Stigma (See Me II)

Simon

“No one wants to believe that their humanity and worthiness is being completely and totally disregarded”

The underlying theme of my blog these last several weeks has been sexual abuse. A topic much of the church is afraid to touch but one that is out there in a big way and sorely needs to be brought into the light. There is no dark so dark as that imposed by the church because that is a darkness with all hope of escape erased. This church is called to be a light and a place of hope. Stigmas have no lasting home in God’s family.

That said, there is an undeserved yet very real stigma that exists in the minds of the victims of sexual abuse. A stigma that is put there, intentionally by the perpetrator— and by those who take the perpetrators side; “You brought this on yourself, you encouraged it— you liked it!” and any number of horrible accusations. And victims are stigmatized unintentionally by everyone else from family to clergy as they just don’t want to deal with it, ‘just get over it, it can’t have been that bad.’

This causes the person to hide. They hide behind a pretense of everything being okay because they do not want people looking at them differently, they don’t want people picturing them in the abuse situation making them feel violated all over again. They don’t want people feeling sorry for them and they don’t want people asking and inferring things, like; “Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you leave? What were you doing there in the first place; were you being a tease? How were you dressed?”

Without going into a lot of detail here there are very real psychological answers to these questions that the victim themselves may not even understand. A person’s instinctual defense mechanisms kick in and can cause what seems like rational thought to shut down. I think the bottom line is, people want to be seen as people, so even in the midst of an attack there is a level of denial.

No one wants to believe that their humanity and worthiness is being completely and totally disregarded by someone, especially if it was someone who just moments ago, was making you feel special.

So people get good at pretending because they soon discover—it’s part of growing up unfortunately— that most people cannot see past a person’s past to who they want to be. They pretend there are no hurts or failings, especially in a church, where everyone is supposed to be okay— all healed, temptation and turmoil free. And so all of us, to some extent and especially victims of abuse, pretend to be someone else to avoid being seen as anything less than a normal, well-adjusted person, who is worthy of love and respect.

Not one of us garnered Jesus’ love because we proved that we were worthy—Not one, and none ever have.

sinful woman

Did Simon the Pharisee? Did the sinful woman? No, “While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us.” Jesus loved both Simon and the woman and treated them with respect—equally; the man who had devoted his life to studying and living by the law of God to the nth degree and considered himself worthy—and the one who made her living by capitalizing on the carnal lusts of morally weak men in the city.

Yet—the one who thought herself the least worthy was the one who went away with the blessing and of peace and the gift of saving grace.

go in peace

Jesus made sure the Pharisee saw the hypocrisy in his attitude towards this daughter of his Father.  “Simon—do you see this woman?” Luke 7

Jesus saw her and she was forever changed. He sees the scared little girl that has long ago hidden behind the painted eyes and exotic dress of her trade. He sees beyond the mask of lewdness forced through a tincture of stubborn hardness and anger.

He sees the pain and humility—he sees the tenderness that has looked desperately for an outlet, for a heart that would return the love she longed to set free—that cried at night when no one was around and she could no longer ignore it; ‘What have I done to deserve this? Why won’t anyone help me, why can’t anyone see the real me?’

Jesus sees you–and so does this pastor. . .

Forgiven much meme

If you are ever in Red Lodge MT, stop in to Hope Chapel and be loved. Until then, call on Jesus, he not only sees you- he hears you.

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I challenge all of you church leaders our there to get real about this topic. You have no idea until you are willing to see, how many victims are hiding in your own pews waiting to be seen–and that’s all they really want. Trust me…

 

See Me

See me title

All of us, to some extent and especially victims of sexual abuse, pretend to be someone else to avoid being seen as anything less than a normal, well-adjusted person, who is worthy of love and respect.

There is an amazing and even startling story in the gospel of Luke (chapter 7:36-50) about a “Sinful woman” most likely even a prostitute, who crashes a dinner party, desperate to find and somehow thank the man who had made her feel human again for the first time in as long as she could remember, the carpenter from Nazareth who was passing through her town.

She brings along her only possession worth anything, a bottle of perfume she had saved up for but when she arrives she doesn’t know what to do, everyone is staring and whispering, she doesn’t care, here he is, she starts to sob. Her tears are falling on his feet as he reclines at the table so she does the unthinkable, she gets down and wipes his grimy feet with her own hair. —Scandalous.

See me meme

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Luke 7

Everyone is embarrassed and offended, but not Jesus, and not the woman.

There is something very powerful going on here as she finds herself on the floor intimately washing his feet with her own tears and she now knows what she can do with the perfume, it wasn’t silly after all to lug this bottle along, and suddenly feeling overwhelmed with the love that had compelled her to bring this gift to Jesus, even at the risk of humiliation, she completes the spontaneous act of love by doing something she had never imagined doing for anyone, she willingly kisses his feet.

He has not pulled away in repulsion and she does not want this moment to end, she feels a love welling up in her breast that she has never experienced before. So she lingers face down at his feet, still too ashamed to look him in the eye yet too overwhelmed by her feeling of love to care what anyone else thinks. 

Jesus turned and looked at the woman, Jesus saw her, he had no doubt seen her before and that is why she was now here. He had seen her as the person she knew in her heart that she was, the person she wanted to be, and that had empowered her to become that person. His seeing her had set her free.

And that is why this scenario playing out before them now is not scandalous at all to Jesus. Jesus is in no way being lecherous and allowing a woman to embarrass him along with all the self-righteous sensibilities of everyone there. Jesus Is not bound by cultural biases, Jesus is not tainted by the perverted carnal lust of the flesh, he doesn’t see with the eyes of generations of fallen man who sexualizes everything possible about the opposite sex. He still sees the beauty and purity of what God had originally created to be beautiful and perfect.

Jesus was seeing this woman with his heart, his heart is pure therefore there is no lust involved. Remember the garden, what Genesis says about Adam and Eve? “they were naked and unashamed?” Man was not created full of selfish lust; we took that on ourselves later. As the perfect man, Jesus was seeing her with a heart of purity, and he could see her heart–she was beautiful, she was loving—she was a person. And now he is challenging Simon to do the same. “Simon, do you see this woman?” Stop looking at her with the eyes of your flesh, with the eyes of judgement and perverted perceptions, stop seeing her with disgust and thinly veiled lust—see her heart!

Simon

She is doing what she is doing out of love, she is doing what you failed to do because you failed to see who it is here before you, you failed to see me—she has not, and because of that, her many sins are forgiven, she has found peace.

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Luke 7

She sees me because I saw him. Isn’t that what saving faith is, him knowing me, and I knowing him?

forgiven

Grace

Jesus tells her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Now this sends the religious in the room into a tizzy. “Who does he think he is and what has she done to deserve forgiveness!?”

Well, he is God, that’s who. And she has not done anything, really, she has not proven her loyalty, her obedience, she has not submitted or done any penance, she has not even confessed or spoken a word that we know of for that matter—yet she was forgiven, more than forgiven, saved. Because what she did do was show her love and gratitude in the most sincere and honest way she knew how.

She has given up on pretending long ago. We don’t know her story but it’s not hard to guess. It is likely that she was forced into this lifestyle, an adolescent girl who may have been assaulted and left soiled rendering her unfit for marriage in a culture who placed a young girl’s virginity at the top of the list for marriage criteria, as Jesus’ own mother found out. She may have been sold into prostitution by her own parents who valued money more than her. She may have been forced by debt into the companionship business as an indentured servant or even outright slavery in this Roman province, in the Roman Empire if you were not a citizen proper, you were just as likely to be a slave.  She may have even stolen this perfume from her master, more holy irony.

Either way, she felt left with no other options, no one would ever see her again as anything other than a sinful woman. She was just an object to be used for selfish pleasure or to be scorned as beyond redemption and surely deserving of reproach—the more reproach the better—she doesn’t deserve anything more.

loved

Then comes the teacher from Nazareth. He sees her, he sees the scared little girl that has long ago hidden behind the painted eyes and exotic dress of her trade. He sees beyond the mask of lewdness forced through a tincture of stubborn hardness and anger. He sees the pain and humility—he sees the tenderness that has looked desperately for an outlet, for a heart that would return the love she longed to set free—that cried at night when no one was around and she could no longer ignore it; ‘What have I done to deserve this? Why won’t anyone help me, why can’t anyone see the real me?’

Simon—do you see this woman?

No doubt this startled the woman, her first instinctual reaction would have been at this point; “No, don’t look at me, I can’t stand the way people look at me!” Jesus changed that.

Jesus saw her and she was forever changed.

See Her

Who is he asking you to see?

 

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:

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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

What happens when the demons of the past give way to the demons waiting for you on the other shore?

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Let the dead bury their own dead, you go proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

In the gospel story we have been following the last few weeks, those who made the commitment to leave the dead in spirit behind, who had left the chaos of Peter’s house where an impromptu healing and deliverance crusade had taken place, getting into a boat to sail for the other shore of the Sea of Galilee, survived a devastating storm that only subsided with the command from Jesus “Peace be still!” finally made it safely to the other shore. And so they lived happily ever after in Never Never Land. Never to worry, never to fear or be in want again—right?

Oh wait, that’s just the modern day church’s evangelism friendly version. Let’s look at the Jesus version;

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. Mark 5:1—5

afraid

So the chosen few, those who have answered the call to follow, committed to follow wherever Jesus led them without even the assurance of a place to lay their heads at night. They have left behind the past, leaving the dead to bury the dead, they have survived the storm which turned out to be no big deal after all, because they just happened to be sailing with the creator himself—they get to the other shore and are met by a man— who is stark raving mad. He has been living literally among the dead, in the tombs, he is demon possessed and as evil as they come.

Again, Jesus just seems to be going out of his way to make it challenging for people to follow him. They left the dead and ran smack into a maniac, a man whom, not only hurt himself, but also attacked everyone who came this way.

So—to follow this narrative that has been unfolding these last few weeks—we have been learning to not allow anything to hinder us from being obedient to the call to follow, not let anything or anyone stop us, to leave our fears, the lies and hurts of the past —spoken to us by the dead— behind. And to keep our eyes on Jesus as he leads us safely away from those who would hurt us.

In a nutshell, we have been learning how to leave the demons of the past behind us. So to me this story leads me to ask: Okay, we’ve escaped the demons of the past and moved on; “What happens when the demons are waiting for you on the other shore?”

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Powerless dead

It’s something we all fear. You don’t have to follow Jesus very long before you realize that not everyone else shares your new found enthusiasm for all things good and your desire to shun things you now realize are harmful. This of course leads to the next fear, especially for those who have been victimized by those who are influenced by an impure spirit -‘What is to prevent me from becoming victimized again?’ ‘How can I be safe?’ “I have left the dead, but what about the dead ahead?”

This is the only instance in the gospels where Jesus engages in a conversation with the demons. He usually commands them to silence. I think he did that to prove a point, he was teaching the disciples with him the same thing he is trying to teach us;

Yes, there are demons here, and there are demons ahead. Their influence will be around as they continue to deceive, use, and abuse all who do not yet know the truth. But do not let them deceive you ever again.’ ‘They cannot harm you, in fact they are afraid of you.’

I do not fear meme

Jesus allowed this demon to speak so that there would be no mistake, and no missing what was going on here, this man, someone’s son, was out of control, his life was no longer his. This man was possessed by had a whole host of demons living in him. Yet this legion of demons— enough to possess a herd of 2 thousand pigs and had exerted unfettered control over this wretched man— they were afraid of Jesus. They begged for mercy.

What a stark contrast for all who witnessed this, the swine herders and locals, who had lived in fear of this man, and the Jewish disciples who had lived their lives totally at the mercy of every demon spirit who had influenced them, and all those around them, all their lives.

Now they see these terrible, fearful, all powerful demons, fearing for their very existence and begging for a reprieve from what they know Jesus has full authority and power to do to them, and that is to throw them into the abyss as they await their consignment to the lake of fire.

“What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” 

Mark 5

(Have you come to torture us before the appointed time? Mat 8)

Jesus was making sure all understood, that in any and all places, whether riding out a storm or facing agents of the devil himself— they were safe if they were with him.

Safety

Jesus understood that one of the most basic of all human desires is the desire to be safe, to feel safe and to know that we are protected and can defend ourselves against evil. So what does he do? He brings them through a storm and then face to face with a naked bleeding maniac dragging chains behind him like a rabid Pit Bull who has broken his chain just as you were walking by on the sidewalk.

And again, Jesus is not rattled, he does not panic nor tell his followers to run, he simply tells the demons to take a hike like he is telling a disobedient child to go sit in the time out corner. And the fearful demons whimper and complain like unruly kindergartners who have had their snack time taken away.

If this doesn’t prove to the disciples that they have nothing to fear as long as they are with him, nothing will. The Psalm of David—which these Jewish men surely knew—suddenly takes on a whole new meaning and becomes very real to them.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength in who I will trust. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Ps 18:2

Jesus was indeed their shield; I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t even hiding behind him.

But Jesus was also demonstrating to them what they would be able to do as well, as he would impart on them his Holy Spirit, they would be not just safe, but they would also be those who would rescue others. No need to fear the dead, not the dead behind them nor the dead ahead of them.

He would say the same to you.

Barbarian woman wolf

Find Your Freedom- Barbarians in the Kingdom

Heart Storms (Bury the Dead II)

“We are afraid, not because we forget, but because we cannot forget– nightmare experiences where we had no control and felt vulnerable, verbal abuse, beatings, neglect, sexual abuse.”

afraid

Like the disciples who feared for their lives even as they were in the boat with Jesus– as Christians, we often forget who we are with. If we have given our hearts to Jesus, we are safe in the arms of the Savior, indwelt by his very Spirit of power and perfect peace. That is the key to overcoming all our fears and failures, to quieting all the voices of the past and the fears of the future— to remember who we are with.

But, like the disciples sitting literally in the very same boat with Jesus, we forget. We let our past become our biggest enemy, our greatest hindrance to following and moving forward into the perfect plan he has for us, into the perfect healing he has for us. We need to stop looking back, to let the past be the past while at the same time using it for his glory, to strengthen us and even give us a testimony of how we overcame in Christ—“You go and proclaim the Kingdom”—Tell the story, be a voice of hope. ‘Do you know what God has done for me, I was lost and now I’m found, I was blind but now I see!”

‘I was a victim but now I’m a victor. I have followed Jesus and he took me away from abuse, from addictions, from perverts and manipulators, from the sick and demented, from the liars and the hurtful—he has delivered me from evil, I have escaped the dead—and you can too.” —That’s our testimony!

That creaky old boat sailing off into the setting sun to a shore you cannot see is the safest place you have ever been and it is all you need—as long as Jesus is in it. There may be storms but you will reach the other shore and what a story you will have to tell— you may even walk on water.

Don’t let the things of yesterday overshadow the faith you need to survive today. Don’t be like those who saw Jesus do miracle after miracle only to wind  up scared half to death hours later in a storm. Peter saw Jesus heal his own mother in law with a touch, and that same evening loses all hope. Yeah, that storm was bad and very real, but there reactions were really cause by unseen storms, the storms within, that was their real issue, and the one Jesus was concerned with.

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Heart storms

Heart storms, any little thing that goes wrong, any big thing, and suddenly there is a storm released in our hearts. “Lord, don’t you care that I am perishing?!” That’s why we are afraid, we are afraid because we are looking back beyond the deliverance we received, the love and assurances we received just moments ago quickly fade into the darkness of a past that continually boils on the horizon like a summer storm building a perfect thunderhead that looks like it could devastate us. We are afraid, not because we forget, but because we cannot forget.

We need to let go, get free of the past and stop fearing the storms that the world keeps throwing at us. We need to stop looking at the storms and start looking at the one in the boat with us,I am His and He is mine and nothing can change that.’ He is the resurrection and the life and He cannot be destroyed— hence neither can I. If He can calm the storm driven waves He can certainly calm my storm driven heartif I’ll let Him.

Those inner storms are the voices of the dead. The dead keep coming back to taunt us. Things that we thought we buried, things we heard as a child that caused us to wonder about our worth, we buried. We buried them next to other graves that hold memories of nightmare experiences where we had no control and felt vulnerable, verbal abuse, beatings, neglect, sexual abuse. . . .

We finally move past those things and get away from the perpetrators— out of the grave yard—but then we run into more people whom we think love us but end up speaking words of death to us, and our hearts flash back to thoughts of past—lies we thought we left buried.

And we start to wonder—’Were they not lies? Am I really worthless, sinful, stupid, unlovable, worthy of no one better, of nothing better?’

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‘No! I can’t go there again!’ —and we run back into the graveyard frantically digging  a grave for the new lies while the old ones keep resurfacing like the swimming pool scene in Spielberg’s movie Poltergeist where coffins and corpses are popping up from the mud like gophers at Chucky Cheese. Words from a boss, a spouse, a co-worker, a parent’s love and approval we still seek, a manipulative and abusive ex–we keep digging, frantically trying to bury them, but all we seem to be doing is digging our own graves.

The voices of the dead start to feed off one another and we are overwhelmed. ‘I can’t do this, I can’t handle all this, the bills, the kids, the jobs, messed up relationships—maybe I deserve this, maybe I am not worthy just like they said’ —in the midst of it all those voices of the past, the nightmares we tried to forget and the wounds we thought were healed, the things we can’t share with others because they are so shameful— the all come crashing from the sky like waves on a boat and we find ourselves in the perfect heart storm and we cry out: “Lord, help me, don’t you care that I am 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? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4

There are no storms in your life or in your heart that Jesus cannot get you through and even still—there are no voices his voice cannot still. You will not drown, you will not perish, you are worthy of love and deliverance—his love, his healing love.

You will not perish—That’s a lie. Jesus didn’t call you, reveal himself to you—bring you here to hear this message—just to watch you drown.

And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

“He Himself took our infirmities
And bore our sicknesses.” Mark 4

Jesus carried your wounds, took them and destroyed them on the cross.

Stop listening to the lies and start listening to Jesus. You heart is in the safest place it could ever possibly be, in the hands of Jesus. Trust him when he beckons —come follow me, as he says to your heart— peace be still.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, keep moving forward. Live in the today he has given you and in the hope of an even better tomorrow. Bury the dead, write them a farewell note of forgiveness and throw it in the hole as you turn away and to Jesus, the one who has the words of life.

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But pastor, you don’t know what I’ve experienced. Perhaps not, but Jesus does and he is not shocked nor overwhelmed by it. He was betrayed by those he loved also.

Those are the worst—betrayals by people you love, people who were supposed to protect you or at least love and cherish you—and if there is a sexual component, it becomes more heinous 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 and recognizing that you are in a safe place with Jesus.

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Bury the Dead

“They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, … you need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.”

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Early in Jesus’ ministry he is traveling around teaching people, healing many and drawing huge crowds. He ends up at Peter’s house; probably to eat and rest. But they arrive to find his Mother in Law is sick so he touches her and heals her. Word quickly gets out— ‘Jesus is at Peter’s house’; and people are flocking to him for healing and deliverance and he heals them all and drives out many demons.

After a while as the crowd was growing alarmingly large, he gets up and says to his closest disciples:  “Come onWe’re going to go to the other side of the lake.”  Jesus apparently turns to another and invites him along, but this man hesitates for reasons only Jesus can see.

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 preach the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59—60

Walking down to the nearby shore Jesus then gets into the boat with those who have decided to leave it all behind, probably the twelve, who are surely thinking about now; “Man, we are the chosen few, the ones who are going to ride this train to glory!”  You can almost hear Willie Nelson sing in the background: “Blue skies shining on me, nothing but blue skies do I see.”

They cast off with visions of the Kingdom Come in their heads —and sail— right into a storm. “Where’s Jesus? Asleep? Ahhh, we should have stayed behind with those others who are safe and dry in their own beds tonight!” “Lord don’t you care that we are about to drown?”

They chose to follow the one who was bringing wholeness and life to those he touched, they left behind the dead—all who refused or were unwilling to give up their pasts—the things they had always counted on to be their provision—and now they had sailed right into possibly one of the worst storms these men who had grown up on this inland sea had ever seen.

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‘What kind of a deal is this? Did you bring us into the desert to see us perish of thirst?’ No wait, that was Moses. ‘Did you take us from our homes and our families just to see us drown in the sea?’

Storm

I have never been in a storm at sea but I can imagine how frightening it must be. Sitting in a small wooden ship, about half the size of a Viking long ship and not nearly as flexible, getting drenched by the rain and the waves as the wind drives you farther and farther from shore. And the only place to go? Into the churning water that holds only darkness and death, a merciless and terrifying tomb that hungers for the living like a doorway to Hades itself.

That’s what these guys are facing. ‘I thought following Jesus, the miracle man, the Messiah, our long awaited king, would make us impervious to harm, where did this come from? I want my money back!’

So here are the followers of Jesus, who left all behind, now thinking, “This is it! We’re going to be swamped and drown.” A fisherman’s worst nightmare. But what they still didn’t understand was just who it was that they were with. This storm was nothing. They were still thinking as those who were still back in the past, who were still living with, subject to, and even one of —the dead. We’ll never overcome this, we’ve been told all our lives to be careful, to not get caught out too far from shore when a storm is brewing—why are we even here?!’

But they are no longer amongst the dead nor one of them. They were now counted amongst the living, in the very presence of life itself, the creator and giver of life, yet they still feared death. How quickly they had forgotten., how quickly they had lost faith.

Where’s your faith?

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The disciples had just spent the day with Jesus seeing one miracle after another. And that very same evening they are in a storm fearing for their lives and what do they do? They panic— “We have to wake up Jesus! How can he possibly be sleeping at such a time as this?  “Don’t you caredon’t you care that we are going to drown?”

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” That’s a huge question.

Why are we so afraid? We forget what we are leaving behind, we forget the impossible hopeless situations we have seen God take care of with just a word and we forget who we are with. We are afraid of things that now have no power to hurt us.

Demons, people who have hurt us, financial difficulties, we get bogged down in fear and doubt by worries and unforgiveness— voices and faces that come back to taunt us—the dead. We fear the dead.

The dead keep taunting us, their voices alive in our heads. Which is why Jesus told the disciple back in Capernaum; “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

“Lord, don’t you want us to take care of our families, don’t you want us to honor our fathers?” Yes, but nothing can excuse disobedience and here was God in the flesh telling this man to come with him and here is this man making excuses, using what seems a noble task as an excuse for disobedience.

Jesus was asking this man to put him first, to not be dissuaded from following him by those who choose not to follow, to listen to his voice over the voice of man—even his own father. The man was worried about security, about his inheritance, let me be a diligent son and heir and I’ll catch up with you later…

Get Safe

Listen to this—Those behind us, whether it’s family, friends, employers, teachers, even church leaders—anyone who has pulled at you, planted seeds of doubt in your mind, outright hurt you with words, or blows that bruised more than your flesh, who left wounds that pain you to this day—they are the dead that we must leave behind.

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They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, then they are not following Jesus, they are following their own flesh. If they claim to be following Jesus but are not bearing the fruit of that life in Christ, then they are living as those who are dead and—listen carefullyyou need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.

You get free, go and proclaim the kingdom of God to those who will hear it, among those to whom Jesus leads you. Staying in a place of hurt out of a sense of duty is not the will of God, is not an acceptable sacrifice, it is disobedience. Jesus is saying to you: “Come follow me. Get into the boat and let’s cross this big lake and get away from this clamoring mob who would drag you down and suck all they can out of you. Let’s get away from the voices of those who care only for themselves while pretending to love.”

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Make of that what you will— I will let the Holy Spirit fill in the rest in your hearts as only he can do.

 

Words are Real

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

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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.

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“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.

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Wild Flowers

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There is an undeserved yet very real stigma in the minds of the victims of sexual abuse. A stigma that is put there intentionally by the perpetrator. and by those who take the side of the perpetrator; “You brought this on yourself, you encouraged it–you like it!” and any number of horrible accusations. And, they are stigmatized unintentionally by everyone else from family to clergy as they just don’t want to have to deal with it; “Just get over it, it can’t have been that bad.”

This causes the person to hide. They hide behind a pretense of everything being okay because they do not want people looking at them differently. they don’t want people picturing them in the abuse situation making them feel victimized all over again, they don’t want people feeling sorry for them and they don’t want people inferring and asking things like; “Why didn’t you scream for help? Why didn’t you just leave? What were you doing there in the first place-were you being a tease? How were you dressed?”

It’s time to let go of the lies, let go of the pain–it’s time to still the voices.

Over the course of the next four weeks or so my blog here will be focused on overcoming the hurts of the past, sexual or otherwise, and finding healing and freedom in the very real and very powerful Love of Jesus.

It will not immediately delve specifically into the topic of of sexual abuse but all the lessons can be applied as such and will, as time goes by, bring us face to face with that issue.

Click here for the first installment

No Turning Back

I have also established a specific page on my blog site that will be devoted to this issue as it progresses. Thank you for being on this amazing if not challenging journey with me.

I love you all!

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“A God given beauty that is not dependent on nor cultivated by man, but can only be discovered.”

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Where was God when I was being hurt?

 

 

“. . . an almost greater hurt is often inflicted on the heart of the victim after the assault when those who are supposed to care, the ones that the victim desperately needs to care, and understand—to hear them—do not.”

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Rom 8:25Slide2

I want to ask the hard question, the one that we all ask from time to time and one that we all, as Christians have probably been asked by others—‘Where is God when I hurt, where was God when I was being hurt?’ Frankly, as a Pastor, that question sometimes scares the snot out of me because I am not sure I know the answer, or that the answer will be adequate to stay the anger that is directed at God that is causing that question to be asked in the first place. All I know is that God grieves over our hurts and he is not unaware of our sufferings.

And sometimes, in response to those suffering, that is the best answer—no answer, but to grieve and wonder with them, to give them space and license to weep and vent, recognizing and validating the hurt while clinging to the hope that in the end, whether we can see the end or not, will not disappoint us.

I probably won’t answer that question today either, but then, if we knew the answer, if we had immediate deliverance from all our trials, if we always saw the Lord standing beside us, it wouldn’t be called hope—would it.

The story of the raising of Lazarus, the brother of two women whom Jesus had come to know very well—Mary and Martha, gives us some insight into this perplexing question. Jesus and the disciples stayed at their home when they were in the area and Martha, apparently a woman of some means, likely helped support Jesus and his followers as they to traveled around spreading the news of the Kingdom’s coming. You might recall the story of Martha bustling around serving while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus as he taught.

So when tragedy struck, their brother Lazarus falling deathly ill, they expected and believed that Jesus would be there to save the day—but he wasn’t.

I’ll give you the highlights here, for the whole story read John chapt. 11

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. . . . Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

. . .  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

. . .He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

. . . So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.

. . .20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

. . . 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

35 Jesus wept36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”

37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God. 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me,. . . 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

The Father Hears

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‘Lord, why weren’t you here, where were you when Lazarus was hurting? Where were you when we were crying out for you?’

Quite the story, honest and real if you look at the human drama being played out here around the miracle that often overshadows what I think is the greater lesson and the insight into the real emotions and empathy of a real God. Let’s just bite off a few pieces here and see what we can glean.

“And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me”

This one spoke a lot to me as far as answering our question.

“I know that you always hear me.” I have to conclude that Jesus waited this long to come because his Father asked him to. Jesus was sorely grieved, groaning in his spirit both in anguish for his dear friends Mary and Martha but also, both in his humanness and as the Son of God, because of the pain of death his friend Lazarus had to endure—the pain he endured wondering; “Where is Jesus? Is he going to heal me before I die? Is he going to care for my sisters? Where is God?”

Jesus was aware of this anguish and he felt it deeply himself. But he knew his Father heard him, even while he wrestled in his flesh with not hurrying straight to Bethany. But even in this turmoil which he no doubt experienced amidst the potential for doubt and anguish, he was patient and obedient to his Father knowing that his Father always heard him.

I think there is a great lesson there, do we believe that the Father always hears us? He does. And we also know that Just as Jesus was interceding for his friends his Spirit is interceding for us—even in, and especially in our pain.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Rom 8:26—27

Jesus is interceding for us with the same passion and compassion that he interceded for Mary, Martha and Lazarus with, an intercession even too deep for words. That is your hope.

Immanuel, God with us.

What Mary didn’t know was that Jesus was there. He is here with us even now, even in our darkest days. When all hope seems lost, when it has to be just too late, it is never too late, Jesus is there by his Spirit, the Father is there, grieving, groaning because of the pain we suffer and he calls us to be there for one another—to be his arms to hold, his hands to help and his heart to break, to  grieve with those who grieve, but he also calls us to bring the hope, to pray in the Spirit, on behalf of the Spirit.

Hear them

We need to display that heart of Jesus. One of the things I have learned in ministering to those who have been sexually abused is that an almost greater hurt is often inflicted on the heart of the victim after the assault when those who are supposed to care, the ones that the victim desperately needs to care, and understand—to hear them—do not.

They just need someone to hear them, to love them, to give them space to grieve, to be angry and to ask the hard questions without pat answers, indifference or judgments. Just be there, be there for the hurting, the abused, the sick, the dying and grieving, be Jesus so when they ask “where is Jesus” you can say; ‘right here, He sent me to you, and my spirit groans for you as I pray for your restoration and healing.’ And in that, I assure you, they will find comfort, that’s a promise from Jesus.

 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Mat 5:4

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For me the bottom line is here, Jesus hurts when we hurt, his heart is totally devoted to and invested in us and in the end everything will indeed be okay, better than okay, if not in this life then most assuredly in the next. We have the resurrection and the life in our corner and we do not necessarily have to wait till resurrection day to see that power on display for we are more than conquerors—and that is our hope, and hope will not disappoint us.

 

 

 

Killed by Life

“The tooth fairy still comes, the rainbow still shines after the rain and the monsters still have never come out of the closet at night to get you. Then one day it happens. . . “

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After several years in kids ministry I used to look at those innocent, seemingly wise and well balanced kids who just had a simple faith—I always marveled at how I could pray for a sick child and nearly always there would be a healing, because the child just believed God would heal them; ‘Pastor Dan prayed for me, God answered the prayer and I am better’, it’s just that simple, but I would look at them and think, if only they could stay that way.

Puberty hits and they go insane. The world lures them into dark places and they become irrational, confused, rebellious and doubtful. What happened to that even keeled happy child? It’s a question that still haunts me. Not all kids go insane at puberty but they all face challenges that try their good sense and their faith. All we can do is hold on to the promise that if we train them up in the way they should go, when they are older they will not depart from it. We build the foundation, the rest is up to them.

And take it from one who has been around long enough to see it happen, that return—more often than not it does happen. God never gives up on our kids, on his kids, no matter how old—we are all his children and he still has a plan for us.

And God still has a plan for you, your days are still written in his book and he wants to share them with you, to lead you on in a spirit of fearlessness and trust, trusting your Abba Father—your Daddy.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Rom 8:15—16

Most of us know this with our heads, but it’s hard to live it. We need to get this notion into our hearts, it needs to become instinctive, overriding all other fears, all external stimulus to the contrary and ghosts of the past. We need to listen to the Spirit, that this would become such a part of who we are that we don’t even cognitively recognize all the time that it is the Spirit talking to us, we just know that we know that we are a child of God, free from fear, free from bondage to anything but the love of Christ to which we willingly submit, placing our hearts into the hands of the one who loves us more than we can ever fathom. Trusting the hands that never fail.

Child of God

We start out trusting, as infants we trust that when we scream our mothers will comfort us. As we grow we trust that we will be fed, nurtured, we take love for granted, it’s just there because it always has been. When our parents or any adult for that matter tells us something we believe it. We have an innocence, a trusting wonderful and palatable innocence where we imagine everything is fair, everyone is good and life will go on and only get better.

That’s the childlike faith the Lord says we must have if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. One that trusts the hands of the one who calls us like a child taking the hand of his daddy as they cross a parking lot together. You might not understand all the dangers and why you need that hand but you know it is there, that it is important, and that your Daddy wants you to hold it. So you just do, and it is good.

Then you start to experience more and more of life, you get into school, riding the big bus all by yourself, having to listen to a teacher who doesn’t think you are the center of the universe, interact with other kids whom you discover aren’t all always nice and willing to share the crayons with you. Some even call you names.

It’s okay, you are still loved, you are safe. Then you start to see and hear things, stories from other kids, TV shows, lessons in the history books; life isn’t fair, nor is everyone nice, in fact far from it. Life is still good though, you are safe, you are loved. The tooth fairy still comes, the rainbow still shines after the rain and the monsters still have never come out of the closet at night to get you.

Then one day it happens. Someone you thought could be trusted does something to you that you never imagined happening, maybe more than once. You don’t know what to do with it so you just shut it out, you try to pretend it’s okay, in fact they tell you it is. ‘This can’t be okay. . . well, I don’t know. . .’

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And then someone leaves that you thought would always be there, the love you counted on is gone. The pain inside becomes not only sealed inside but now you feel alone and betrayed. But you don’t know what to do with that.

Life goes on, people start to ridicule you simply for trying to be good, you are not cool, you are a loser until you discover that if you do this one thing, you suddenly gain some acceptance—the mocking slows down, ‘maybe you are cool?’ The one thing leads to more things and you are loved by many but then the ones you desired most to love and accept you now turn on you—“How can you behave this way? You are such a disappointment, I don’t know what got into you.”

Now you feel more alone then ever so you retreat farther inside, fully harden your heart and shut out everyone—‘no one is going to hurt me again, no one understands me, no one cares—I don’t care, no one is going to tell me what to do, no one is going to step on my heart again.’

That little child inside is now dead, killed by life, and the person that takes his or her place is scarred and battered, but will survive; ‘I will do what I want when I want as hard as I want.’ From then on our reflexive mode to any provocation, to any potential hurt or reminder of past hurt is anger. We do not trust, we do not care, and we do not share. We remember those long ago days when life was simple and we somehow were happy without all the stuff we do now just to ty to feel normal, to appease the flesh, but we know we can never go back.

Then along comes Jesus who says: ‘trust me, I have been there too, I have experienced the hurt and betrayal, I know the heartache and have felt unimaginable pain both physical and emotional and I can give you a future.’

So we ask him in to our hearts, we are no longer dead, we can be that child again, and it is glorious— for a while. Until life rears its head and taunts us, and we remember past hurts, our reflexes kick in and we shut down and shut in. ‘No one is going to hurt me again, trust no one, fear everyone.’ We learn to manipulate and extract what we need from others because we fear we will never get it any other way.

Our story

Now, I made that story up entirely as I was writing it but I’ll bet every one of you at some point in that wondered if I was talking about you. . . because for the most part—that is the human experience, and sadly, it is as far as many believers get— that is their life story; the end.

They get saved but stop short of healing, of renewal, of true and lasting peace, the peace that comes as a result of knowing with our hearts, not just with our minds, that we are children of God, that we have a Daddy who will never leave us, never forsake us, who will always be there to hold our hands as we walk across the parking lot of known and unknown dangers. We are still in bondage to fear.

We don’t have to be. Choose not to be.

We have to accept the healing, to just believe that it has happened just like those little kids—‘pastor prayed for me,. God heard, and I am better, Stop hardening your hearts, we have to stop responding to every point of stress that threatens us, to memories of the past, to taunts of the enemy with the fear of a helpless child.

You are no longer innocent, no longer ignorant of the ways of the evil one—you are a warriorand you are free, f5e2864d8685336898f586437794c4d2-d9cyq2byou are no longer in bondage to the flesh, you are a joint heir with Christ and you are victorious, you just need to recognize it, you need to live it—it has to become your new normal, muscle memory,’ I can do this in my sleep’, reflexive, instinctual, ‘that is just who I am now’ intentional victory. I have a life to live, a plan to fulfill and a God who loves me and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Retrain your brain to come into line with what your spirit is telling you— that you are safe in the hands of your Father. He holds your heart and he is never letting go.