Shame Off You

Shame

Has anyone said to you, “Shame on you!” or “You ought to be ashamed!”? Shame makes us feel small, flawed, not good enough. Shame adversely affects our relationship with God, ourselves, and others. It hinders our ability to experience God’s unconditional love.

The good news is there is power in God’s Word to break through the lies I have believed. Breaking free from the bondage of shame is not an instant event or even a quick-fix, three-step process. It is an ongoing adventure of discovering the depths of God’s love and the scope of God’s power to transform me. God has new life, new freedom available on the other side of this journey.

Do I still have shame and condemnation on my conscience? As long as the past is my focus, I won’t dare to draw near to God. But Jesus paid for my guilt and bore my shame. In fact He overpaid – enough for everyone alive, has lived or will live. He carried it all to the cross. And He left it there!

Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were more than enough for all of us. When He emerged from that tomb, He was no longer clothed in the sin and shame of this world. Sin and its shame were left in the tomb: conquered, paid for, redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. It is finished. The blood of Jesus has healed us. The blood of Jesus has set us free.

The Israelites had an eleven-day journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. It didn’t have to take forty years, but they chose grumbling, complaining, resisting the work God wanted to do in them. We all have some version of the wilderness to go through. It’s a season that exposes how defenseless we are. It’s how God prepares us to be able to overcome the giants in our lives. It’s a place we cycle through over and over again in our lives—but in different areas—always getting freer and freer from shame each time. We just have to be willing to follow where He leads.

God’s goal for us is freedom, true spiritual freedom. It is a life no longer bound by the weights of shame’s guilt and regret, no longer haunted by shame’s fears and worries, no longer captive to shame’s old habits and addictions. God’s goal for us is not to change our circumstances; it is to change us!

More than once the children of Israel lost focus of how bad life had been when they had been in bondage and they wanted to turn back to Egypt (Exodus 16:3. Exodus 17:3, Numbers 11:5, Numbers 14:2, Numbers 20:5, Numbers 21:5). How quickly I can forget when the wilderness feels too dark and too hard for too long. There are times when I forget how hard the life of shame was and I yearn for the familiar and am tempted to go back to old ways.

We decide it’s time to open a bottle when an unforeseen disappointment surprises us, rather than call the sponsor who is committed to helping us stay on course. Or we grow tired of the discipline of believing who God’s Word says we are over the lies of mean-spirited people who have always said, “You’re just a loser and you’ll always be a loser.”

No matter how bad our past, it’s always easier to revert to old behaviors than to forge new ones. The reality is there is no drive-through breakthrough. We all must go through the wilderness to get to freedom so we are strong enough to defeat the giants who fuel our shame.

Jesus died to secure our freedom from sin and death. Adam and Eve lived unashamed in daily fellowship with our loving Creator and each other. In heaven we will fully enjoy that ultimate freedom. But we don’t have to wait to walk in freedom: Jesus offers us freedom from sin’s slavery now.

I cannot change my past, but I can make decisions now that will change my future. Not just for me, but for the generations who would come after me. I am not powerless, helpless, useless. I have the power to choose freedom.

When I choose to focus more on what Jesus has done for me than on what others have done or said to me, I have the faith to stand up and start moving forward. Without Him, I will inevitably become weary and run out of steam. It is God’s power that is made perfect in my weakness, not my own (2Corinthians 12:9).

The key to moving from a damaged, shame-filled life to a whole, shame-free life is allowing the healing power of the love of God to permeate every corner of my wounded soul and bring healing, wholeness, and strength. It’s not about my doing more for God; it’s about giving God more access so He can do more in me.

The devil will do everything in his power to keep me from getting on the right train of thought. Casting Crowns has a great song, “The Voice of Truth”. Part of the lyrics go:

But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The giant keeps on telling me Time and time again, “Boy, you’ll never win! “You’ll never win.”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story, And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!” And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

Romans 12:2 says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I have to be committed to retrain my thinking. I have to work at believing God’s voice spoken through His Word, more than all the other voices that have spoken into my lives (including my own).

We were touring in Italy and were taking the train from Rome to Florence. The Rome train station was massive with dozens of departing trains and tracks. We couldn’t just climb on the first train we came to. We had to choose carefully. I have decided to begin each day by first checking the destination board and picking the right train of thought. I ask myself, “Where do I want to end up today?” And then set my course going in the right direction. This is the process of renewing my mind. Through it, I become someone who thinks and, consequently, lives differently than the world.

Several members of our church agreed that we would take time every morning before breakfast to read the Bible. With very few exceptions over the last 10 years, I have started every morning filling my mind with the Word of God. When I am armed with the truth of His Word, I am able to contend with the attacks of fear, doubt, negativity, and lies that the enemy throws at me every day.

Knowing who I am in Christ and what I have in Christ is vital to staying on track every day. Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV) We love to declare, “The truth will set you free!” But it is only the truth that I know that will set me free. And the only way to know God’s Word is to read it, meditate on it, study and apply it to my everyday life.

The walls surrounding the city of Jericho were impenetrable. Jericho had heard the Israelites were coming, so the place was on lockdown. The Israelites could see that the situation they faced was impossible. Seven days of marching around the walls only emphasized it. Then Joshua told them to shout. “Yea, right. Like that’s going to make a difference! Where’d we find this guy anyway? I’m heading back to Egypt.”

God wanted the Israelites to see not with their eyes but with their faith. He wanted them to see that even though the circumstances were impossible, He would give them the promised victory, because “all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23 NKJV).

Learning to trust takes time. But here’s the great news: God knows how to grow trust. He knows how to plant it, how to nourish it, how to repair it when it’s been broken, and how to restore it when it’s been lost. God is in the trust-growing business!

Do you know what He uses to grow our trust? He uses the very tool that the enemy uses to try to stop us. He uses our fear. Fear exposes the limits of our present trust level, but not our potential capacity. Trust building is a process, a journey.

Trust calls for putting more faith in what I know about God than in what I don’t know about the future. It is then I will walk in obedience, trusting that God is good and there is no darkness in Him at all (1 John 1:5). He can only do good and only good will come of the things He asks me to do.

Ephesians 5:8 (NKJV) tells us, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”  When I bring what is hidden in the dark—my shame and guilt—into the light of God’s merciful presence, they lose their power over me. He gently shines His healing light on all my wounds. Psalm 118:6 (ESV) says, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.” He will never shame or humiliate me. He is good, merciful, and kind. He didn’t cause my pain, but He’s ready to help me through that pain.

God is at work transforming me into the kind of Jesus follower who spreads grace and builds others up in the Lord. The next time someone hurts me—and they will—or I hurt someone—and I will—rather than hide from the pain and the shame, I can expose it to God’s light and experience healing and grace. This is living in hope rather than returning to the old cycle I dwelt in so long.

I want to see what God sees! I choose to focus on the freedom that is coming once I drop my old baggage, to focus on where God is leading me. The next time all that shame comes piling back on, let’s take a moment to catch sight of the freedom to come when we slay that giant.

I have made the decision to trust and obey rather than running back to the wilderness to grumble and complain. I choose to be confident that God will be faithful to lead me to complete freedom. Freedom comes when I see myself as God sees me! When I see the victory ahead, when I see the freedom that is coming, I am not only willing to endure, but I am eager to press forward into that freedom.

Let’s declare together:

  • Jesus has set me free.
  • I am free from condemnation.
  • I am free from guilt.
  • I am free from shame.
  • Shame off me!

Zombies

tree-66465_1280We have seen it on the hospital dramas: “He’s going into cardiac arrest! Give me the paddles. Clear!” Zap. Beep…beep…beep. “He’s back.” We were all dead in sin: drug dealers, pimps, sex offenders, gossips, unforgiving or prideful. All equally dead. Just another cold corpse in the spiritual morgue that stretches for miles. But God… I call it the divine hinge on which everything turns. Here comes the power. We were flat lined spiritually and He put the paddles to our chest, “Clear!” and gave us a good zap. Beep…beep…beep.  God didn’t just bring us back to life. That would ultimately lead to death again. Jesus raised Lazarus but what eventually happened to him? He died. When God made us alive He went a step further and seated us in heaven in Christ so that sin and death have no more power over us.

Let’s read together Ephesians 2:1-10 NKJV: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” We were dead in our sin, helpless and hopeless, but God… But God…

Zombies are a popular subject today in movies and television. If we could look into the spiritual world around us, what would we see? There are a lot of spiritual zombies walking around today; they just don’t know they’re dead. A person doesn’t sin and then die spiritually. He is born dead and so sin is just the natural outcome. Romans 3:20 in the Phillips translation puts it this way, “No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law’s demands – indeed it is the straightedge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.” The do’s and don’ts of the Bible aren’t there to make us better but so we can see our sin clearly. We chose sin, we chose the world, we chose death. But God, despite that, chose us.

Why would God do such a thing? Because of His great love. I may see God as cold or stern or angry. That could be based on what I learned in Sunday School or from equating God with an angry, earthly father. God IS love. It is not that God is showing love, not that God is loving. His very nature is summed up in one word: love. Rick Warren, author of Purpose Driven Life: “God didn’t choose you because of something you’ve done. It’s all because of who He is. You weren’t good enough, smart enough, or spiritual enough for Him to save you. He saved you because He loves you.”

Look at surveys and we will see that most people believe God exists. That doesn’t make them spiritually alive. James 2:19 (NLT) warns, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” I know a lot of people who do good things but they are still spiritually dead. Many religions, some that even call themselves Christian, place their focus on good deeds rather and the redemption that is ours through the cross. We can dress a zombie up in a nice suit, comb his hair just right but he is still a zombie.

Israel was in a drought and God directed the prophet Elijah to a certain brook. As he stayed there he watched the brook dwindle and finally dry up. (1Kings 17:7) But even then God continued to provide for him miraculously. We can spend our lives worrying about our various predicaments. When we are down here facing the daily battles, mucking our way through the trenches of daily life, it is easy to forget that we are seated in heavenly places. I only have a limited amount of energy. That’s why I get tired and worn out. As a result, I need to not waste any of that limited energy on the past. Every day, I want to choose to focus my energy on what is in front of me and what lies ahead. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Before I was born again, I was a good person. I considered myself a Christian. I just kind of did things my own way, mixing in a little Bible truth with worldly wisdom and my own motivations. I went to church most Sundays, but God was someone I went to when I was in trouble, when I was hurting, when I had a need. I treated Him like a vending machine: put in a few prayers and out pops His favor. When the crisis was over I took the attitude, “Thanks God. I’ll take it from here.” The rest of the time I gave Him very little thought. Then one night I attended an Easter service that included a reenactment of the crucifixion. As I looked on a bloodied and beaten Jesus, I realized I only wanted God on my terms. Now He was calling me to surrender. I took that step and now live a life that has been changed by the redeeming power of the cross. This life goes beyond forgiveness of sin. It brings empowerment by the Holy Spirit. It brings focus to living.

Once I was dead spiritually; now my heart, mind and spirit are set free. Once my life was hopeless; now I have hope and security in God. Once my life was empty and void; now I can enter into the joy of the Lord.

All that we have, all that we are, all that God has done for and in and through us is IN CHRIST. What the devil wants to do is to get me to focus on my condition instead of my position in Christ. I am an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17) Once I focus on my position in Christ, it gives me the power to change my condition and circumstances.

The Israelites spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt. They walked away from the Red Sea but they didn’t walk away from the slave mentality. Just like the Israelites’ enemies and their accusations were drowned in the Red Sea, the shaming, condemning words of my past life of slavery to sin have been silenced in the death and resurrection of Christ.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT) All this wide and long and high and deep made my head spin until I read what Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Seattle wrote, “Paul wanted the love of God, like a plant rooted deeply in nourishment and able to flourish, to be a deep root in people’s souls. He wanted the church to know that God’s love is wide enough to welcome anyone, long enough to stretch from the beginning to the end of time, deep enough to reach down to the worst of sinners, and high enough to transport us to God’s heavenly kingdom.”

God commanded the Israelites to march around Jericho every day for seven days. In the natural that seemed like a really dumb plan. Why did God require that? Could it be so the people saw how hopeless their situation was without God? “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2Corinthians 4:7 NIV) When we are poor in spirit, we will recognize our need for God and we will have hands open to heaven.

In Matthew 19:16-22 NKJV, a young man approached Jesus and asked, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Notice that he was looking for good works to save him. Jesus called him to break from the world’s standard regarding money. “Sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The young man turned away. He kept his money, he kept his pride…and he kept his emptiness. We have traveled to Europe, Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Columbia, the Caribbean and Central American. Money can buy a passport to anywhere…but heaven.

Hey, I just want to do what I want to do!” But in truth we are doing what the world dictates. We chase after cars and houses and fame and acceptance. The world says, “Have it your way. Go for the gusto.” And in the end it is empty, spiritually dead, the path of the zombie.

The zombie is defined by the defeat and regret of past mistakes, but God… He can set our feet on the new path. “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” (Isaiah 61:1-4 NIV) Many come from families which have experienced division and devastation for generations. God breaks that curse and brings restoration. Because of Christ I am at peace with God. (Romans 5:1) I am a new creation in Christ (2Corinthinas 5:17). He has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1Peter 2:9). I am His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). I am to be living advertisement for the blessing and power of God.

Faith is not complicated. It is simply believing. I show faith when I pop open a can of Pepsi and drink it down. I believe there is nothing harmful in there. I show faith when I drive over a bridge. I believe I will reach the other side safely. Salvation doesn’t come by baptism or by church attendance or even living a good life. Salvation comes when the light bulb of faith turns on and I say, “I believe. I recognize I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I accept that Jesus shed His blood and died to pay for my sins. I acknowledge He rose again and gave me new life.”

Jacob Marley in Dickens’ Christmas Carol wore a chain he had forged link by link through his deeds and choices. I carried the chains of my past choices and sin but Jesus removed the locks. Will I continue to carry them?

John Newton was involved in the slave trade in the mid-1700’s, until he recognized that apart from faith in Christ he had “no hope and [was] without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12 NKJV). But God… That was when Newton penned the famous words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Today I invite you to reflect on those words and, as you do, shake off the chains of the past and walk into freedom.

Pulling Down Strongholds

hohensalzburg-fortress“Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I’m sure you have seen that bumper sticker. Our issues have different names but the question is the same. I am “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37) yet I still struggle daily. I’ve lost more than my share of battles to worry, fear, unbelief, pride or lustful thoughts. Maybe someone has said to you, “If you really wanted to change you could.” Or “You must not really be saved.” And there is a little demon on your shoulder saying, “Yea, that’s right!”

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NLT) Everything except live victorious it seems. “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2Corinthians 1:20 NKJV) Yet I seem to experience some of God’s promises are yes and amen while others are just hit and miss.

In Romans 7:15 (NIV), Paul cries out, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Why can’t I overcome trust issues? Why am I so selfish? Why, if I’m promised perfect peace, do certain fears seem to have such a grip on me? Why do I struggle with pride, anger, bitterness? Why do I continue to struggle with “old things” rather than they’re being entirely gone? Why can’t I seem to be what God’s Word says? Because as long as strongholds remain, it is difficult to be truly free.

I lived in bondage to a stronghold for years: the belief that I had to earn my way into heaven. If I could just be good enough, do enough good things to counterbalance the bad, God would accept me. The dirty little secret that I hid from everyone was that I knew I was failing miserably.

What strongholds have you overcome? What are you still fighting?

  • “This is all a big cosmic accident.”
  • “My identity is in my job.”
  • “I have to look out for me. No one else will.”

A paradigm is a mindset, a filter for my actions that becomes a prison, a stronghold or negative destructive thought pattern tattooed on my mind. If allowed to develop it can imprison me for life. We are not controlled by truth; we are controlled by what we believe to be true. What happens to me (the facts and events) is not really what creates the stronghold; what I believe about what happened creates a stronghold. Parents divorce: “It was my fault.” Not chosen for a sport’s team: “I’m not good enough.” I use coping mechanisms to minimize the pain I feel and end up reinforcing the stronghold and adding another brick to Satan’s fortress inside my soul.

Strongholds produce involuntary actions. Consciously choosing to believe something contrary to what’s in my subconscious doesn’t bring lasting differences. Zig Ziglar said, “You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.” The subconscious is not changed simply by a conscious choice. Because of those strongholds, it is difficult for me to accept new truth. We all know those who came forward to the altar for salvation and within a few weeks were right back living full on for the world. What happened? Their spirit was reborn but it never impacted their soul.

My soul needs realignment. You’ve probably driven in a car that was out of alignment. It can be very tiring to constantly pull on the wheel to keep that car on the road. If my soul is out of alignment with God’s truth, I will need to work extra hard to stay on track.

I am already a new creation in my spirit; I am becoming a new creation in my soul. My spirit is new; my soul is being made new. 1Timothy 6:12 says we must “lay hold of eternal life.” What God has already given me in my spirit I can fail to experience in my mind, emotion and will unless I “lay hold”. But it’s not too late for breakthrough. We must become who we are. Becoming is a process.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV) declares we are “being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.” My spirit may declare “I believe.”, but my soul instinctively says “Prove it.” My soul will constantly seek to haunt me with reminders of the old sinful nature. It will try to paralyze me with fear over all of the “what ifs”.

Romans 12:1 declares that we are to be “living sacrifices”. To do that we must take those old belief systems and strongholds to the cross. That requires that we “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” according to Romans 12:2. I can’t afford to accept the blueprints that the world around me and my past experiences have drawn. It is time for transformation.

John 12:24–26 (NKJV) says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was as a substitute for me but in another sense He insists I go there too. We hear too often a “what’s in it for me” gospel but transformation will not occur without dying to self and crucifying the flesh. For me to experience victory, my will and emotions must die.

2Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV) tells us, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” It is in taking up my cross daily (Luke 9:23) that I experience the daily release of power and life. Jesus calls me to join him in the crucifixion so that I may have life. We are not called to stop thinking or to squelch our feelings, but we are called to bring our thinking and feelings under the control of our spirit. It is then that we can say no to pride, to revenge, to dishonesty, to addiction, to fear, to the spectrum of self-centered attitudes and choices.

In 2Corinthians 12:9, God tells us, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul recognizes the inherent weakness of his flesh and is forced to rely on God’s ability working in his spirit. The soul cannot heal itself. The power for healing is only found at the cross. My reborn spirit is stuck behind a carnal soul determined to get its own way. It’s trapped behind thick walls fortified by pain, sadness and suffering.

My soul has been in the driver seat for a long time and it does not enjoy taking a back seat. My mind, will and emotions by their nature do not like to be held in check or corrected. We can react in one of two ways to Christ’s offer of rest: whine, cry and scream about wanting our way, or settle down, take His yoke and know that He’ll come through. My soul says “I want what I want, and I want it now!!” but that is not the path to freedom and life.

How do I see myself in the mirror of my mind? Fat? Unwanted? Stupid? Perhaps I’ve experienced abandonment or rejection. Then there is verbal, emotional and sexual abuse. All of that creates a self-image, beliefs that are formed and then control me, whether true or not. Until the mirror in my mind is transformed it will trump God’s view of me. Casual daily Bible reading or hearing a sermon on Sunday will not do it. The Word is to us spiritually what natural food is to our body (Matthew 4:4). As a cow chewing her cud, we need to get everything out of the Word. When we digest God’s Word we are receiving His life.

Hebrews 4:12–14 (NKJV): “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” It’s not enough to simply think about it; we must say it. Planting the seed of God’s word in our soul involves confession: saying what God says about me. The first step in confession is agreement – to acknowledge the truth of something.  The second step is to submit, to obey. This allows the Holy Spirit to make the written word become the living word. As we abide in God’s Word the Spirit begins to enable us to truly understand and embrace it.

We will not experience growth and maturity unless we are willing to embrace the process that yields them. We long for the finished product but we must embrace a passion for the journey. Life is a process. Our journey is not going to be a quick fix. 1Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV) promises, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” Keep that promise in mind as you press forward.

I have had experiences that I have walked away saying, “I’ll never be the same!” And a few days later I was the same. Why was that? All truth comes in seed form. As I abide in God’s Word, I will see the fruit of that seed tomorrow. I shouldn’t expect freedom while short-circuiting the process. Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) that if the seed is nurtured and protected, it will grow to produce fruit. Abiding in the Word means meditating on the Word, memorizing it, singing it, writing it out, and declaring it. In a word: perseverance. Galatians 6:9 (NIV) promises, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If we fail to carry the process of freedom all the way to its completion, sooner or later that remnant of the stronghold will grow back to its former size. When I pull a weed in my garden, I have to be sure to dig down and get the entire root or that weed will just grow back stronger. The same is true of strongholds: if I leave part of it behind, I will pay a price later.

Pastor Rick Warren  says, “I am a product of my past but I am not a prisoner of it.” I can rewire my brain by overwriting old memories. It requires focus. Just like sunlight focused by a magnifying glass, increases the sunlight’s power, I need focus to overcome stronghholds. In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul declares: “This one thing I do…” That’s focus!

Bouncing Back

2 Corinthians 3:17 declares, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” I want to live in that freedom, but to do that I must be willing to let the Holy Spirit flow through me. I can’t afford to be satisfied. Just this morning I read 1Thessalonians 4 in my devotional. Paul recognized what the church in Thessalonica had done but he said, “I urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to do even more.” (vs. 1, NLT)

Will I allow past failures to take me out, to get me off purpose? In 2Corinthians 4:1, Paul says, “We do not lose heart.” I like the way the New Living puts it: “We never give up.”

When our children were small they loved to play with Weebles. These are little plastic characters with rounded bottoms. No matter how many times you knocked them down, they pop right back up. Their motto; “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” I think we can take a lesson from the Weeble: when we fail, get back up. Bounce back.

There are many examples in the world of those who bounced back:
• Bill Gates failed in his first business venture, Traf-O-Data, but he went on to create Microsoft.
• Walt Disney was forced to declare bankruptcy early in his career.
• Albert Einstein was labeled slow learner in school.
• Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade.
• Elvis Presley was told to go back to driving a truck.
• The Beatles were told forget it, guitar music is on its way out.

Look at those in the Bible:
• Peter denied knowing Jesus but came back to be the leader of the early church.
• David committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged to have her husband killed, but he repented and went on to be a great king.
• Moses fled into the desert after murdering an Egyptian. At 80 years old, it looked life his life was wasted, but he came back.
• Paul the apostle described his life in 2Corinthians 11:24-27 (NIV): “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” That would certainly be enough for most of us to give up. However, Paul’s reaction was recorded in 2Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” No matter what the devil threw at him, he bounced back.

In my own life, I have had to make the choice to not let defeat stop me from becoming who God wanted me to be:
• Our senior pastor died of cancer in his mid-50’s.
• At age 54, I was laid off from a company I had worked at for 22 years.
• Our son Paul and his fiancé Amy were killed by a drunk driver.

No matter how many times I am knocked down, I will get back up. Proverbs 24:16 says, the righteous may fall 7 times but rise again. I will fall; it’s going to happen. It is a reality of life. We must decide if we will hit bottom like an egg and lie there broken and defeated, will we bounce back to the same level only to repeat the same cycle or will we use that failure to launch into new heights, new challenges, new dreams? Character means I get back up. Proverbs 24:10 warns that to fail in time of adversity means my strength is small. If I am to stand, I must prepare beforehand.

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Let’s learn how to bounce back:
1. Recognize failure is not my destiny. Colossians 3:10 tells us we are created in the image of God. Is God a failure? I need to discover who I am in Christ. 2Timothy 1:7 promises God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. 1John 5:4 tells me I am born of God and therefore I can overcome whatever the devil puts in my path. My destiny is to overcome, to bounce back.
2. Keep a right perspective. Faith sees opportunity where the world sees problems. In the Old Testament, Joseph went through years of slavery and prison, but ultimately God lifted him up to a place of leadership. In Genesis 50:20, he tells his brothers, “What you meant for evil, God intended for good.” Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only this, but Gill also rejoices in his sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn’t disappoint Gill, because God’s love has been poured out into his heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to Gill.” What is the right perspective with regards to trials? James 1:2 gives the answer, “Count it all joy”.
3. 100% committed. “I’ll try.” means you will take the first exit that comes along. “Guess it doesn’t work for me.” You weren’t committed. Luke 9:62 warns, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” When I was installing an underground sprinkler system in our home, I encountered one very large boulder. Could I let stop me? Could I afford to say, “Aw, I’ll just let that part of the lawn die.” Of course not. I dug around it. I must have the attitude toward God’s call that nothing will stop me. I don’t have a price. We have been married for 43 years. That only happened because we were 100% committed, no plan B. Divorce is not an option (murder perhaps?). “If she squeezes the toothpaste from the top one more time, I’m out of here.” “If he leaves his socks on the floor again, I’m done.” How silly. Commitment will rise above resistance. I have read that when a storm approaches, all other animals may hide, but the eagle heads into the storm. He uses the air currents to lift himself to higher levels. Commitment will cause us to soar.
4. Persistence. Have you heard, “By persistence the snail reached the ark.”? Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) encourages us, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Romans 8:37-39 promises, “No, in all these things, Gill is more than a conqueror through Him who loved him. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate Gill from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, Gill’s Lord.”
5. Be aware of the timing. My wife and I work weekly with a personal trainer. As I get more and more tired, I can look at the clock and encourage myself: “Less than 15 minutes to go, 4th quarter.” Let’s recognize that as Christians we are in the 4th quarter. It is time to sprint to the finish line. Ephesians 5:16 warns that we need to make the most of our time because the days are evil. How many drop out close to the finish? You might be right on the edge of your breakthrough. Edison tried over 1,000 filaments before he found one that worked. He said, “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Let’s get a sense of urgency and finish strong.

Mat 24:13 promises that if we endure to the end, we will be saved. We don’t know when life’s defining moments will come, but if we establish a pattern of obedience, those moments will not catch us unprepared. Psalm 19:11 reminds us, “In obedience there is great reward.”

In my devotional recently I read 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NLT): “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” Focusing on what will last forever gives us the lift to bounce back.

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time, was cut from his high school team. Michael Jordan spoke of his career: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.

Counterfeit

In junior high one of my favorite hobbies was coin collecting. I had a wide range of coins, several over 200 years old, one was 2,000 years old. Today the collection is tucked away in a safe deposit box but I still enjoy looking at those bits of history. Oddly one of my favorite coins in my collection is in fact worthless. You see, it is counterfeit.

Have you ever been victimized by a con artist? We have a few times in our life: illegally copied software on eBay, a used car that broke down a week after we bought it. They can be pretty slick and very convincing. 2Corinthians 11:14 warns us that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. “Oh, this feels so right.” If I am indoctrinated in the world’s way of thinking, the counterfeit will look just fine.

The worst thing about deception is I don’t know I am deceived. I think I’m right. In fact I am absolutely convinced I am right. Might I be bringing false doctrines? I’ll be the first to admit it is possible! I could be deceived. That is why it is each of our responsibility to go to the Word. 1Thesalonians 5:21 warns “Gill is to test all things, and he is to hold firmly that which is good.”

The world accepts the devil’s counterfeit, but, like a mirage, it disappears. Try to grasp it and it is gone. Satan does not come in a red suit and pitchfork, knocking on your door saying, “I’m the devil. I’d like to come in and destroy your life.” If he did, who would let him in? John 8:44 tells us he is the father of lies. The devil is all trick and no treat. Hebrews 11:25 tells us sin is pleasurable for a season. The trap of sin is like a mousetrap. That cheese smells tasty, the color is so inviting until.. WHAP!

The temptation looks great, it brings immediate pleasure, but Satan twists the truth and hides the consequences. He shows the beginning but not the end. When was the last time you saw a beer commercial showing somebody throwing up in the gutter? The drug pusher highlights the pleasure and peer acceptance but skips over addiction and prison time.

1Peter 5:8 warns us to be sober, be vigilant. The devil is like a roaring lion. He can’t devour just anyone, but if I allow deception, I give him authority in my life. If you have ever gone fishing, you know the bait must hide the hook. Our first line of defense is God’s Word.

John 10:10 gives us Satan’s job description: kill, steal and destroy. You don’t have a friend in the devil. He wants to get you off God’s path. Philippians 3:13-14 encourages us to keep our eyes on the prize.

Jesus’ job description is to bring abundant life here and now. He will influence my marriage, my finances, every area of life. Deuteronomy 30:19 encourages us to choose life. I have a choice. If I don’t like my life, I need to make different choices. Abundant life is always in my connection to Father God. We all know the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The son lost abundant life when he broke connection with his father.

How do we to unlock the door to abundant life?

  1. Live under authority. Pride wants to be in control, but my life must be governed by the Word of God. John 15:4-5 tells us that life comes by being connected to the vine. Apart from God I can do nothing. (vs. 5)
  2. Live within boundaries. The world’s freedom leads to addictions and bondage. Galatians 5:13 warns that we are not to use liberty as an occasion for the flesh. 1Corinthians 6:12 in The Message puts it this way: “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.” Not every choice will benefit my life.
  3. Live in fellowship with God. If I live like the world lives, I will get what the world gets. Galatians 6:8 warns if I sow to the flesh, I will reap corruption. Matthew 6:31-33 encourages us to live in dependence on God not the world.

My wife says I have the body of a god! J…Buddha L The devil wants us to pursue the counterfeit of six-pack abs, a fancy car or a prestigious job title. I may want to think of myself as a handsome, virile stud, but eventually I have to look in the mirror and face the fact that I’m just an old, fat, bald guy. In Christ is where my value lies. I am a son of God. (John 1:12) I am a joint-heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17) I am seated with Him in heaven. (Ephesians 2:6) I am His workmanship. (Hebrews 2:10) Christ in me, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) Discover who you are in Christ.

I want to conclude this teaching with a personal experience. I go back to Sunday, November, 5, 2000. I was in morning service when I heard Holy Spirit speak to me. God has spoken to me in visions and images many times but I think this is the only time I have heard a distinct voice. He said, “A big change is coming. Beware of the counterfeit.” Two days later my boss called me into his office and told me, due to restructuring, my job had been eliminated. After 22 years with the same company, at age 54, I was out. The next two months was a lot of applications, interviews and seeking God. Finally we concluded that “the counterfeit” was to follow the world’s security of a steady paycheck, health insurance, benefits, etc. Instead God was calling us to depend on Him and launch out with Your Personalized Bible (originally Personal Promise Bible). I can honestly say I would not have today the relationship I have with my wife, my ministry in the jail and in writing and the worldwide impact of Your Personalized Bible if I had not answered God’s call at that time.

2Corinthians 2:11 promises we are not unaware of the devil’s schemes. God gives us the ability to recognize the counterfeit if we do not think like the world thinks but rather seek Him. Having a counterfeit coin in my collection can be entertaining. Holding on to the counterfeit in other areas can be destructive: beliefs, thoughts, attitudes or friends. It is my responsibility to find those areas and take action or I will suffer the consequences.