Wisdom/Instruction


Today I was listening to a podcast by John and Stasi Eldridge of Ransomed Heart Ministry. They were speaking about Love and War, a new book they have written, but they spoke something that is very important.

“The Gospel that most churches are trying to apply to marriage is not strong enough medicine. You have to have a Gospel that heals the brokenhearted. You have to have as a reality, Jesus healing your soul.” (John Eldridge)

I think we can change that statement, and even believe that John Eldridge would agree if we said, the Gospel that most churches are trying to apply to the struggle areas in our lives is not strong enough medicine. We are continuing to struggle in our marriages, relationships, and life because of the Christianity that is being offered. The medicine is not strong enough. Our image of God is not big enough.

If we do not believe that Christianity is truth, that Jesus is the source of life, that the Gospel will heal our hearts and souls, then what are we believing in? Is our Gospel only about being saved for eternity and not about having different and changed lives here and now?

Is our Gospel big enough to change hearts? Change lives? Heal souls? Break addictions? Restore brokenness?
Is our Gospel big enough to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners? It should be…that came right out of Isaiah 61.

Is the Gospel being shared by your church big enough to make a difference in your life?

If not, then you are not hearing the true and complete Gospel.

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The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:1-5)

One of the battles I fought in my journey of disillusionment was that of spiritual confusion. Often spiritual concepts didn’t make sense to me and I would try to sort things out but my mind honestly could not sort through the issues and come a place or peace. Sometimes people thought I was causing the issues by not trusting or by being controlling but spiritual confusion is a true condition that we can suffer from which keeps us from thinking, hearing, and receiving clearly.

I have already written about how we can have power over our thoughts. I have learned two scriptural truths that help us to overcome spiritual confusion. The first is found in Psalm 23:5. The passages says “You anoint my head with oil”. The oil that is referred to is likely what shepherds used to care for their sheep. They placed oil around the mouths of their sheep to prevent flies from laying eggs in the moist areas around their mouths. If the eggs were laid they would drive the sheep mad as the eggs hatched. Sheep would bang their heads on things and do anything they could to find relief from the infestation. Spiritual confusion is an infestation we can experience. The enemy lays eggs of confusion and disillusionment causing us to feel cloudy, confused, depressed, frustrated, and in discord with others in the body of Christ. We need the Lord’s oil not just around our mouths like the sheep but on our head, on our brain and spirit to keep us from being infested with the enemies lies.

Once we have that oil on our head and spirit there is another tool we can use to protect us even further, the helmet of salvation.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:16-17)

The helmet of salvation goes on over our head. It protects us by giving us assurance that we are saved. With the protection of the helmet we can stand firm knowing that our heads are protected from attack. It has already been made clean and clear by the work of Christ, and the helmet protects us from doubting and faltering in our faith about that. It keeps our head clear from further attack.

Spiritual confusion is a debilitating condition. It locks us in darkness, confusion, and despair. Christ came though to heal the sick, to save the lost, to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and to release prisoners from darkness.

His oil can set us free. His helmet can keep us free.

I have posted several times about the condition of our heart and how it connects to our decisions, actions, thoughts, etc. Our actions, including our words will reflect our heart and what is inside. It is not a completely accurate gauge as there can be things that impact how others perceive us or things that can hinder our communication from accurately reflecting our heart, but it is a tool we can use to evaluate both our own heart and that of others. (Be careful about judging others by this tool alone though!)

Yesterday I read something about the verse “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

The verse makes it clear that there is a connection between our hearts and what we treasure, but it leaves a question that we should ponder.

Does your heart lead you to what you treasure, or does what you treasure affect your heart?

“Where your treasure is” is commonly interpreted as referring to the things we value. That means the verse could be read as “Those things we value and focus on affect our heart.” I think that is true, but if we consider the heart first it could be said that “The condition of our heart affects what we value and focus on.”

Scripture is pretty clear that our heart is key to our walk with God and our beliefs.

Do you think our heart leads our focus, or our focus leads our heart? Do we need to have a clear answer, or is it okay to just accept that both the heart and our focus are important?

I was reading today’s post on People of the Second Chance’s website and they brought up the issue of how people respond when they are faced with their own failure, sin, and issues. How do we respond when we are caught in the act, even if being caught is only recognizing the issue in our own mind?

Do we accept our failures, take responsibility, try to change, and actively move toward different outcomes, or as their website stated do we respond with the 3 D’s: deny, dismiss, and downplay.

Being faced with our own shortcomings, problems, failures, or even just others negative opinions of us is often very hard to accept. The delivery of how we learn about it can make it even more difficult. I think if we are honest we all admit that everyone has areas that need improvement, we are after all sinners in need of a savior. Facing those areas and knowing how to respond is the issue.

There are three main things I have been learning about this:

  1. Our response shows the condition of our heart. Again, this depends on the delivery, but if someone is allowed to come to terms with the reality of the issues in a place where they feel cared for, safe, and are able to process through and grasp the issues (e.g. they are not distracted or stressed by others things) then the response of their heart will show the starting point and if the person is ready to embrace the issues and change.
  2. Honesty and admitting the failure brings a great deal of freedom. Personally I lived in fear and frustration for several years after the abuse I experienced but when things fell apart at my church last spring and I was dismissed I wrote a farewell note to the church admitting my failure, the sin in my life, my heart to change, and the abuse I had been through. That act alone led to significant changes in my life over the coming weeks. Honesty does not have to be that public, but it means that the person stops hiding and comes clean about the issues, maybe they share just with one person but in deep honesty. I now live as if anything I say or do could be made known to the world at any time, it forces integrity into all I say and do but also brings great freedom because I have nothing to hide.
  3. Taking responsibility can be hard, but ultimately it leads toward life, hope, joy, and peace. When we deny, dismiss, downplay, or blameshift to others we are not accepting the reality of the situation and even if we are only doing it for an hour or a day we are living a lie. Those decisions move us away from the place of really dealing with things. Ultimately if we deny, dismiss, and downplay we are not only hurting ourselves, but we are likely hurting others in some way even if it is just due to the fact that we are not being as healthy and responsive as we could be. Our decisions have consequences, and we need to accept them instead of making them worse. For the last eight months I have been trying hard to take responsibility for the ways I have failed. I have been willing to work with others, to look hard at the issues in my life, to have other critically assess certain things in my life, and to accept some very hard to swallow words from others. It has hurt tremendously, but today I am a better person, my life has much greater integrity, and I am learning to walk in completely new ways. I am standing by and watching some others right now in life that are choosing different responses and their are some consequences coming that could have been avoided if they had taken responsibility up front.

How do we respond when we are caught in the act? My advice is to hold your tongue (James 3), be quick to listen (James 1:19), submit to others so you can learn (Ephesians 5;21), confess our sins (1 John 1:9) and walk in the light, and devote yourself to the Lord and to others in community relationships (Acts 2:42).

One of the issues that survivors of abuse struggle with is trusting their own judgment and perceptions. This has been an especially difficult thing for me and is one that even now as I am doing really well I find I can still fall back into regularly. It is a larger issue for me because of the type of abuse I received and who abused me. I have listened to their words and taken them to heart causing me to feel that I am unacceptable and have a bad heart. It has taken a lot of work to get to the point to realize that I may have poor judgment and may not communicate my heart well, but that my heart and intentions are not corrupt and evil. Due to identity issues and insecurities I often find that when others around me question a decision I have made or actions I have taken I take their assessment and blow it up into something larger.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the condition of our heart and how important it is to look at our heart and what is going on there.  https://restoringtheheart.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/condition-of-the-heart/

Recently I was reading in my study bible and it discussed how we need to have hearts that are open to receive instruction, discipline, and guidance not only from God, but also from others. This world teaches us to be independent, to think for ourselves, to rely on our understanding. God’s word tells us to rely on him, to seek community, to listen to the counsel of others, and to give up our rights in submission to the Lord. Through Christ we find new life, a renewed mind, and a transformed character. However, we have to learn to walk in that. It is offered to us when we receive Christ as our Lord, but we have to accept it as our new way of life. The Israelites walked through the desert for years with God in their midst and they still struggled with this, so if you are still learning and struggling to live this way don’t beat yourself up about it. Just take a deep breath, repent of your lack of faith, and turn back to God.

Our judgment is shaped and renewed as we walk with God. The more we walk with him the more we learn the Lord’s ways and become like him in character. I am learning that my judgment may not be like Christ yet, but I am confident that today I am closer to Christ’s character than I was last month and definitely more like him than I was last year. Learn to trust your heart to the Lord, and he will give you a new heart. Then your judgment comes from his heart and not your heart so you will be like him in character and you can trust your judgment because it comes from him and not from you.

I recently finished reading Identity Crisis: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Frank Santora. It is a great book to readjust your image of yourself so that you have a Godly perspective. God created each of us with purpose, desire, and love in his heart. He made us to accomplish something, and he loves us deeply, but we walk around doubting, questioning, and failing to embrace these truths. This world speaks so many messages against us, and leaves us feeling like we are insignificant and unimportant. Due to that many of us will develop what Santora describes as the “grasshopper mentality”. This comes from the story of Joshua and Caleb where 12 scouts were sent into the promised land, but only two came back with good reports. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33)

Let me define “grasshopper mentality.” Here are its symptoms:

  • Having a small view of yourself
  • Seeing yourself as insignificant and unimportant
  • Having to acute a concern for your shortcomings and difficulties
  • Having a feeling of inferiority which causes you to perceive everything that happens in your life as a reflection of what you cannot do or what you cannot be
  • Thinking of yourself as a person who can’t do something even before you try
  • Viewing yourself as an individual who doesn’t have what it takes to be more than average or, even worse, to be only average
  • Looking in the mirror and seeing a reflection of someone you don’t like very much
  • Sizing things up and determining that you’ll never get beyond where you are right now
  • Being satisfied with the lifestyle in which mediocrity (being no more than average) is your goal
  • A destructive second-rate feeling the makes you feel unqualified to be a vessel of God’s goodness

Here is why this kind of mentality is unacceptable to God:

  • He created you in his image
  • He has empowered you with his strength
  • He has given you personal talents and abilities to reflect his image
  • He unhesitatingly sacrificed his only Son to redeem you.  He turned his back on Jesus on the cross, so he wouldn’t have to turn his back on you.

 Do you have a “grasshopper mentality”? I expect you do in some ways, most if not all of us do. What can you start doing today to change your mentality so you will see yourself as a “more than conqueror” which is who God created you to be?

My counselor called this morning and said my pastor called to find out how I was doing and to discuss things.

I had already closed the door and revoked permission for my counselor to speak with my pastor so that I had a safe avenue for communication. He said my pastor sounded very caring and pastoral on the call and seemed to genuinely be interested.

I had worked so hard over the last week to move on and to accept that communication with that church was finally closed and I was starting to open myself to other options for my future. I truly desire reconciliation so that each of is is right before God and unity in God”s family is restored, but as this has continued on the pain has actually gotten worse instead of the adage that “time heals all wounds”. At this point I am very cautious toward any further contact with this pastor and church. So many jumbled thoughts and emotions are swimming through my head again.

God, I just want to be faithful to you and glorify you….no matter the cost. Show and direct me how to walk through this path and be the very best witness for your kingdom that I can possibly be! I love you more than the air I breathe and I will do whatever you ask, I just need to know it is of you. Help me walk in faith, fortitude, and wisdom.

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