Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Monsters Inside and Outside of Me


 
The Monsters Inside and Outside of Me

 

Sometimes late at night I find myself scanning through channels on the Television looking for a something interesting to occupy my down time. If it is really late at night the selection dwindles to infomercials, crime dramas, (not so) reality TV, and the miscellaneous show that I would categorize as “informational TV you never knew you didn’t need to know until you knew it”. One such show is called the “Monsters Inside of Me”. This show is about people who contracted various parasites or viruses that take over, and the story behind it. It’s very disturbing to ponder all of the many things that can take hold of a person when they are least suspecting it. Usually it’s the symptoms that spiral so out of control that they are forced to face the parasitic demons.  It’s a struggle I can’t relate to in the physical but know all too well in a mental, emotional and spiritual way.

Recently I found myself at the very end of myself in a struggle I have faced for almost two decades. I struggle with food. Like so many other struggles that people face it has a power and a hold over thoughts, actions, and emotions for me. But what do you do with an addiction that is revolved around something that you cannot just abandon. The body needs food to function, so in order to conquer its hold you are forced to face it every day no matter how hard the struggle is. I would describe the struggle as having two extremes. The one extreme being over eating, emotional eating, and eating things that are unhealthy to eat. The other extreme is the denial of those habits that lead right into the opposite end of an equally unhealthy lifestyle of starvation, anorexia, self-punishment, bulimia, extreme dieting and or exercise. The struggle is real to find balance when any attempt at such balance just finds you on one side or the other of this toxic battle.

I have had times in my life where I have seen temporary relief, or freedom from the struggle by the grace of God but somehow I just kept finding myself facing the struggle again and again. I wanted to get free but so much shame and a mentality that I should be stronger kept me from asking for the freedom I needed. And finally it came, the moment of revelation that would bring the power of God into my life. It wasn’t lightning or thunder, rather it was that gentle way that God has with us that turns an ordinary day into an extraordinary one. I wasn’t consciously aware of my request for freedom but had just found myself opening my heart up to God. He came in, and in doing that His light shed right into that area of struggle.

I was sitting on my couch reading a book about prayer when all of a sudden my spirit agreed with God that I needed more of Him. In that moment I saw a picture in my mind of something that can only be described as outrageously disturbing.  I saw two demons. Two female twins. One was disgustingly obese, hungry, prideful, arrogant, and demanded her own way. The other was skinny beyond any help, her skin pressed against her bones so tightly she looked like a corpse, she was weak, frail and hated herself. She was shame, self-punishment and loathing. The very next thing I noticed was that they were playing a game. The game was like a puppet show of sorts and I was the toy. I was the object of their game as they vied for control over my thoughts, emotions and actions. For long periods of time the gluttonous prideful demon would be winning and then I the toy would rebel and cry out that I couldn’t bare the self-hatred that those games led to, so unknowingly I would hand myself off to the self-punishing demon for a round of extreme dieting and self-criticism, that would only lead to disappointment and shame.

 

The game went on and on, and the two demons grew stronger with each round. It was as though they feasted on the torment being inflicted upon me. Eating my very flesh with every failed attempt to get free. One of the things that alarmed me as I watched the two was how even though I had never seen their faces before, somehow I knew them all too familiarly. It was as if they were family, part of my history, the dreaded inappropriate relative that you don’t particularly like but what can you do?  That became my very next question. What can I do? I had been believing a lie for so long that I was a failure and that my struggle was stronger and bigger than me. My identity was so wrapped up in this fa├žade they had created for me. I didn’t want to play the game anymore and after twenty years of playing it they had more than outstayed any welcome that I may have at one time offered to them.

We carry our struggles as though they are a part of us. Until they had faces I had no idea that I could be rid of them, until they had faces I had no way of knowing that I could turn them away. But it wasn’t so much the fact that my struggle no longer was faceless as the truth that we can only look into the face of one thing at a time. If I am constantly looking to them or at them as part of me, I won’t be able to also look into the face of Christ who gives me strength, I will forever be divided. The bible says we cannot serve two masters. Often we don’t understand why we are so doubleminded and weak in our walk with God. Often it is because we are slave to our struggles. Christ came to set the captives free. He came to bring abundant life. Our struggles have faces, those things that captivate our thoughts and get in the way of freedom no longer hold the power to bind us. But unless we stand in agreement with God over our freedom and let Him fill us with new life, they will stay like squatters in an abandoned building.

Colossians3:1-2,5

Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

… So put to death the sinful, earthly things living within you.

 

Your struggles have a face and they don’t belong in the place of honor, and because of Christ we can put them to death.

That show about the parasites, so very much disgusted me. It was the terrifying idea that a monster could be living inside of me. Even the thought of it being near me, just waiting to make me the new home where they would feast upon my flesh. But isn’t that the very thing that happens inside of us as we battle against our unseen enemy. We try to treat the symptoms of a monster with no face. We grow weary and tired of the battle and start to believe that we are crazy, that we are weak, that we are completely helpless to the invaders. There are many spiritual parasites that go undetected in our lives. Many that fly below the radar of detection. To name a few that I have found: Pride, Selfishness, Fear, Addiction, Jealously, Comparison, Shame, Bitterness, Gossip, Slander, Depression,…and the list goes on.

So what do we do about these invaders? We ask the Great Physician to identify them, to remove them, and then we get some seriously good Antibiotics in our system. We reject the lies and get the truth inside of us not only to fill the space that is left bare but also as a preventative measure against future attacks. We strengthen our spiritual immune system by getting spiritual health inside of us.

Is it time to go to the doctor? Is it time to see what unwanted monsters are lurking inside of us? In the physical when we find out that we have been infected we don’t blame the host that infected us, nor do we blame the parasites, they aren’t worth our time once we realize we have the cure. We merely focus in on the one who can set us free and follow his directions to get healthy. So when dealing with your spiritual parasites do not dwell on the disease, the pain, or the past but set your sights on higher things.

Colossians3:1-2

Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

 

 

Lord, we ask for your revelation every day to reveal the parasites at large within our hearts. We do not merely seek you, the great physician for a consultation but we come to you for deliverance. The parasites no longer will be allowed to feast because we will no longer be the host. Lord I pray for your direction and guidance as we get the good spiritual antibiotics into our system. Help us to pursue the fruit of the Spirit which is loaded with antibodies that we need to fight! We love you so much Lord and recognize that you are a good and loving God who longs for us to be free. Amen   

Friday, January 22, 2016

Listen Up


Listen Up

 

I found myself in tears as I drove away from the Dollar Store. Not because of sadness or regret but because of pure and unmistakable gratitude. This season of live has been one of growth mostly because it has been my hearts’ desire to be in a state of passionate pursuit of God’s heart for this world. I want to love deeper than I ever have; to take the road of trusting Him and never look back.

It was an ordinary event that God used to touch hearts and remind us again that He is everywhere, watching over and waiting for us to learn the art of listening. I had to go to the dollar store to get some supplies for my son’s science project; an ordinary task. It was busy and only one checker was checking people out. My flesh was aware of the inconvenience of the line and I thought to myself that they really needed to do a better job of paying attention to customer demands. I was able to drown out my selfish complaints as I remembered that I had asked God (that very same week) to help me not focus or feel inconvenienced but to instead show patience and love more and more. So instead I offered my spot in line to a couple that approached the line at the same time. There was a man behind them and I all of a sudden became very uncomfortable and seeing how I had no idea why I was uncomfortable I imagined all the bad reasons for this feeling.   

Then in a moment of complete surprise I felt the Holy Spirit whisper deep inside that I was to buy this man’s items for him. It wasn’t more than ten dollars’ worth but I was so uncomfortable with the public embarrassment of the gesture that I tried to explain to God why it was a bad idea. But the nudge only became more undeniable and I had to act.

Now let me just explain that although I am eloquent and put together on paper and even in the small controlled environments of friends and family I can appear very intelligent, witty or even wise at times, I am a complete and total idiot in public around strangers. I have no social skills when it comes to these things and I always try to make the awkwardness go away by being ever so much more awkward. For example: A week ago I was obeying the Holy Spirits prompt to buy a snack at the store for a homeless person outside and when I gave it to her I said, “I sure hope it is warm out today.” First of all it was 2pm and had been warm all day, so it made no sense whatsoever, but also it had no context in the situation. I just felt dumb! I am the most awkward person when I am outside of what I know.

The Holy Spirit gives me what I call the precursor pit in the stomach, the pit of regret I will feel the rest of the day if I don’t act upon what I know is right just to save face. So as the young man checking my items finished and gave the total, I said, “I would also like to buy this man’s stuff too.” The young man checking out the items was really excited about it and said, “that is so cool!” The man behind me said, “Really, are you serious?” In my awkwardness I said, “yes you have been so patient, you let me go first in line and I just really want to bless you.” He got very serious and then said, “I just lost my job.” I said, “well I hope this helps you to have a better day.” He said yes, absolutely, I will pay it forward.” I replied “I just want you to take it in and to have hope. I know God wants to bless you with it.” He then introduced himself and told me he couldn’t wait to tell his wife. I told him I would pray for a new job for him and asked what he did. The conversation was getting less awkward by the moment and the checker was just so excited to be watching it all happen.

I realized as I left to go to my car that God had just showed up at the Dollar Store to love that man. A few things stood out to me in that moment to be more than coincidence; One was that the line was almost ten people long and no other checker came to help, so all those people in line witnessed what was going on. The checker was floored by the act and heard me say multiple times that God wanted to do this. And then of course the thing that ultimately brought me to tears is that God would share with me His heart for this man who really needed a helping hand. I love how God partners with us and allows us in on his plans. I am so honored to be his hands and feet and to be a recipient in such a clear way of His answer to my request that I would love more like Him. The whole thing was such confirmation that God loves making ordinary days something quite extraordinary. When I think of how I almost lost the opportunity to bring a little bit of Heaven to earth just because I was uncomfortable it makes me so grateful that God is challenging me to a new level of trust, Faith and Obedience in Him.

This story isn’t a brag moment on my part because Heaven knows I have missed opportunities to love before. Nor is it a message meant to bring shame that we ought to be doing more. This story is merely a reminder of how much God expectantly waits for us to Listen Up. Literally “Up”. Our ears should be tuned directly into the voice of God. And in those moment when the Holy Spirit speaks we are to act as though nothing else in the whole world matters but responding to whatever is being spoken.

From my experience I can honestly say that He speaks only one language, and that language is love!  And although the world may not understand it or it may seem foreign and strange, we are to change the culture of our world to the culture of heaven, where the words and actions are formed out of love. I think that is why I feel so awkward in these situations, because if I am in Christ, I am a foreigner of this world’s culture. And although it would be more comfortable to pretend that I blend, It would never feel right inside of my soul.

Lord I ask that you give us ears to hear the love language that you are speaking over us and over all of your creation. Help us to love deeper, and be free in who we are in you and so aware of your presence that we are never afraid to bring heaven to earth. I love you so much Lord, help me to love what you love, to see what you see, and to always walk by faith not by might. Thank you Lord for letting us be a part of what you are doing. Amen  
 
 
"Again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”"
Hebrews 4:7 ESV


Friday, January 1, 2016

Treasured


 
Treasured

The Lord is speaking a word of value into his Church, upon his Bride. There is so much rejection in this world and he is calling sweetly and softly, hoping that in a moment of stillness His Bride will hear His voice, recognizing the sound of endearment, for He adores us, so much so that He made a straight path. Why would God bend so far down from heaven and with such a grand gesture as Christ’s death for anything less than our whole hearts?  

 
I was in a second hand shop looking for treasure as I often do, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye and in a moment of certainty, I knew it belonged to me. It was a delicate ceramic tea cup with a matching plate. It spoke to me as objects often do in illustrative form. I knew this treasure belonged somewhere special. Call it my desire to see things renewed to their former state of glory but as I looked at the cup I wondered about its vast history, not just the making of it but the journey it had taken up to this point, perhaps the life it had in the home of someone who took it out only for special occasions and the conversations that surrounded it as friends shared intimate words over a cup of tea or coffee. Now here it sat in a junk shop surrounded by many things that had outlived their usefulness and belonged in the garbage.  I knew I had to rescue this treasure and bring it into a home.

 
I wondered now about its future and about the memories that this cup would next. I purchased it as a gift for someone whom I knew would take it and love it and value it the way I did. I gave it to my mom. I watched as she looked upon its details, it’s beauty, it’s delicate intricacies with appreciation and then she did something that made my heart so completely satisfied; I watched as she gently and with much thought put the tea cup in her hutch, finding just the right place for her new treasure. My heart was so moved at the sight of a well received gift that in that silent moment God spoke to me, “I treasure you.”

 
At first I thought about how many times His love has ransomed me, How many times I found myself feeling like a second hand cup on a dusty shelf as His mercy reached out for me and brought me home. But soon I started to think upon the cost of that reunion and I realized that as much as I know God treasures me, I truly and wholeheartedly treasure Him all the more. He is our precious treasure, He bowed Himself so low, even lower than the cup in the junk shop, so that we could be found by Him yes, but even more so, that we could also find Him.

 
 God delights in that moment when we discover our treasure in Jesus, when we gaze upon His intricacies; the sweet delicate details of who our Savior is. I know He smiles as we put Him in that place of highest honor in our hearts. For He thought of us when He sent His son and nothing could make Him happier than when we value that, which He has valued most.

My Prayer in this year to come is that it would be a year of great treasure hunting.  God has promised in His word, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart.” So my prayer for all of us is not just to be found by Him but to find Him in the seeking.