I am Xander (Still the Voices)

I am the one who hears the one.

Slide1

 

Jesus drew crowds, yet he always saw the one hurting face in the crowd who needed him. This often got him into trouble.

Jesus was always stopping to pick up the broken pieces of humanity that most deemed unworthy of their trouble. Eventually it would be one of his own followers who would turn against him for this as Judas wanted a populist revolution, and he wanted it now. While the Pharisee’s and religious leaders only saw that the ones he seemed to stoop over to help up were the very ones they had kicked aside.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15

Indulge me a bit here as I take a little creative license and get into the head of one of those lost lambs that Jesus had come to save.

Slide2

My name is Xander and I was born in a large city east of the Jordan river. My father was a silver smith who made his fortunes making idols for wealthy clients, little figurines of the many and varied gods that the Greeks had worshiped for millennia.

He was not a kind nor caring man, all he cared about was his silver. His clients were not kind either and the people, having been influenced greatly by the Greek culture brought here by Alexander the Great long ago were a perverse and gregarious lot. My childhood innocence was short lived as I sometimes found myself left alone now and then with one of my father’s clients who abused me in ways I had no words to describe even if anyone did care to hear—no one did.

Early in my teen years I left my father’s home and never looked back. I went North to one of the nearby cities of Decapolis and lived by my wits with other rogues and scam artists on the streets. We survived and the thrill of taking from others, whether it be with our rigged shell games or bogus fortune telling booths, was always a great source of stories as we spent the nights drinking away our ill-gotten coin.

But eventually this life started to seem more and more empty and pointless. There was a restlessness in me that I could not contain, a stirring to find deeper meaning and purpose to my messed up life. I swore I would never have anything to do with the gods my father had exploited as he made his all-consuming wealth by casting their images but there was a temple in this city by the shore that beckoned me—it was the temple of Poseidon, a sea God.Difference-between-Neptune-and-Poseidon2

I went to the temple and was met by a priest who led me inside to worship at the feet of the imposing figure standing within, a bearded giant holding a large fishing trident. This figure, and the feeling of power that the magnificence of this place instilled in me, made me believe that I had found my answer, surely this was a god  that I could relate to.

 

The priest told me that if I placed a silver coin at his feet and prayed the incantation that he revealed to me, my prayers for purpose and guidance would be heard. I did as he instructed. As I lay there prone on the floor before this image I felt a coldness creep into the back of my neck and into my core and I began to hear a voice. It was disconcerting at first but the voice assured me that there were great things in store if I obeyed.

I left there and rejoined my friends but I was a different person; still troubled but no longer alone. The voices guided me and I became the greatest street magician on the plaza and was soon the envy of all my peers. But soon the voices started telling me to do things that seemed just wrong, even for a rogue like me. And they got worse every day until one day I hurt someone in the same way I had been hurt as a child, but this time I was not unseen—everyone was soon shouting for my arrest.

Slide3

They seized me as I struggled, they threw me into an underground cell and chained me. But in that dark hole the darkness inside me grew stronger and eventually I broke my chains, beat my guards senseless and ran—I ran to the seashore, to be close to the home of my god. The only shelter I could find there, the only place I could be away from the others was among the tombs of the dead.

And I lived there for years, taunted by the voices night and day. They were no longer my friends, but now they were my tormentors, telling me night and day that I was not fit to live and driving me to attack all who dared come near and to even hurt myself, cutting myself with sharp stones just to watch the blood flow and to punish myself for being so evil. Strangely I relished the pain because it offered temporary distraction from the pain within.

Slide4

Anointed One

Then one day I found an inscription on one of the tombs in the small Jewish quarter of this graveyard. Chiseled in the stone at the entrance to the tomb were the words:

Slide5

The words were ascribed to a prophet named Isaiah. (Isaiah 61)

I didn’t know who this Isaiah was or who this Lord was. But I had heard that there was a great temple built to him in Jerusalem. But that may as well have been a million miles away from me. The voices in my head and the people of the city would not let me leave the tombs where I lived on fish heads left behind by fisherman and whatever I could steal from the occasional merchant who dared land here unguarded.

But these words on this stone about this anointed Lord, they somehow comforted me and I took to sleeping in the mouth of this tomb. The voices seemed to leave me alone when I was there and I even started to pray to this unknown Lord as best I could as I had no idea what he demanded of his followers, only that I wanted the liberty and healing those words promised.

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The he came, the one from across the sea.

It had been a fitful night. I had dreamed of a great storm at sea with great waves pounding a fishing vessel while lightning bolts crashed all around it as though just taunting the fisherman aboard who dared sail into the night. I saw the spiteful god Poseidon rising above the boat and thrusting his razor sharp trident at the hapless boat and heard the laughter of the voices in my head as they shrieked Kill them, kill the anointed one!  

Then I heard the words, “Peace, be still!” And I awoke with a start as I heard one last great thunderclap in the distant west over from the direction of the sea carried to me by a powerful wind—and then silence, no more thunder, no more wind—and a strange gasp from the voices within.

I spent the rest of the night awake, pondering those words, “Peace be still.” Then, with the sunrise I saw them, the fishermen from my dream and one who stood among them who seemed somehow separate from them.

He didn’t look much different from the countless other fisher and tradesman who had come across Poseidon’s sea, those who survived his storms were usually quick to get ashore and to hurry into the town. Those who didn’t were fair game to the voices in my head who drove me to attack them. But this group was different, they had no goods nor any fish and they seemed unsure of where they were going, except for that one—he just looked in my direction like he was expecting something, ‘well, here I am, I’ll show you whose beach this is.’

Grasping the length of chain still dangling from my wrist and swinging it over my head so that it whistled in the wind, a sound I had learned sent terror into the hearts of men, I ran straight at him. Suddenly the voices in my head started screaming, “No!, turn away!” But another voice, this one seeming to come from deeper within, in my heart, said, this is the one you have been looking for, this is the anointed one.

And when I came within striking distance of him I threw myself at his feet and worshiped him suddenly feeling that same peace I felt when I read those mysterious words on the Jewish tomb.

Free

Deliverance

And then all hell broke loose, the voices in my head screaming in terror that this was the Lord using that same odd Jewish name I had seen inscribed on that tomb. From there it was all a blur as it felt like my soul was being rent in two and I hear the anguished cry of demons and pigs squealing. But the next thing I know I am sitting at his feet, no longer bleeding, no longer naked, and he is telling me how much his Father loves me and how he was sent to find his lost lambs, and to set the captives free.

Slide6

This man from Galilee who had commanded Poseidon’s waves to be still, had stilled the voices in my head and freed my spirit with a word.

As he prepared to leave I begged him to let me come with him but he told me I had a new purpose now, to tell everyone what the anointed one had done for me.

And I have devoted my life to sharing what the Lord did for me with everyone. And every time I tell the story, the painful days seem farther away. And the one who saved me seems closer.

Slide7

 

Jesus Saw beyond the madness, the nakedness, filth and threats and saw a good heart waiting to be rescued

No one loved him, no one cared a whit about himno one that is, except Jesus. Jesus left the 99 to rescue the one.

Love the one.

Just before Jesus and his handful of followers had gotten into the boat to come to this eastern shore of the sea of Galilee he had been surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands of adoring followers many of whom were proclaiming that they wanted to follow him, they were as enthusiastic as they come: “Here’s our messiah, here’s our leader—our King.

If nothing else, Jesus had an instant Mega church, all he had to do was pitch a big tent and keep telling them stories to make them feel good about themselves, do a few healings, take an offering and go rent a room at the inn and come back tomorrow, he was set —yet he left them and sailed off to find one man— not even an Israelite— who needed him.

the one xander

For those in ministry it’s easy to get caught up in thinking ‘we have to minister to the crowd’. We measure our success by turning around and counting how many people are following us (that Is if you dared turn your back on them in the first place) and then we plan and scheme, we have meetings and take survey’s; “How can we keep all these people coming back and how do we get more?”

Yet time and again we see Jesus leaving and even discouraging the crowds from following. Jesus wasn’t looking for crowds, Jesus was looking for people. Jesus didn’t hear the clamoring choruses of voices singing or crying out in unison all caught up in the momentum of the emotion or excitement, Jesus heard the silent breaking of hearts, the cries of a man living alone in a graveyard. Jesus heard the desperate plea to a God he wasn’t even sure existed from across a sea.

Slide9

In loving the one, you are doing what Jesus did and being obedient to the one command Jesus added, Love one another.

Never grow weary of loving, never stop pursuing the lost, don’t step over the broken pieces of other’s hearts as you go to be with the crowds who seem to have it all together so that you can glean more blessings for yourself.

Pray to see others the way Jesus did, see the ones who are praying to be seen. And in that, find your true purpose and complete your own healing.

If you are that lost lamb, know that you are heard.

 

 

The Dead Ahead II

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It is not your lot in life, nor the Father’s desire for you, to live in fear of harm.

As a man, a husband and a father I consider it my highest calling in life to provide for and to protect my family, to ensure that they are, and feel, secure. I know that not all of you can relate to a father who really cares about your well being—But you indeed have one. We see him personified in Jesus and can know him through his Holy Spirit. It is His desire that you, His child, should not live in fear. that you can rest easy knowing that things are being taken care of by someone who not only cares, but has the power to take care of things in a perfect way.

Get safe

boat

But—what if you have found yourself saddled with someone who does not care? If you have sailed off to safety with Jesus, away from the dead in your past in that proverbial boat we have been studying, and been met on the opposite shore by the dead and allowed yourself to be deceived by them into trusting them. Like I said last week—If you are not safe, you need to get safe, it is not the will nor the desire of the Lord for you to live in fear or pain, to tolerate or excuse, or to take the blame for someone else’s evil.

You do not deserve to live in pain, you do not deserve to live in fear and if you are now a follower of Jesus—you will recognize that evil just as surely as Jesus did when he confronted the legion of demons who had taken possession of that poor man on the far side of the lake; What is your name?” The demons could not lie to Jesus and had to admit that there were many of them“We are legion” please let us go live with the pigs! How pathetic is that?

“Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?”

And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.

11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. 12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”

Mark 5

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And that didn’t last long, Jesus arranged a little burial at sea.

Once we have buried the dead—silenced the voices, we must not allow the enemy to stand in our way or saddle us with new demons and hurts. Not only must the dead stay buried, we must avoid future ensnarement.

That demon possessed man had come out to meet them. According to Matthew’s telling of this same story, these demons had been harassing and preventing people from passing here for some time now, disrupting people’s plans. But the demons quickly recognized that they were the ones who were about to have their plans changed and their day ruined. When Jesus showed up and their host carried them right into His presence they knew they were in trouble and could only beg for a little reprieve from their ultimate end.

This man had attacked everyone else and beat them mercilessly but he runs to Jesus and worships him. The spark of life, the glimmer of hope still alive in his heart recognized that God had heard his anguished cries and somehow knew his redeemer had come—just for him.

Jesus, nor those who love him are not subject to the whims and wiles of the enemy. The disciples had left the dead to bury the dead and they were not going to get bogged down by the dead ahead.

No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. Mark 5

Free

No one was strong enough to subdue him, no one that is, except Jesus— with just a word. Everyone else was dealing with the man, binding him and avoiding the spirit, Jesus was dealing with the spirit and freeing the man.

Jesus Saw beyond the madness, the nakedness, filth and threats and saw a good heart waiting to be rescued, a heart that was so tormented and in such pain that he spent his nights crying out alone in the graveyards, who was in such anguish that he cut himself with sharp rocks and was so hopeless and forlorn that he only sought to hurt others while they only sought to bind him and keep him away from them.

No one loved him, no one cared a whit about himno one that is, except Jesus. Jesus left the 99 to rescue the one.

Jesus didn’t just protect the disciples from a demoniac, he delivered the demoniac—a man created in is image—he set him free and cured his heart. Because—Jesus is fiercely protective of his children; all his children.

35 Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. Luke 8:35,36

story

You are safe with Jesus, there is no need to fear the dead, nor the demons, that taunt from behind and will keep trying to cut you off in your journey with the Savior. Keep pushing forward, keep trusting, be as innocent as lambs and as wily as coyotes and as bold as lions as you traverse the many trails ahead. The road is wide that leads to destruction while the path that leads to salvation is narrow, but it is a path that is well lit and secured by Jesus, the one who will never leave you nor forsake you.

Find your freedom. Embrace the barbarian in you!

Barbarian woman wolf

Words are Real

“…here’s the deal; you have to want healing and deliverance.”

no tuning back

There’s an old saying we learn as kids; “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

That’s a lie, a lie we tell ourselves and the bullies in our lives to try and take away their power over us, the power of the words they sling. Because I will bet each and every one of you can remember nearly every mean and insulting thing that someone said about you when you were in grade school, middle school, High school, and beyond.

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And you hear those voices over and over again, when you look in the mirror and see whatever it was someone deemed irregular and weird about your appearance and just wish you could change the face you see. You hear those voices when you fail to live up to your own expectations of yourself because someone long ago labeled you as lazy, stupid, worthless, whatever—you are still trying to prove those voices wrong.

The bruises and scratches of sticks and stones will heal quickly, but the wounds inflicted by words never do. Well, that’s a lie also. We serve a God who gets the final say in our lives—if we’ll let him, if we’ll let him still those other voices.

We’re going to spend the next month or so revisiting a series of teachings I first did three years ago now, that had a powerful impact on many in my church and in my larger online ministry. I ended up labeling the series Still the Voices as it became evident that the Lord was using it to coax us away from the things of the past—the voices— the memories—that haunt us and taunt us, and to walk in the freedom of our healing; spiritual and emotional healing, one and the same in my book.

We are after all, spiritual beings housed for the time being in a body of frail and ever failing flesh. Flesh that also houses a heart that can be hardened, corrupted and deceived into doing foolish and even horrible things to another and can give us any number of reasons to give up either because of what we have done, or because of what has been done to us.

Because words are the primary weapon of the sexual predator–“Don’t tell anyone, no one will believe you, this is normal, no one else will love you…” –this series ultimately ended up dealing with the hard issue of sexual abuse and I was stunned by what I learned in the process and the prevalence of this evil in the lives of so many. One of the things that stunned me the most, or should I say troubled me the most, was in regards to the church overall and their refusal to deal with this hard issue. But, I was never one to shy away from a challenge, especially if it’s one others fear.

offend you

“Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. . . .

67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6: 61—68

My prayer and purpose in this series is that the voices of the past, the voices of today, the voices that have shaped each and every one of us and echo constantly in our heads; voices—strange and complex creatures that we are—that God has used for good to encourage who he created us to be, that they take root.

But that the voices that have been used by the enemy to discourage and disturb, that they are indeed stilled. That those negative and poisonous voices would no longer have sway over us and prevent us from being all that God created us to be and has planned for us.

Words of the past planted deep within us can be as fresh and present as the day they were first spoken. Our souls are eternal and words that touch our souls have no past or present—they just are. But we have a God who is the Lord of the past as well as the present and the future. A God who calls us to follow, to not turn back and to trust as he leads us into our tomorrows and our ultimate victory in him.

There is no going back. Once you start following Jesus all else is meaningless apart from him.

But here’s the deal; you have to want healing and deliverance. Some people, sadly, prefer to be the perpetual victim. And no matter how much prayer, council and love they consume, they will always continue to cling to pain. It becomes their identity. You are created for better and the freedom is yours to claim—just do it. Be the messenger of good news, not the parasite on the backside of the messengers.

hear and be healed

Don’t be a butt parasite—hear and be healed.

Offended yet? – Good, it means I’m hitting home. If not, I’ll keep trying.

Tired of being the victim? Stay tuned.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

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Read my latest book, break the chains of religion and follow Jesus

 

 

Still the Voices

No Turning Back

I want to talk over the course of the next few weeks about keeping our focus on the things in front of us, being determined to keep going forward, following the Lord and not letting anything hinder us; not our past, our fears, the failure of yesterday nor the demons of the past that continue to dog us— if we’ll let them.

Thinking about the teachings of Jesus that we are about to read and the burden the Lord  has put on my heart for his church, the family of God, I understand more and more that I have been, as I believe all of us who call Jesus Lord are, called to love people into wholeness. To do that we have to be a church family that is willing to go the distance, to follow where he leads, and not stop short of all that God has for us.

Keep that in mind as we read.

Verse 57

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9

I think a lot of people who set out to follow Jesus—at least to acknowledge him and ‘get saved’ as we put it—stop woefully short of being a follower -a disciple. If we take a good honest look at what is really a hard teaching here by Jesus, we see those people who are seemingly eager to jump on board the Jesus band wagon being discouraged and turning away before they even begin.

Jesus knew that they would not be able to finish the race, they would not go the distance so he wanted to save then the trouble. It’s not simply because they wanted to look back. We all have a tendency to look back. We look back at where we’ve been, at those staying behind. We look back at what we might be leaving behind and we often look either with a sense of sadness— longing for what we had—or we may look back with a sense of dread like the past is threatening to consume us.

But Jesus knew what was going on in their hearts and he said: you might want to think about this… they did and apparently stayed behind.  They missed it, they missed it because their hearts were not in it, and what does Jesus really want from us? -Our hearts.

Heads in the game

Jesus said: “All the law and the prophets hinge on these commands; the first and greatest ‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.’  And the second like it; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus wants our hearts, he wants all of us, he wants our heads to be in the game.

One thing the Bible makes clear—especially the teachings of Jesus—is the need to be in the present— while looking forward— with hope— to the future. Sure we need to build our monuments as we looked at recently; treasured personal or family memories that serve as touchstones and reminders of the goodness and faithfulness of God. But even that is for the express purpose of looking forward— having hope in today.

…a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

… He said to another man, “Follow me.”

… Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord…   Luke 9:57- 61

 

It’s interesting that we have three instances stacked up on top of each other here by the gospel writer—boom, boom, boom— of people who claimed they wanted to follow Jesus, yet Jesus seemingly shot them down. Now, we know that Jesus would never discourage anyone from following him and wanted all to know him and be saved, so that makes this all the more startling. So we can only come to the conclusion that there is a lot more going on here.

We have to remember that we are talking about Jesus, the Son of God whom—as the gospel writers pointed out on more than one occasion—knew the thoughts and the hearts of people he was dealing with. So certainly he knew the hearts of these men who came to him eager to follow— to make a good show of enthusiasm for his cause— but Jesus knew their enthusiasm would soon turn to disappointment and resentment when they began to realize the cost of following this itinerant preacher with no home and no intention of placating the demands of his followers, and who was ready to lay down his life both literally and figuratively and would expect the same of his followers.

So yeah, there is a lot going on here as Jesus looks into the eyes of these breathless people caught up in the moment and sees beyond the anticipation of quick rewards and change and he sees that they are not ready or truly willing to let go of the things behind them. I know this surely made Jesus sad because he knew that the things they were not willing to let go of were paltry and tenuous compared to what he was offering.

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Don’t be one of those who cannot let go, just take that step, and the next, as you began a new journey with Jesus. He will show you how to let go, as you learn to trust, and to still the voices.

 

The Stories We Can’t Tell

 

…anyone who has had someone you love get hurt—you are a victim also.

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar. …
Dreamscapes #8Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”  Psalm 139:1-2,6

There has been something that has been on my mind a lot lately, something that happened in my spirit though it took me a while to realize and began to understand what it was, and the reason it happened was purely the grace of God. And, I believe, a result of just doing my best to be obedient and do what I believed the Holy Spirit was leading me to do; ministering to you, tackling things that I wasn’t really comfortable tackling— as I talked about some last week.

You ever have God do something in you, you know it was really good but you’re not exactly sure what it was or why it was significant— and harder yet—trying to put it into words? For me it kind of boiled down to this:

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.


These words have been in my heart lately and that’s why I started with this psalm. As I write this I am still struggling with trying to understand what happened and the significance, so, as I have said so many times before to my church, when the Lord is trying to teach me something that is often what I teach on— because then I know it has to come from the Lord and that’s it’s fresh, even if it’s only half baked.

As you may know; I love to tell stories and I love to write. Stories help me to get my point across in a way that people remember and even enjoy, while writing helps me to sort things out in my own mind, it’s therapeutic. Writing and telling the stories of my life helps me to bring order to my life, helps me to deal with things that may have bothered me and— like I have told you in the last few weeks— telling our stories helps us to redeem our past.

It’s taking something that haunts us, that was meant to harm us and turning it into a weapon for good; that story becomes our testimony; the Gospel of Jesus Christ come crashing into our lives, the Holy Spirit eclipsing the flesh, the good chasing away the evil, the Kingdom of God overshadowing the power the evil of this world once held over us— that’s the redemption of our stories, that’s the God of eternity, the God of history becoming the God of our present, and altering our future regardless of our past.

That’s why we can say as in Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Untold stories

But what about the stories that we can’t tell?

A few weeks ago in the church I pastor, at the end of what was the culmination of my series on overcoming the hurts and pains of the past, breaking away from the dead who would drag us back and keep us bound up in fear, doubt, condemnation and guilt—much of it aimed at overcoming the pain of past sexual abuses— I had, like I said, something happen in my Spirit that I didn’t recognize at first, at least not for what it was.

I got done preaching the message “See Her” About the woman that people had labeled as a sinful woman, yet Jesus had seen beyond that hard and false exterior that had been forced upon her and saw the person deep inside that she wanted to be, saw the healing that needed to take place and ministered to it, forgiving her and setting her free.

Jesus had ‘searched her heart and he knew her’— just as the psalm says—and loved her into wholeness. I finished the message and turned things over to the worship team as I normally do and took my seat to join in the worship and, in the midst of the worship, I was overcome with emotion and just started to weep, and I wasn’t sure why. I knew something was happening in my heart, that the Lord was doing something, I wasn’t sure what, but it felt like the Spirit was just washing over me and taking care of something.

Next thing I knew worship was over and the worship leader is looking at me like; ‘okay, your turn.’ So I went up with tears still streaming down my face, normally at this point I give one last thought and then close in prayer; I looked at the faces looking back at me and all I could do was say— let’s just pray—close my eyes and bowed my head. I have no recollection of what I prayed but I think the Lord was in it.

Afterwards I was totally wiped. I thought, okay Lord, this has been a very emotional morning, this last few weeks has been very emotional for a lot of us as, things have been being acknowledged and ministered to that have been swept under the rug for far too long, so yeah, it’s going to be draining as you allow the Lord to use you to bless people. But I quickly realized that this went way beyond that.

The reason I was feeling the way I felt, the reason I had lost it at the end of that series and why I felt so totally emptied—drained— yet freshly empowered to begin a new thing at the same time; was because the Lord had healed me as well, he had ministered to my heart as well; the minster was being ministered to.

The reason I didn’t recognize it was because I was redeeming the stories I can’t tell.  And I didn’t recognize that this was possible.

You see, the amazing thing about our God? He knows us better than we know ourselves and if we trust him, if we follow him into even what seems to be the scary places— ‘the last thing I want to do, the last thing I want to face’ -places— we find redemption and grace.

I had told my church that I didn’t have the stories of sexual abuse so whatever ministry was to be born of this was going to have to be theirs. I never considered myself a victim of sexual abuse but the Lord knew better. The Lord revealed to me that I was a victim, not directly, but I, like so many, was also a victim— anyone who has had someone you love get hurt—you are a victim also.

You think you are carrying someone else’s pain you think you are feeling someone else’s hurt, you pray for them, you protect them and you wish that you could have done something to have prevented it, and you hate yourself for not being able to prevent it, you just wish you could make it go away—but you don’t recognize what it is doing to your own heart.

When you get the worst news you can possibly get as a parent—twice— and when you learn that your childhood home was far more dysfunctional than you ever imagined and that things were not as safe for all your siblings as you thought they were, when you love people like they are your family and know the secret pain they carry from things that are taunting them from their pasts—when you carry these things but you cannot share them, you cannot tell the stories because they are not your stories and above all you must protect those you love, those are the things that eat you up; the hurt is yours as well.

So, what I learned is, those are the things the Lord knows about and wants to heal as well. Those are the things the Lord cares about. In my obedience to minister to and tackle an issue that nobody wants to talk about, that I certainly didn’t want to talk about, I was ministered to as well, by the Holy Spirit himself.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  —Romans 8

The Lord searched my heart, and really, I am just left standing in awe of our God.

“Lord you searched me and you know me… Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!”  I do not know how to pray as I ought, I do not know what all the enemy has planted in my heart, I do not know  why I have such grief, why I have such fears, why does this bother me, why can I not express my frustrations, what is it that eats away at me like a cancer and I can’t explain it let alone counter it —but Lord, you know, you understand, you know exactly what is in my heart, you know exactly what I need— Holy Spirit intercede for me and the very will of God will be done.

And his will is that his children are whole and that they have a “peace that passes all understanding”.

 

 

Quiet the Voices

We are afraid, not because we forget, but because we cannot forget.

 “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said
to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Mark 4

The Illustrationwoman_looking_dejected_1

I was racking my brains trying to come up with a good illustration for my church this week as I was teaching about Jesus calming the storm as the disciples feared for their lives on the Sea of Galilee. I wanted to make the point that we need to let go of the past even if it does not want to let go of us, but most of my experiences pale in light of what I know so many in my church, and what many of you reading this have experienced. Abuse, manipulations, neglect, rape and incest—betrayals by people you love, people who were supposed to protect you or at least love and cherish you— those are by far the worst, especially if there is a sexual component
because then the whole being is affected, body, mind and soul.

The sexual betrayals outstrip them all but they can be overcome as well by the same principle of letting the dead bury the dead (As I talked about last week) and recognizing that you are in a safe place with Jesus, so all of this is relevant no matter what haunts you.

I have told my church many stories of my childhood in the past, and have recounted many in my books as well, so I wanted to look in another direction. There are many things and many people that can call from our pasts and can destroy our present if we allow them to; stealing our peace, stealing our joy, our faith.

It usually takes time to really damage someone’s heart and it can be cumulative. There are the —drip, drip, dripmanipulators that over the long term destroy your soul, your self-worth, your confidence, while at the same time convincing you that you cannot live without them, that you owe them. Then I remembered my former employer—

You can’t come back

Years ago I worked in a welding shop. I started there as a young man of 18 and spent twelve years there. It was a family operation, I was hired by the father and ended up working with and ultimately for his two sons. A very neurotic family, I came to discover, who thought they were superior to most everyone else, especially the oldest Son whom I would end up working for exclusively after he drove his meeker brother to quit.

Anyway, I stuck it out for several years, it was the 80’s and you were lucky to have a job in Billings at the time, and I was young and naïve. I liked the work but it was a real tough place to work. I could tell you story after story and I have told you a few in the past but one that comes to mind that kind of sums up my experience happened on a cold winter day towards the end of my tenure there.

The shop was heated with overhead gas furnaces but, to save money, they just set the thermostats above freezing so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. We had a coal burning stove that we primarily used to heat the place during the day. The problem is, the boss really resented the time we would spend tending the stove to keep it going and he didn’t want to spend much money on coal either.

Every fall he would send one of us to the coal mine in the town of  Round Up, with the old 4-yard dump truck we had, to get a load of coal. $20 dollars’ worth, that was our yearly coal allotment. I know this sounds like a story I stole from A Christmas Carol but I swear it’s true. “Marley, you ingrate, don’t you dare burn more than one lump of coal today! ‘Yes Mr. Scrooge.’”

Anyway, we had some really cold winters in the 80’s and trying to work steel all day was tough when your fingers were frozen and you were always on the verge of hypothermia. One day I was stoking the fire and the boss came into the shop from his nice warm office as I was closing the door to the stove and he stormed over and started berating me for wasting time.

Even though I had been brow beat there for years I still wasn’t always shy about defending myself, something which did not endear me to him much but he depended on me to keep the shop running well so he put up with it. It was hard to keep help when you treated people like they were all idiots and demanded they work massive overtime as well.

Anyway, as I was telling him we couldn’t work if we were all frozen and it only took a minute to throw in another lump of coal, he suddenly reached out and grabbed the collar of my welding leathers and proceeded to yell in my face how he was sick of arguing with me. He was a big dude, actually taller that I am, but honestly, the main thing that was running through my mind was, I should deck him right now—but his other arm was in a sling because he had just had hand surgery so I really didn’t want to go there, and with a wounded hand I knew he couldn’t hit me either.

As soon as he had grabbed me I had instantly reacted by grabbing the wrist of the hand he was holding me with and put an iron worker death grip on it. I was in shock and I’m sure his hand was probably falling asleep but there we stood nose to nose as he finished his rant and I just glared at him.

He let go and left and I went back to work. I don’t think I have ever been so angry. He had been pushing my buttons for years; he delighted in it. But this was over the top. He made a feeble attempt an hour or so later to smooth things over but I was still too angry to care and told him as much.

That was the beginning of the end for me. I started looking for another job. I was getting worried that this place was destroying my soul. I had spent a childhood listening to stepfathers belittle and humiliate me and now I was putting up with it at work.

Long story short, I got a job at Fisher Construction through connections with my new brother in law Charlie and have been grateful to have a job where I am respected and appreciated ever since. I’ll never forget when I told my former boss I was leaving he said; “Okay, but you have to understand that once you leave here you can never come back.”

Boy does that sound like a text book manipulation tactic or what. That’s something a father says to a child, an abusive husband says to a wife, a boyfriend, girlfriend— not an employer— but that’s the way he thought. I mean; I should be see how lucky I am to be there and if I am so foolish as to leave this wonderful place I can never come crawling back.

In my Dreams

The day I walked out the door for the last time was a feeling of freedom and relief I will never forget. But you know what? He was wrong. I have gone back, over and over and over again, in my dreams—nightmares where I am back working there and I don’t want to be there but I cannot leave. It’s like the attack of the zombies, you bury them and say goodbye but they just keep crawling out and coming after you.

But keep burying the dead— leave them behind. I know God got me out of there and he has blessed me with so much, and over the years, and in him, I have renewed the self-esteem the dead spent so much time and effort taking away and I have even gone beyond that and found a peace and security in the Lord whom I know loves me and made me unique, giving me gifts and abilities to do things I love and am passionate about.

He has blessed me beyond anything I deserve and I now know that I am a treasure in his sight and he has surrounded me with people who love me and even appreciate me. He has done so much more than just restore, he has gone way beyond that and taught me how to be the person he created me to be, not the person the voices of the past insisted I was.

It takes time, it takes recognizing who you are in the boat with and that you are now in a safe place. Even in the midst of a storm, if you are with Jesus you are in the safest place you have even been.

I still dream about that shop once in a while but the dreams have changed. I am no longer imprisoned there, I’m just kind of there helping them out of a tough spot and I can leave anytime I want. I have buried the dead but I have also forgiven them.

We can never forget, but we, through the power of Christ, can be free. Keep praying, keep trusting, stay in the boat and keep your eyes on Jesus. God is a God of miracles and can change things in an instant but real long lasting healing takes time, not because you are still bleeding— but because the enduring, nightmare ending, heart healing that prevents those zombies from the past from catching up to you to bring on the heart pain—much of that healing comes from the redemption of your past, not forgetting your past but letting Jesus redeem it, just as he redeemed you.

We do that by using what the enemy intended for harm for the glory of God.

“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Jesus would say to you now; Fear not for I am with you.

 

 

You Are Safe

Behold your King comes, gentle and riding on a donkey-GirlHiding

This week we celebrate Palm Sunday. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem that Passover week so long ago he faced seemingly insurmountable opposition— an uneducated carpenter from an obscure village up north, riding right into the teeth of all those who would destroy him. But what his enemies didn’t know was that this was exactly the plan. He was going to conquer even in his defeat, he was laying down his life willingly so that we would not have to.Jesus was going to face his accusers so that we would not have to, he was going to suffer the very wrath of the Father, so that we would not have to.

 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. John 10:17,18

Palm Sunday was Jesus storming the beaches of Normandy to free a people from oppression and to deliver the world from tyranny. A one-man army on a plodding burro going to defeat the powers of darkness who had invaded and perverted all of the earth.

We all want to be safe, we all want to be free from harm and the threat of harm. If you’ve ever felt vulnerable, especially if it has been a way of life, as it is for way too many people— especially women and children— then you know what a desperate and lonely feeling this is. It consumes you, it steals your joy, your sleep, and, it may seem, even your very soul.

I have been in ministry for a long time and have seen over and over again the hurt and fear in a person’s eyes who has had to live this way, victims of abuse at the hands of a loved one, a husband, father, mother, a neighbor, it’s especially hard when it at the hands of someone that everyone else thinks is okay— “They would never hurt anyone.” You may even start to believe that it’s your own fault or that you somehow deserve it.

Lies, all lies! No one deserves to live in fear, you are not to blame for the sins of another and anyone who is causing someone pain is doing just that, sinning. We are commanded over and over again to be motivated by love, to treat others the way we want to be treated, to encourage and bless others. That’s the way our Lord was and is. The only people Jesus ever had a problem with were those who were hurting others and justifying it in his Father’s name.

 “They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Mark 12:40

It has been a goal of mine in my entire life in ministry whether I was teaching kids in a Sunday school class, doing a Bible study in a jail, teaching a Celebrate Recovery meeting, pastoring a church, or writing a book, that the people who are looking to me for answers—some relief from their confusion and hurt— that they feel safe. No one can feel love if they do not first feel safe. It’s very difficult to accept the love of a God who claims to be our Father when you have never felt the love of a Father figure in this life, if you have never felt safe in the presence of a man, especially if that man is claiming to represent that God. That’s why Jesus came “gentle and humble of heart”— “gentle and riding on the foal of a donkey.”

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Mat 11:29

We know Jesus had incredible power, he raised the dead, made the lame to walk, escaped mobs who wanted to kill him, calmed a storm on the sea— Jesus could very easily have conquered the Romans and taken the Throne from Herod, the puppet King. But Jesus had come to Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday for another reason—to ensure our safety, the safety and security of a relationship with his Father, a Father who is the very definition of Love, a Father whose love was reflected in the gentle strength of his Son.

 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Col 1

Jesus reflects, and gives us access to, a Father in whose hands our hearts are safe. Jesus came to give us Spiritual safety and with that comes emotional healing and security as well— in one fell swoop— we are rescued as we trust our souls to him, as we come to understand the depth of his unfailing love for us.

Jesus, the image of the invisible God, came as a shepherd leading and protecting his flock, strong enough to keep the predators at bay and gentle enough to care for even the most fragile lamb.

Jesus was a strong man who could work wood with his hands before the advent of power tools when everything was chopped, chiseled and planed with blades you had to sharpen yourself. Yet those rough calloused hands could reach out and touch the broken hearted and bring healing even to those the world turned away from in scorn. Prostitutes, lepers, the raving mad demon possessed and lepers, even tax collectors- the hated agents of the Roman occupiers.

Those strong yet gentle hands would hold and bless little children whom others found a bother. Those hands would be pierced as they had the nails driven through them pinning him to a wooden cross hewn from wood with tools not unlike he what he himself used to use in his trade. The hands of the creator become a man, now nailed to the wood of a tree, a tree he had created long before his hands bore the marks of a man’s life of toil— all these things, all the love those hands wrought and expressed throughout his life and the pain they willingly suffered as his life was laid down when his toil was finished— all these things represent and illustrate who his Father— now our Father— is.

A God whose hands reach out to us with love. A God whose hands desire to assure and restore, to comfort and protect; hands that are never raised to us in anger but are always open to give if we’ll just heed his voice and come to him unafraid. Our God is our Father and because of that— You are safe.