Are You in Chains?


woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body
Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

“I will break the yoke of bondage from your neck and tear off the chains…”                                    Nahum 1:13

Say what?

This verse from the old testament prophet spoke of the ancient oppression of the Assyrians. The Lord promised his people that their freedom would come from his hand. So what does that have to do with us today?

We can be chained by pain from our past. Wounds caused by the actions of others whom we still haven’t forgiven or poor choices we made and their consequences, but often our bondage comes in the form of patterns we’ve developed to cope with daily life.

I love what author, Mary DeMuth, wrote in her devotional Jesus Every Day. Her words grabbed me with their simple truth.

“…the chains and yokes have become terribly familiar to me, like companions I nurture instead of anomalies I should shun. They are my normal. And so without even knowing it, I walk around shackled, and I can’t even see where they’re cutting my soul anymore.”

We all have those places that we don’t even recognize.

They can cause us to:

  • Get stuck in unhealthy ways of relating
  • Excuse our destructive behaviors
  • React unreasonably to the words or actions of others
  • Over react in common situations
  • Become isolated or suspicious of others
  • Feel haunted by our past

God wants to free us.

He uses his word, his presence and other people to do so. Connecting with a trusted, wise leader or good friend who will speak truth to us even if it hurts can reveal those hidden places of bondage and start us on a road to freedom.

Unfortunately, that can be scary.

We don’t like to be nudged outside our comfort zone. And as Mary writes in her “Chains” devotion Day 179, we like what has become normal for us because it’s how we navigate our lives.

“It’s like a comfortable blanket.”

The thing is, we might think those chained areas are secure, but they keep us from the abundant life God has for us. They keep us from good, healthy relationships with people who love us. They rob us by making our world very, very small.

So, I’m asking God to reveal those places to me that need to be freed up and changed. I’m trusting God can and will do it.

Will you join me?

 

 

Who Are We Listening To?


pexels-photo-247314.jpegWhat if you’re influenced daily by the internal voices you hear?

We’ve all seen cartoons depicting a character torn between the voice of an angel on one shoulder and a pitchfork devil on the other telling him the right or wrong way to handle something. While the visual may be a comical representation of good and evil, the reality is we have a God who loves us and an enemy who hates us.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”      I Peter 5:8

Each of them is communicating with us each day. So which one are we listening to?

  • God says: You’re my child. I created you. I love you. I died for you.
  • Satan says: No one wants you. No one loves you. You may as well die.

Think about it…

  • God says: You were wonderfully created, and I will continue to do a good work in you.
  • Satan says: You are worthless and hopeless. Nothing good will come from you.

Who is for us and who is against us?

  • God says: You sinned. Let me help you.
  • Satan says: You’re a failure. You’re not able to be helped.

One offers life, the other death.

  • God says: I delight in you.
  • Satan says: You’re a disappointment.

One welcomes us, the other cuts us off.

  • God says: Nothing can separate you from my love.
  • Satan says: You’re so bad, you’ve done something so terrible, no one could love you. You’re a loser and an idiot.

One offers freedom, the other slavery.

  • God says: I came through Jesus to save you  and to free you from bondage. I am the way.
  • Satan says: You’ll always be trapped. There is no way out.

One relates to our suffering, the other causes it.

  • God says: I care about your pain. I suffered mocking, insults and torture. I understand. Let me comfort you and heal your wounds.
  • Satan says: God doesn’t care about you or he wouldn’t allow pain.

One brings good out of trials, the other makes us a victim.

  • God says: In the world you’ll have trials. I will use them to strengthen and grow you because I love you.
  • Satan says: Everything bad or hard that happens is because God doesn’t love you.

One offers forgiveness, the other seeks revenge.

  • God says: I forgive you freely. Forgive others in the same way. Put them in my hands, and you will be free.
  • Satan says: If you forgive, you’re letting someone off the hook. Hold a grudge, seek vindication and revenge so you can feel better about what was done to you.

One offers a way to live well, the other offers counterfeit living.

  • God says: I give you guidelines for life so you will prosper. If you trust and follow me, I’ll make your path clear and straight.
  • Satan says: God is a dictator who wants to control you. He wants to ruin your freedom and fun. Your intellect, ideas and plans are better.

One gives, the other takes.

  • God says: I gave my life freely so you can have abundant life. If you are generous like I am, I will give you more.
  • Satan says: God is trying to take your time, your money, your freedom, your life. If you give, you will lose.

One does for us, the other says we can’t ever do enough.

  • God says: I loved you first, even when you were doing wrong. Love me and others and you’ll want to do what’s right.
  • Satan says: If you do enough right, maybe God will love you. Oh, by the way, you’ll never be good enough.

Who are you listening to today?

(Gen. 1, Deut.29:9, Phil. 1:6, Psalm 139, 1 John 1:9, 1 John 4:7-8, Zep, 3:17, Psalm 23, John 3:16, John 10:10, Rom. 8:28, Jer. 29:11, Psalm 119:8-9, Rom. 8:38-39, Isaiah 41, Matt. 18:21-35, Isaiah 42:1, 7 & 16, Luke 12:6-7, Rom. 5, Rom. 8:1, 1 Thes. 5:9 to name a few…)

 

Water Anyone?


We continue our series on deliverance from spiritual bondage

In our trouble, there is hope.145 (2)

Jesus is always waiting for us with open arms. And he finds ways to draw us to himself so we will want to seek what he has for us.

Like the woman we’ve been reading about. First, Jesus spoke to her when others wouldn’t have done so. Next, he offered he something she needed. Water.

Something so simple, but with such depth.

The woman was invited to find out more. And she needed something. So she asked

Where can you get this living water?” (Verse 11)

She wanted to understand who it was that dared speak to her. Her curiosity led her to ask if he was greater than the only thing she knew who had authority, which was Jacob, the patriarch of the Jews. But Jesus is greater than she understood, and what he offered her was more than she could imagine.

Bigger than her expectations.

His offer ignited hope.

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him, will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (verse 13-14)

Initially, I think the woman was simply looking for a practical way to avoid facing the daily shame of going to draw water in public. Maybe she was tired of trying to go there in the heat of the day to evade the crowd.

She didn’t realize that Jesus had so much more for her. Not just a quick fix for the symptoms of her life, but a change of heart, and life with a new beginning.

Nevertheless, she was hooked, and wanted whatever he had.

The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this living water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”(verse 15)

And because she asked, Jesus gave.

He began by revealing the reality of her current life to her. He gave her the chance to confess, repent and allow Him to exchange the brokenness of her life for something new.

Jesus did this by asking her to call her husband. She answered she didn’t have one. She told him part of the truth; he told her the rest of it.

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.”(verse 17-18)

No condemnation. No judgment.

Jesus simply spoke the truth in love and left it to her to decide what she wanted to do with it. He knew her heart was tired and ashamed, that she longed for something better, but first she had to look at the truth of what her life had become.

Why do we hear the truth spoken in love by God or a dear friend or family member as judgment?

Most of us have been spoken to with that self-righteous finger-pointing attitude. And we’ve have spoken with that accusing tone too. Haven’t we?

But that isn’t Jesus’ heart towards us.

That is Satan’s voice. The wolf after sheep, the prowling lion looking to devour. He is the accuser and condemner who entices us into something, offering it as the answer, the valuable thing, the only way out and then turning on us when we are trapped by it, jabbing us with a jagged finger of judgment.

Is it any wonder we point at others desperately seeking escape?

But God offers us truth as a way out.

It may be painful and feels counter intuitive. But it is where we begin to break free. And Satan loses his grip one clawing finger at a time.

What is the reality of your life? Are you ready to ask Jesus to help you with it?

What Is Your Darkest Fact of Life?


Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.                            Oswald Chambers

For most of my previously married years, I saw my marriage as the biggest problem with my life. It’s true, it wasn’t good. I longed to be free from the daily stress of emotional and sexual abuse. But while marriage was a nightmare, it wasn’t my main problem.

God wanted to set me free from so much more than a broken marriage.

My life had been dictated by guilt, fear, shame, pride, and wrong perceptions of God, myself and others. Those were the things entangling me and causing me pain.

How did I get there?

Compromise. 

While some compromise (sharing and rearranging ideas in order to come to an acceptable solution) is good,  another definition of compromise is

to expose or make vulnerable to danger, suspicion, scandal, etc.; jeopardize     (dictionary.com)

As a molested child, my life was compromised. And I learned from then on to continue life in compromise, allowing things I didn’t want, to dictate how I lived each day. I accepted a lower standard that was not safe or good.

Living in compromise clouds our vision of who God is.259

I made choices that led to destruction even while I was seeking God, because I didn’t understand God. My perceptions were based on an emotional filter that hung over my life like gauze, clouding what I saw, and giving me an entirely different view without any clarity. Like being in a house of mirrors, my thinking and emotions were distorted. Thus everything in the world around me was as well.

Compromise makes God become to us only what we think we need based on what we think we want.

We can’t see what we truly need that is actually something better than what we want. And our growth is stunted when we seek God on our own terms. It leaves us frustrated with God, thinking that He doesn’t hear us, or purposely won’t answer.

We may believe He is harsh or angry with us.

In this stuck place, we can’t move ahead, but keep returning to the same places over and over wondering why nothing changes for us.

Ironically, it is only as we step out in faith and obey God that we see the truth. Only then can He can lead us into areas of growth and healing. God is faithful to care for us regardless of our circumstances, but in the beginning all we can see is the life we’ve created, surrounding us like a dungeon wall. There seems to be no escape.

God longs to free us. He always has a way out.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at a story from the Bible that moves my heart. Every time I read it. And I continue to receive healing from a new perspective of it every time. We see from this story in John, chapter four, the great love and escape God has for us.

The story of the woman at the well in Samaria shows the process of how God untangles us from the entrapment of our choices, reveals the truth of who He is, and enables us to share our experience with others to set them free as well.

This is a story of the deepest love and compassion of Christ for the most shamed of women. It is a story of the faithfulness of God, the forgiveness of Christ and the joy of new life.

If we want to see the truth about God, then we first must be willing to see the truth about our lives.

Are we willing?

Jesus was returning to Galilee and “…had to go through Samaria,” it says in the fourth verse of John 4. I want to point out that He could have skirted around Samaria as most Jews would have done at that time. The Samaritans were not a highly thought of people. Maybe that is why Jesus had to go there. For the sake of the banished woman and the outcasts of the town.

His great love compelled him to go into places others wouldn’t.

What place are you in that you need Jesus to visit? He will if you ask him. It doesn’t matter where…

A drug house? Jail? The local bar? Isolation in your home? The hospital? An affair? Mental illness, alcoholism or a food addiction?

Maybe it is a secret area no one knows about. A stash of candy or pornography. Or perhaps it’s something outwardly “acceptable,” but you know deep down it might be an issue – like a television program or social media site you can’t walk away from. Anything that dictates our thoughts, time, energy or money is a stuck place of compromise and skewed perspective.

Next week we’ll continue, but for now, let’s ask ourselves to be honest. And let’s ask Jesus to open our eyes to him and the truth that will set us free.

He promises that “…the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32b

 

Getting Well Part 4 – Can You Ask for Help?


We were never intended to figure out life on our own.IMG_3524

I had been one to isolate myself, but this wasn’t God’s plan. When Jesus asks us if we want to get well and offers to instruct us in the ways to healing, he doesn’t say,

Great! Good for you. Have fun figuring that out.

His intention is for other people to be part of our life. Relationships help us in and through our struggles. He wants us to seek people who truly want our best and are willing to tell us the truth even when it may feel painful to us. Only those who are willing to walk alongside us without their own interests, judgments and conclusions will benefit us in healing. Jesus is patient, kind and merciful so we will find the most help through those who treat us like he does.

I had a terrible time asking people for help.

When I was young, a prevailing sentiment in our home was that no one needed to know what went on there. Granted, no one wants to announce to the entire world the intimate workings of their home life. But when secrets are kept due to their inappropriate nature, we may learn to gloss over the truth or simply keep quiet. To tell someone about what happens in our home may feel betraying to us. For me, some things were too shameful to talk about. Other situations were not taken seriously by those whose protection I needed. As a result, later in life, it felt wrong or ineffective for me to ask for help. Even from someone I knew I could trust.

Wasn’t I burdening someone if I asked for their help?

I assumed that people would be too busy to have me bother them. But that wasn’t true. Naturally there is a boundary for inconsiderately calling someone anytime about everything, but choosing to take help that is offered shows wisdom and humility. I had to learn the difference and be willing to seek advice from those who offered to give it.

There are great benefits from getting help!

Trusted friends were able to:

  • Pray on my behalf—especially when I was too overwhelmed or weary.
  • Keep me accountable in the areas I wanted to change.
  • Share their stories of healing that encouraged me.
  • Give me different perspectives so I could think in better ways.
  • Cry with me when I was suffering.
  • Remind me of God’s greatness and ability to do what seemed impossible to me.
  • Celebrate with me when God did great things and led me in new freedom.

Some people may think they have all the answers for us.

They base their advice on what they expect or want for themselves rather than what is best for us. When we’re used to unhealthy relationships, it may be difficult to discern those situations. But someone who truly loves us will put us first; ask how they can serve us; offer suggestions while allowing us the freedom to accept it only if it fits for us; support us in every choice whether they feel it’s good or bad; listen much and talk less; and tell us the truth about who we are not who they want us to be for them.

Learning to get the right help will enable us to get well sooner. Having genuine support makes the journey more bearable. I’m so thankful to those who gave of their lives to make mine a better one.

What about you? Is there someone who truly helps you? Are you still learning to ask for help? Can I help you?
While nothing can replace spending time with an actual person, I still have found these resources to be a great source of help in my journey of healing:

The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson

When the Woman You Love Was Abused by Dawn Scott Jones

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (fiction)

The Bible – nothing is as powerful as God’s word 🙂