Friday, June 3, 2016

You Survived. Now It's Time To Thrive!




Isaiah 54 is the Lord's Sonnet to Israel, but as with most Old Testament writings, there are applications for God's modern Lady, the Church, and personal applications for individual believers.








Isaiah 54:14
In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.

For decades I felt like a piece of driftwood, floating aimlessly through life, just letting circumstances dictate what I did from day to day. The very thought of plotting a course and setting out in a specific direction incited fear and a sense of impending defeat. When I first saw this verse, the very thought of “being established” brought with it the idea of stability, which sounded nice and safe, but also the idea of responsibility, which sounded scary. Established in Righteousness. It sounded so grown up. So powerful. So…not me.

Established means secure, stable, enduring, steadfast, arranged, prepared, and settled. I truly hadn’t felt like I was established in anything ever. As I thought about the meaning of this word “established,” I thought of people who seem securely established in this world. There are those who are well established financially, emotionally, and relationally in a solid marriage with great kids. There are those that have stable jobs or businesses, own their own homes, and are pillars in the church. They are established.

Then there’s me with a hodgepodge of vocational experiences and a life lived in more than fifty different houses, trailers, apartments, and hotel/motel rooms in two different countries, five different states, and twenty-one cities. And now God was telling me He wanted me to be established in something. What?

I meditated on this verse periodically over months and even years, trying to understand how God was going to establish a drifter like me. And finally, after years, the rest of the phrase penetrated my thick skull. He wants me to be established in righteousness. When I realized that God wants to establish me in righteousness, not so much in worldly things, I was a little disappointed. I was actually hoping for that picture of stability to come rescue me from my crazy life.

As I contemplated further on the meaning of this phrase, established in righteousness, I remember that I stand in His righteousness, not my own. Good thing. Oh, how I need Him to establish me in that righteousness. His righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Now it makes sense. Before this I had a bad habit of worrying if I deserve all the blessings God promises me. Maybe I am just daydreaming like I did when I was a little kid. I’ve been an absolute mess. Why would God do for me what he does for those nice church people? Now, finally, I get it. This verse reminds me that I am firmly established in His righteousness and therefore I deserve it in Him. I think it’s time to celebrate!

It doesn’t depend on what I do or don’t do day to day. Of course I fail, and you will too. But every one of the promises of God for the righteous are still ours if we are in Christ. We are established!

Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.

This was written to the Israelites who were dealing with oppression from other nations. God was promising them a time when they will be free from all that, when Jesus establishes them on the earth. The word tyranny is generally used to describe a governmental leadership style in which the subjects of that government have no say in what happens to them. Certainly that was the case for the Israelites at the time God spoke this to them through the prophet Isaiah. Yet I believe this has application for the lives of believers in a metaphorical sense beyond the traditional meaning of the word. I know it carried powerful meaning for me when I was suffering so much oppression from some unlikely places.

Tyranny is an oppressive power or rigorous condition that limits our freedom. Some of the ways I suffered tyranny was through abusive relationships where I was bound, not physically, but by my own belief that I was powerless to stand up for myself. I was like the grown elephant who remains standing quietly while tethered to a tiny stake in the ground. As a baby, it was tethered with a heavy chain to a metal stake, and trying to free itself was futile and painful! As a mighty adult, it still believes that the chain and stake can hold it and fears the pain of the struggle, so it doesn’t even try to free itself. This was a pitifully accurate description of how I was living my life. 

Tyranny can come from our own belief systems, addictions, habits, destructive relationships, illness, or difficult situations. I believe God promises that as we allow Him to establish us in His righteousness he will free us from the tyranny of our problems. I was entangled in a very destructive relationship with an emotionally and spiritually abusive partner. On one level I knew that I needed to get away, but every time I tried, I experienced the terror of trying to face life alone. I had a deeply held belief that I wasn’t enough. I had not yet embraced the truth that I was righteous in Christ. I knew it in my head, but my emotional belief system was stuck in the belief that I was worthless and powerless, and that is how I behaved every day of my life.

While I was in this confusing place, I read and reread this passage, and I could hear the still small voice of the Spirit telling me that one day I would be free.  He told me that the terror of my present experience would be removed, once and for all. I didn’t know when or how, but I clung to the promise. I had left many times, but wasn’t strong enough to see it through. Each time I returned to a deeper level of bondage and deception than before.

Then one day, quite suddenly, the deception was broken once and for all, and I was free. By that time I had lost nearly everything of worldly value, but managed to keep my vehicle, some of my clothes, and my laptop. I had everything I needed to start my life over, and I did. My body was weak and sick, and my mind was plagued with fear and defeat. It took me a couple of years to drain the poison from my life caused by that toxic relationship, to get into a stable job, and start moving forward with my life again. Eventually, the tyranny that had controlled my life and the terror that stopped me dead in my tracks was finally far removed from me.

Now I know that:
Isaiah 54:15
If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

I know that if I am attacked verbally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically, or sexually, it is not God trying to teach me a lesson or build my character. It is the enemy using someone to cause me harm. As a child of God, I can take a stand against the schemes of the Devil, resist him, and he will flee (James 4:7). I do this through prayer and spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:11-12), not by attacking the person, because God says in Matthew 5:44 to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. And when I do, I can trust that God will not allow that person or that situation to overpower me.

Isaiah 54:16
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;

Sometimes I think, Oh no! This devil, this attack, this catastrophe, is going to get the best of me! I’m just a small little Christian and no match for these demons! I really feel overpowered and overwhelmed. But God just laughs. That demon? I created him. You’ve got nothing to fear. These things that look so big to you are tiny in my sight.

And then God says,
Isaiah 54:17
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

You are God's servant and you have an inheritance. People and situations will come against us. People will tell lies about us. People will do wrong things and blame it on us. Stuff will happen. But we have a sure promise as servants of the Lord. As we live humbly and righteously with our God, He will show everyone that the lies that were told about us were untrue, and we will be vindicated (supported, defended, and justified; cleared of blame or suspicion) from every attack on our righteous character.

Our Dad is the Judge and our Brother (Jesus) is the Attorney. We will be vindicated when brought to trial.

Even if we break the law and are convicted in a human court, we will have to serve a sentence for our crime, but God will not hold our sins against us in the heavenly realms. If we have repented and made Jesus our Savior and Lord, we are righteous!

 Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
What are some tyrannies that have brought terror and fear into your life?
How have you been able to overcome these by the power of the truth of God’s Word and your secure position in Him?
Prayer
Father, thank you for the victory you have purchased for me by the blood of your Son Jesus! I have been attacked in so many ways. At times I have felt helpless and powerless. But now I am established in righteousness and I know I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. Help me now to remain steadfast in the face of adversity, knowing that you are my vindicator.

Meditation
Sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Shift your body so it is well supported. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing in slowly and deeply and allowing your muscles to relax as you exhale slowly and fully. Take a few more deep breaths as you become more relaxed and focused.
Imagine yourself in a courtroom. You are on trial. One by one the witnesses take the stand and accuse you. There is a recorder standing there, writing everything down. Every little thing.  This list gets longer and longer as pages upon pages fall to the floor and pile up around the recorders feet. There is no way you can defend yourself against all these charges. There aren’t enough years in your life to serve the sentence. The court room fills with more and more accusers. The list gets longer and longer and pile higher and higher.Finally, the judge says, “Enough!” And there is silence in the room for what seems like half an hour. Then Jesus walks in. He wraps his arm around your shoulder and says, “Father, I paid for this one.” The accusers are silenced and one by one slink out of the room, ashamed with nothing more to say. The pages of accusations recorded on them turn to dust and are swept away. You are righteous.

Action Steps
Draw, paint, write poetry, dance, sing, sculpt, play an instrument, clap your hands, wave a flag or scarf, whistle, jump up and down, or otherwise rejoice with all your heart because you and all your life is redeemed from the law of sin and death. By His stripes you were healed!





Saturday, April 23, 2016

Healing Emotions That Have Gone Underground

Photo credit <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57710963@N05/"


Isaiah 54 is the Lord's Sonnet to Israel, but as with most Old Testament writings, there are applications for God's modern Lady, the Church, and personal applications for individual believers.

Great Will Be Your Children’s Peace


Isaiah 54:13
All your children will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be their peace.

Children
Every Christian parent wants to know that their children are following the Lord and that they are walking in peace with Him.

Proverbs 20:7 (NIV)
The righteous lead blameless lives;
    blessed are their children after them.

We have the promise as believers that God cares for our children and makes them a priority. We also know that our children can choose to go a different way. Nevertheless, we must stand on this promise that sooner or later our children will be redeemed. Notice that it says our children will be taught by the Lord. Parents who know the Lord when their children are little have the opportunity to introduce them to the Lord and His word. But after they are grown, we parents have to step back and allow our children to be taught by the Lord, which may mean watching them struggle and deal with consequences as He teaches them to walk in His ways.


Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Sometimes as parents we feel obligated to rescue our children from their bad choices, especially when we know that as broken people, we contributed to the brokenness of our children. But according to this verse, if we do that, we are robbing our children of that harvest of righteousness and peace that will be theirs after they have been trained by the discipline of the Lord.

“Basement Children”

With that said, I would like to switch gears and approach this verse in Isaiah 54 from a completely different perspective- the perspective of our own inner life. I want to talk about how Jesus wants to heal  the hurts from our childhood. I was hurt many times in many ways during my childhood. Most of us were. To varying degrees we all have been ignored, undervalued, invalidated, criticized, treated unfairly, falsely accused, bullied, and inappropriately punished. Some of us were severely abused and tormented, sexually abused, verbally abused, physically abused, or severely deprived of basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and safety. When these things happen, those wounded parts of ourselves often “splinter off” and go into hiding for safety.

There are parts of ourselves that have been hiding in the basement of our psyche, stuck at whatever age we were when certain things happened. From this hidden place, the basement of our inner life, these child parts of ourselves cry out to be heard, noticed, validated, and loved. The angry child who was never validated might be crying out in the form of uncontrollable angry outbursts or depression. The creative child who was never praised might be crying out in the form of a substance addiction. The ignored or unloved child might be crying out in the form of a sex addiction, pornography addiction, promiscuity, or prostitution. The controlled child might be crying out in the form of an eating disorder. The rejected child might be crying out in the form of a series of broken relationships. The criticized child might be crying out in form of perfectionism or workaholism.

If you were hurt as a child, it is time to bring those child parts of yourself up from the basement so God can heal them and bring them peace. To do this you might need the help of a therapist, accountability partner, or support group such as Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12 Step program that offers groups for all your Hurts, Habits, Hang-ups, and Codependency. Books can also help. There are many books on the subject. A good one is Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud. But beware: you cannot heal in isolation. There is a good chance that too much isolation is why your development went haywire in the first place. It might have been the lack of a relationship or the presence of a destructive relationship, which also brings emotional isolation. Healthy development happens in a healthy community. If that gets thwarted somehow, we need a healthy community to bring that development back online. So make sure you find a support person or group to help you walk through your healing journey.

To heal your broken inner child, you will still need to have your alone time with God in prayer, meditation, and Bible study. Ask Him to guide you to the right place to find connection with others who will accept and love you while you openly grapple with your issues. You have to feel safe to do this, so if you go to a therapist or group that does not feel safe, keep looking and praying until you find one that does. Over the years and decades people who have unresolved childhood trauma seem to also manifest physical ailments such as chronic pain, or find themselves getting diagnosed with multiple psychiatric disorders. To learn more about this, read The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk, MD. If you are struggling with physical or psychiatric issues, please try to find a doctor who understands the ramifications of developmental trauma, and don’t underestimate the power of God to heal you completely through prayer and the laying on of hands (James 5:14-16).

Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
Do you struggle with any habits that might the result of a “basement child” crying out for attention?
If yes, do you know where to go to get help?
Can you, as your adult self, offer love and guidance to those basement children?
Prayer
Father, there are parts of me that have not been brought to You for healing. Please show me where these parts are, how they are affecting my life, and what I need to do to bring them to You for healing. I know you want every part of me to be healed and whole so my life will bring you glory and so I can have joy in knowing You and loving You with every part of me.
Meditation

Sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Shift your body so it is well supported. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing in slowly and deeply and allowing your muscles to relax as you exhale slowly and fully. Take a few more deep breaths as you become more relaxed and focused.
Imagine you are standing in the backyard of a house on a warm spring day.

The sun is shining brightly, and green leaves from the surrounding trees frame the deep blue sky. It is one of those lazy, quiet afternoons where you can just relax and let yourself drift. There is nowhere you have to be, nothing you have to do. The grass is thick and tender under your feet and you feel like you could lie down.

But before you do, you notice a door at the side of the house, leading to the basement or cellar. You feel drawn to this now. As you walk up to this door, you sense that someone is beside you. You sense overwhelming love, protection, and absolute acceptance from this person, and you know that you are completely safe. You know this person is here to do a healing work.

And now you realize it is time to open this door. When you do, small hands give you an even smaller baby. The baby is crying. You hold this baby snugly in your arms and rock it gently to soothe it. You realize this baby is you. Your Healer touches the baby and finds out what is wrong. Your healer instructs you to look into the baby’s eyes and tell the baby it is safe and loved. Then place the baby in the healer’s arms. Next, a one year old child crawls out and reaches up to be held by you.

You pick up this little one, too, snuggle and rock the baby, and tell the baby it is safe and loved. Tell the baby anything else you think it needs to hear. Listen, and see what else the Healer instructs you to say or do. You can now hand this baby over to the Healer, too.

As you face the door once more, out comes a two year old. Notice how this one responds. What does this little one need from you? What does your Healer instruct you to say or do? Hold and snuggle this one, tell this one, you are safe and loved. Follow the Healer’s instructions and hand this one over to the Healer as well.
Once again, you face the door, and here comes the three year old you. You gather this child into your arms and say, you are safe and loved. You offer other words of encouragement and acceptance to this one, too.

You notice the Healer has spread a large blanket on the grass and all the little you’s are starting to gather around. You send your three year old self over to join the Healer and welcome the four year old who comes out of the door.

One by one, year by year, your child selves emerge from underground and into the sunlight. Listen carefully to what each one needs from you at this moment and be sure to look each one in the eyes and affirm them with love and safety.

When everyone has come out of the basement, sit down with them and your Healer for a refreshing drink of healing, sparkling water. Notice the brightness and the laughter of these children as they are in the presence of the Master. If anyone is sad or troubled or sick, lay that one is the Healer’s lap for extra care.

Tell everyone that this is the beginning of a new life. From now on you will listen when they cry and acknowledge them when they are angry, and celebrate them for being just who God made them to be, no more will they be rejected or ignored.

You can express and honor these child parts of you with art, dance, waving of flags or tassels, playing games, or just resting. You might also help them express their emotions through journaling.

And now, leaving all the child parts of you safely in the hands of the Master, knowing you can visit many times a day if you need to, it is time to make your way back from this journey. And now, take a couple of deep breaths, wriggle your hands and feet, let out a big, big, sigh, and when you are ready you can open your eyes.
Action Steps
Try doing a two way journal with your wounded child/children. Write down a question such as, what do you need? Wait, listen, and then write down the child’s response. Write affirmations to the child and write down the child’s response.

When you have a reaction or behavior that seems out of character for you, check to see if a wounded child self is driving that reaction or behavior.

Visit the meditation in this chapter several times to hear what your wounded child/children need from you to get better.

Practice daily sending positive messages to your child selves as often as you can. Bring them to Jesus every day.

Matthew 19:14
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”







Saturday, March 26, 2016

Boundaries and the Entrances and Exits to Your Life


Isaiah 54 is the Lord's Sonnet to Israel, but as with most Old Testament writings, there are applications for God's modern Lady, the Church, and personal applications for individual believers.


Entrances and Exits to Your Life

Isaiah 54:12
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of sparkling jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.

Imagine an entire city made of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and turquoise. How beautiful would that be? God wants to rebuild each one of us so we are that beautiful.  Can you see it? Strong. Majestic. Magnificent even. This is not an outward beauty, but an inward beauty that can be seen from the outside, the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:3 – 5)

What makes a gentle and quiet spirit? This is not the spirit of a victim in denial. This is not a codependent who sweeps everything under the rug. This is not a subtle manipulator living in a perceived world of lack who sees everyone as competition for the last crumb of love, acceptance, or affirmation.

No. A gentle and quiet spirit comes from a place of power, protection, and provision.

We know God is for us, so who can be against us? (Romans 8:31-32)

We know our God is a strong tower, and the righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)

We know He will meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory. (Philippians 4:19)

So we don’t have to clamor and clobber to get what we need, and we don’t have to suffer in silence while others take what we have and use and abuse us. We are beautiful because we are strong and there is no sense of lack in our inner being. This inner beauty makes us very attractive to unbelievers who might be seeking answers to their own emptiness.

Battlements of Rubies

Battlements are those notches around the top of a castle or city wall where soldiers can stand protected while they fire their weapons to fend off intruders. Rubies are not only beautiful but strong and very valuable. If our battlements that protect us are that valuable, it only stands to reason the one they are protecting is much more valuable. God is building us with outward protection because our inner person is worth far more than rubies! (Proverbs 31:10-31)

The Gates

Gates have two major functions. They allow things in and they let things out. The gates of a city open in the morning to allow vendors to bring in supplies and food. They carry on their trading and leave with the supplies and goods they traded for. This is a good deal. Everybody wins. When you have healthy gates in your life, you open yourself to interactions from others. You exchange ideas and stories, validate one another’s experiences, laugh together, and cry together. This healthy interchange makes both people richer.

As a normal by product of the city’s daily business, trash, rubbish, and waste will accumulate throughout the day. At the end of the day, the gates serve the function of allowing the bad stuff to be carried out so that the city is not contaminated. Even in healthy relationships, there will be misunderstandings and hurt feelings. A healthy person is able to forgive and ask forgiveness quickly, so things don’t build up and contaminate the relationship.

At night, the gates close to keep out robbers and enemies. Gates that do not function properly may fail to allow good things in, and fail to allow the bad things out. They may open at night, and close in the morning. People may offload their damaged emotions on to you, and you may not have a way to drain them off, because your gates do not function properly.

Jesus alone can repair those gates. If you feel poisoned by a person or persons in your life, you may need to separate yourself. Find safe people and stay close to them while Jesus repairs your gates. A safe person manages their own emotions and doesn’t try to manage yours. They will accept you as you are and give you space to grow. They will model healthy boundaries for you.

Spend time in prayer and meditation, asking God to reveal to you ways you have been contaminated and kept empty by faulty gates, and journal about what you are learning. Ask God to show you how to fill up with good things and “take out the trash.” You may even feel physically ill. While you are working on this, remember to eat well, rest, and exercise to get rid of all the toxins that have been building up in your body.

The Walls

He will make our gates of sparkling jewels and our walls of precious stones. Walls are the God-given boundaries that protect us. Some of us, many of us, have experienced a breakdown of those walls through the storms we have endured in our lives. They could have suffered sudden trauma that left gaping holes, or slow, steady erosion from years of abuse or neglect. The family pretends to the world that they are normal, healthy, and happy while unspeakable travesties await the children behind closed doors. These secrets teach the children that the family’s lie is more important and more valuable than the child’s heart, than the child’s truth. The child learns that they are expendable. They believe they have no value, and they do not learn to self-protect.

This inability to protect oneself is equivalent to a broken wall or lack of boundaries. Broken walls don’t just grow back. They don’t heal with time. They need the Lord to rebuild them by re-parenting the child within. We need to be re-taught that we are precious and valuable and worth protecting. We need to learn how and when to say no, to set limits, and to recognize where we end and the other person begins. When we cannot recognize and maintain healthy boundaries, we will be victims of other people’s emotions, opinions, and selfish motives.

When we don’t have proper boundaries, other people don’t know when to back off. They may ask you to run errands for them, babysit for free, listen to them complain for hours, work overtime, pay for their lunch, put up with angry outbursts, and so on. Spouses may expect you to tolerate abuse and infidelity. Your children may expect you to be their ever available chauffer, money dispenser, and 24 hour chef.

You can say that people should be more considerate and should know better than to take advantage of you. However, if you look at it from their perspective, imagine that you came across a beautiful park, with grass, trees, flowers, and a picnic table. You decide to go sit at the table and eat your lunch and relax in the sun. While you are sitting there eating, someone walks up to you and asks you why you decided to make yourself at home in their yard. You are shocked and embarrassed. There is no house in view, no gate, no fence, and no sign. You had no idea this was someone’s private property because it looked like a public park. Perhaps you are like that person’s yard. Perhaps this is how you look to other people. They see no outward indication that any part of you is off limits to them, so they make themselves at home in your personal, mental, emotional, and spiritual space.

The task of learning boundaries develops naturally during childhood when children are raised in a healthy home, but boundaries are very difficult to understand for those whose development was interrupted by abuse and trauma. When we first begin to learn boundaries as adults, it may seem like hit and miss. We might say no too often and alienate family and friends unnecessarily. Then, we might over correct by saying yes too often. People with poor boundaries often have trouble identifying their own wants, needs, and feelings as opposed to what they think others want or need from them. This can make the world a confusing place. Through prayer, meditation, journaling, and fellowship with healthy people, we can begin to learn boundaries and gain confidence in where those boundaries lie for us.

How well do you know yourself? Do you know what you really want? Do you know how to decide between what is good and what is best? Do you know how much of your story to tell and how much to hold back? Are you able to name your feelings and manage them on your own, or do you feel the need to often seek support and validation? Do you let other people’s problem emotions become your problem? Do you make your problem emotions someone else’s problem by acting out?

If you struggle in any of these areas it is not your fault. Your brain did not develop the common nerve pathways that would naturally place those boundaries in your everyday behavior without you even having to think about it.

I explain it like this: An adult trying to learn boundaries is like waking up one day and being told that your body will no longer carry out its automatic functions like breathing, your heart beating, pumping blood through your body, your food digesting and being distributed, and all your organs and glands functioning. You now have to use your own conscious effort to ensure all these functions continue working every minute of every day. This is how overwhelming it is for an adult to try to learn boundaries if they were not formed through natural development during childhood.

Perhaps it is now a little easier to see how a person whose boundaries were violated as a child becomes an “afflicted city lashed by storms and not comforted.” But God says He will rebuild us and make our walls of precious stones. Imagine how beautiful that would be! Instead of us stomping our feet, clenching our fists, and shouting “NO!” at the top of our lungs, He will teach us to graciously and beautifully reflect our limits and expectations to others. They will see our strength and dignity so that they admire and respect us too much to violate our boundaries.



Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

Can you think of some examples of times when others have crossed your boundaries?

Can you think of some examples of times when you have crossed the boundaries of others?

Do you sometimes feel responsible for the emotions or actions of others?

Do you sometimes blame others for your emotions or choices?


Prayer

Dear Lord,

My walls and gates have been broken down. I know this is not my fault. I now surrender these broken walls and faulty gates to you, for you alone are able to rebuild them as they were intended to be. Teach me to know what belongs within my borders, and what does not. Help me to recognize where my thoughts, feelings, and actions begin and end, and help me connect to others from a place of safety and protection. Help me to take responsibility only for what is mine and refrain from trying to manage or control the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others. Lord, I give you permission to restructure my inner life and my relationships with others so that they look like the beautiful city surrounded by precious stones and sparkling jewels.

Meditation

Sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Shift your body so it is well supported. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing in slowly and deeply and allowing your muscles to relax as you exhale slowly and fully. Take a few more deep breaths as you become more relaxed and focused.

Imagine yourself as a strong, beautiful, perfectly built city. Take a walk through the streets of this city. Notice the bustle of people in the market place, making purchases and trading social pleasantries. Children play happily nearby as their parents conduct their business. Everything is in order. Now as you continue walking, you notice the streets becoming rough and narrow. There are ruts and holes in the pavement and the buildings are worn and shoddy. You see some people huddled on the sidewalk, cold and alone. Children are poorly dressed and searching for food. As you come to the city’s edge, you see its walls are broken. Perhaps some wild dogs come in and steal food from the people who are unprotected. Just stand her for a few moments and notice how it feels to be here in this broken place. See if it reminds you of any part of your life. Know that this is the area of your life Jesus came to redeem. As you stand here gazing toward the break in the wall, see your Redeemer coming, just like Nehemiah did to rebuild Jerusalem. He calls the people to attention. Even the children can help. He gives everyone a job to do, but he is the leader, and he takes responsibility for every part of the job and for the finished product. Watch, as all the people take heart. They stand up straight, with strength and dignity they smile as they pick up whatever tool they are given and march forward with courage. The walls are rebuilt, the gates are set in place, and the buildings are restored. Just allow this process to unfold and come back her often as a symbol of presenting your life to the Lord and allowing him to restore every part of you.

And now, take a couple of deep breaths, wriggle your hands and feet, let out a big, big, sigh, and when you are ready you can open your eyes.

Action Steps 

Read the book Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Read the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Your Life - God's Masterpiece


Photo by Scott Boomer

CHAPTER 9
Isaiah 54 is the Lord's Sonnet to Israel, but as with most Old Testament writings, there are applications for God's modern Lady, the Church, and personal applications for individual believers.


Your Life-God’s Masterpiece


Isaiah 54:11
“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with lapis lazuli.
Afflicted. Do you ever feel like that word describes you? I sure did. Sexually abused as early as age three, and on up till age 12. Then years of depression, social awkwardness, poverty, self-harm, isolation, abusive boyfriends, teen pregnancy, and a lonely marriage that ended in divorce. Somewhere in there I had become a Christian, but my life didn’t change very much. Then I came across this scripture and in that moment I felt that God really knew what my life had been like. Before that, I thought of God as distant and unavailable. His strong arms crossed with a stern look on His face, waiting for me to figure it out and finally get it right. He could help me but He wasn’t willing. And I wasn’t able to help myself. I would cry out and beg for His help, telling Him I loved Him. My intellectual theology was correct. Consciously, I knew the Bible says He loves us unconditionally, but below the surface, my emotional image of God was a combination of a self-serving user and an absent abandoner. In the deepest recesses of my heart, I believed my desperate pleas fell on deaf ears.

Please realize that if anyone had asked me, I would never have said these things about my Lord and Savior. I read my bible faithfully and believed in my intellect that God was good, kind, caring, merciful, and loving.  I am sure that in my spirit I also knew this to be true. But where I lived day to day, the way I interacted with the world around me, was based on a foundational belief hiding far below the surface, that I was completely on my own to deal with my struggles, my needs, my desires, my hopes, and my fears.

After I discovered this verse, my attitude slowly began to change. I started to look for God to show up in real ways in my life, and He did. Sadly, I was still too immature to really apply this in very meaningful ways. Once again I sought comfort in a marriage that was doomed from the start. It took me ten years to finally escape and another two years to finally nail the whole thing to the cross and let it go.

Now, my foundation is laid bare and He can actually do what needs to be done. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Because of my faulty foundation, my house was not built upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, but on my own fears and doubts stemming from the belief that I was alone and unloved. It was not enough to read the scripture, underline the scripture, memorize the scripture, and post the scripture on the wall. I had to stop acting like an orphan, sneaking under the table in hopes of catching a few crumbs. It was time to walk in and take my seat next to Jesus at my Father’s table.

I no longer look for my worth and value in what I own, in where I work, in who likes me or loves me, in marriages or relationships, or in any other earthly thing. I have worth and value because He says so. Jesus suffered and died so He could have fellowship with me. No longer frantically searching, I rest in that.

Before this revelation, because of my history of poverty, I was always looking for a higher paying job. When I got a higher paying job, I wasn’t happy, so I went back to school. Then, I had to start over in a new career and I had a lower paying job again. Now, I am in the job that God gave me. It is not perfect, and it doesn’t pay that much, but it's not my end all. Jesus is. I’ll stay until He tells me otherwise because I have learned to be content knowing He is the One taking care of me.

I used to comfort myself about all my perceived flaws and imperfections by criticizing and judging others. We can always find someone who is worse than we are in each area we feel insecure about. There is always someone with worse kids, worse hair, a worse car, a worse addiction, a worse potty mouth, a smaller house, more weeds, a fatter stomach or a bigger nose, and on and on. When we start with the foundation that God loves us and really believe it, we can accept ourselves and love others. When we feel safe and accepted, we are able to admit our faults and ask for help to overcome them. When I was hiding my insecurities behind a wall of judgment, I couldn’t confess or repent. I was too busy hiding and criticizing. Now that I am free from that, I not only can be free from besetting sins, I can help others get free too.

We have to let God touch us deeply if we really want to be free. We have to give Him access to our foundation. We cannot just modify our outward behavior and call it good. We can read our Bibles for an hour every day, pray for an hour every day, go to church every time the doors are open, follow all the rules, don't drink, cuss, smoke, or chew, or go around with those that do, and say we are doing fine, better than most. But I have seen people carry on this way, using it as a wall to keep God at arm’s length. “I’m fine, see? I’m good. I don’t need God to go poking around my foundation.”

Of course, they don’t actually say this out loud. But when it’s time for group discussion and prayer, someone in the group inevitably applies the personal growth topics to someone else, to public schools, the government, homeless people, Hollywood, public figures, politics, or the man in the moon. Anything to avoid being transparent and vulnerable. Once that first person pipes up with an off the topic topic, everyone else in the group heaves a collective sigh of relief and joins the bandwagon, off the hook once again. If we want to grow in love and grace, we have to move past the superficial. We have to take risks.

Our old, faulty beliefs were born out of a need to protect us from something, whether real or perceived. Now that we are God’s children, we have Him to protect us, so we can let go of the old and embrace the new. But it is scary, so lots of people just muddle through their Christian life without victory because the first step feels like it is off the edge of a cliff and we don’t know if God will really catch us. This is the threshold to the victorious, abundant life Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10)

It truly is time to allow God to rebuild that old foundation (Isaiah 58:12). What is your foundation made of? Anger? Unbelief? Insecurity? Doubt? Self-confidence? Self-righteousness? Woundedness? Fear? Self-importance?

Are you ready to allow God to dismantle the old foundation and replace those old stones with precious gems?

“Oh, afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires.”

Sapphires, or lapis lazuli, are a reference to the heavens, as well as strength. In the Middle East, the use of turquoise in buildings is significant. It was used to signify Heaven, and was a symbol for victory. Turquoise was only used for important buildings.  I had to learn to accept that I was important to God.  Now, I am writing this book so that you too can know you are important to God. He said He will personally take on the responsibility to rebuild you and me.  He will not leave the job to an apprentice or even a journeyman carpenter. No. The General Contractor will show up in person to see that this job is done right.  So, what is our part? We must show up daily to allow our Heavenly Father to dote over us.  Remember, Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

If we want to replace those old bricks, we have to choose to meditate on those scriptures that will counteract the beliefs that keep us stuck.  I am a huge fan of reading the Bible from cover to cover in order to stay balanced.  A one-year Bible can make it easy to do that, or you can use a two-year or three-year plan. But in order to counteract those deeply held foundational beliefs that are tripping up our lives, we need to study, meditate, memorize, and confess specific scriptures that tell us the truth about who God is and who we are to Him.  Those scriptures will jump out at you during your daily reading. Underline them, write them down, and memorize them.  As you uncover those faulty beliefs, the Holy Spirit will lead you to the right scriptures for you. It will also help if you personalize them.

For example, if you feel alone and rejected, abandoned and forgotten, personalize this scripture:

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.


You might say it something like this:


No matter who else ignores me or forgets about me, the Most High God, Maker of the Universe, is thinking about me all the time, non-stop; He is so in love with me that He has put my name on the palm of his hand. Like a soldier on the wall he is standing guard over me day and night. I must be pretty special and mighty important to Him!


Or this:


No matter who else ignores or forgets about ___(Your Name Here)__, the Most High God, Maker of the Universe, is thinking about  ___(Your Name Here)___ all the time, non-stop; and is so in love with ___(Your Name Here)___ that He has put his/her name on the palm of His hand. Like a soldier on the wall He is standing guard over ___(Your Name Here)___ day and night. ___(Your Name Here)___ must be pretty special and mighty important to Him!


Or this:


___(Your Name Here)__,This is the Most High God, Maker of the Universe. I am here to tell you that no matter who else ignores you or forgets about you, I am thinking about you all the time, non-stop; and I am so in love with you that I have put your name on the palm of My hand. Like a soldier on a wall I am standing guard over you day and night. You are that special and that important to Me!


Or this:


Lord, You are the Most High God, Maker of the Universe. No matter who else ignores me or forgets about me, You are telling me that You are thinking about me all the time, non-stop; that you are so in love with me that you have put my name on the palm of Your hand. Like a soldier on a wall you are standing guard over me day and night. I must be pretty special to you and mighty important to you!


Our God is a personal God, and if we want His word to change our lives, we have to apply it in personal ways. How might your life be different if you are constantly aware that God is bending over you, noticing you, paying close attention to you, protecting you, and looking for ways to bless you?


Yes, we do experience trouble in this life, heartbreaking trouble at times. As long as the world exists in its present form we will have painful trials. But what will you believe about this? What will your foundation be? Will you believe that you are alone, abandoned by God, smitten and afflicted by God? Or will you allow the Cross of Christ to be your foundation, remembering that He was bruised for our iniquities, that 100% of our punishment for sins was placed upon Him, so that he purchased for us eternal peace and total healing? (Isaiah 53:4-5, NIV)


Believing in His tender care gives us the courage to let go of old habits and self-protective mechanisms such as criticism, defensiveness, avoidance, pretending, distrust, hiding our true selves, showing off, putting ourselves down, putting others down, using and abusing others, and allowing others to use and abuse us. Even when painful trials come our way, we have an all-powerful God who is willing and able to comfort, heal, and restore us.

Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
What are some deeply held beliefs that have governed your life and decisions that are not in agreement with God’s word? (Examples: I’m alone. I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve it. If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. God won’t help me because I’ve made too many mistakes or done too many wrong things. Other people owe me. I’m nothing without a spouse or children. I’m nothing without a job, money, house, car, possessions, etc. I’m destined to be poor, alone, sick, depressed, anxious, in trouble, homeless, etc. Or perhaps you have believed that you are self-reliant, self-righteous, and self-important.)

How have these beliefs influenced your life, health, relationships, finances, emotions, thoughts, and decisions? (Examples: Avoiding relationships with healthy, successful people and instead choosing people who will abuse and take advantage of you or spend your time criticizing and gossiping about others, buying things on credit to make yourself feel better, staying up all night and sleeping all day, watching junk TV and eating junk foods, thinking negative thoughts about yourself, your situation, and your future. Or you might be arrogant, abusive, and selfish in your thoughts, finances, and relationships.)

What unhealthy or unhelpful decisions have you made as a result of these beliefs?

Are your willing to let God replace these crumbling foundational belief systems with Lapis Lazuli, the truth of His word?

Prayer
Dear Lord,
I ask that you will fill me with the knowledge of Your will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that I may live a life worthy of You and please You in every way, growing in knowledge and strengthened in Your power, firmly established in the foundational truth of Your word and the redemption of Christ which has purchased for me a secure place in your eternal family. Help me to fully rely on these foundational truths with complete confidence so that I can move forward in the victorious life You have designed specifically for me.

Meditation
Sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Shift your body so it is well supported. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing in slowly and deeply and allowing your muscles to relax as you exhale slowly and fully. Take a few more deep breaths as you become more relaxed and focused.

Imagine you are inside a house, facing a door that leads to the basement. Your Friend, your Redeemer invites you to open the door and walk with Him down the stairs into the basement. Notice whether He is in front of you or behind you as you go down the stairs together. At the bottom of the stairs, look around. This is your foundation. What do you see? What is your foundation made of? You might see some bricks or stones that represent things like Truth, Stability, Redemption, and Peace. You might also see some weak stones or bricks, or crumbling cement, representing Fear, Doubt, Regret, Inferiority, Guilt, or Shame. Notice that piled in the center of the room are some beautiful blue stones, flawless in strength, beauty, color, and shape. They represent the absolute Purity of God’s love for you and Jesus’ Righteousness imputed to you. Watch as your Redeemer begins to replace sections of the walls and floor of this room, your foundation, with the perfect blue stones. Some of those old stones may be difficult to remove. Will you trust Jesus to replace every one eventually? You might need to come back to this many times as Jesus rebuilds your life foundation and restructures your deeply held beliefs.

And now, take a couple of deep breaths, wriggle your hands and feet, let out a big, big, sigh, and when you are ready you can open your eyes.

Action Steps
As you go about your day, try to be aware of what you are thinking about yourself, about your situation, about God, and about the future. Ask yourself if your thoughts are in line with biblical truth.

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:11 NIV)

Start a journal of promises. Every time you come across a promise from God in scripture or while listening to a sermon or even in a song, write it in your journal. Ask God to show you how this promise applies to your life.

When you notice a faulty belief system, take time to explore where that belief came from and compare it to what God’s word says. Picture Jesus replacing that wrong belief with sapphires from His word.

If you believe you are inferior or less valuable, it will lead to jealousy, competitiveness, and contempt for others. Meditate on scriptures that remind you of God’s love for you, how He cares for you, and how much He values you. (Matthew 10:29-31; Isaiah 49:15-16; Matthew 12:11-12; Ephesians 3:17-19; 1 Peter 5:7)

If you find yourself expecting the worst all the time, meditate on scriptures that remind you of how God delights to do you good. (Psalm 35:27; Matthew 6:25-32; Luke 11:9-13)

If you feel alone, think of all the scriptures in which God promises to never leave you. (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20)

Allow the steadfast love of God in Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for you, His provision for you, His devotion to you, to become the foundational belief from which all your life’s decisions are made, whether big or small.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Enjoy Unshakable Peace


 




Isaiah 54 is the Lord's Sonnet to Israel, but as with most Old Testament writings, there are applications for God's modern Lady, the Church, and personal applications for individual believers.



 




Isaiah 54:10

Though the mountains be shaken

    and the hills be removed,

yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken

    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”

    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (NIV)

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (NIV).
Covenant of Peace

When we have an accurate understanding of who God is and who we are in His eyes, peace will no longer be elusive. Peace will be our default. That’s a big statement coming from someone whose default was always fear, dread, and shame. Peace is the opposite of fear, dread, and shame. It is the opposite and so much more. God’s peace means we are complete, not fragmented. It means we are whole, not broken. It means we have health, not sickness. It provides for our welfare and our safety. It makes us sound, not damaged or insecure. God’s peace is tranquility and prosperity, not worry and poverty. God’s peace is perfect and full, not flawed or incomplete. His peace gives us real, true rest from striving. His peace brings harmony—harmony within ourselves, harmony with others, and harmony with Him. When we abide in the peace of God we are free from agitation or conflict. All of this is ours in the covenant He made with us.

What is a Covenant?

A covenant is an agreement between two parties. God’s first covenant with mankind was His promise that He would never again cover the earth with a flood to destroy all life. (Genesis 9:12-16)

Genesis 8:21
The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (NIV)

This first covenant from God was not dependent on what we do or don’t do. This is extremely important for those of us who struggle with guilt, shame, fear, or dread. We walk on eggshells for fear we will upset God’s apple cart, or we just give up because we think our mess-ups have pushed God past His limits. We have passed the point of no return and there’s no use trying anymore. Truth is, God keeps His end of the deal even when we fail miserably at keeping ours. This is good news!

God later gave covenants of circumcision (Genesis 17) and the law, in which we were charged with doing some things and not doing some things. For centuries mankind tried to keep God’s covenant law. And failed. When the Israelites, through their failure to keep God’s laws and covenants, found themselves in exile in foreign lands, or that small group of the poorest of the poor that remained in their own land, God still kept His covenant with them.

Each time they turned their hearts back to the Lord, He gladly restored relationship with them. (Bible study enthusiasts, read Nehemiah 9, or better yet, the whole book!) Nehemiah 9:32a “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes…

This is how God dealt with His people in the days before Jesus came to the earth to redeem us. He couldn’t wait to be gracious and compassionate, not to those who did everything perfectly, but to those who turned their hearts to Him with a desire to be reconciled to Him.

Psalm 106:43-46

 
Many times he delivered them,

    but they were bent on rebellion

    and they wasted away in their sin.

Yet he took note of their distress

    when he heard their cry;

for their sake he remembered his covenant

    and out of his great love he relented.

He caused all who held them captive

    to show them mercy. 

By now it may seem like I am encouraging you to live a life of sin because God is going to keep forgiving you and blessing you anyway. Most definitely I believe the best life is one of humble submission to His will and His ways. When we live according to His principles we place ourselves in line with His blessings. No doubt about that. My goal is not to encourage sinful behavior or lifestyle but to encourage those who, up to this point, don’t have anything else to show for themselves. If that is you, you are not excluded! You only need to take the first step toward Him. If you are reading this book, my guess is you already have.

God’s Ultimate Covenant with Us

No one was really able to keep the law. That is why God sent Jesus to fulfill the old covenant law and establish a new covenant. Now Jesus has made a way to completely wash away all sin, and create in us a heart that is able to commune with God.

Hebrews 8:10
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

This new covenant was not only for the Israelites, but also for all nations. The bible refers to non-Jews as Gentiles: He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14 NIV)

And so, God’s covenant of peace is not dependent so much on what we do, but on who He is. By now you might be thinking, “Well then, why am I so anxious all the time?” Good question. That was my question.

Hebrews 4 explains the Sabbath rest of God. That does not mean reserving a day to do no work although to do so is certainly wise. God’s Sabbath rest provided to us in Jesus is a 24-hour, 7 days a week kind of Sabbath. God set aside a certain day, calling it Today. Today, if you hear His voice don’t harden your hearts. He also says we must make an effort to enter God’s rest. We can’t work enough to please God. We can't behave good enough to please God. I mean, come on, we can’t even usually behave good enough to please ourselves! We need to accept this, cease striving, and enter His rest. 

So how do we enter that rest?
To enter that rest, we need to make a practice of living Today. We need to make a practice of taking on the yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30) and moment by moment allowing our burdens to become His burdens. Moment by moment, we trade our burdens for His rest. For those of us who have years and years and years of fretting, worrying, and stressing out, this practice will definitely feel like work at first. You may even find yourself frustrated that you aren’t able to do this very well at first.

But don’t beat yourself up. Release all criticism and self-blame. Picture yourself with the energy, passion, and enthusiasm you will have as you lighten your load and let Jesus carry it!

His peace is readily available to each one of us. We just have to let go of old habits and receive it. Picture yourself walking alongside Jesus the way two oxen yoked together walk side by side. He is pulling and you are just walking there alongside. Every time you catch yourself worrying and fretting, take a deep breath, lean into Jesus, and let that weight roll onto His shoulders. At first, you may have to do this several times a minute. But eventually, you will realize that you are not having to do it so often, that you are feeling lighter and more relaxed.

This is one way we can “make every effort to enter His rest.” We also enter His rest by setting aside a regular time to read His word, pray, and just sit quietly and listen.
Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

In what areas of your life have you been most successful in resting in God’s peace? Salvation? Family? Work? Finances? Health? Relationships? Ministry? Something else?

In what areas have you struggled the most to enter God’s rest?

What are some thoughts that go through your mind when you notice you are worrying, fretting, or striving?

Can you find some scriptures that speak to that issue? How can you answer the voice of worry with a sound bite from God’s word?

Read and meditate on Philippians 4:4-6

Prayer

Father God,

I thank you that you care for me more than many sparrows. I know you are interested in the things that matter to me. And I know that you have already given me your peace. Teach me Lord, I pray, to enter that rest and that peace that You have provided. Help me to know and understand that You are already working on my problem, even before I ask. Help me to know that in Your world, where you know the end from the beginning, the answer has already come, so I can rest and rejoice in my world while I am still waiting for the answer. As I thank you for that, let me experience the peace that passes all understanding.

Meditation
Sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Shift your body so it is well supported. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing in slowly and deeply and allowing your muscles to relax as you exhale slowly and fully. Take a few more deep breaths as you become more relaxed and focused.

Imagine you are walking leisurely in a beautiful green meadow. The sun is shining, the air is warm, and a gentle breeze keeps the temperature just right. As you are walking along, you take in the beauty of this place. Fragrant wildflowers of every color dance among the tall, green grasses. You can hear the chirping of a grasshopper, birds singing, and the laughter of a small running brook.

As you continue along, walking slowly, you become aware that you are carrying some heavy weight. You notice that there are heavy bags hanging from both shoulders. You have a large, heavy backpack strapped to your back, and another pack strapped to your chest. There is even a package of some kind balanced on your head and others strapped to your legs. Your arms are loaded with boxes and bags.
It is getting harder and harder to put one foot in front of the other.
Notice now, a picnic table, set with all your favorite foods. There is sparkling, clear, cool water to drink. Someone is sitting there, waiting for you. ‘Come!” He says. You gladly sit down and recognize this person as your Redeemer. He invites you to unload all your burdens. As you set each one down, open it. Find out what is inside. It might be fear, anger, hatred, jealousy, guilt, addiction, wounded emotions, damaged relationships, unconfessed sin, pride, false humility, unfulfilled desires, or any number of other burdens. Talk to your Redeemer about each one of the burdens you have been carrying. Allow Him to give you wisdom and direction about what to do with it. When you are finished, you can pick these burdens up again, or leave them here. It’s your choice. You can leave some and take some. Only you know which burdens you are really ready to lay down.
When you are finished, watch as your Redeemer takes out a gift He has for you. This is a very special gift, symbolizing the important steps you’ve taken here today. Think of this gift any time you feel tempted to take up those burdens you have left with Him.
You can come back to this place as often as you need to and share your burdens with Jesus.
And now, take a couple of deep breaths, wriggle your hands and feet, let out a big, big, sigh, and when you are ready you can open your eyes.
Action Steps
Take some time to write about your experience with laying down your burdens. What were they? How did you feel about each one? Which ones were you able to lay down, and which ones did you find yourself holding onto?
Every time you find yourself carrying these burdens, imagine a scripture that will help you surrender these to God.
You might imagine your problem as a mountain, and you tell that mountain to be thrown into the sea. (Matthew 21:21)
You might imagine it as a fig tree that you curse, and watch it wither from the roots. (Matthew 21:18-20)
Or you could imagine yourself yoked to Jesus and He is pulling the load as you walk freely by his side. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Or you can choose another scripture that resonates with you.
If you can, with Jesus’ help, commit the following passages to memory.
Write and memorize Philippians 4:6.
Then, write and memorize Philippians 4:6-7.
Then, write and memorize Philippians 4:5-7.
And then, Philippians 4:4-7.
Next, write and memorize Philippians 4:8.
And then, Philippians 4:8-9.
Make a gratitude list and post it where you will see it every day.
And…
Rest.
Relax.
Sleep.
Eat well.
Play.
Exercise.
Ponder.
Breathe.
This practice of surrender and gratitude is a daily practice that over time will yield the sweet fruit of peace that cannot be shaken.
Ours is a society that promotes and applauds hurry sickness, stress, and burnout. Most of us have been steeped in it for years. The only way to overcome this is through a diligent effort to enter His rest and be willing to get off the hamster wheel. We might even need to be willing to be ostracized or criticized for refusing to buy in to the lie that we are only valuable if we work too hard, don’t get enough sleep, and never relax. As Christians, we need to rest in Romans 8:1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (NIV) We don’t have to live in guilt, fear, shame, or dread. He has given us His covenant of peace.