post

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.
Who is jesus, is jesus god, Christian forums, faith in god, jesus is lord, what is Christianity, who is jesus Christ, lord jesus, spiritual journey, who was jesus, teaching of jesus, finding god, belief in god, about god, lord jesus Christ, story of jesus Christ, how to know god, is there really a god, who is jesus to you, gospel of jesus Christ, the me I want to be, how to have faith in god, blessings from god, truth about jesus, Christian blog sites, searching for god, jesus pictures,

 

post

Definitions

definition_definition

You may not know this, but I am an “insurance professional.” I’m an adjuster, basically. Well, I used to be called an “adjuster” but the company I work for came up with some snazzy new names for our jobs. Now I am a “Senior Claims Analyst.”

Before the change in title, I used to sit around on the phone all day and talk to people about their claims. Now, with my snazzy new title, I sit around all day, talking to people on the phone about their claims. But now, I sound like I’m really important or something.

Did you know, if you have an insurance policy, there is a section in the policy called “Definitions?” Its where WE (your insurance provider) define words such as YOU (the person named in the policy) and DWELLING (The single family structure where YOU reside).

The Definitions section defines the words used in the policy so that YOU know what WE mean when we say words like YOU, WE or DWELLING. WE define those words differently than YOU might outside an insurance contract, and OUR definitions (a statement of the exact meaning of a word) are the ones YOU must abide by, because WE wrote the contract YOU are agreeing to when YOU sign it.

In other words, you must agree to the statement of the exact meaning of a word that we provide, or your understanding of the degree of the distinctions within the policy may lead you to think certain things are covered by insurance, when in (our) reality, they are not.

Definitions, in other words, are vitally important, in all walks of life.

Just as an example, lets take the word “freedom.” We just celebrated some freedom here in the United States, by blowing a bunch of stuff up. When I was a kid, 4th of July was a license to kill…ants, frogs if I could catch one, tree bark – heck, anything I wanted to blow up I could blow up. The funny thing is, we celebrate freedom differently now, because of laws which restrict or define that freedom. For instance, whereas I could blow crap up with impunity as a kid on the farm, it’s illegal to even sell fireworks of any kind in the city I live in. So we have to go to fireworks displays, and just sit there and watch others have the fun of blowing crap up.

On a side note, I am so sick of just sitting here watching others do the fun stuff. I need to work on that, I guess.

If you catch what I said in the last paragraph, we celebrate our “freedom” by being restricted to sitting and watching a fireworks display.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have laws that define what goes on. I’m not saying we should all get to do whatever we can think of. In fact, if you think about it, that’s the opposite of freedom.

Since I’ve landed on the word “freedom” as an example (as was my intent from the beginning lol) let’s define that. Some people say it means something like “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” What kind of place would this be if that was a correct definition?

Another way to define freedom is “the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.” The sad thing about this definition is, I know plenty of people who are technically “free” who are imprisoned and enslaved. And I know a few who are in fact in prison, but who are free.

A third definition for freedom might be “the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.” I think most citizens of the United States might define the freedom granted to them by the Constitution in such a way. We can (generally speaking) go where we want, do what we want, say what we want, and as long as nobody gets hurt and no laws are broken, we’re golden.

But does this definition of freedom really get to the heart of what people in general are searching for? I’ve known wanderers – people who go from place to place, work a while, save some money, and then off they go again. It seems awesome to not be tied to anything, to just be able to pull up stakes and head out whenever, to where ever. But is that freedom? Or it is a futile search for something that may not even exist in reality?

I would submit a final definition of freedom. In a minute. First what freedom is not: it’s not kicking a habit. Not even kicking a bad habit. It’s not getting out of jail, or out of a marriage. It’s not being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s not not being a slave to someone or something. It’s not having a lot of money or things. It’s not the big house on the hill with the white picket fence or a car that just plain starts when you need it to. It’s not feeling safe, it’s not having enough to buy diapers and formula both this week.

I have defined freedom in pretty much every way mentioned above (never been to prison tho…), and for 45 years I was living under a faulty definition, wondering why things in my life just kept getting worse. Wondering WHY?!? Why, when I have a great job, and Cheryl has a great job, and we have all this money coming in, why can’t we just get a new computer? Why do I have to drive this crappy old truck? Why can’t we make our student loan payment this month? It made no sense!

Why can’t I just drive out to the coast, and for once in my life, watch the sun rise over the ocean? Why can’t I find the job I really want? Why can’t I get past thinking that I’m a loser? If I’m so free why can’t I get past all this stuff?

Why? Because freedom is not any of that. None of that is freedom! All my struggling, all the work I did, all the self improvement – none of it produced what I needed most. None of it pulled me out of a pit that I dug my own self, and none of it put me where I thought I should be. My definition of freedom basically sucked, in other words.

It’s funny how when you start living under the correct definitions, life suddenly kinda opens up to you.

Freedom is NOT the absence of struggle, or of hard times, or bad things in life –  freedom is the presence of the Holy Spirit, and a way of knowing truth in such a way that it produces freedom inside you.

I am saying this – freedom doesn’t come from a document under glass in some building in Washington, D.C. You can’t produce freedom from within your own self – freedom comes from outside of you, from another, who gives it to you when you lay down what you think freedom is at His feet. When you let God define freedom, and you let go of your definition, what you take up truly is freedom! Freedom is being in His presence! Freedom is a relationship with a good Father who provides all you will ever need – freedom is knowing God for who He really is!

Faulty definitions never helped anyone, but knowing the Definer of words and Creator of worlds can change everything – Just think about it for a while. What are you searching for? How long have you been on this journey? And  what are the chances that a radical redefinition could change everything for you?
Who is jesus, is jesus god, Christian forums, faith in god, jesus is lord, what is Christianity, who is jesus Christ, lord jesus, spiritual journey, who was jesus, teaching of jesus, finding god, belief in god, about god, lord jesus Christ, story of jesus Christ, how to know god, is there really a god, who is jesus to you, gospel of jesus Christ, the me I want to be, how to have faith in god, blessings from god, truth about jesus, Christian blog sites, searching for god, jesus pictures,

post

You Shall Know The Truth!

“Truth? What is truth?” – Pontius Pilate

truth

I’m writing a post about truth where we won’t talk about the truth to start with. You might be wondering “why not?” Ok, here’s the deal – our minds are not set up to be able to accept the truth. We think the truth is out there, and we spend our lives trying to find it, but most never do. The truth is out there! And it has nothing to do with aliens and conspiracies. I just really like X-Files and have been dying to use that gif for about 3 years now. Have fun loading it on mobile. (Edit – the gif was just too much – so I switched it out for jpg.)

Ten chapters before Pilate cynically asked Jesus, “what is truth?” in John 8:32, Jesus said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” He was talking to Jews at the time, about what should have been something very important to them – freedom. After this statement, Jesus heard their response, “we are descendants of Abraham and have never been the slaves of anyone.”

Really? It seems to me they might have forgotten about what happened in two-thirds of the Old Testament.  It seems that they may be forgetting everything about their entire history, including their state of affairs under Roman rule. But that’s none of my business.

As I reflect on these verses though, I see parallels in my own life. There is truth to be known, there is freedom to be had. But only lately have I known and experienced it. What changed in my life? The truth didn’t change – or else it wouldn’t be true, right?

What changed is how I know things.

I have been involved in the Freedom Ministry at my church for several years, as part of the Freedom Team. I have been going to the classes for five years now. I’ve heard them online, been there in person, listened to Freedom podcasts. I’ve even taught some of the classes to a variety of audiences over the years, and I pray with people every single week who are seeking freedom. But as much as I have experienced it myself, I was always limited in what I could experience because my brain was not set up to know things in the right way.

When Jesus says, “you shall know the truth” he was not saying, “I have three points about truth that all start with the letter ‘M’, and there’s a poem at the end that’s pretty cool, and then here’s a prayer to repeat every day around 4 pm, and some verses from the Old Testament that you should highlight in your scroll.”

A friend of mine named Paul hit the nail on the head today in a teaching on the Kingdom of God. He said, “We didn’t have the internet when I was a kid. We had a pool of knowledge, but we had to jump in a boat and row out to it.” Now, everything we as people know is accessible through a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse. Don’t you think if knowledge could save us, we’d know by now?

Knowledge actually drives us further from the truth! If you remember, in the Garden there were two trees – one full of knowledge, the other full of life.  We chose, and continue to choose, poorly.

Bear with me on this – it gets deep. The Greek word for “know” in John 8:32 is γινώσκω (ginōskō) which we translate “to know”. But this definition barely scratches the surface. Do you remember in the Old Testament, in the genealogies where it says, ” And Suchandso KNEW his wife and she conceived and bore a son and they named him Suchandso jr”?

Just think what would happen if there was a man on his honeymoon who got out a pen and paper and started asking his wife all kinds of things like, “what’s your favorite color? Your favorite food? What’s your favorite Star Wars cuz I like The Empire Strikes Back and I even brought the DVD!”

NO!

Your honeymoon is no more about learning factual data about your spouse than knowing truth is about three points and poem. The knowledge that produces freedom is about a way of knowing that conceives something brand new in our lives!

What is truth? You’ll never know until you experience a renewing of your mind – you’ll never know until you repent.

The word for “repent” in the bible is μετάνοια (metanoia). I have heard for so long that repent means to “change direction.” I have heard so many sermons on repentance where the illustration is “I was going this direction, but I turned and now I’m going that direction.” That sounds a lot like something we could accomplish all on our own, when repentance is God doing a new thing in us.

The literal meaning of “repent” is “to change your mind.” But beyond this, when used in the bible, it means “to have your mind changed by a source outside yourself (God) that you submit your will to.” Our action, then, is to willingly die to ourselves. God’s action is to raise us to walk in a new way, in a brand new life, with a new way of processing in our minds what is real, no longer to be conformed to the pattern of this world.

When Jesus said, “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” he was telling us that we have to change our minds, we have to change the way we think and the way we perceive because for those who have eyes to see, the Kingdom is here, it’s at hand, but until something new is birthed in us, we won’t be able to see it or be a part of it.

Do you want to know truth? Or are you like Pilate who believed that truth is relative, subjective, unknowable for certain?

The truth is Jesus is truth and if you know him in a way that results in a rebirth, you will see the kingdom with new eyes, you’ll hear God’s voice with new ears, you’ll be seated in heavenly places with Christ, and everywhere you go, the lives of those around you will change because of what God has done in you!
Who is jesus, is jesus god, Christian forums, faith in god, jesus is lord, what is Christianity, who is jesus Christ, lord jesus, spiritual journey, who was jesus, teaching of jesus, finding god, belief in god, about god, lord jesus Christ, story of jesus Christ, how to know god, is there really a god, who is jesus to you, gospel of jesus Christ, the me I want to be, how to have faith in god, blessings from god, truth about jesus, Christian blog sites, searching for god, jesus pictures,

post

When What’s Dead Rears It’s Ugly Head

My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

huge mistake

Have you ever done anything you immediately regretted? Once, about 30 years ago, I decided to ride on the back of a volkswagen owned by a friend named James. I do not know why. I just did. We were in the field house parking area, he was headed for the gate, maybe 80 yards away, and as he drove off I jumped on the back bumper.

He saw me, and really hit the gas. It felt like he was going about 40 MPH at one point, and I got scared – so I jumped off. And I immediately regretted that decision.

My feet hit the ground, then my head, then my feet again, then my left shoulder, then my knees, then my head again. Then I can’t remember anything. Then I was in the locker room with a bunch of people standing over me. I’m pretty sure they thought I was dead.

Another time, I threw a drum stick at our choir director. I saw as I let go if it, that this was not a wise choice. The pointy end hit him in the ribs, he jumped, grabbed the stick and started chasing me. Then I ran into a door frame with my right shoulder and separated it.

I could go on – and if you know me, you know this is true. It’s just funny to me to look back on the things I’ve done, and see that, really, my life in the early years was built on a foundation of bad choices. What makes this so painfully humorous, in a Keystone Kops kinda way, is that if I had my way, nothing would ever have changed.

I know people who make the same lousy choices over and over and over again, and who complain that nothing in their lives ever gets better. Why would it?

Sometimes, as I sit wondering to myself, “why did I do that?” I remember the words of Paul. The guy wrote a lot of the bible. He was a Pharisee, then after being called by God, became an Apostle. He planted churches all over the place, preached the gospel to the Gentiles (you and me basically – unless your reading this and you’re Jewish) was sent to prison and then got his head chopped off – all for following Christ.

You’d think a guy with the kind of resume would have his crap all together, right? Well, listen to this –

I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. (Rom 7:17-24, MSG)

I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds a lot like me! I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong, and bless me, but I do too much of one and not enough of the other. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get it right.

If this sounds familiar to you, there’s still hope! Because when I turn the page in my bible to Romans 8, it says this – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” What? I’ve done all these terrible things, and I don’t have to feel bad about it, or feel guilty, or worry that God is going to punish me?

Yes – that’s what that means. No condemnation means NO CONDEMNATION. And if God doesn’t condemn you, why do you keep condemning yourself?

The catch, though, is this – you have to be operating on all cylinders in the supernatural – “You, therefore, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Rom8:9)

It seems like every day I have to lay down my intentions, my plans, my will, my responses, my guilt, my feelings, the things I think I deserve – because those things come from the flesh. If I focus on those things, I am not being led by the Spirit. But when those feeling rise up – and believe me, they do! – I have to ask the Spirit to help me overcome all those things so that I can act and react as a redeemed person. As the person God created me to be – and more and more, I am getting it right. But when I don’t, there’s still no condemnation because I am in Christ!

So ask yourself this – am I in Christ? Look back over your life, take inventory of what you’ve done and truly examine if you have ever given yourself over to him. If you have, then learn, as I am learning, to recognize that even though I am saved, I have to continually be in a state of surrender to him, or everything falls apart – because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom, and apart from his Spirit there is only bondage.

You can do this! But the only way is to give yourself to God, be filled with his Spirit, and seek him every day, every hour, every minute – and let him put to death again what is already dead. Your old self that you gave up when you came to Christ is dead! But it tends to still haunt us, so we have to serve it back up to God. When we do, the foundation of poor choices gives way to a firm foundation that never crumbles, and God will help build a life full of peace and we can rest upon it.
Who is jesus, is jesus god, Christian forums, faith in god, jesus is lord, what is Christianity, who is jesus Christ, lord jesus, spiritual journey, who was jesus, teaching of jesus, finding god, belief in god, about god, lord jesus Christ, story of jesus Christ, how to know god, is there really a god, who is jesus to you, gospel of jesus Christ, the me I want to be, how to have faith in god, blessings from god, truth about jesus, Christian blog sites, searching for god, jesus pictures,

post

Freedom To Trust

 

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

freedom to trust

I want to start by saying this – my pain is not unique to me. I understand that. I know that there are countless others who have been through more and have endured it with more grace than I have. I know that there are those who have dealt with more than just feeling left out in the cold by God – there are those who have faced, are facing, pain and suffering and even death, who still continue to place their trust in God, and not just for healing but for joy, peace and rest in their day to day lives.

What I have been through in life has been hard for me. What you are going through may or may not be as hard or harder for you, and you may or may not be struggling with trusting God to give you the strength to endure.

The fact is, what I have faced in life, I did not face the right way. I took the burden of these things upon myself, and because I (and we) am (are) not equipped to handle these things, I reacted badly at every turn. I blamed God. I thought he turned his back on me, so I turned my back on him. I cursed him, I cursed myself, I cursed my calling. I hated him for what I thought he did to me.

I was not the first to feel this way and to react this way, and I won’t be the last.

Maybe that’s where you are. Maybe you’re just hanging on, right at the tipping point. Maybe you are about to turn your back on the one who can give your life back to you – and he will redeem everything, if you will just take his hand and trust him.

Maybe you have already fallen and don’t know who to trust anymore. Maybe you have no idea how to move past where you are – living moment to moment, day to day, just waiting for something good to happen that will take the pain away.

I lost trust in God. I saw my circumstance as bigger than God and it enveloped me, consumed me and almost killed me, because I let it – because I thought I was a lost cause and because I believed that God himself had given up on me.

What changed? Well, I actually said these words out loud, “God, you have brought me here to die!” And within days, I was reminded (in a sermon at a church I visited for the first time that day – that I almost didn’t go to because I wanted to sleep!) that the Israelites said the same thing, not very long after they had been rescued from Pharaoh’s hand.

They were wandering in the desert, never more than a few miles from the land God had promised, but because they didn’t trust God, their entry was delayed 40 years.  The generation of people that left Egypt were not the ones to inhabit the land – they actually did die in the desert, but God didn’t bring them there to die. They chose that for themselves.

They were supposed to walk from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey and take possession of it, but they didn’t trust God to provide for them. God answered their whining and complaining – by providing for their needs. And when they arrived at their destination, God told them to go in and take the land, but they didn’t trust him – all they saw was people who would crush them.

God’s plan was not for them to have to fight to take possession of the land – all they had to do was trust him, and go in and claim it. But because they couldn’t trust him, that generation lost out on the promise, and the next generation had to fight tooth and nail to have it.

I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to have to wait 40 years and then still have to fight for everything. I want to trust God now – I want to be able to walk into his promise, settle into it like it’s a big squishy bean bag, and watch him do all the heavy lifting. But I’m still not there yet. I’m still struggling with trust issues. But I’m almost through it now – I can feel it! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

I’m still learning that God is worthy of my trust and has no intention of letting me down – and what follows are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Stay tuned – next time I will post some differences between faith and trust – thanks!

 

post

Here And Now

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

on earth as it is in heaven

Tonight at church I heard a great message on The Lord’s Prayer. I was taking notes, getting a lot of good information – practical stuff – and it was really good, then God kinda got into my head. I started remembering something weird, something I haven’t thought of in nearly 40 years – plantar warts. I told you it was weird.

When I was 9, we lived in Tulsa, OK. It was summer, and I ran around all day without shoes on. So my feet were totally black on the bottom by the end of the day and I had to scrub to get all the dirt and asphalt off.

One day I noticed a little spot on my heel, but didn’t think much of it. But as time passed, I noticed it was getting bigger, and that it started to hurt. Not when I put pressure or weight on it, but when I wasn’t standing on it. I had no idea what it was, but it was really driving me crazy.

It just kept getting bigger and kept hurting more, so I did the most reasonable thing I could think of. I went to the kitchen sink, got a knife, and dug it out of my foot.

Now, there was pain involved, some blood, I may have had a panic attack as well. But I kept at it. Bear in mind that this was at the end of the day, and I didn’t wash my feet first.

So, now instead of the sore on my heel, there was a giant bloody crater. And within days, there was also a raging infection. When I could no longer stand the pain, I showed my mom what I did. And if I told you she completely lost it, well, that would be understating things.

I had to have a little “operation” in the doctors office. I had to take pain pills and antibiotics. I had to wear socks and shoes! Which, to this day, I still do not like.

As I was thinking about this experience, I began to see also what God had in mind for me to learn tonight. We all have little spots, little sores, in our soul. And we try so hard to cover them up, dig them out, fix them on our own. But our effort is never sufficient. The best we end up with is a crater – a hole that we dug ourselves into and have no hope of getting out of.

But that is not what God’s will is for us! I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says this – “Always be joyful! Never stop praying! Be thankful in all circumstances! This is God’s will for you, in Christ Jesus!” I added the exclamation points, because dang – is that awesome or what?

I think we get to that point by remembering who God is – he is love, he is peace, he is everything that is good, and he is holy. And he wants the conditions that exist in heaven to exist on earth, too. And the way this happens is through us – we bring heaven to earth. When we can see God for who he is, and when we see ourselves as he sees us – not as damaged, but whole; not as sinful, but washed clean; not as losers and rejects, but favored sons and daughters; not as powerless, but as filled with his Spirit – then he fills the earth with life, and he does it through us.

I have never had another wart of any kind since then, and from the time it was all healed up until today, I never once thought about it. God reminded me of that experience so I could remind you all – we need God! We can’t fix ourselves – the fixing we need is beyond us and can only come from a source outside ourselves – it can only come from one who’s very breath is life.

What is the Spirit saying to you right now? Take some time to listen. Just be quiet for a minute. Shut off the TV, set your phone aside, and listen. If you listen, he will speak to you – if you hear his voice, and respond to what he is saying, your entire life will be changed! Your here and now will be completely transformed into something that you could never have imagined in your wildest dreams – you can be free!

post

God Thinks I’m A Loser

 

I was standing in the front of the church, weeping. Sobbing. I had been through the whole church service – from the first song to the final prayer. A nice lady sitting in front of me went and got me a box of kleenex, which I used up. So in addition to being screwed up, I thought I also owed God a box of tissue.

The man I was standing with had a gold badge on. Don’t remember his name. He held up his hand, and a man with a silver badge came to stand with me. He said some things I don’t remember, but one thing I do remember, quite well. “How do you think God sees you?” And my answer was, “God thinks I’m a loser.”

I came to this point in my life after years of struggle. I was a pastor in a church, and the staff was fired. I had sent out resumes, had interviews, had some hope, too – at first. As the months and years went by, I lost all hope, gave up and didn’t even care anymore. Then we found ourselves standing in front of the church at Gateway.

The minute we walked into the building, my whole family sensed something, but we didn’t know what. Later we knew, but at first it was foreign, but a good feeling. When the service started, we just stood there listening – we knew a few of the songs, but the impact they were having in our hearts prevented us from saying a word – we were broken and alone and for the first time we actually understood that.

And when it was all over and the pastor invited people to the front for prayer, we were the first ones there. I think we even ran a little bit. We didn’t even see it at the time but for the first time ever we were actually running toward God.

For years as a pastor, I thought I knew everything. I always knew what to say and do – several times in my 15 years, I was called on to preach at very last minute (like right before the service started!) and I would take my bible and go up and the words would just flow out of me. That’s part of who I am – I just always know what to say.

In all of that, I looked good on the outside – like I had it all together – but on the inside I questioned everything – my calling, my salvation, if God was really real. What I discovered was, although I was saved, I never really knew Him at all.

That changed, quite dramatically I should add, that day standing down in the front of Gateway Church.

I found out that God created me as I am on purposed, for a reason, and that He loves me no matter what. That pastor went a step further – He said, “God is love and He loves you, but you know what? He LIKES you too!”

I never felt like God liked me. I thought my purpose was to be an example to others of what not to do with your life. Believe me, that was the enemy. I had listened to his lies for so long that they became who I was. I was living a lie.

It took almost 2 years to work past those lies. Some victories came immediately – healing started that first day at our new church home. Others were fought for and won the old fashioned way – with heavy artillery. AKA prayer, fasting, more prayer, counselling and prayer. And lots of praying.

Now, as opposed to thinking I know everything, the only thing I am truly aware of is this: I am God’s, He is mine. I can see who I am to Him, and I am wonderfully made, powerful because He resides in me – I am the temple! And I take His power and His image and His Kingdom with me everywhere I go. And wherever I go, I am called to do the same thing Jesus did – make disciples, bring peace and rest – and to take dominion. Not to dominate, but to let His Spirit so work through me in every place and every situation, that all those around know that His Kingdom is at hand.

“Come to me,” Jesus said, “And I will make your burdens light! When you can’t carry your load any longer, I will give you rest!” Can you believe that, for yourself, right now? Can you begin to see who you are, through God’s eyes? Take a minute and ask Him right now – “Who am I?” And listen for His answer – you might just be taking the first steps on an incredible journey to freedom!

post

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!

post

(R)Evolution

evolutionJust a few words about why we are here (Cheryl and I, I mean. You’ll have to develop your own origin back story. Sorry.) and what we are doing. It’s a short tale, so just hang on with me for a minute or two.

I first started blogging about seven years ago – my first website was called “Rich’s Blog-O-Rama.” I posted funny stories, stupid fail videos, ranted about life and work and it was, generally speaking, a mess. Kinda like tumblr, minus the naked people. In spite of that, the site was visited, on average, 78 times a day. I had a lot of comments, and several other bloggers linked to things I had posted. This was all before twitter, and before most people knew what facebook was. I felt good about it, but I also felt like I could do more, but I was in no position to do what I wanted to do – more on that in a minute…

So basically I just got sick of it at some point, and closed it down. I kept writing – joined facebook about that time and posted long rambling posts and decided I needed another blog so I started “My Dreams They Aren’t As Empty” where I whined a lot about the state I was in spiritually, physically and mentally all the time. Not a lot of people got anything out of that, but I kept posting. I have deleted some of those posts, but the first one was 2/21/10, about the winter olympics.

Somewhere in all that, we started going to a new church, Gateway, and we really loved it – felt at home in church for probably the first time since I was a kid growing up in Harrah. And somewhere in all that, we started finding freedom – freedom to be all that we were created to be. My blog posts, and facebook and twitter posts began taking a turn toward more spiritual things, encouraging things, and somewhere in all that, I changed the name of my blog to “Not Ready For Prime Time.”

I called it that because I knew that God had a place for me in ministry, but I didn’t know what that would look like. I had been a pastor for 15 years – and it ended badly and we were hurt badly and I didn’t ever want that to happen again.

Anyway – the more we learned about who God is and how He sees us – as His children, as important enough to die for, dearly loved and adopted into His family – the more we wanted others to know God in this way. So, yet again I changed the name and the theme of my blog – to “Free Falling.” April 25, 2012 was my first post, called “Matt Foley, Lucifer and You.” It was actually a pretty popular post, and defined my style for the next year and a half – funny, goofy, catchy title, but some pretty good content. I would include a few very serious topics with some funny ones and had a great time learning and growing. Cheryl had started a blog around that same time, and we shared each other’s links a lot and were doing ok as part time amateur bloggers.

But, God was asking us to do more. We didn’t know what, but as we grew in Him, that vision began to firm up a bit, and last year, as we prayed and fasted, it really took a shape that we began to love and long for. We still weren’t there yet…but we knew something very cool was coming.

And that is this – rebuilt from the ground up, brand new website, new focus, new ministry right here on the internet. Freefallingonline.com. This is place where you can come to be encouraged, to discuss what is on your heart and mind, to find hope, healing and freedom. Freedom like Cheryl and I have found. Freedom to be everything that God created us to be. Instead of each of us having our own blog, we are both going to be posting to this one, and we have designed it to be simple – simple to post, simple to have discussions, simple to make friends and simple to meet needs.

So – that’s our evolution. The love and grace of God has brought us here, and we are here for you! Now, take a minute and reflect on your origin story – how did you get where you are right now, and where do you think God wants to take you from here?