn’t my fault – just like what happened to you wasn’t your fault. But what you do next is all on you.

Would you like to leave here different than when you clicked that link? What would life for you be like with that burden eased or erased? What would it feel like to walk away free?

My goal is to share three ways to get unbent with you, so that you can begin to press into God and walk away free.

First, we need to learn to hear God’s voice for ourselves. Going to church is essential. Freedom or discipleship classes are wonderful. Those things build us up and teach us and connect us with others and we experience the closeness of the Spirit in worship – but then we leave and have a Sunday afternoon nap or mow the grass and before long it’s just another experience out of many and it fades away.

We have to learn to hear God for ourselves, daily, hourly, even minute by minute. And just like any other relationship, it takes time to develop – so start now!

Get alone – you don’t need a bible or a devotional guide or a pen and paper. The writer of Hebrews states (4:16) “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

We have to communicate with God– we have to begin the dialogue by approaching him –

Charles Spurgeon wrote “prayer is an approach of [our] soul by the Spirit to the throne of God. It is not the utterance of words, it is not … the feeling of desires, it is the advance of [our] desires to God, the spiritual approach of our nature towards the Lord.”

We must approach with confidence – knowing that our Father loves us and wants to provide for us, but with confidence we must approach humbly, submissively, and joyfully – knowing that to approach him, to see his face, to hear his voice will result in lasting change. If we approach the Throne – we leave changed because he is and speaks truth.

Once we have seen God and heard him, our response must be repentance – and to get unbent, that means we have to stop believing lies about ourselves.

Have you ever told a lie about someone else? Has anyone ever told a lie about you? The motivation to lie comes from fear – did you know that?

The enemy is a liar, whose goal is destruction – yours and mine – and all the better if he can get us to destroy our own selves. John the Apostle wrote in his gospel (8:44) that satan is not just a liar – he is the father of lies.

He is a master manipulator who will use the smallest events in life to change it’s course to destruction. Satan whispers in our ears – “that happened to you because nobody loves you.” “You’re going through this because God has abandoned you.” “Remember the lies that person told about you – everyone feels the exact same way.” He does this because he is afraid of you – he is afraid of who you could be, if you could know or begin to believe the truth about who you really are.

When we believe the lies, we are making a conscious choice to listen to satan and not God – and that my friends is sin in its purest form and we must repent. But, just as satan can sway us to his way of thinking, we can decide not to listen.

We can repent – we can change our minds and decide to agree with what God says, and embrace who we really are.

Agreement with God is our first step toward walking in freedom. There was a time when I believed that buried somewhere in cave in middle east there laid a a manuscript that contained the bible as we now know it, with a few added footnotes: “when it says God is love, he means it for everyone except Rich. Because that dude’s a mess and there’s no hope.”

I believed I was broken and could never be fixed. I thought I was alone in life. And I acted like an orphan. All the signs were there – working hard to be seen and heard, insecurity, the need for approval by others, lack of confidence, jealousy.

I got caught up in thinking God would love me if I worked hard for him, if my sermons were perfect and if people got saved. And when all that happened and nothing changed inside me I came to a point where I gave up and turned my back on God because he clearly didn’t like anything about me.

But that was a lie! My Father says I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14); I am a friend of God (Jn 15:15); I am his child (Gal 3:26); I am a co-heir with his Son Jesus (Rom 8:17); I am a temple (I Cor 6:19); I am a part of the body of Christ (I Cor 12:27).

And yet – knowing it in my head and knowing it in my heart are two separate things. We have to continually agree with God on these things. We have to continually come before his throne, we must listen to what he says is true and reject the lies of the enemy. We must choose to believe the truth with our minds first and when those thoughts take hold, we will begin to embrace what God says is true and it changes who we are. That’s when the truth sets us free.

You can begin the journey right now. If you’re like me, and by that I mean if you’re a human being, you’re all bent up in one way or another. But you have the same choices I do. Your choices are the same as everyone else’s. Believe lies or believe truth. Trust God or go your own way. Listen to him and be set free or walk away bound up in fear and reject what God has for you. It’s your choice. It’s your move – what happens next is on you.
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Freedom To Trust Part 4

Distrust is the confident expectation that another individual’s motives, intentions, and behaviors are sinister and harmful to one’s own interests.

trust 4

Have you ever felt like someone was out to get you? Like whatever you did, it was never good enough? That you were never good enough?

Story of my life, And it wasn’t paranoia. It was hurt. It was shame. It was regret. And because I felt those things, because I felt like I was broken beyond repair, I hid from God and I blamed him for every bad thing in my life.

Kinda like Job.

It must have been confusing for him, to be on top of the world, have everything a person could ever need, then in a very short time lose it all. Add to that his “friends” coming against him – oh I’m sorry I meant coming to “comfort” him. Notice the “air quotes,”

When people are hurt, they don’t need to be reminded of all the reasons why something bad could be happening. They need to be reminded that God loves them and is for them, not against them. Even if they are wrong. Even if they did mess up. God can’t love you any more or less than he does right now. No matter what you or I do – God is still love, still unchanging, still waiting for us to trust him.

When life gets tough, sometimes, if you’re like me, you might remember your Sunday School lessons on Job. A righteous guy, a persecuted man, someone who went through tough times and never wavered. But if you read it for yourself, you will see something different. He actually did waver. His faith was tested, and the result was, he stopped trusting God. Don’t believe me? Here are the words right from Job’s own mouth –

Job 9:14-16 – How then can I answer God or choose my arguments against him? Even if I were right, I could not answer. I could only beg my judge for mercy. If I summoned him and he answered me, I do not believe he would pay attention to what I said.

In these verses, you begin to see the seeds of doubt in Job’s words. He is beginning to doubt God’s character because of the things that happened to him.

Job lost trust because of his circumstances – he focused on himself and therefore his thoughts about the nature and character of God were corrupted. He couldn’t see past where he was so he couldn’t see God for who he is.

The things Job said about God, and his attitude toward his friends show that Job was spiraling downward, moving through deeper and deeper stages of distrust. Job went from simple doubts about God’s intentions to suspicions that God’s motives were not exactly pure. He began to see God as an enemy!

16:9 – His anger tears at me, he harasses me, he gnashes his teeth at me, my enemy pierces me with his eyes.

16:12 – I was at ease, but he shattered me, he seized me by the scruff of the neck and smashed me to pieces. He set me up as his target.

Here, Job, in his own mind, had his doubts confirmed and they turned into suspicion – now instead of just doubting who God is, Job is openly suspicious about his motives as well. Suspicion is the opposite of trust – it is distrust without any underlying proof, and if continued leads to anxiety and fear toward God.

We can see Job moving in this direction in the following verses –

17:1 – My spirit is broken. My days are extinguished. A graveyard awaits me.

17:6 – He has made me an object of scorn; I have become a man people spit at!

17:11 – My days have slipped by; my plans are ruined, even things dear to my heart.

17:15 – Where is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?

Job’s deteriorating mental and spiritual condition led to fears and anxiety. You can hear the anxiety and fear in the words he says – he was inconsolable. He was beginning to think that his life was wasted, that all his years amounted to nothing, and that death was at hand.

When anxiety and fear rule our hearts, we then take steps to protect ourselves from further harm.

19:4 – Even if it is true that I have sinned, my mistake concerns only me.

19:6 – It is God who has wronged me!

19:10-11 – He tears me down on every side. He uproots my hope like a tree. His anger burns against me, he regards me as an enemy.

27:6 – I will cling to my righteousness and will never let it go. My conscience will not accuse me as long as I live!

Job closed himself off from the goodness of God. Instead of seeing him as a mighty fortress, a strong tower, a place of shelter and rest, Job saw God as the enemy and he started putting up walls to insulate himself from further harm.

Next time I’ll share a bit of my story, and God’s response to Job. If you know are feeling stuck right now, if you don’t know what’s next or even if there is a next, don’t give up! This is not where the story ends – for Job, for me or for you!

 

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Terrified

terrifiedI have been scared a few times in my life. Once, when I was a teen, I had parked my car at a friend’s house and went out with some other friends who picked me up. Nobody was at the house, so several of us left our cars there. We got back late, I got in my car and was driving home, when a face appeared in the rear view mirror! It was my friend who’s house I parked the car at – but I didn’t know it! I pulled over and got out and ran like crazy!

This type of scared is normal – a shock to our system, where our heart pounds in our chest, and we instinctively run away.

Then there are situations that we avoid because we are scared of them. This is fear that has taken hold of us. Instead of us being in control, we give the control over to something that most likely will not happen, to an imagined idea or concept. This is not normal.

A good example for me is flying. I am scared to fly – I avoid flying. But you know what? I had to fly to Chicago last year, and to San Diego. I swallowed my fear, got on the plane, and believe it or not, we didn’t crash and I didn’t die.

I have another fear I’m dealing with though. This one goes way deeper – into the roots of who I am. You see, I love people, I love helping people, I love listening to people. I was a pastor for many years, and my gift of helping and the way I listen was a huge part of my success. But those gifts were turned back on me in a very bad way, and I my wife and I were both hurt badly in a church setting, by Christian people.

It took years to get past the pain, the anger, the bitterness. But we did, and we are involved in ministry in our church as volunteers and we love it – we use our gifts to help people every week. But I am still clinging to fear – fear that if I do what God is calling me to do, I will be hurt again, and I don’t want to go through that ever again!

This fear is unfounded, not based in reality, but still in my mind and heart it is such a real thing. It is actually terrifying to me to think that I might be a pastor again some day. I actively avoid that thinking and conversations where it comes up.

This is a stronghold in my life. Because of this stronghold, my ministry is limited in reach – I will never be the person God created and redeemed me to be with this fear in my life. And yet, it persists.

I know the steps, and I have led people through them myself, on overcoming a stronghold. This battle takes place in my mind, and is played out in my flesh, and affects my spiritual relationships. I know that the bible says I can be transformed by the renewing of my mind, and so much transformation has already taken place – but this one thing persists. Our weapons to fight these attacks are spiritual in nature – prayer, fasting, worship, reading God’s word, listening to his voice instead of the voice of the enemy. And I do these things. But still this fear has hold of me.

What it comes down to is, I have given up space to the enemy, and he has built a strong fortress. I may need to tear it down brick by brick, or God may just give me complete victory over that. Either way – I have given satan the right to be there. Until I take it back, he’ll be a part of everything I say or do or think or feel. And that is not right or normal for a son of God.

What kinds of fears or strongholds are you dealing with? What steps are you taking to recapture ground that the enemy has taken? Please talk to me about this! I would love to hear what you have to say!