Removing the Dead; Time for Spiritual Cleansing & Revival!

Shrubs

Every year God reminds me of the same message when we do our bi-annual trimming of our scrubs and trees. He reminds me of how important it is to trim back and if need be – to cut off the dead and unproductive things in our lives.

This week, our son is graduating from high school. We have so many activities coming up from his big senior banquet tonight to celebrate each special graduate, to his graduation ceremony on Friday, to many parties for friends next weekend, to hosting Christian’s party.

Lots to do and to prepare for these next two weeks!

One of the things to prepare …. I wanted to get the yard cleaned up and the back yard looking nice … since we are having an evening pool party and BBQ.

But to do this clean up, meant we had to have our bi-annual shrub day. Everyone is this family despises shrub day. I mean, we all moan and groan at the very thought of all the work involved.

Everyone looks forward to this day with dread.

Why? Because our shrubs are the ones that when you trim them back with a trimmer … five million tiny leaves of go everywhere. And I mean, tiny little leaves that go EVERYWHERE.

It is a pain in the butt to pick them up. You can’t use a blower to suck them up because then you suck up all the bark too. You have to manual slow down your heart, your life, your mind … and you have to go after each one … and pick it up and throw away. One little leaf at a time.

But every year … God uses shrub day to speak into our lives.

He reminds us of three very simple spiritual principles. Principles that we each talk about and reflect on.

1. THE NEED TO PRACTICE HIS PRESENCE in the activities we despise to do.

Yesterday, when I started doing the shrubs, my attitude was very bad. I slept only an hour or so the night before and I was still not feeling well from the flu. But as I started, God reminded me of Brother Lawrence and the book he wrote on practicing the presence of God. In the book, Brother Lawrence talked about how in the most minute chores, we could cultivate God’s presence by being thankful and mindful of him in every situation.

So, instead of grumbling, I thought I would try a spiritual experiment for the day and challenge the boys to do the same. Especially since they despise shrub day even more than I do!

I decided with each leaf, I would tell God something I was thankful for.

2. PRACTICING GRATITUDE blows a grumbling heart away! 

So, I began with each little leaf … God, I am thankful that we have a house that has these annoying little shrubs. Then, with the next leaf …. God, I am thankful that you made beautiful little shrubs. The green in them, is so vibrant. Thank you for making them. To … God, I am thankful that I am two amazing sons. I am also so thankful for servant hearted husband that works so hard to provide a home that has these beautiful green little shrubs.

Before long, my attitude had changed and so did everyones! None of us argued the whole day … God can change a human heart and our perspective about things through practicing gratitude. The gratitude experiment worked!

3. THE NEED TO SPIRITUAL CLEANSE ourselves on a regular basis! 

After I trimmed back the shrubs and Mike was fixing another part of the front yard, I started to cut back the big tree in the front yard. I noticed that there were some dead branches. These branches that had no vibrant leaves on them anymore.

While looking at the tree, I couldn’t help but ask God what in my life reflected the same sort of “death”? What attitudes of my heart reflect death more than life?

What in my life has to change so I can experience more fruit and more fruitfulness?

Was it a mindset?

Unbelief? Fear? Insecurity?

Is there a thought pattern about myself or God that he wants to uproot, cut off and renew with truth?

We ALL have areas that are not bringing life to us or to others … and so, I used this day I was dreading … to shift my attitude.

To start a great conversation with my Father … about spiritual cleansing.   About the heart.  About the deeper water thoughts we have about God, ourselves or others.

The great part about doing shrubs twice a year, is it forces me (and us as a family) to think about the spiritual discipline of pruning, or cutting back, or removing dead areas of our lives.

I wish more churches would have spiritual cleansing retreats where twice a year you go away to be with God (not to be motivated to be talk about God)….. on retreat with other believers …. for the sole purpose of examining our heart and the ministries that we lead for “dead” areas in our life and ministry.

To examine our hearts for areas of sin … and where we as people and as a church are wounding others.  I mean, to get really real with the under belly.  I personally think this is KEY if we want to see revival.  It begins in our own hearts as leaders.

What we do in secret, in our homes, in our private relationships matters more to God than what we do in public.  There was a reason Jesus went after the religious leaders about their hypocrisy.

Just think how fruitful our ministries would become if we moved in Godly sorrow?  If we saw the hearts of those we’ve hurt.  If we stopped to do whatever was necessary to restore those people.  This is revival.

Hebrews 12:1-2, the writer tells us to throw off the sin that is trying to entangle us so that we can run the race marked out for us! What does this mean? It means – just what it says. THROW OFF.

None of us are immune to sin, darkness, or evil … trying to prohibit the work of God and the will of God flowing in our lives.

The Bible also says, “Confess your sins to one another, so you may be healed”. The healing doesn’t just mean emotional healing. It also means physical, sexual, mental, etc… James 5:16.

To take time for God and to be with others for the purpose of spiritual cleansing.

We need community because we can’t see our own blind spots. We need others to show us the things we can’t see in ourselves and we have to be humble enough to hear them.

“Blessed be the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:3.

Trimming back the shrubs is always a great conversation starter with God on this topic.

Bullying; A Spiritual Cleansing!

When my son was in 5th grade at a Christian school he had a young man that was bullying him. I didn’t know about it. He was coming home from school super mouthy and rebellious for a few weeks … and I would give him time outs to think about his attitude … without knowing what was really happening. Lesson here – if your kid is off in any way – probe deeper into what has caused them to be off.

One day, he was super mean to me and I sent him to his room. I was sobbing. I went to my bedroom and was crying and talking to the Lord. I knew God was really my only source to show me how to parent my children. He knew their hearts better than me.  My son was always very strong willed … even since he was a baby … so I learned to pray about everything.

The Lord told me, “go and ask him what happened on the playground during lunch a few weeks ago”. Then, the Lord got specific. He said, “it happened right after he threw away his lunch”.

So, I went into his bedroom and sat on the edge of his bed. I asked him this very detailed question. And the first thing he said, was “who told you mom!”. He has learned over time that having a prophetic mom … well, he can’t keep secrets for too long. The Lord calls him out (for his good)! If we ask God questions, and wait long enough – God will speak to us about our kids! It might not be in that moment … but his voice will break through all the confusion that we are facing.

My son started sobbing (the deep belly tears) telling me a kid threw him to the ground on the play ground, choking him … and told him he was going to kill him.

Yes, at a Christian school.

I sobbed. We both cried for quite a while.

I sat with him for a few hours and did inner healing with him. I was so thankful that God had trained me in this.  I had been through my own healing – so I knew the power of what is released when we truly repent and forgive.  Intense cleansing.  A pure heart!

So, what does this mean to do inner healing with your kids?

It means – I had to spiritually clean up the mess this bully had created in the heart and life of my son. Sin has consequences in the human heart. If we sin against someone – we plant dark seeds that have to be uprooted and removed.  Dark seeds that if not uprooted will bear bad fruit later on in life.

We uproot these dark seeds and spiritual clean ourselves or our kids by …

1) forgiving

2) repenting for the sin in our own hearts

3) renewing our mind with the truth of God’s Word.

I had to help my son to forgive the bully (by actually praying with him from the place of pain) and then I had to uproot the fear and the anger from him (his response to the bullying).

I had to help him examine his own heart for any sin trying to creep in … in response to the bully’s actions …. like anger, hatred, fear, insecurity, etc…

Once I knew he was back in a peaceful place in his heart (spiritually clean), I called the principal at the school.

The principal was gracious enough to let me do a prayer time with the whole class in order to help the students talk about this issue and to pray through some forgiveness and repentance! Thank God she understood these spiritual principles could mean freedom or bondage for these kids!

Not many Christian’s understand what their sin is doing to those around them and to the body life!  Nor do they understand the need to keep their lives and the institutions they lead spiritually clean!

So, I gathered all the children and sat them in a circle facing each other. Each one talked about how they had been bullied by this one kid.  He was there sitting in the circle listening to the pain he had caused each child.  Not shaming him just helping him to see that his choices can and do affect a human heart.

Then, I had them all speak forgiveness to the bully.  Tears rolled down the bully’s cheeks.

Then, I had each kid speak a word of life over the bully and he began to sob. Each child went over and laid a hand on the bully’s shoulder and spoke out something kind to him and about him.

He probably never heard loving words before.

He probably never got a glimpse of who God is and how God sees him!

I asked each child to listen to God and to speak out what they felt God was saying over this child.

Teaching them a bit about listening prayer ….

They said things like, “you are beautiful, you are kind, you are smart, you are gentle, you are a friend to many”.

The bully sobbed.  Like the deep belly tears.

A river of healing tears came.

Washing away the lies and the pain this bully believed about himself.  Flickers of truth were breaking through his pain.  This pain was at the root of his bullying.

It was a powerful and life-changing day for all the kids. The power of that spirit (and yes folks, I am sorry to tell you it was a spiritual thing going on in this Christian classroom) – was broken!

How many kids yearn for words of life?

Words of encouragement and affirmation?

How many of us just want to know we are loved, wanted, accepted and that we belong to others?

These are very simple heart felt needs we have as human beings …. but Satan goes to war against these things and he used other people to do his wounding.

He targets us with words of death and intense rejection (that can come through words, letters, texts, emails, etc…).

Bullying is not just targeted at children.  It is a spiritual thing that targets people of all ages.

This is the kind of ministry …. I do as a spiritual director or as a freedom ministry pastor with my non-profit organization.  I am passionate about seeing darkness overturned by TRUTH!

“Know the truth and the truth will set you free”!  Boom.  This is the key to spiritual freedom.

I work with individuals and corporately with churches and other non-profits  – to help them identify any spiritual threats or opposition … and then help them to throw it off (Hebrews 12:1-2) through applying Biblical principles.

Bottom line – bullying is a real deal.  At the center of bullying is a quest for power.  A power that can only be broken through God’s love manifested through forgiveness, repentance and renewing our minds with truth!

The battle is very real for the Christian but the good news is – we have the tools to overcome it!

God has given us the weapons to defeat and destroy the works of darkness.   And the power to overcome was given to us through the gift of Jesus on the cross.  Satan comes to destroy and bring death and JESUS came to bring life – abundantly to the point of overflowing (Perissos)!   John 10:10.

Words of death must stop and we must all make a stand against them in Jesus name.  Proverbs 18:21, James 3.

A VIDEO ON BULLYING …

http://www.dizzyturtle.com/daniel-and-bullying/

Truth in the Inner Most Being …

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What is it in our human nature to want to sweep things under the carpet?

To keep our sin in darkness?

To live with an elephant in the room in our relationships?

 To lie to others about who we really are … and to refuse to confess the things we have done to hurt others?

Why do we create false personas … in order to move ahead in ministry, business or anything these God calls us to do?

To never speak up to address something dark, evil, unkind or hurtful in ourselves or in others?

Why do we avoid seeking true Biblical repentance for the things we have done…. the kind of repentance which comes with a deep and aching Godly sorrow?

True and lasting spiritual freedom lies in our ability to bring all of these things …. and our secret places to the light. To open those crevices of our hearts and to allow the TRUTH of God’s Word to enter into our inner most being.

You know the place … it is that place within us where self-deception can come face to face with He; who is the light and the truth and be changed.  John 8:12.

We all have those areas where we would rather they stay hidden.

If we want to see a move of God … in us and through us .. we have to allow God into those deep places.

To where we no longer desire to have a secret part of our lives.  We want every part of us – body, soul and spirit to live in and from the light.

To no longer fear the rejection or shame of man … which is often the driving force that keeps us from living in the light.  We must want the light.  We must yearn for it’s purifying ability to make us  more and more like Christ.

Intimacy is impossible with God and with others unless we are willing to live from this deep inner man within us.

To expose this place … with the flaws and all.  This is the place where God’s love can enter in deeply. Unfortunately, we block off those areas of our heart due to pain, abuse, betrayal and trauma.

When we close off our hearts, we ultimately close off our hearts to God.

We have to turn to God, open our hearts to Him once again … and trust in His finished work of the cross to redeem those broken and hurt areas.  When broken …. we have to trust His grace to rebuild our lives …. brick by brick.   Truth by truth.  Precept upon precept.  In the Christian world, this is called sanctification.  This is the process of becoming more and more like Christ.  Having our minds renewed in truth.  Romans 12:1-2.

In ministry, I have seen so many people, leaders and families … broken by life, people or circumstances. People who want to “move on” long before there was true Biblical restoration.  Moving on … without true healing is like only putting a bandaid on a wound that keeps bleeding and will never heal.

Restoration can only come through deep repentance and bringing the issues to the light. This is true for individuals and it is true for organizations. The principles found in freedom ministry is the applied the same – whether it is an individual seeking freedom or if it is an organization in need of spiritual freedom.

The inner being … the under belly….. of the person or the organization needs a regular and ongoing exposure to the light.

Repenting from a pulpit … and walking in a sort of false humility while actively choosing to sin with others in how we treat them behind closed doors – is not true repentance.   This is the very hypocrisy Jesus addressed with tremendous boldness.

Most people want to skip over a restoration and redemptive process with themselves and with others. Most of the time we avoid these areas of our life … because we have a wrong view of God.  We fear what will happen if we bring everything to the light.

We think if we tell him the truth of what is going on in our inner life … he will reject us, abandon us or simply not want us because of what we have done. We fear the same thing with people.  And this is often because people … will and do reject others when they get messy.  They don’t know how to handle the broken-ness of others.   Unlike God, they close the doors of their hearts rather than open them like the Prodigal Father did.

So, how do we begin to have restoration with God and with others?

There are a few basic steps for Biblical restoration in any relationship … that if we move forward with God in these areas – we will see His life infused into those broken relationships.

REVIEW – Take a good inventory of our heart and life!

Psalm 139:23-24 says, “search me oh Lord, test me and know my thoughts! Show me if there is any offensive way in me”. The very first step in any restoration process with God and with others is to take a deep inventory of our heart and life. We have to set aside time to ask God a very simple question, where have I sinned?  Where have I fallen short of your best? Where am I hurting others by my action or my words?  Where am I not living in alignment with your Word and how you want me to live like you?

We have to ask God to show us how our sin has impacted or hurt others.

We have to ask God where our sin is affecting us, our family, the ministries that we lead.  Why?  Because our sin will influence others.  It becomes like  a black umbrella that sits over others.

Sin impacts others not just ourselves.

By taking time every day …. to ask God these “reviewing” questions, it will keep our hearts pure.

Why do we want our hearts pure? Because Jesus tells us blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God!  Those with pure hearts are those who are walking in deep and abiding intimacy with God!

The Psalms also tell us that those with unclean tongues (gossip, slander, selfish prayers) and unclean hands (ungodly actions towards self or others) … will NOT ascend God’s holy hill.

Which simply means, they will be void of God’s presence in their lives!

We also want to be asking others what they see in us. We want to be accountable to others.  We need to be doing this even as leaders!   We have to take a deep evaluation of our lives and our ministries.  If we have a huge revolving door in our churches – we should be looking at the sin with us corporately and repent and seek restoration of those we’ve hurt.

Corporate sin is a real deal.  If left alone, it will eat away at the life of Christ in the church.

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with some spiritual warfare and I asked a friend to pray for me.  This is one of my closest friends and prayer partners.  We speak into each other’s lives with openness.  Trust has been built over the years.  They texted me back and said, “I am hearing the word bitter. Are you bitter with God over something?”

On the surface, I was thinking … “no, I don’t feel anything bitter in my heart.  I feel pretty clean.”  Self-deception.  I wasn’t prideful or defensive.  I was open to hear what God might want to say to me.

So, I went into my prayer closet and asked God the question, “am I mad at you Lord”?

And sure enough, God showed me that I was VERY angry with him over the lack of complete healing with my Chiari Malformation and the issues with the compression at my brain stem which is causing residual pain episodes (which are quite horrific).

I was super tired of the ongoing pain issues with my head. It was wearing me down physically and emotionally and my heart had begun grumbling with God rather than “rejoicing always”.  I was slowly absorbing the lies again that “if God really loved me – he would heal me”.  I allowed bitterness to absorb into my heart.

I took the bait of the enemy and started blaming God for my struggle with my health, rather than thanking Him for all the healing He has done so far!  I had entered into the wilderness of grumbling rather than truly having a heart and mindset – that REJOICED always!  Easier said than done – but we MUST discipline our hearts to align with God’s Word.

Thanks to my very close friend, I reviewed my heart …. I repented and my heart was restored to peace!  Yeah God!

God is so good when we allow Him to review the condition of our hearts!

By allowing God to REVIEW the deep places in our hearts, we allow Him to expose His loving light to our sin.

We should never fear the light!

NEVER! 

The light is God’s most precious gift to us.

Light is truly the pathway to knowing Him.

“Blessed be the pure in heart for they shall see God”.   Matthew 5:3

When God shows us areas of our lives that need a loving touch of His grace – He only shows us this to give us a gift in return. More of Him and less of us.

The funny part of this whole issue of “review”?

God knows everything anyways!  We think we are living in secret about a current issue in our lives … or our past  …. and we hide it from our children or the ministries that we lead … because we feel in order to be “someone” we can’t let them know we have a past …. and you know what?

God already knows we are living in deception.  He is waiting for us to bring it to the light with Him and ultimately – with others!

Nothing is kept secret from God. He is just waiting for us to come clean with Him. We can’t cover those areas up … when we do, it simply makes us into hypocrites that Jesus rebuked.

RAIN OF SORROW – Don’t move on until we have felt the rain! 

The next step in restoration with God and with others …. is true Godly sorrow. Once God has shown us areas of sin in our lives (or in ministries that we lead) ….  we have to weep with Him over our choices.

We have to see the true impact of what we have done.  The veils of denial must be removed.  We don’t move into this with shame or condemnation – we move into restoration with a rain of Godly sorrow.

I remember when I was in my abortion Bible study. It was a study for people who had abortions and wanted to heal from their choices. I will never forget it. It was one of the most powerful Bible studies I had done.  I was in the midst of tremendous torment and spiritual warfare. I was crying out to God in the middle of the night. I wanted so bad for the torment to end.  It was here the Lord took me to the passage about torment and forgiveness in the Gospels.

I began to see what I really did.  The taking of a human life. You see, I was deceived. I bought the lie that it was just a bunch of tissue. I didn’t allow myself to see the truth that from the moment of conception, it was a human life. I was driven by selfish ambition.  I didn’t want my life to change.  I wanted my freedom to live my life the way I wanted.

My boys at the time were 2 years old and 4 years old. The reality that I could of had two more children swept over me. I sobbed deeply for weeks. Truth hit my inner most being.  Abortion is the taking of human life.  I played God.  I chose death when He was calling for life for my two unborn children.

God didn’t come in that moment of truth to condemn me.  Although He did come to show me the truth of what I had done and in that moment He wrapped His arms of love around me and whispered to me, “you are forgiven Lori. Now, forgive yourself”.  I was in bondage because deep in my heart …. I held a vow in my heart that I would NEVER forgive myself.   I sobbed some more. Then, I finally forgave myself for two abortions.  Peace and restoration with God happened.

We have to truly cry for what we have done. We must experience a rain of Godly sorrow.

About ten years ago, I had a friend and prayer partner who did some very unkind things to me. Very hurtful actually.  We had shared such a close and intimate friendship.  I forgave her the moment it happened but our friendship ended for a season.  A few years ago, I ran into her at church. Instead of putting on that fake, let’s cover it up smile, she saw me from across the court yard and she began sobbing. Like the deep belly tears. She came up to me and began repenting for each and every thing she did to me.  She named them one by one.  I knew in that moment she had spent time with the Lord and he revealed her stuff to her. She wasn’t coming to me in a spirit of shame but in a spirit of repentance. It was a rain of true Godly sorrow that was with her. In that moment, God told me she was safe … that she had been broken and that I could trust her again.  God restored what the enemy tried to destroy. She is one of my most faithful friends and intercessors.  She saw how the enemy used her to not only try to destroy me but also a precious friendship that was ordained by God.  What the enemy tried to destroy (a powerful prayer partnership), God redeemed powerfully through her Godly sorrow.

We can never have reconciliation or restoration without a rain of true Godly sorrow.

This is the one of the most important steps in restoration in any relationship because it reveals if our heart have truly seen the impact of our sin. It reveals whether our repentance is authentic or not. It reveals whether or not our heart has been open to God’s love.

We must forsake those fake smiles for authentic relationship!

REPENT & FORGIVE – Turn around and let it go! 

The next step in restoration is to repent. I’ve been talking a bit about this already.  To repent means we must name our sin and to actively turn from it. The word “repent” actually means in Hebrew, to turn in the opposite direction.  It means to make a U-TURN.

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We can’t turn from something if we don’t know what we are turning from.

We also have to forgive those who have hurt us. The act of repentance and forgiveness is truly the act of letting go. Both require a movement of the heart away from sin. Whether it is the sin done to us (which requires forgiveness) or if it is our own sin and bad choices (this requires repentance and a turning away from that thing that is hurtful to us or to others).

Both require a movement of God’s grace and strength to do. If we think we can do this without God – we can’t!  Galatians 3:3.

If we are struggling to repent or to forgive, the best place to start is by asking God for the grace and the supernatural help to align our hearts with God’s Word and to do what He is asking us to do.

The deeper the pain, the betrayal, the abuse … the harder it is to let go. But with God’s help, it is possible.

REBUILD –  We must renew our minds with TRUTH.

The next step in restoration is to rebuild what was destroyed because of sin. Sin destroys lives. It will seek to kill any relationship.  It tries to creep in and destroy what God has called and ordained.

The Bible says that Satan comes to seek, kill and destroy and that Jesus comes to bring life. John 10:10.

Praise God for we have a God who will destroy the works of darkness.  The work of the cross has made a way for the work of Satan to be destroyed.  The work of the cross has disarmed all powers and principalities!  We have to learn how to apply the truths of the cross to our lives and to our relationship!

What Satan just destroyed in our lives because of sin (our own sin or sin done to us from others) …. we know that with our God – HE can rebuild ANYTHING!

God will restore what the locust has eaten. Question is – do we have the faith that God can and will do it? Do we believe that even despite our sin … that God can rebuild what was destroyed?

I remember once, I was in a hard situation where I knew people were saying very unkind things about me.  I have a  strong gift of discernment and in words of knowledge and so, sometimes … I just know things.

At this time, God was showing me that someone I worked closely with really didn’t like me.  Their smile said something else and so I was very conflicted in my heart.  And because I didn’t trust this ….. I looked into something I shouldn’t of.  I sinned.  It is a sin that I wish I could of undone.

Have you ever done anything … and the moment you did it – you asked God to forgive you immediately?  This was one of those sins that I wish I wouldn’t of done because it had a huge impact on my heart and life. I repented deeply with the Lord.

In doing this,  I read something this person wrote about me that shattered my heart.

He said that I am an Amelia Earhart and that I would start off in ministry strong but like she did … but that I would die and disappear out of ministry forever.   Never fulfilling God’s calling on my life.  In reading those words I knew they were words of death and not life.

Although the words pierced my heart because I loved this person dearly.   For some reason, Satan loves to use emails and people’s words to try to destroy my heart.

I respected this person with all of my heart.  The words about Amelia Earhart sat like a curse of death over me for years.  Why so long?  Because somewhere deep in my heart – I believed those words to be true.  I allowed the voice of the father of lies to be stronger than the voice of my Father in heaven (as revealed in Scripture).

God had to take me through a process of rebuilding my heart with the TRUTH that God’s calling on my life is irrevocable and He called me to heal the broken-hearted and to release the captives.   I had to believe what Father God was saying.  We have to get to the point in life that the fear of man no longer rules over us and we live in and from the voice of God as revealed in Scripture alone!

I had to rebuild my life and slowly …. my calling … brick by brick.  My sin and the person’s sin (by writing out word of death / Proverbs 18:21) nearly destroyed me.  The truth is … God called me and set me apart for good works since I was born!  He called me and set me apart while in the womb!

We don’t rebuild our lives out of a spirit of condemnation or guilt – we do it in the power of God’s grace!  We do it by deeply repenting!

It is the love of the Father that restores us.  It happens when we come into ALIGNMENT with TRUTH.  The truth that is only revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

We have to know, believe, declare and live …. from the TRUTH revealed in God’s Word about ….

  • Who God says that He is (as Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
  • What God says He can do.
  • Who we are to Him (all because of the cross).
  • What God can do in us and through us for His glory alone!

We must know and stand on the TRUTH that the cross has defeated the work of sin and of darkness and has given us the way to LIFE!  (Study Colossians 1 & 2 for an understanding of the supremacy of Christ).

We must be determined to rebuild what sin tried to destroy … brick by brick. Day by day. Month by month. Year by year.  Truth upon truth.

We do this by renewing our minds in the Truth!  Romans 12:1-2.

We can’t build a beautiful castle overnight. Especially if that beautiful castle was just destroyed to rubble!  If we destroyed someone else’s castle – we should be apart of the rebuilding process.

The lesson here – is we can’t skip these principles for restoration!   Each one is vitally important if we want to have a THRIVING LIFE!

REAP – We will reap all that we have sown! 

When all those steps have been taken, we can then begin to reap the blessings of a relationship that has been through a Godly restoration process. True Biblical love can flow when there has been a deep review of the human heart, a true raining of Godly sorrow and true Biblical repentance and forgiveness …. which then will lead to a rebuilding of lives and relationship …. and then the reaping of a harvest of Jesus’ life!

Now, in all of this, I am not saying this is to be a works minded or law based process.  This has to be a work of God’s Spirit.  Galatians is so clear that if we work in the flesh … we will come back under the curse of the law!   We don’t want that!

We have to trust God to lead us in this process.  We have to apply the Biblical principles of restoration and freedom ministry.

What I am saying, is that there are spiritual principles and precepts in the Bible that if … they are not obeyed … in our lives and in our relationships … we will never experience the spiritual freedom that Christ gave His very life to give us!

God did His part.  We have our part to play.  This is what all the commands in Scripture are there for – to lead us to life …. and to blessing.

Jesus died to give us the opportunity to review our hearts. He died to give us the ability to feel His heart towards sin (and how it hurts people) and to align with the rain of Godly sorrow.

He died to give us the opportunity to repent and forgive. He died to show us how to rebuild our hearts and lives (and those we have sinned against) by renewing our minds with Truth.   And He tells us that when we live in alignment with His Word … we will reap a harvest.  We have to see the Word of God as God’s authority for living!  It will truly lead us to LIFE!

The castles in our lives will be restored and thriving when we choose to engage in the steps of restoration!

I know this blog was a long one today.  I just couldn’t leave any part of this out.  Each part is important.  And so was each story – each testimony of God’s grace and healing in my life.

If you need God to rebuild an area of your heart or life …. this is a great song to begin your prayer time with Him!   May this fuel your quiet time with the Lord Jesus today!  Don’t forget to open your Bible!  I feel the greatest temptation facing the church today is to put feeling and experience before the Word of God.  We can’t ever forsake truth for experience!  Trust He; who is the Word to lead you in the restoration of your life and calling!

Parenting: Planting Seeds!

seeds

My son just turned 18 years old.  It has caused me to reflect on all of the child rearing years.

When we are in the middle of parenting …. sometimes ….. it is so hard to see the blessings.

Especially on those rough days … or in those rough weeks …. like when your children start to have those wild 2 or 3 year old tantrums …. or when they begin testing their boundaries with mouthiness or rebellion.

I remember one time, I was in Bible study when my boys were very little and I was so overwhelmed with being a new mom. The tantrums were putting me over the edge. I had no clue what I was doing. I had read every child rearing book that there was.

The more I read, the more conflicted I got on what we should be doing.

My son was and still is a very strong child. He loved to fight with me on everything – at times wearing me down to tears. I had no clue how to parent this strength in him.

This is a strength that God has given him and that God has been molding into His image over the years.

I remember talking to one of our pastor’s wives at the time. She had older kids who were teenagers. She was trying to tell me to enjoy the age because the time would go by really fast.

Honestly, I thought she was a little nuts because to me, the days seemed like years. I would often watch the clock ticking wondering when the day would be over … and I would wait patiently for Mike to come home so I could breathe …. or … my dream at the time … was to go to the bathroom “alone”.

Now, looking back …. I would give every young mom the same advice. Learn to enjoy the chaos. Soak up every minute with your kids. Hold them ALOT. Do less chores and spend more time with your kids. Enter into the things that make them happy. See the world through their eyes. Through the eyes of wonder.

Let them crawl into bed and sleep with you! Yes, I said it. Let them snuggle right into your presence.

I remember Mike and I would lovingly argue about this one. He wanted the kids in their own bed and I loved it when they would come into bed with us in the middle of the night. I use to tell Mike, “they are not going to be coming in to sleep with us as teenagers … so if they feel they need us and our presence – we have to be available to them”.

I would plead my case with him in how other cultures do this and that it is more of an “American” thing to make children sleep alone.

And of course, every book you read had conflicting advice on this topic too.

Parenting.

Trust the Holy Spirit in you to lead you in your parenting. He is the only one who knows our kids better than we do.

The Holy Spirit knows what is truly going on – even from the spiritual side of things.

I remember one time when my son was struggling with anger when he was about 8 years old. And it was directed at me big time.

At the time, I could of just chalked it up to the pre-teen thing, or emotions, or I could of said he was just being rebellious.

Although, I had gone through my own inner healing so I knew emotions were a part of a deeper issue.

And so, we have learned to pray.

To invite God into parenting issue …. and to show us what is truly going on.

When any of us are “off” like this, we always try to stop and pray.  To ask the Holy Spirit to show us what is at the heart of the issue.

And so as my son and I prayed, we asked God to show us specifically what was at the “root” of his anger. And during our prayer time, the Holy Spirit showed my son how he was offended at me for a time when he was little when he wanted to be with us in the middle of the night … and we made him stay in his bed.

He was actually having a spiritual attack as a young child and instead of listening to God back then (which we didn’t know how to do at the time nor did we understand spiritual warfare either) – we did what the parenting books told us to do – “let them cry it out”.

So, we repented to Christian for not being there for him when he really needed us and for not protecting him from the spiritual darkness.

We deeply meant it – we repented for not meeting his needs as his parents and as his spiritual parents!

He forgave us  and all the anger was gone. Just like that. God plucked out the seed of offense.

When the Bible says, train your child in the way they should go …. the fruit of that might not be immediate … but we can trust that all that we plant into our children will bear fruit – whether it is good or bad.

We need to hope and pray, that with God’s help – we will be planting a harvest of good seed.

dep_4292585-farmer-planting-seeds

 

The same principle of planting spiritual seed works in all our relationships.   We can plant good seeds or bad seeds depending on what we do and what we say to others.  We will reap what we sow.

If a person receives or digests the pain of our ungodly actions or sin, those seeds are then planted into their hearts and they will bear fruit.

Like in James 3, our unkind words will be like a rudder on a ship that begins to navigate the life of another.

The training we do as parents will plants seeds into our children’s hearts.  Those seeds will grow over time into thoughts, actions and behaviors.

Seeds-FINAL

As I noted, those seeds will bear fruit later on in life.

Good fruit or bad fruit depending on whether or not we are planting dark seeds ….. or seeds of life and of truth.

As parents, we have to watch our children’s behavior and when their behavior is “off”  – we have to take a spiritual inventory for them and we have to teach them how to examine their own hearts.  At this time – we need to look for any ungodly seed, mindset, or sin.

We have to show them how to go away to be with God, to be still and to know if there is any offensive way in them.   This is a spiritual discipline that has to be taught and modeled.

We have to show them how to examine their heart for offenses, for pain, for bitterness …… and we have to lead them onto the path towards healing and restoration.

Eventually, as we sit with them and talk about what is rolling around in their hearts and with their thinking ….they will learn how to keep their own heart clean as they grow older and they will learn how to process offenses and other life issues with God and they will know how to let it go through the spiritual principles of repentance and forgiveness.

This is why it is so important to take time to pray when we see that our kids are “off” in some way.   To stop and to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance.  He will speak!

We have to ask God to peer into their hears and to show them and us … what is truly going on.

If we don’t think little children … and even toddlers and babies …. can be offended we must think again. They are made up of spirit, soul, body and strength as well.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, body and strength”.

If there is fighting between toddlers / siblings … time outs might not be the only solution.

We might need to … in their language … help to uproot any of those dark seeds of offense.

We must teach them how to repent and how to forgive.

To not just say the words “I am sorry” but to mean it deeply in their hearts.

And if we are sinning against our children …. no matter what age … we have to make things right.

We have to humble ourselves and repent.

We have to openly admit or sin and call it what it is “sin”.

We have to move in Godly sorrow and realize everything we do (or don’t do) will impact them for good or for bad.

The same is true in our spiritual leadership as well.

True repentance is much more than acting as if we are humble in what we say from the stage, or when we are on our knees in prayer before others.  True repentance means Godly sorrow – it means going before those we’ve hurt with weeping and deep compassion.   It means when we know we’ve hurt someone – we do whatever is necessary to mend what was broken.  This takes great humility and often times, our pride doesn’t want to lay itself down for the sake of obedience.

The first step towards healing is owning our sin and talking honestly with God about it.

We must be willing to open our eyes and truly see how our actions and the decisions we make affect our children.

As parent’s, we have to take ownership for our crap.

And yes, I’ve had a lot of crap!

We can’t call our children rebellious when the reality might be – what we see in them is actually righteousness …. they are simply trying to say that we as parents are in sin in an area of our life …. and that something is off in our homes.

Now, their voice in speaking this might be somewhat off and/or unpolished … but we have to have ears to hear what the Spirit might be wanting to say to us through our kids.

This is why it is so important to repent to our children when we blow it.

We must take back the harsh words we’ve spoken when frustrated or hurt …. and we must intentionally wash those words off of our children and restore them to words of life!

Just as our children need a bath every day – so too, we must given them a spiritual bath quite often.  As they go through life – we have to be on the lookout for those seeds of offense and the hurts that life brings our way.

God gave us tools to keep our homes spiritually clean.

They are the spiritual principles found in the Bible.

A few of those tools are repentance, forgiveness and renewing our minds with the truth of God’s Word.

We must pay close attention to what our kid’s are believing – about God, about themselves and about others.

What is their mindset about things?  Are we paying attention to the thoughts that are running through their little heads all day?  Are we listening to what they are saying?  About God and about themselves?

Are we being intentional in uprooting any lies of the enemy?  To stop any of his whispers?

How do we stop those?  By being in the Word of God.  By telling our children the truth of who God is and who they are to God!

When we stop to truly examine our hearts and to teach our kids to do the same – we can be on the lookout for those dark seeds (anger, offense, bitterness, lust, rejection, abandonment, etc..) and we can uproot them by repenting and forgiving and we can THEN plant good seeds by speaking words of life and by speaking the word of God into their precious little hearts.

We all blow it. I’ve blown it in so many ways – especially in the years before God healed my heart.

God had to pluck out those dark seeds out of my life – seeds that were planted from trauma in my childhood.

God, today … help us to see where we’ve fallen short of your best in our parenting.

Help us to see any area where we have planted a dark seed into the hearts of our children. Even unintentionally.

Show us any place where offense has taken root and help us to humble ourselves, to go to our children, to wash their feet and to ask for their forgiveness.

Help us God, to wash away our sin – so they can be made clean and they can know the truth of your great love for them!

Remind us that when we plant those dark seeds that it is then hard for the good seeds to be planted.

That those dark seeds take up room and stop our children from being able to receive the truth of who they are to you.

God, help us to see – free from any shame or condemnation – but to see in order that our homes can become spiritually clean again.

Help us to plant the right and Godly seed so that our children can grow up into the men and women of God that YOU want them to be!  Amen.

 

Holding small plant

 

A Christmas Prayer: Everyone Matters to God!

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It’s not about gifts. It is about THE gift.

The One lying in the manger.  Jesus.

God, help me behold you as a baby in this season. Help me to take the time each day to come and to behold the Christ child … to ponder … to deeply think about the One who came and radically changed my life for the better.

(https://loridethlefs.wordpress.com/my-story-2/)

Without you … there would be no light in my life, no light in my world. I would still be lost in the pit of my own troubles and suffering.

I would be spiraling in the pit of despair … or wandering in the land of hopelessness. But thankfully … you came to provide a way out of the depression and out of a wandering life style!

You gave me hope and a future. You put my feet on solid ground. You began to light the pathway to life, to love, to joy, to peace, to goodness, TO YOU!

It was all about YOU and finding YOU!

“All is garbage compared to the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!”! Philippians 3:7-11.

I agree Paul – I agree! All is worthless compared to knowing Him – and beholding the magnitude of who He truly is!

God, you brought joy into my inner most being and peace to every fiber of my heart and life!

Yes, in you there is NO more anxiety, no more fear, no more worry, no more doubt – all of those are washed away by knowing you and your love!

For the perfect love of God casts out all fear!

Do we want less fear? Then we need more revelation of God! God, help us return to you. To return to the heart of worship where it is all about you!

When my gaze is upon you – every care or concern washes away!

You become big and my troubles become small.

No enemy can stand in the presence of my God.

There is so much to be thankful for this holiday season. Forgive me for forgetting at times. Help me to stay mindful of the blessings.

May my heart overflow with gratitude, kindness and compassion … to everyone I meet.

Like you Jesus ….. you left the synagogues in order to walk with others – may I do the same. We forget that all your ministry was outside the walls of the synagogue. Ministry was done in life. In people’s homes.

As you sat with the woman at the well … you listened, you entered into her world in order to point her to the true living water … help me to do the same.

To sit with those lost sheep, yes even those lost leaders … who have been cast aside. We will never win this battle with darkness if your whole body is not alive and moving. A body can’t run if it has no feet. It can’t serve food to the hungry without any hands. It can’t create new life if the vocal cords have been cut out.

God, restore your body. Bring back to life the dry bones and those members of the body that are lying in the wasted wilderness due to persecution and rejection in your bride!

Every single person matters to God. They ought to matter to us. Every single person is needed for the body to function. We must bring back to life – every dry bone, every missing piece of the body!

What is our part in the restoration of someone’s calling?

May I see those dry bones as you do. May I weep.

May I feel the compassion that Nehemiah felt when he saw the wall of Jerusalem destroyed,

May this be the season of rebuilding those broken down walls in people’s lives and in the life of the Church.

May I love as you do!

May I not turn my face away from those who are suffering but rather shine a light for them … that helps them find the pathway back to you!

For you – are the only solution to every man or woman’s problem.

May all that I do reflect your name well this holiday season.

May it start in my own home first … in the secret places of my heart … may it all start there.

I need your sustaining grace Lord Jesus to be like you – who is LOVE. In my flesh – there is no love …. only self and in self …. there is no love.

“Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me.” Yes Lord, help me to do that.

Amen.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today, I just felt led to write a blog to my dad to wish him a very happy birthday!  I felt God wanted me to share this here.  I pray for all of you who have lost loved ones recently – that your heart remains open to God and to others in your time of loss.   Keep a transparent heart.  God can always move in and through a heart that remains open.

dad & I

Happy Birthday Dad!

We all miss you and love you so very much.

We are all so thankful for the opportunity God gave us to love you and to serve you in your final month with us.  I can’t believe it has been 2 months since the Lord took you home.  The memories of those final days are fading.  I kind of wish they were more etched into my memory – even though they were memories of so much suffering.

Although in the suffering there was so much of God’s love, presence and power.

I know it was so hard for you … to have to let us take care of you to the level that we did.  I know it must of been so hard for you … to let me …. your daughter care for you … to change your diaper and to clean you up on a daily basis.

I will never forget the little jokes we made during those days. I’m smiling right now thinking of them!  So many of them – I can’t even share on this blog!

I know you asked God to take you home to be with Him … with dignity and with little suffering but I think God allowed some of that … in order to tear down any walls that were standing between our hearts.  To take down the pride that kept us both from loving each other the way God would want us to.

God wanted you to know – how much He loved you by sending all of us to care for you in the hour of your greatest need.

YES – to reveal a God who says “I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you – no matter what”!

This is the kind of God that we have – a God who NEVER steps out of relationship with us … even if we become a major pain in the butt!

God goes after those lost sheep.  He intentionally pursues those who are hurting and broken.

God’s love stays present!  Always.

This is the amazing GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL!

If anything – this is when God comes closer to us … this is when His love reaches deeper!  He is nothing like the flesh of man.

You, my precious daddy … through your death and birthing into eternal life  – gave us this gift!

Your suffering taught us all more and more about true Biblical love.

Yes, to walk the road to Calvary with you – never leaving your side …. even for a moment  …. was the greatest gift God has given me to date!

God taught us all what Biblical love truly means by caring for you.

He showed me on the deepest of levels that faith without action is a dead faith!  Love without action is a dead love!

Through serving you – God showed me that saying “I love you” and living “I love you” are two radically different concepts.  How true Biblical love is packed with action.  It means showing up and revealing the nature of Christ to someone in their hour of need.

It is seeing the need and responding to God’s Spirit with a “yes Lord, send me”!  It means having a heart and a life that is void of self for the sake of others.

Like Mary, Mary and John …. mom, Mike, the boys and I stayed by your side.  (And Doug and Nathan too).

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Watching your body begin to wither away.  Watching and weeping as we had to watch you .. lose your ability to even drink water.

I will never forget me holding your hand that day and you telling me how people should be thankful that they can simply take a sip of water.

You deeply missed drinking water and of course your favorite grapefruit juice.

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In your death, you saw so many of the little things that we all take for granted.

Simple ways our body functions – like in our ability to drink water.

Then … to watch you no longer be able to eat the food that you loved.  I sure wish you would of gotten your Ruth Chris steak in that final week of life here.

Then … to watch you as your heart began to fail and as you began to suffocate on the fluid in your lungs.  Hearing this tore my heart apart.  Finally, I understood the weeping of Mary, Mary and John as they beheld their love … Jesus in his hour of death.  I never had to walk so closely to someone as they left this life … forever.

I do remember laying in bed every night listening to you through the baby monitor – begging the Lord to end your misery and to take you home.   Tears streaming down my face as I heard the visible signs of suffering.

Honestly dad, I didn’t like praying that prayer.  I wanted God to heal you but I knew He was healing you by taking you home.  I had to surrender to God’s will.  I had to, through much tears, let you go.

I remember you sitting there in the hospital bed at home, asking me to “agree” with you in the prayer to go home to be with the Lord.

And so, I did.

Because I knew it was the right thing to do and that it was God’s will.  But it was the most heart wrenching prayer I’ve ever had to pray to date.

Why? Because I know the power of agreeing prayer.  I knew once we all released you – the time would come shortly that God would take you home.

I knew it was time we all said goodbye to what we knew here on this earth and to put our faith into the reality of heaven.  It was “by faith” we released you.

In fact, God showed me in a dream the week before you died – of the angels that were being sent to escort you into His presence.  They were so beautiful and the only thing that was present in the dream was peace.  The Prince of Peace was preparing the way.

The dream brought me so much comfort knowing God was preparing your way home.

It was a hard but good journey with you, dad.

To see my daddy, the man who was always so big, so strong, so powerful, so loving … the man who always took care of his family no matter what … now SO weak, SO fragile, SO broken and yet – so strong in your spirit.   Your body became weak but your spirit became so MIGHTY!

Seriously dad, I am still in awe of your great faith in our Lord Jesus Christ as you entered into the valley of the shadow of death.

As you faced death – you feared nothing!  And I mean that.  Nothing.  Your faith was rock solid each step of the way.

I watched you … in every single step, in every conversation with the doctors, every decision we made together – I saw you walk in great faith – and surrendered to the will of God and his choice for when you lived and … when you died.

You seriously kept the key to life and death in God’s hands.  You didn’t leave it in the doctor’s hands and their words they spoke – nor did you place it in your own abilities.  You kept surrendering to the will of God verbally each day.

Your faith sustained all of us as we walked this road to Calvary together.

“By the grace of God, here go I”   or “what will be, will be”.

Not my will, but Yours be Done – O’God!

In every moment, you were ready to go and be with your Lord.  In fact, you longed for Him.  You ached for Him!  You looked forward to a life … lived forever with your God.

You wanted to know what your assignment would be in heaven.  And you couldn’t wait to get there to know what it was!  You believed in heaven.  You believed in an eternal life forever with your God.

I am not sure I would have this kind of faith if I was facing death head on like you did.  O

h that the grace of God would hold onto me, like He was holding onto you!

Your faith touched my heart deeply and I know it ministered to others too – as I shared your journey on Facebook and here on my blog.  People would email me and message me about how your faith in the midst of death inspired them.

As Christians, so many of us fear death. They fear leaving their loved ones.  They doubt whether heaven really exists.

I mean, think about it.  Heaven is really a faith issue.

Can we believe in those things we can not see?

Can we choose to believe what God’s Word (the Bible) has to say about heaven and about all things?

Can we truly surrender and live a life in obedience to the Word of God and to do the will of God?

Are we willing to lay down self and all the way’s it manifests to try to get it’s own way?

You made peace with the reality of death and eternal life … when you were so young.

When you almost died as a child.  The seeds of faith were planted in your heart … and a hope of heaven never left your side.

For you, after that experience … every day was sacred.

Every life was sacred.  You saw each day as a gift.

I have to tell you though …. that every day since you entered into eternal life … I wish in my heart … that God would of given us more time with you living in California.  I have no regrets other than more time with you here.  To have you take part in the things we do each day.

For years, I wanted you and mom to move here.

To have you apart of our daily lives.

But I know that was not God’s will at the time.

When you called in August to say you were moving to California – I was so beyond excited.  To have you less than a mile away … was a dream come true.  To know you wanted to be with us as you entered into the “cancer storm” – blessed us tremendously.

We would of loved for you to see Christian’s senior year of basketball …. especially after you poured so much into studying the game and coaching him in this passion of his.

You deeply believed in your grandchildren.  You loved them and supported them in so many ways – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially.

You were such a giver – always putting yourself and your own needs last for the sake of your children and grandchildren.  This is a huge legacy you are leaving us!

Dad, this is what we all loved about you so very much.  You truly represented the heart of our heavenly Father who sent His son to enter into our world – to reveal true Biblical love.

Love leaves the world of self … in order to enter into the world of another.

You did this constantly with your grandkids dad and by doing so – you revealed to me the Father … who loves.

If they were interested in anything – then you would learn, study and emerge yourself in that “thing” in order to connect deeply with your grandkids.

You didn’t expect them to enter into your world – you left your world and entered into theirs.

To me, this is LOVE.  This is true Biblical love that lays down self for the sake of others.

There is so much that I miss with you dad.

I miss calling you every night to make sure you were doing okay.  I miss using my iPhone to capture short video clips of what we are doing on any given day … especially at meal time because I know you loved food and you always loved to see what we were eating!

I miss taking video clips of our day trips to Tahoe, or Napa, or the ocean.

I miss texting you during Christian’s basketball games … to let you know the play by plays and the score of the game.

So MANY things I miss about you.

And yes, I even miss arguing with you!  You were as stubborn as an ox!  You were so bold in your opinions – it was hard for others to have any.

Although as much as you drove me nuts at times because you would talk more than you would listen – I miss this too.  Because your strengthen taught me how to fight (in a good way).   I would not have the voice I have today – had it not been through the adversity in our relationship.

All of it – was for God’s good.

I know dad, that today …. on your 82nd birthday … I know you are celebrating in heaven.  I know you are completely whole in the Father.  The other day in my time with the Lord – God reminded me that when we enter into eternal life – we are completely healed.  There is no pain, no suffering, no sickness, etc… and with that thought – I sobbed.  Knowing God has made you complete – brought great job to my heart.  Knowing you too, finally knew the Father’s great love for you – in all it’s fullness!

And that the Father has given you a very special assignment.  I know even though I miss you terribly – I know God’s will, His ways, His timing for all things – are always BEST!

God knew everything that was needed … and He made a way for your move here to be swift and fast!  He picked out the most PERFECT home for mom.  Less than a mile from our house and all the amenities she would need to be safe and sound – in our care.

God knew every little thing that was needed and he opened the doors one right after another.  God’s will led the way.

We have to keep trusting in Him and trusting in His goodness – even in seasons of intense pain, suffering and loss.  God will use all of it – to mold us into His image and to expand His presence in us!

I know you are watching out over us – I seriously can feel it every single day.

And I am so thankful for that.  I know you are praying for your family day and night – and I am WAY thankful for that too!  I sobbed the other day when the Lord reminded me of Hebrews 12:1-2 and how He said that you are not apart of those saints who are cheering us on!

I know that you longed for heaven and for the day you would meet your creator face to face.

And I am thankful you now get to be with Him!

Although, those of us here …. sure do miss you.

Spirit, your Bichon Frise … misses you too.  We are taking good care of him.

He is keeping mom company in her new little humble abode and he comes over for sleep overs quite a bit.

In fact, he is sleeping all snuggled up with me tonight.  I know he misses you.  I often whisper into his ear … your name (that papa loves him) and he gets those sad puppy dog eyes.

I let him smell your coat the other night, and he howled and cried.  I thought it would bring him comfort not make him more sad.  I didn’t know that it would evoke such a response in him.  Dogs are so smart.  I won’t be doing that again with him!

Although, I just give Spirit some extra love to remind him that he is loved and he is not forgotten and most of all – he is not alone.  It’s funny how dogs grieve and need to be comforted as well.

Anyways …. enough rambling dad!

Happy Birthday!

We all love you and miss you!

Although, even in our loss, in our grief and in our sadness – I have great peace knowing you are hanging with the three main loves of my life – my Abba, Jesus and the Holy Spirit!

You are hanging with the God who created the heavens and the earth and with the God who put ALL things under their feet.

AND you get to sit in the full revelation and understanding of who God truly is – how amazing that must be for you!  You get all of God – not the mere glimpses that we do.

Love you dad … my big flower!

Talk to you again soon!

Me

Spiritual Abuse … It’s a Real Deal

Spiritual abuse is toxic and lethal.  It truly destroy’s peoples lives and it does so with a spiritual twist. Spiritual abusers use the name of God and the principle’s of God to control and manipulate people.

At the very heart beat of spiritual abuse is a misuse of one’s leadership, one’s power and one’s spiritual standing in order to hurt others (either intentionally or unintentionally).

A picture of spiritual abuse would be like … a shepherd carrying a rod/staff of spiritual authority and there would be the blood of a sheep (or many) on the shepherd’s staff.   How the shepherd uses this staff to lead others is key – it is either healthy or unhealthy.  Loving or murderous.  Leading as a servant or as a king.  A shepherd will either lead by making the sheep be like him … or the shepherd will lead by helping the sheep mature into being who they are called to be by God.

We could even possibly see this same shepherd using his or her staff to beat the sheep by speaking out ungodly words that cause the sheep to bleed … or hanging it over their heads while shaking it using fear and control to get the sheep to do what the shepherd is wanting.

Question is what is happening with the shepherd?  With the sheep?  With the use of the staff?  Is the sheep bleeding and if so, why?

What did the shepherd do to the sheep to cause it to bleed?  Is the shepherd mending the very sheep that it just beat up with it’s words or unkind actions?

As Christians, we are called into the sheep ministry.  We are called to heal, mend, mature and help the sheep grow into vibrant sheep!   We are called to be bearers of life and not death.

What we do as leaders – will ensure that our sheep are healthy and vibrant – or wounded and bleeding.  Every single decision we make and how we respond to people … will either glorify God or it won’t.

We must never forget that the spiritual condition of the sheep falls into the hands of the shepherd (the leader).

Accountability is essential to healthy leadership.

Spiritual abuse is not uncommon in Christian organizations and with Christian leaders.  It is a topic, I believe, every Christian leader and team should study together – to be sure that the enemy doesn’t get into their leadership system.

If the enemy is planning to blow up your church or ministry – this IS the way he will try to do it.  He will try to get the leaders to hurt those he or she is called to lead.  He will do so with a leader who is unwilling to walk in humility.

As any sort of leader, we must be cleaning our shepherd’s staff and we must be willing to allow others to tell us when we are using our staffs inappropriately and when the blood of a sheep is on our staff.

That sheep could be someone in our church, our child, our student, etc…

A humble leader will be willing to go to the one who he or she has hurt … and do whatever is necessary to make it right if they hear a sheep is bleeding.

Godly sorrow …. will lead the way.

Even if it is subtle misuse of our leadership – we must openly talk about this issue.

Not to shame other leaders – but to ensure Godly leadership.  To ensure that the enemy doesn’t get any inroads.  To stop any movement of the enemy and to restore the movement of God.

Revival is much deeper than having a worship service or a prayer meeting.  It involves the deep issues of the human heart.  It involves extremely deep repentance.  It involves seeing those dark places in us and asking God to revive us from the inside out.

We clean our staff by humbly repenting and forgiving.

By allowing others to show us when we are using our staff inappropriately.

This is the mark of a Godly and maturing leader – they want to use their staffs well and to honor God with it!  They want life to be the result of how they use their staff and not death.

Humility is essential for spiritual health and well being.  It is at the heart beat of a move of God’s Spirit.

True humility is one that heals the wounded sheep; it is not the one that has a bended knee on a stage in order to look humble.

In the past, I have studied the book, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” with many of the leadership teams I have led – in order to talk opening about how and where we all see this abuse operating in our own hearts and lives.

This is a powerful way to ensure Godly leadership on your teams.  It is making a way to discuss any darkness that might be operating.

To talk about this topic very openly.

And to have all the main leaders involved in this study and to allow people the freedom to disagree!

Submission and unity doesn’t mean uniformity.

An abuser will want everyone conforming to their perspective and will use Scripture to manipulate people to their position.  If they want to move in a certain direction, they will use force to move people that way.  They use fear and control.

People become afraid to speak up in the presence of spiritual abuser that something is wrong or ungodly out of fear that they will be the one as labeled as the trouble maker or as the one bringing forth the “issues”.

People who label and judge others in this way – are really immature leaders who have yet to see that all issues lead us to the opportunity to be more like Christ and to reveal him to others.

Every issue gives us an opportunity to bring Jesus into the middle of that issue and to redeem it for LIFE.  An issue might just be God wanting to reveal to all parties how they all might be more like Him in the middle of that sort of issue.

A leader must be willing to be held accountable.  To seeing accountability as life giving.

To allow God to remove any and all the signs of ungodly leadership so that more and more LIFE can flow from you and from those you lead.

If the enemy is going to take out a ministry or a church – he will try to use spiritual abuse to blow it sky high.  This was the issue with Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll.  Spiritual abuse on so many levels.

The enemy will seek to use abusive people to hurt others.  He will use leaders who are unwilling to be humble and accountable.

Leaders who are unwilling to step back and to view a situation from all sides in order to ask the question – how might Christ reign in this?

How might Christ reign in me?

Spiritual abuse lacks spiritual wisdom.  It lacks humility, meekness and simple goodness.  Spiritual abuse if void of the fruit of the spirit.

We have to be on guard for the Pharisee sort of behavior in all of us … and we have to do so – by talking openly and honestly about areas in our lives where we are not reflecting Christ well.  We all have them.

Do we have people in our lives we are talking to each week about those areas of our lives that God is in the midst of healing and redeeming?

If we are humble and meek and want to glorify God – we will welcome the exhortations to be more like Christ from others.

We will not respond like a cobra with our pride …. ready to bite and attack the one bringing forth an ungodly concern.

We will have ears to hear what the Lord might be wanting to say through others.  We have to step back and to evaluate things with Godly wisdom which is pure and holy.

We should want to know when we are grieving the heart of God or even hurting the life of a sacred soul.

We should want to know if our staff has just drawn blood from a sheep.

We should want others to help us to see how we are using our leadership staffs and when we might be swinging them in a way that is about to hurt someone.

We should be distilling other leaders on how to use their staff in a way that is powerful and effective, flowing with love, grace, compassion and mercy.

We should want to know if and when we have drawn blood on a sheep due to an action with our leadership.  Due to unkind words, or texts, or emails sent.

We should want accountability.

Repentance and forgiveness are THE two main spiritual principles that will keep any person and ministry spiritually clean.

At the heartbeat of both of those two principles is a heart that is humble and wants to love God well with their actions.

This past weekend at our church, we had a guest speak – Chris Brown come visit us.  He mentioned how Christian’s are some of the most hated people on the planet and I have to agree with him.

I believe Christian’s are hated for … at times, good reason.  We have failed to represent the man CHRIST JESUS.  We have failed to bring forth a true revelation of Him by how we live our lives and in what we say to others with our words.  There is a huge margin gap in what we say and in how we live.

I seriously believe …. we … as God’s ambassadors have lost sight of the fact that our HIGHEST calling is to represent the person of Jesus well to others.

It is not being the next Billy Graham, or making a million dollars by building a successful business.

It is showing up every day and having the fruit of God’s Spirit leading us.

I am exhorting myself too with this post today!

This is what my heart wants!

God, help me be more like you!  I want this!  I want the world to know you are real by how I live my life!

PREACH THE GOSPEL – and only if necessary – use words.

Being like Christ, doesn’t mean we are perfect and that we will do things right as Christians all the time.

We all fail and we are all in process in our faith journey with God.  We will make mistakes.  We will say and do some really stupid things.

The question though – how will we handle it when we do?

Will we humble ourselves and repent?

Will we allow others to take a mirror up to ourselves and show us how we are using our leadership staffs (gifts)?

Will we be willing to humbly repent when we have drawn blood on a sheep?

Or will our pride rise up to defend ourselves and our position?  Will our pride rise up to defend others or will we truly sit back to see as God sees?  To speak as God speaks?  To love as God loves?

Will we use our position and power to put people back in their places?

Will we bend down to wash the feet of those that we are called to love and to serve?

Will Godly sorrow move us?

We have to become people who can step back from any situation we lead … and take ownership for where we are failing to represent the name of Jesus to others.

We have to be willing to be accountable and to allow people to speak into our lives.  We have to allow others to hand us a mirror.

We have to – if we want to see God’s Kingdom win in this war against Satan.

I said it in a previous blog but I will say it again. God’s kingdom will never win if we don’t start helping to bring the body of Christ back alive.  In Ezekiel 37 … there is the valley of dry bones.  This is what happens in the body of Christ where as a result of spiritual abuse – we cut off valued parts of the body and leave them to rot and die.  This is what happens when we don’t see that every single person is HIGHLY valuable to God.  We have to be about the restoration of God’s people – His leaders and we have to reverse the work of spiritual abuse and the religious spirit.

We have to be willing to see the dark sides of ourselves so that Christ’s love can fill even more of us.

Our aim must be – for God’s perfect love to refine us and grow us and mature us!  For love to reign and for God to uproot the Pharisee in all of us.

Saying we are Christian’s is not enough – we must begin living like Him – if we want the world to know He is real and that He exists!

We have to take our name “Christian” seriously and with great reverence.   We have to see how spiritual abuse is operating in our lives, in our homes, in our churches, in our schools  … and we must allow God to make us holy from the inside out.  To be holy doesn’t mean religious.  It means to become like Christ.

We must desire the fruit of God’s Spirit to be leading us in every interaction we have with people.  And when it isn’t – we got back and repent and really mean it with Godly sorrow.  Humility.

Listed below is something I found on the internet.  I don’t know the woman who made this list. However, I did feel it was very good and accurate.  I loved some of her points and it makes for a great list to pray through – to ask God to examine our hearts.  Psalm 139:23-24 is a prayer – asking God to test our hearts and to search for all the ways we might be grieving the heart of God.  May today be a day we ask Him to probe the depths of our hearts in order to remove any and all spiritual abuse from our midst.  Amen.

God, help us to be more and more like you!

Spiritually abusive people and/or ministries …. 

  1. Have a distorted view of respect. They forget the simple adage that respect is earned, not granted. Abusive leaders demand respect without having earned it by good, honest living.
  2. Demand allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ. It’s either his/her way or no way. And if a follower deviates, he is guilty of deviating from Jesus.
  3. Use exclusive language. “We’re the only ministry really following Jesus.” “We have all the right theology.” Believe their way of doing things, thinking theologically, or handling ministry and church is the only correct way. Everyone else is wrong, misguided, or stupidly naive.
  4. Create a culture of fear and shame. Often there is no grace for someone who fails to live up to the church’s or ministry’s expectation. And if someone steps outside of the often-unspoken rules, leaders shame them into compliance. Can’t admit failure but often searches out failure in others and uses that knowledge to hold others in fear and captivity. They often quote scriptures about not touching God’s anointed, or bringing accusations against an elder. Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing critics.
  5. Often have a charismatic leader at the helm who starts off well, but slips into arrogance, protectionism and pride. Where a leader might start off being personable and interested in others’ issues, he/she eventually withdraws to a small group of “yes people” and isolates from the needs of others. Harbors a cult of personality, meaning if the central figure of the ministry or church left, the entity would collapse, as it was entirely dependent on one person to hold the place together.
  6. Cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual information. Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it.
  7. Demand servanthood of their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives. They live aloof from their followers and justify their extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges.
  8. Buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader. Views those who bring up issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.
  9. Hold to outward performance but rejects authentic spirituality. Places burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle.
  10. Use exclusivity for allegiance. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like insiders. Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.