BREAKING FREE FROM STRONGHOLDS (part 2)

 

LIES I’VE HEARD SATAN TELL

Because Satan is the father of lies, he has an idea of which ones I may tend to believe.  Some of them have enough truth to make a believer out of me.

“You should not be teaching Sunday School.  You’re not a good Christian.”

“You’re not beautiful.”  “You’re dumb.”  “You’re ugly.”

“God is angry with you for what you did as a child.”

“Most people have three times the talent you have.”

“God has abandoned you.”

“The only thing to do now is to run,” (and a thousand more lies).

WHY A STRONGHOLD IMPRISONS ME

.I get locked into a way of thinking and find it hard to break the mental cycle. (“I’ve  always been afraid of heights”…”of getting up in front of people”…”of praying aloud.”)

.I often learn the habit early in life.  

.I can trust God for many things, but I find it difficult to trust Him in this area.

.Demons sometimes attach themselves to strongholds.

.Wounds from the past often accompany strongholds.

.FALSE ATTEMPTS TO BREAK FREE FROM A STRONGHOLD

.Resolutions. ”I should stop doing this.”  

.Extra effort, but often in an area where I don’t need deliverance.  

.Prayer, which often has little effect on a stronghold, but people may pray over their stronghold for a lifetime.  

.Religion.  I do something out of duty to earn points and convince God to bless me.  

.Criticism. I concentrate on the faults of others to deflect attention from myself.

.Self-punishment.  I get down on myself for being so stupid, for giving in to my addiction.

.Denial.  A stronghold brings so much shame that it sets me on a course of defensiveness, deception, denial, and darkness.

THE WAY TO FREEDOM    (done best with the help of a mature friend)

  1. I identify the stronghold. One way to identify a stronghold is to complete the sentence:  I’ll be okay if I ___________ (run and hide…pity myself  for my predicament…lash out in anger…
  2.  I confess my attachment to the stronghold.  I confess that I have run to this stronghold instead of to God. It has become my God-substitute, my choice, and it has ruined my life.
  3. 3.  I renounce the lies.  A baptismal liturgy reads, “I renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.”  I declare boldly, “I renounce my dependency upon the stronghold of __________ in my life.”  The battlefield is the mind, the place where the enemy has taken me captive with lies.
  4.  I forgive others.  Because wounding often accompanies strongholds, I forgive those who have rejected, hurt, abused, or manipulated me.
  5.  I affirm the truth.  I cannot break free on my own.  I need the Strong Man to bring me into freedom. I place my trust in the love of the Father and the blood of Jesus.
  6.  I receive deliverance.   Christians can be oppressed by demons, especially when they habitually open themselves to attack by embracing lies, putting them in enemy territory.  
  7.  I am filled with the Holy Spirit.  I ask to be filled. I learn a new way of living. I discover that the Christian life is not about trying harder but trusting more. I rely on the power of the indwelling Spirit to obey God.  (pa@harvestcommunities.org to receive full message).

BREAKING FREE FROM STRONGHOLDS (part 1)

 

Most of my kids were afraid of dogs as toddlers.  Erikka was especially terrified by big barkers, and she would run to me for cover.  But on Daddy’s shoulders, she said in happy tone, “Hi, Doggy.”   Moms and dads are often safe places for children; so is God.  David wrote, “I love thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge…my stronghold.  I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1,2).  

THE WAY TO BONDAGE

Unfortunately, we don’t always go to our Father.  We find other hiding places.  At first, they seem to be safe. Eventually, the “refuge” becomes a stronghold that imprisons us, and this is the way St. Paul uses the term “stronghold” (2 Cor. 10:4).

David went on to write, “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help” (6).  What if he had chosen a stronghold other than God?  He might have been captured or killed. And David knew why God protected him:  “He delivered me, because he delighted in me” (18).  He embraced the truth, and the truth set him free.  Clinging to lies robs us of freedom.  They bring us into strongholds that look like safe places but are really prisons.

A STRONGHOLD IS…

.something I run to instead of God.  It is what I turn to when weak or in pain, a God-substitute, something I trust in for help. Anna learned to run to food.  Others may run to religion, sleep or alcohol.

.a lie I continue to believe.  Because I am vulnerable, I don’t realize that I am embracing a lie.  It worked once, so I continue to try it.

.something I don’t like talking about.  It shames and embarrasses me, so I hide.  A stronghold makes me feel like a powerless wimp.

.a secret, and sometimes I don’t even know the secret.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” (I John 1:8).  

.part of my identity.  “I am a worry-wart.”  “I am angry with life because of what my father did.” “I am the divorced person who is not loved.”  

.a prison that is difficult to get out of.  At first the stronghold seems like a safe place to hide from pain.

.a terrible place to run to.  It enslaves me, robbing me of peace, joy, and freedom.  

.a habit pattern of thinking that affects behavior.  The way I think is the way I live.

 

EXAMPLES OF STRONGHOLDS (and the destructive lies that can accompany them)

Perfectionism (I’ll be okay if I do everything right.  Then I will have earned my points).

Anger (People make me upset.  I have a right to get mad).

Self-pity (No one understands me; no one appreciates me).

Lust (I need a high right now, a moment of harmless pleasure).

Work (I am valuable because I am a hard worker).

Religion (I am a devout person.  I have value to God because I go to church and serve others).

Sickness (Now people will care about me and feel sorry for me.  See John 5:1-15).

Rejection (People always reject me. They don’t think I am worth anything, so I’ll reject them).

(Part 2 next. For full message: pa@harvestcommunities.org.)

GOD THE PLANNER (part 2)

 

Are you good at making plans? God is really good. Check it out.

HE HAS REVEALED HIS PLAN TO US.

“He made known to us the mystery of his will…” Ephesians 1 uses the word “will” three times. God has three kinds of wills: His decreed will (the plan that will certainly happen), His desired will (such as all being saved), and His defined will (commands to be obeyed). He hasn’t told us everything about His plan, as Moses shared with Israel in his farewell message (Deut. 29:29): “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law”[defined will].

GOD’S PLAN IS PERFECT.

It comes to pass. God’s word goes forth and accomplishes its purpose (Isaiah 55:11).  My plans sometimes bomb. Paul expected to travel east into Asia, but God sent him west instead, a much better idea. “The counsels of the Lord stand forever, the plans of his heart from generation to generation” (Psalm 33:11). God has surprised me numerous times, with major changes in my plans to carry out His will. And as Job said, “No plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

GOD’S PLAN IS ETERNAL.

My plans are for a month or a year. God plan goes from eternity to eternity. “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please…What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned; that will I do” (Isaiah 46:10,11).

GOD’S PLAN CENTERS IN THE CROSS.

Jesus is center stage in God’s plans. God connected with a man named Abraham and said that his seed would bless the earth. Jesus was of the seed of Abraham and engaged in a rescue operation from sin and Satan through his perfect life, atoning death, resurrection and exaltation. In doing so he would “bring many sons to glory” to praise Him forever. Even the death of His Son came in line with His eternal purpose: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:28). Is that fate? No, it is wisdom mixed with sovereignty, foreknowledge, and preprogramming.

GOD’S PLAN BRINGS US GOOD.

It is so good, that even when people interfere with God’s plans, they work together for good to those who align themselves with His purpose (Romans 8:28). Because God plans, we also plan, but we hold our plans lightly. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

GOD’S PLAN IS REVEALED INCREMENTALLY.

Biblical prophecies give clues to His plans. The sacrificial system pictured the coming atonement of Christ. Jesus prophesied the end of the world, and the book of Revelation tells what it will look like.

GOD’S PLAN ENCOMPASSES EVERYTHING.

My plans for a vacation impact my wife and children. God’s plans cover the landscape and are incredibly woven together. They reveal His wisdom, love, and eternal purpose: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36). Praise God for His marvelous plans. You are included!

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO LIVE, TRY DYING!

 

What do you see in the word “death”? Pain, decay, sorrow, suffering, darkness, separation, abandonment, grief, hostility, end, no. Not a happy word. People fear death, try to avoid it. Why wouldn’t we? It spells the end of all that we know. aw1

What do you see in the resurrection? Light, life, uncontainable joy, reunion, freedom, worship, pleasure, comfort, new beginnings, yes. Fact: there can be no resurrection without death. Had Jesus not submitted to death, He would not have experienced the resurrection. Avoid Friday and Sunday never comes.

Do you know what the hardest thing in the Christian life is?  It’s not witnessing to your relatives or teaching a boy’s confirmation class on Leviticus or serving on the budget committee of an a shrinking church—it’s dying. If you want to live, you need to learn how to die.

JESUS KNEW HOW TO DIE.

He said, “The Son of man came…to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). The disciples had a different agenda–living. They didn’t want to die. The first order of business from the cross was, “Father, forgive them.”  You don’t say that unless you know how to die. Paul knew how to die. He was coming under attack from the Corinthians, but he said, “Death works in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12).

THE DEATH OF JESUS WAS…

Public.  Jesus died outside the city walls, but it was close to town and on a public road.  The Romans did it that way to demonstrate their control and to shame criminals.   We don’t die by going off on a silent retreat to the desert.  We die with people.

Personal.  The arrows that stick most in our hearts are the personal ones that strike at our character, our motives, our aptitude.  We don’t react as much to those darts that go after our company or our car.  Listen to these jabs at Jesus:  “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!  Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God.’”  

Painful.  Jesus didn’t enjoy the cross, He endured it (Hebrews 12:2).  Somehow I expected dying to be noble and make me feel like Mother Teresa. Dying is hard–sometimes ugly.

Prolonged.  Jesus began dying from the time He was born.  He lived with the shame of an illegitimate birth.  He was rejected by His family, nation, its leaders, His disciples, finally by His Father.  

Preferred. He died by laying down his life.  He said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18).”  He was not a victim, because He chose the way of death.  

SO WHAT?

Maybe you are being given the privilege of going the way of the cross. So I’ll add one more P.  If you die like Jesus, it will be powerful, because people will not just be getting the best you can give—they will be getting God.

Sunday is as full of hope as Friday is deeply sad. Friday is an end; Sunday is a new beginning. Accept Good Friday and you get a gooder Sunday! So, if you really want to live–try dying!

GOD THE PLANNER (part 1)

Is it good to make plans? In fact, it is godly, because it is like God. No one plans like God. “He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ…In him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:9,11,12). This tells us six truths about God’s plan:

HIS PLAN IS A MYSTERY.

And the mystery continues even after the plot is revealed. No one says, “Crazy, I should have thought of that.” No interior logic would ever come up with the plan of God. His ways and thoughts are light years higher. We can only marvel at infinitely superior wisdom and love.

HE LIKES HIS PLAN. IT GIVES HIM JOY.

God is neither bored nor boring. To read His love letter and call it boring says nothing about the letter and a lot about the reader. God is not grouchy, nor is He having a bad day. And He is looking forward to spending an eternity with His family. It is to His “good pleasure.”

HIS PLAN CENTERS IN HIS SON.

His Son brings Him great joy. And His fullness of joy increases as we are made to look more like Him. He purposed His plans to center in Christ. The way we fit into His plans is to “hope in Christ.” No other way. No Lutherans, Baptists or Catholics in heaven, only children marked by the blood of Christ and spared from a Christless eternity through Calvary love.

HIS PLAN IS PREDESTINED TO BE FULFILLED.

That means it is going to happen. A new earth has been planned. We’re not going to get a text from heaven saying, “Sorry, it is not going to work out as planned.” Peter called the plan imperishable, unfading, and reserved for us. It is not subject to mold, rust, or deterioration. Not my program. Karen and I planned to go to Washington. Never got past Oregon. Had to call and cancel. It doesn’t offend me that God has made perfect and preprogrammed plans for me. I’m in! Predestination is a mark of his love (Eph. 1:5).

HIS PLAN INCLUDES US.

In fact, we were chosen before the foundation of the earth. It was not a last-minute decision to get us in before the deadline. That should prop up your self-image. Choice implies worth. My friend Gary was chosen last at recess in junior high because he couldn’t swing a bat. Never mind that he was smarter than the rest of us. It didn’t feel good to not be chosen. If you are reading this, I suspect that you are!

HIS PLAN BRINGS HIM GLORY.

We get chosen–He gets praise. We can only rejoice at His compassion. The only thing holding Him back from sending Jesus to earth today is that He desires even more children in His family. He’s a Father, and He happens to really love His kids. And His kids bless Him–forever!                     (More about this great plan in part 2).

REFLECTING ON THE FATHER LOVE OF GOD

 

  1.  Finish the sentence: God would love me more if I____________________. If you can complete the sentence with anything, what does it say about you and your God?
  2.  What do you hear God saying the most to you? “When are you going to get it together? Why are you always blowing it?” Or do you hear affirmations, like, “I am proud of you? I am glad you’re in the family. Keep up the good work.” Does anything need to change in how you are receiving your Father’s love?
  3.  Once Erikka asked me after she had been disobedient, “Do you love me now, Daddy?”  I reassured her of my love. Do you find it difficult to accept God’s forgiveness? Is it easy for God to forgive you and for you to accept it and go on?
  4.  Satan purposes to deface your picture of God. Did it for Eve. He wants to turn God into a permissive, punitive (punishing), passive, or performance-oriented Father. Where has he been successful with you? God is more like a boss than a father to some. We just don’t feel that close. Or he is a policeman, trying to catch us doing wrong, or a judge hoping to pin us to the wall. Do you have any pictures of God (policeman, prosecuting attorney, etc.) that have been distorted? The elder son treated his father like he was a boss, not a dad. How about you?
  5.  God not only loves you—he likes you?  He likes being with you, spending time together. How do you handle that? Do you believe it or do you struggle to receive it?
  6.  A boy forgot to feed the dog. Instead of been forgiven, he was beaten. The punishment did not fit the crime. He has decided that his father doesn’t love him. And he has decided that he doesn’t love his father. He doesn’t want to be around, and he can’t wait until he can leave—for good. Has any bitterness lodged in your soul in a similar way? A teenage boy lives with his grandmother because the parents are separated and the mother can’t afford to keep him. His dad promises to come by and take him fishing. After waiting in the living room for three hours, he decides that Dad isn’t coming. Dad calls the next day and gives a lame excuse. The promise to take him shopping before Christmas ends the same way. After a variety of episodes like this, he decides that he isn’t worth the time. As an adult he is still trying to prove to his dad that he is worth spending time with. Do you identify?
  7.  Marsha can’t call God “Father.” Her father was abusive, and it hurts too much to use that title for God. Do you feel that way? How can that change?
  8.  A father wants his daughter who is pulling A’s at a prestigious eastern university to go to law school at Harvard. She feels a call to the mission field but does not want to disappoint her father. He has his own image of what his daughter will be, not necessarily God’s idea. She feels burdened under the expectations of her father, who seems to have this need for his daughter to make it big. Have you ever been made to feel that way? Do you feel that you are performing for God rather than simply receiving His love?

I wrote “Healing From A Father Wound” (five pages) to help people who suffer from father (or mother or significant other) wounds. I’d be glad to send it to you. pa@harvestcommunities.org.

“I REALLY DO WANT TO CHANGE!”

 

“How come it’s taking me so long? I’ve prayed for patience, but I don’t see it happening. Can you help me?”  No, but here’s what can: we are changed by what we believe and what we behold.

 

WHAT WE BELIEVE

Sometimes prayer is more an expression of what isn’t happening than an expectation of what will. The fruit of the Spirit is just that–what the Spirit produces in us. We cannot become godly (or like God) by grit–only by the Holy Spirit. Try adjusting the way you pray and say: “I am trusting you, Father, to produce the fruit of love in me. I can’t–but You can.” Faith that believes possesses!

Frustration can be a good thing–if it turns to faith. We turn from whining to winning. The eyes of faith see what God is doing rather than what we are not doing. We catch the wind and are carried along. I am not going to change by complaining about how bad things are. That won’t make me the person I want to be.

As a teenager I focused on my sin in order to deal with it. Didn’t work. Only made me more discouraged. I viewed myself as a sinner, which was a wrong belief. The Bible calls me a saint, a holy person. That is how God chooses to view me, and that is what He is making me into. My wrong picture kept my prayers from being faith-filled. Perception is reality.

I do take time in my morning prayer to see my need for change. I spend a short time confessing especially sins of the heart more difficult to see–lack of passion, insensitivity to others, judgmental thoughts, presumptuous opinions, unbelieving outlooks. I do not want to regard iniquity in my heart. It can sit there and mildew. God helps by shining His light on areas I may overlook–to convict, not to condemn. I am able then to confess and get on with the walk of holiness. I continue to believe that He is doing good in me. I trust in His ability more than my inability.

Then I pray with my wife and we often declare who God is and who He is for us. She reads the Psalms daily and they usually have a strong God-focus. We do this because we are not only changed by what we believe but by…

WHAT WE BEHOLD

“And we all with unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another. Now this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). We’ve already determined that looking at how bad we are is not sufficient to change us, but looking at how good God is will. And the Lord within does the work. We are likewise exhorted to be “looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). What he has started he will finish.

Faith and focus, believing and beholding. Concentrating on sin does not eradicate sin.

A broken teenager joining a bunch of rowdies soon looks and acts like them.  This is why worship is so powerful, because we become what we behold. Karen and I often find ourselves at the piano after dinner lifting our voices in praise. “He who call you is faithful, and he will do it.”

AFFLICTED WITH ANSWERS

 

A teacher started the class: “I am not here to answer your questions. I am here to question your answers.”  A professor at The Master’s Institute, Dr. Herb Klem, said, “There are two important truths: 1) There is a God. 2) You are not He. He added, “And you know less of Him than you think you do.”  Adults often settle in and quit asking questions. They think they know. Too bad they don’t know that they don’t know much.

 

Kids are learners and they show it by asking questions. Adults don’t raise their hands, because they don’t want to show how stupid they are. They hope someone else asks the question to show that they are the dummy. The learning curve for children is a steep one. It levels off as we reach adulthood. What a shame! What if we kept on growing? We might even get smart some day. But we start thinking that we know. Not a good place to be. Knowers are not learners.

 

Ask yourself: do I have too many answers and not enough questions? The Pharisees had more answers than they had a right to have. They were comfortable in their answers that came from reason, not revelation. When the wise men came with the question, “Where?” the religious leaders had the answer, but it didn’t move them. Pharisees are sitters, not seekers. They already had the truth, or so they thought. Jerusalem was five miles from the Messiah–and they didn’t budge.

 

Two opposite responses came at Pentecost. Some dismissed the tongue-speakers with a statement, “They have had too much wine.” That ends the discussion. Others asked, “What do these things mean?” Those with answers close the door to learning, while those with questions open themselves to revelation. The answer people are the learned ones, about whom Jesus spoke in His prayer: “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hid these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25). God actually hides revelation from those who think that they have a handle on it. But those who come humbly seeking because they know that they don’t know experience divine breakthrough. Stunning!

 

We are children of the Father. Children are humble seekers, not afraid to ask questions. We are like kids on a treasure hunt. Jesus said that “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls” (Matthew 13:45). Are you a seeker or a sitter? Do you have it down or are you on a search? We are often too easy with answers, and we make assumptions. I like all kinds of nuts, including peanuts, but I am not as fond of peanut butter. If you assume that because I eat one, I like the other, you’re wrong. What if we make assumptions about tongue-speakers or people with depression or those struggling with same-sex issues or folks on the opposite end of the political fence? Hey, we might be wrong. Questions often work better than answers. Stay young! Raise your hand and be a kid again.