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…)

 

Are You Paralyzed by Inaction?


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Last week we talked about admitting the truth to take our life forward.

Sometimes we can be faced with the truth and know what we need to do, but we don’t act on it. I recently read a devotional in My Utmost for His Highest that addressed this topic so well and gave me a new perspective on putting action to what we learn.

“Refusing to act leaves a person paralyzed exactly where he was previously.”

Oswald Chambers

How can I move my life forward if I’m paralyzed because of inaction? When I know the right or best action to take and don’t follow through with it, I become stuck in that place until I’m ready to take the next step and move forward.

“Once I press myself into action, I immediately begin to live. Anything less is merely existing.”          Oswald Chambers

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live than simply exist.

Surviving day to day is not living, and it isn’t the best God has for us. He desires for us to have an abundant life full of good relationships, experiences and situations. (John 10:10) He planned for us to have purpose and live making a positive impact on the world around us.

Here’s the best part:

When we tap into God’s power by acting on something he’s instructed or shown us to do or say, we free ourselves and paralyze the enemy instead.

Oh, yeah. Boom!

Take that, Satan. I’m so on board with taking my life forward in freedom and abundance. How about you? What’s one thing you know you need to act on that you can do this week?

I’d love to hear about your experiences in action in the comments below or email me at laurabennet14@gmail.com

What Triggers You?


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No, I’m not talking about guns.

(But fun picture, isn’t it?)

Milan and Kay Yerkovich define a trigger as

…a strong reactive feeling about something that is happening in the present, a feeling turbocharged by a hurt in the past.”

Ever have one of those?

Yeah, I thought so.

It took me years to understand that when my reactions to situations or people were far greater or stronger than the setting warranted, it meant that some hurt or trauma from my past was amplifying my current emotions. I did learn to recognize the pattern, and it has helped me navigate my life better. But today, I discovered through reading How We Love, that ANYTHING can be a trigger.

Anything?

Apparently, and it makes sense why communication in relationships can spiral out of control so quickly and easily. If the tone of someone’s voice, or their opinion, attitude or behavior can trigger an unexpected, agitating reaction in me, then I can become defensive or angry at the other person whether they said or did something good or bad in that moment.

Even my sincere, valid emotions can trigger another person.

Wow. I had no idea.

Perhaps because of what that person has suffered and not fully dealt with in the past, my comment or start of a conversation that to me is neutral, or my sharing a feeling about something that occurred during the day or my tone of voice because of that situation can cause the other person to react negatively.

I probably wonder why they are reacting and may take it personally. After all, if I don’t know what is happening for them, and don’t know to ask, it seems reasonable that their response is directly related to me.

So I respond in a defensive manner.

They do likewise. I react back. See how that happens? We’ve now set a pattern of communication which is not desired, nor intended, but spins out of control leaving both parties shaking their heads in confusion, hurt and disbelief.

Crazy, huh?

Well, the good news is if we are aware of triggers in ourselves and others, we can deal with our past and have grace for the other person’s stuff. Maybe we can even help each other by using the following practical tools to build rather than destroy our relationship.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Settle yourself. Take a brief time out if necessary.
  3. Ask yourself three things:

When have I felt this way in the past? Who was I with? What soul words describe my reaction? What would I like to say to that person (in the past)?

See, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

Okay, so it’s not always easy, and it can be painful. But the benefits to removing triggers by dealing with these issues is two-fold. We become healed and stronger, and we develop healthier relationships.

But there’s also a third benefit.

If we share those feelings with our spouse, and willingly listen to them share with us, we’ll build trust and a stronger, more intimate bond with them.

That’s a win-win.

I credit the Yerkovich’s with all these insights. I’ve been sharing what I’m learning from their book, How We Love. The great thing is that our church has been presenting a series on marriage called, A Love that Lasts. Our pastor’s teaching lines up with this as well.

I don’t believe that is coincidental.

As our pastor, Matt Keller, has shared (and I agree) we have an enemy who is out to destroy every marriage. Marriage is the foundation of community. There is a power in family that can’t be denied. That’s because the union between a man and woman was created by God as a picture of his relationship through Jesus Christ with his bride, the church.

Satan hates us and anything that displays God’s love for us.

So if you thought even for a moment that the enemy I mentioned in the earlier paragraph is your spouse, think again. Our enemy is Satan. But oh, how he’ll use each of us to hurt the other one if we let him.

But our spouse isn’t the enemy.

I for one am going to work hard to remember that, to deal with the triggers in my life and be open to the probability that triggers cause grief for my spouse as well. And other people with whom I interact.

Maybe that’s why God has grace for us, and asks us to love others the same way.

I’ve linked a number of resources in this post. I’d love to know in the comments below if you find any of them helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Struggling?


My personal interpretation of Psalm 6:

God, please don’t be angry with me because I’m weak right now. I’m struggling to trust you and not be afraid when my situation looks bleak and frightening. I need your healing.

I know your love never fails so I ask you to save me. I know you love me. Please deliver me.

If I die, how can I praise you? And I feel like I will die because my enemies are out to do me harm. Their actions leave me weeping and groaning on my bed.

But God hears me and will deal with my enemies. He will be merciful to me even as I struggle through this.

David, who wrote this Psalm, had real time enemies.

His father-in-law, King Saul, had betrayed him. He asked David to sing to him and then threw his spear at David to kill him. On Saul’s “bad” days, he was chasing David down with an army. On his good days, Saul told David he loved him and was sorry. And that’s only part of the story! (see 1 Samuel in the Bible)

Some of us have been in relationships like that, haven’t we?

Our enemies may be people in our life, destructive or negative thoughts or actual circumstances. No matter what the physical reality is, the spiritual reality is that our enemy is Satan and his demonic forces.  Real events affect us in real ways, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Satan uses those events to destroy us and whispers lies to enforce the negative impact.

God embraces us in those events to bring comfort, healing and a deeper knowledge of his love and power.

God understands our struggles. He doesn’t condemn us for them. And when we call out to him for help, he will show us love and mercy, and He will save us.

What is your struggle today?

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?

Why Pray?


Have you ever asked yourself that question?IMG_0368

I don’t mean in a skeptical, it-won’t-do-anything kind of way. What I’m talking about is that deep searching of what prayer means. It’s not like God needs us to tell him what’s going on in our lives. He knows everything. And he knows what we need, so do we need to remind him? Besides, He is God Almighty, creator of the universe and the one who holds everything together and controls it all. Does he need our input?

So what is the purpose of prayer then?

Well, I asked Him. After all, in James he tells us if we lack wisdom to ask and he will give it to us. So I asked. And I guess that is the first purpose of prayer. God wants to give us things and he’s waiting for us to ask. He says if we ask, we will receive. And wisdom is a good thing to start with. But sometimes we can feel like we’re asking Santa for a Christmas list, and that’s not the point. Even though God longs to give us the desires of our heart.

I thought there was something more.

Partnership is a concept we’ve discussed in church. A former pastor, Daniel Brown, used to describe God wanting to partner with us in doing his will. Like a father asking his son to help him take out the trash. Dad doesn’t need his little boy’s help, but it’s about the relationship. Doing something together. I like that.

But, I still believed there was even more.

So when I asked, I was reminded of the Lord’s Prayer. We call it that because it is how Jesus told us to pray. Hmm…maybe there’s something in that.

I grew up reciting that prayer as a rote tradition. Even singing it, while deeply moving, didn’t impart the depth of it’s meaning to me. But the day I asked Jesus about praying, this is what struck me…

If God is all about us talking to him, and asking him for things, and partnering with us, then maybe praying that prayer would look something like this (translation my own):

Our Father, who is in heaven, I praise your holy name! I honor you as Almighty God. You are so holy! You are so worthy of my praise. Because You want to do good things for us, I invite you to bring your kingdom into my life and do your will just as you have purposed it already in heaven because you are great and good and have wonderful things planned for me. Whatever that is, I want it, so I ask you for it. Please, Lord God, I ask that your kingdom would come here to earth. That your will would be done here on earth. And please, since you know all I need, will you provide it. Just for today? I won’t worry about tomorrow, but trust you to give me what I need today. And about forgiveness, Lord. You forgive me for everything so will you please make me willing and able to forgive others the same way? Thank you that temptation is never from you. Will you please deliver us from evil? That awful enemy, Satan, who is looking to distract us from you and destroy our lives? I know you can and will do all this because your kingdom is glorious and powerful, and you love me so very much.

What do you think?

I’ve begun to pray this way, acknowledging who God is and inviting him to bring his kingdom to earth. That his will would be done in my life, in my home, my marriage, my children’s and family members’ lives, my friend’s lives, in my church, community, city, state and nation, as well as the world. Because if I believe God is who he says he is then I have to be open to and accepting of what he wants to do here on earth.

And I’m seeing incredible things happening.

Not always what I expect, but always great and good. In my life, my husband’s life, our marriage and family. Truly amazing.

God is a gentleman and never forces us. But he longs to do good for us, with us and through us. As soon as we invite him, remembering who he is and what is truly important, he will bring his kingdom to us.

I challenge you to give this a try and let me know what you see happen in your life.

Who ARE You?


How many of us really know who we are?

Most of us have been shaped by words spoken to us in anger or impatience or from another person’s broken perspective. Who of us didn’t have some kid or kids at school tell us we were stupid, lame, ugly, fat or unwanted for some reason. I know I did. Repeatedly. Statistics show that most children have also suffered from the criticisms, insults and abusive words flung at by overwhelmed, scared or generally messed up parents (aren’t we all?). Many of us have felt the abandonment or rejection divorce brings. Four out of five have been exposed to some type of sexual abuse.

Is is any wonder we struggle to understand who we are?

God created us with a specific design and plan for our life. (Yes, even you.) He delights in the unique personality that makes us, well – us. He knows every nuance, every tilt of our head, all the abilities we possess and what makes us smile. And he loves it when we exhibit those traits. No wonder Satan, the enemy of God and us, whispers lies, uses the wounds others have pressed on us, and creates circumstances to distort the beautiful creation of God that we each are.

But how do we find out who we are and become ourselves again?becomingmyselfbookcover

In her most recent book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You, Stasi Eldredge shows us how. Becoming Myself takes us straight to the throne of Jesus where we are loved, delighted in and encouraged. As we read, we are transformed by the renewing of our thoughts about ourselves, our God, our relationships and our world. With intimately honest stories that come from the depths of her heart, Stasi reveals how we can see ours more  clearly. While her primary audience is women, every person needs what God shares through Stasi in this book. It tops my “must read” list of books. It’s not only enjoyable and entertaining, it is a life-changing read.

 

In what ways have you lost yourself? How have you learned who you were truly meant to be?

 

When God Speaks


Hello? Who is this? Do I know you?

Have you ever had one of those calls when the person on the other end starts speaking, assuming you know who’s calling, but you aren’t clear who it is? You think you recognize the voice, and you feel a little embarrassed that you can’t attach a name right away? What do you say?

Awkward, isn’t it?

I think sometimes that’s how we feel about God. He expects we will know his voice, but we aren’t always certain we do. How is God supposed to sound? How do I know I’m not just talking to myself?

How do I know if it’s God speaking?

It can be challenging to decipher. We do have an enemy who is out to mess us up. The Bible says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14). And, he used scripture to tempt Jesus (Matt. 4:3-11).

No wonder we can be confused!

But I think God wants to make it easier for us. He tells us in John 10 that we are his sheep, and his sheep know his voice. I find that reassuring when I’m feeling a bit confused about whether I’m hearing God or not. If I’m his sheep, then I will know his voice. Phew!

These are some of the ways I know I am hearing from God:102

  1. Jesus came to forgive, not condemn. Satan is the accuser and “father of lies.” If what I hear condemns, accuses or is untruthful (even if there is a thread of truth), it is not from God. If what I hear convicts with hope and forgiveness and settles my heart, even if I feel sorrowful about it, it is God.
  2. Satan’s goal is to devour, kill, steal and destroy. Jesus came to give us abundant life. If what I hear is destructive to me or someone else and leaves me feeling hopeless, devastated and stuck, it is not God. When God speaks, I feel a sense of promise, restoration and life. Like a breath of fresh air.
  3. When God speaks, what he says matches his character and what his word says. His character is loving, patient, kind and forgiving. He is mighty and just and merciful. Sometimes it may seem that even the Bible is contradictory, but if we dig deeper into the context, we often find the answers to each seeming conundrum. God is consistent.
  4. God’s words bring peace not turmoil. Even if I don’t like what I hear from God, I still know it is right and my heart feels settled. Even in the craziest situations. Like when I moved here with no job, hardly any money and only a temporary place to live. Single with three teenagers. Or when I met my husband online and traveled to Australia to meet him. And he moved here with his three young children to marry me and live in America. As crazy as it seemed, I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew God spoke and in a place of faith, I (we) followed his lead.

Sometimes it seems scary to listen for God.

I mean, what if I didn’t really hear him or heard him wrong? What if I don’t like what he’s telling me or asking me to do because I can’t really see the bigger picture and can’t imagine things working out? What about when I need to humble myself and forgive someone or pray for someone or in love tell someone something difficult they need to hear?

All very good points.

I’ve found that God is faithful to meet me in every one of those situations. He forgives me and has a good plan even if I miss what he said, or didn’t hear him completely accurately. Even when I don’t like what he has to say, he can handle it and help me follow through. And if he asks me to do something difficult, he’s right there to make me able to do it if I trust him.

The good news is he loves us, speaks to us and wants us to be able to hear him. And the more we get to know him, the more confident we’ll be when he speaks.

When has God spoken to you, but you weren’t sure about it? When has he spoken and you knew it confidently?

A Really Good Fight


The tension in our home presses on me as if the ceiling and walls were inching closer, forcing out the air and leaving me suffocated.

Every task I put my hand to seems like dragging through mud with repeated interruptions and distractions. My phone will not stop ringing. We’re late to pick up our daughter from camp. Back issues make any position uncomfortable. Each word on the screen is a struggle…even if I get them down, the cursor jumps unbidden to another spot, inserting letters into the middle of a different word. Run! It urges me. Get out. Quit. Give up. Screaming or crying seem my only option for release.

But I get it. I know what’s happening.

For those of you who don’t believe in an enemy of our souls (Satan), or who relegate him to a comically sinister pitch forked demon dressed in a red unitard, I may challenge your theology with these next words.

The Bible says Satan is like a lion prowling around looking to devour us. (I Peter 5:8) It warns us to be alert to his schemes because he is out steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10) or anything we put our hand to; especially if we have been following God’s lead in any particular direction.

This morning, as we do each Friday morning, Brendan and I spent time reading and discussing a book on marriage. I’ve mentioned the book in previous blogs. The title is Love and War by John and Stasi Eldrege. We’re on our second time through it in the past six months–it’s that helpful! The interesting thing is that we’ve been working on the same chapter for three weeks. Not that it’s so long, but because of the subject. The title of the chapter? How to Have a Really Good Fight (Chapter 6 in case you are headed there now).

What we both love about this chapter is the fact that it uncovers what goes on under the surface of a marriage. The prowling lion part. How can best friends who adore each other in every sense of the word be convinced at times that each one is the other’s worst enemy? Why do accusations jump to our minds at the innocuous words or actions of our spouse? What goes through our mind in the midst of a disagreement–our spouse’s pain or our point? For two hours, we battled through the end of this chapter, praying, discussing, crying, praying for each other. Yes, it was a battle. A well fought and well worth it one. But a battle nonetheless. And clearly, the battle rages on through our day.

Because we are on the right path and the enemy is squirming.

My feeling of running and screaming? It’s really Satan’s fear at losing his grip on areas of our life and marriage. He’s the one screaming as we stand together to have a really good fight–against him!

Other areas are threatening him as well. Brendan recently submitted an invention for a patent; I’m almost finished with the editing on our book. Our kids are growing each day in their understanding of God, his love for them and who he made them to be. Brendan and I are being healed and changed from past hurts. Each step we take following the direction God indicates (starting with Brendan deciding to contact me online) brings us more life, more freedom and more joy, individually and as a couple and family.

And each step threatens God’s enemy and ours. Especially when we tell people. Or write it in a blog or a song or a book. The stories we tell about God’s work in our lives strengthen us and others. Just like John and Stasi Eldrege have strengthened us with their story through their book.

The good news?

Peace has come while I’ve been writing this. The ceiling is in its rightful place, and I no longer feel like screaming.

So how’s your day going? Do you have a story to tell that puts fear in the heart of Satan because it brings life and rightness and gives glory to God? Will you share in the comments below?