Grace in the Dark - Post #27

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Hi Everyone! So sorry for the delay! Summer became very hectic. You too? So now we are starting Chapter 4 of Grace in the Dark, the book I am prayerfully writing. Don’t worry if you are just joining, I believe you can still receive quite a bit from this teaching. Unfortunately, this is the rough draft of this chapter and I know it will undergo many edits. Nevertheless, let’s get started!

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“Just stop it!”

The crowd of pastors broke out into laughter when Pastor Jerry Cook exclaimed this phrase – just stop it – was the key to all counseling. Pastor Jerry was the keynote speaker at a large gathering of pastors who full well knew that if they could stop folks from the behaviors that beset their lives, all would be better for them. Nevertheless, Pastor Jerry knew better, too – people can’t just stop a lot of their unhealthy behaviors, but boy oh boy if they could. If we could. If I could have.

If I could have stopped binging and purging, if I could have stopped fantasizing and day-dreaming hours on end, and if I could have stopped the little blue cloud of depression that seemed to follow me everywhere – well, I would have. But I couldn’t stop.

The agreements we make with the enemy about the lies he whispers to us about ourselves and about God become places of bondage. Bible teacher Beth Moore explains that a stronghold of behavior in our lives is exactly that: a place – the topos Paul spoke of – where the enemy has a strong hold on us.

We wonder why we can’t just stop. Or why we can muster up enough gumption to have self-control for a few days, maybe a few weeks, but then fall off the wagon again. Like a hamster on a wheel, we think if we just keep at it, someday all of our prayers and trying harder will finally break the back of the weight of sin we carry in certain areas of our lives.

When we can’t seem to say no, or we are unable to go for very long without indulging in the habits or hang-ups that plague us, our inability to choose the right path may indicate an area of our souls where demonic oppression may be harassing us. Now, don’t become alarmed regarding this possibility. Oh my, I know it sounds terrible. The thought of demons conjures up all kinds of images and fears, however, God’s Word tells us the truth about these limited beings.

Most Bible scholars agree that our adversary, the devil, was most likely an anointed cherub (Ezekiel 28:14-15) whom God created. The enemy was cast out of heaven when his heart became filled and lifted-up with pride and he attempted to call himself a god (Ezekiel 28:2-6,17). With Satan’s fall, it is believed that a third of God’s angelic beings went with him (Revelation 12:4). Nevertheless, the devil is in no way a peer of God and he is absolutely unlike our Heavenly Father in every way…

 

·        He is finite – he is one being

·        He is not omnipresent – he can only be in one place at a time

·        He is not omniscient – he is not all-knowing

·        He is not omnipotent – he is not all-powerful

·        He has a little bit of might – but he is not the Almighty God

·        He is a liar, deceiver, and accuser

·        He has never and will never reign supreme (Revelation 20:10)

The devil’s minions – the fallen angels, recognized by the Bible as demon spirits – have no physical form. The Greek New Testament word for spiritpneuma – means breath, breeze, wind. These formless spirits have little to no power except for what we allow them to have. As we read about Jesus’ earthly life and ministry through the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – we discover that approximately a third of His ministry dealt with facing demonic oppression head on in people. Jesus broke the hold and influence of varying demonic spirits within them – either physically, mentally, or emotionally –and He cast these badgering demons from the individual’s life.

Many of us today think the work of demons is long gone and over. We may consider that in this day and age, we are simply too sophisticated and knowledgeable to think they still exist. Nevertheless, if we believe the whole God’s Word, we must recognize this truth that Lord Jesus spoke of the devil as the ruler of this world (John 12:31, John 16:11.) Until Christ returns to reign over this planet, the devil, through his ungodly spirit hordes, still attempts to ensnare us today. Do you see the possibilities in your own life where you may have a stronghold that you can’t seem to get past?

To be continued in the next post…

Grace in the Dark - Post #26

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So sorry for the day delay! The twin’s (granddaughters) birthday party! Today, we complete Chapter 3…His Platform of grace…

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You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. John 15:3

New York Times best-selling author, Bob Goff, shares a story of when he was broadsided in his jeep by Lynn, an elderly woman who could not forgive herself for causing the accident. And she simply couldn’t believe Bob had forgiven her for causing him to be ejected from his vehicle. He finally sent her a huge basket of flowers to remind her, finally, that he had completely forgiven her:

I think Lynn got the message. I was fine, and I wanted her to be fine too. I wanted her to forgive herself, to realize we all make mistakes. I’m glad I ran into Lynn, and I’m glad she kept calling too. It taught me something about faith. It taught me that when God is big enough and loves me enough to say He forgives me, I should actually believe Him. I mean, I shouldn’t keep feeling bad about all of the times I’ve messed up because that’s ignoring what God said, just like Lynn ignored what I said. When I don’t trust God’s forgiveness, it’s like saying I really don’t believe He’s that good. Lynn made me think I should stop asking God to forgive me over and over when He’s made it clear He already has.[i]

We are not only clothed in God’s righteousness; we are completely forgiven.

Our Heavenly Father has completely forgiven us. Absolutely. Completely. Totally. Conclusively. He has forgiven you and me.

Again, it doesn’t matter whether we feel it or not. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Scriptures cannot lie. Page upon page we read that forgiveness is ours.

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His (Jesus) own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12 (emphasis, mine)

In the middle of our temptations, failures, and habitually bad behaviors, Jesus is with us. His shed blood is enough – more than enough to wipe clean the stain of our sin past, present, and future. This is His grace revealed. The more quickly we seize this truth and invite Him into the middle of our stumbling, the more quickly genuine freedom can begin. And, the more intentionally we choose to stand on the platform of His undeniable forgiveness, the sooner we will sense His Spirit within us supplying tangible peace in our emotions. We can stop battling the guilt that overwhelms us and takes up so much of our time, thoughts, and emotions. Instead, we can divert our energy and prayers to focus on the real roots of our problems – our brokenness and any stronghold where we may have allowed the enemy to set up shop in our soul and torment us.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 NLT (emphasis, mine)

Most certainly, there may be consequences for our struggles in the dark. We often do reap what we sow.[ii] We do stupid things – don’t we? Nevertheless, when we reap the consequences of our foolishness, His grace provides all we need to walk through and out of the repercussions of our ill-advised choices with His wisdom, not ours. We will discuss this further in this book. Jessie did lose almost all her close friends. However, as she began slowly receiving Jesus’ complete forgiveness and His grace in her struggle, she positioned herself for the Lord to bring new people to surround and encourage her life of faith. Soon, she became a part of a thriving ministry to help others find freedom.

Acknowledging our sin is powerful, cleansing, and necessary.[iii] Nevertheless, when we wallow in guilt and condemnation, we deny the priceless sacrifice of Jesus’ death. It is time for us to accept His grace in the dark to step out of our muck and mire and plant our feet squarely upon the amazing platform of forgiveness He has provided for us. And then, His all-sufficient grace can begin to loosen us from the knots and ties that bind us, and lead us into genuine freedom.

How does that sound? It is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


[i] Bob Goff, Love Does (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2012), 124.

[ii] Galatians 6:7-8

[iii] 1 John 1:9, Psalm 51

Grace in the Dark - Post #25

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We continue in Chapter #3 of Grace in the Dark, opening the Scriptures to His truth about our righteousness in Him. Below is a story of a dear friend and her walk in the power of this truth…

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There comes a point in every Christian believer’s life where we must fully base our trust upon what God’s Word states as fact, irrespective of what we feel or what we have done. God is greater than our heart (our emotions) and knows all things – is what God’s Word tells us.[i]

Author and speaker Joyce Meyer writes;

How much time do you waste living under guilt and condemnation? Notice I said how much time do you waste, because that is exactly what all that kind of thinking is, a waste of time!

Don’t think about how terrible you were before you came to Christ. Instead think about how you have been made the righteousness of God in Him. Remember; thoughts turn into actions. If you ever want to behave any better, you have to change your thinking first. Keep thinking about how terrible you are, and you will only act worse. Every time a negative, condemning thought comes to your mind, remind yourself that God loves you, that you have been made the righteousness of God in Christ.[ii]

Jessie had blown it. Big time. Caught in the arms of a close friend’s husband, well, you can only imagine the fireworks, hurt, and pain. She hadn’t desired the attention, but sexual abuse in her childhood and a difficult marriage caused her to be both vulnerable to the friend’s attention and repel it at the same time. She feared she would not be believed if she shared with anyone about the man’s advances because she had not been believed in her youth when her stepfather had taken advantage of her. 

This event took place in the church where Randy and I were pastors. Only a few months before this incident occurred, the large healthcare organization I worked for had moved my employment into the same building Jessie worked in. Because of my relocation, I had the opportunity to minister to Jessie through this difficult time in her life in which she had lost most of her close friends because of what had taken place in her tight-knit circle. Unfortunately, people within the church took sides and many of them did not land in Jessie’s camp. Nevertheless, I recognized that Jessie’s situation could have easily been my own story several years prior. I promised to walk her through her pain into greater freedom in Christ no matter how long it might take.

Guilt, shame, dread – these were Jessie’s new best friends. The weight of guilt she felt was almost too much to bear. She told me if she hadn’t had her three children to care for and her husband who was willing to work a little harder at their marriage, she would have ended her life. But Jesus. There is nothing any one of us can ever do to separate us from His love – His grace extends to our darkest hours.[iii]

Slowly Jessie began to open her life up to receive the long-needed healing from the sexual abuse and abandonment of her early childhood. One day, next to the copier in my office area, Jessie allowed the Lord Jesus to replace lies that she believed about herself from her youth. He delved specifically into the root of where these falsehoods had lodged in her soul. He spoke truth into her heart. He set her free from years of enemy bondage. As the Holy Spirit began to go deep into her brokenness, He brought healing balm to the wounded areas of her heart and mind. His Word bore the truth of the Father’s absolute forgiveness for her based upon the finished work of His Son.[iv]

Still, each morning, as Jessie rose from her bed, condemnation came calling. She counter-acted the guilt with each step to the coffeemaker by rehearsing the truth of God’s Word:

I am forgiven.

Jesus’ sacrifice was enough.

He is making me new.

He has made me clean.

Some days of truth-telling were better than others, but she persevered. Reaching into her closet each day to pick outfit for work, Jessie declared, “I am clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, I am forgiven, I have purpose, Jesus loves me.” For her, this was grace in the dark in action. Receiving what God said over what she felt and heard in her mind. And as always, grace wins. Truth triumphs over lies.

[i] 1 John 3:20

[ii] Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind (New York, NY: Faith Words, Hachette Book Group, 1995, 2016), 172.

[iii] Romans 8:35-39

[iv] John 19:30

Grace in the Dark - Post #24

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Hi Everyone! Did you notice I didn’t post last week? Our whole family was on vacay!

Now, as we head into a new week and because of all the trajedy experienced in our globe this week, we need Jesus’ grace in the dark more than ever in our personal lives and to extend to others. Let’s continue reading in Chapter #3 as we discuss the Platform of His Grace:

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It doesn’t matter what we feel or don’t feel. The truth of God’s Word is unchanging: those who receive Jesus’ finished work on the cross have been given His perfect righteousness. When we are in the storms of temptation and failure with habitual behaviors and addictions, our first steppingstone to freedom is our faith in the finished work of Jesus’ sacrifice.

 

For if our heart condemns us,

God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

1 John 3:20

 

We may feel guilt and condemned – but those feelings aren’t from Jesus! No way. God and His Word are greater still.

 

Oh my. Some of us don’t feel like we are good Christians if we aren’t carrying a boatload of guilt and shame. Me too. I wanted Jesus to know how genuinely sorry I was for – everything. I was, and still am, sincerely remorseful for the junk in my life. Nevertheless, to stay, abide, dwell, or live constantly in the grip of guilt and condemnation denies the work of His horrendous sacrifice. It seems counterintuitive to receive His cleansing gift of grace, yet when we do, how much joy must it bring to His heart?

 

A few years ago, although I was beginning to experience greater freedom in of my life, I was having one of those moments where I pulled out the proverbial whip and was chastising myself in my thoughts. “Why did I say that? Why did I do that?” verbiage was still prevalent in my daily life. Unbidden – the Holy Spirit brought an image to my mind:

 

I saw a dining room table stacked high with dirty, food-caked dishes. Mound upon mound they were in messy piles all over the surface of the table. Bowls filled with moldy leftovers and plates with glued on food clumps. Do you get the picture? Out of the blue I saw a robed arm extended. Without question I knew in my heart it was the arm of Jesus.

 

Oh! The embarrassment of those messy piles of dishes! However, in one deliberate movement, His arm cleared the table of every piece of dingy dinnerware. Clattering, breaking on the floor upon impact, each piece was removed from the table’s surface. And before I knew it, Jesus had replaced the table’s holdings with a pristine white tablecloth, fine china, silver settings, crystal goblets, and flowers everywhere. I heard Him say firmly into my heart, “I don’t want you to ever beat yourself up again. Those thoughts are to be removed, just like those dirty dishes, and replaced by My truth.”

 

Have those “beat-myself-up” thoughts ever come my way again? Oh, you bet! However, they no longer have a hold upon me and are now cut off at the pass as soon as I am aware of them. I see those dirty dishes on the floor and there is no way I am going to let them back upon the table of my thoughts.

 

Freedom! Can you imagine how much more time is available to me now that I have cleaner, clearer thinking? Now that condemnation chatter has been silenced in my thoughts, I can better hear the Holy Spirit’s direction instead of wasting time and guilting myself. I seem to have much more time and clarity to deal with the real issues that are plaguing me. It’s not that I don’t confess my sin[i] which is oh so important in the life of a believer, but I no longer let guilt’s once tenacious grip keep me down for the count.

 

There comes a point in every Christian believer’s life where we must fully base our trust upon what God’s Word states as fact, irrespective of what we feel or what we have done. God is greater than our heart (our emotions) and knows all things – is what God’s Word tells us.[ii]


[i] 1 John 1:9

[ii] 1 John 3:20

Grace in the Dark - Post #23

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I hope y’all are having a fantastic summer!! Thanks for joining with me as we continue on the most beautiful place to stand - the platform of God’s total forgiveness. Let’s continue in Chapter #3 . . .

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The finished work of Jesus upon the cross destroyed the voice of guilt in our lives and the condemnation we feel. The resurrection of Jesus gives us the power to stand on His platform of unending forgiveness and the power to be transformed.[i] This is the work of His grace in our dark, from the inside out of our souls. This is abundant Christian living and reigning in life that Paul shares with us.

 

For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 (emphasis, mine)

Did you catch the phrase . . . much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness? Christ’s very own righteousness is imputed to us.

 

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

God’s righteousness is now ours, it cannot be worked for and cannot be earned. His righteousness, simply received by our simple faith, is the foundation of our right standing with God. Our filthy grave clothes of sin replaced by the snowy white robe of His “rightness,” even though our own perfection is light-years from the perfection of Him who holds the universe together.[ii]

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, Romans 4:20-24 (emphasis, mine)

The gift of God’s gracious, beyond-reason grace and righteousness are ours even in our darkest hours of sin and failure.

Priscilla Shirer writes:

But the cross really is the gift that keeps on giving. Because it didn’t just take something from us, it gave something miraculous to us . . .

When you trust Jesus as your personal Savior, the penalty of sin is removed and the gift of God’s own righteousness is given (imputed) to you. It is “credited” to your spiritual account. The perfection and holiness of God Himself has become yours in Christ...You no longer need to exhaust yourself striving for perfection. You are already completely, wholly, and perfectly righteous because of Christ’s gift to you.[iii]

[i] Ephesians 1:19-23

[ii] Isaiah 1:18

[iii] Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God (Nashville, TN: Lifeway Church Resources, 2015), 76-77.

Grace in the Dark - Post #22

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Let’s Continue on the Platform of Grace - Chapter #3:

Did you catch that? Only Jesus can do the work of extricating us from the tyranny of darkness. And the next exclamation for the believer from Paul’s lips is:

  • No more condemnation

  • No more accusation

  • No load of guilt to bear

Yet why did I, like so many others, wear guilt as robe made of iron around my life for decades?

We can look back to the scourge of the twin sisters of pride and shame we have in our lives. Shame that infiltrates our soul whispering, “You really won’t ever rise above your weakness and failings.” So, we try harder to do better and pride raises her ugly head to mask our shame and say, “I can do anything I want, I can change this behavior. I know I can lick this ________ (fill in the blank with the struggle) and prove to everyone that I do have worth.”

“Why did I say that!!?

“Why did I do that again!!?”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Lord!”

 

I know I am not the only one who has ever experienced this. Whenever I share this portion of my freedom story about the devastating guilt that beat me down, I inevitably see nodding heads in agreement all over the room. These folks, as well, have battled condemnation’s lash marks upon the backs of their minds.

Especially those of us who are perfectionists. Or control freaks. Ahem. You know who you are, and truthfully, we are almost all perfectionists or controlling to some degree or another, in some area of lives. The danger is when our perfectionism drains over into our perception of how we live as Christians. The guilt can be crushing. When doing life perfectly equates to our value or worth, guilt rushes in to sabotage our thoughts and emotions when we have blown it once again; not living up to our own expectations for ourselves.

And yes, not only do we beat ourselves up, we have an accuser as well.

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. Revelation 12:10

Old Lucifer himself, the king of accusation and falsehood, comes dancing by our doorstep to sing into our ears, “There you go, again.” Although Satan is finite and not omnipresent, his demon horde accuses us just as well as he can. These unholy spirits can take advantage of our weaknesses and failings. They seem always nearby with a disparaging or accusing word to speak into our thoughts.[i] Along with our own accusatory voice, these weak spirits can keep us locked in various areas of struggles because we let them hold the key. The key of the guilt. The enemy whispers, we speak to ourselves, and the emotions of guilt, shame, and failure can seem overwhelming at times.

But no more.

[i] James 3:14-16

Grace in the Dark - Post #21

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Today we continue in Chapter 3, the Platform of Grace. And what a platform Lord Jesus has provided! Let’s read on…

Yet from Paul’s desperate cry, he moves us immediately toward the first step of finding freedom, not only from guilt itself, but from the very habits and traits that start the avalanche of guilt’s torment. In the very next verses in his letter to the Romans he shares with us:

I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 7:25, 8:1

Paul directs us toward one of the most important avenues to experiencing God’s grace in the dark and the power of His amazing grace to walk out of the dark into His light.

This is platform of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the platform that removes guilt and condemnation and becomes our launching pad from life’s hang-ups and hurts into the abundant life Jesus extends to His children.[i] This platform cannot be added to or subtracted from. He alone – fully God, sinless man . . .

  • Paid the penalty for our sin – our having missed the mark of God’s holiness.[ii]

  • Satisfied the wrath of God for our unholiness, as well as our un-wholeness.[iii]

  • Once-and-for-all was the only sacrifice needed and acceptable to God.[iv]

  • Made available the complete and total forgiveness of our sins.[v]

  • Defeated the power of death and the devil.[vi]

  • Delivered us from condemnation and the power of guilt and shame.[vii]

  • Imputed – gave to us freely – His righteousness.[viii]

  • Restored our lost dominion and authority.[ix]

The defeat and despair of Romans 7 takes us directly in the triumph of Romans 8. The turning point takes place in the last verse of chapter 7 when Paul seems to shout to us through the ages that only Jesus can free us from the law and work of sin and darkness in our lives.

I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Did you catch that? Only Jesus can do the work of extricating us from the tyranny of darkness. And the next exclamation for the believer from Paul’s lips is:

No more condemnation

No more accusation

No load of guilt to bear

(We will continue in Chapter 3, next week! Thanks for hanging with me!)

[i] John 10:10

[ii] Romans 5:6

[iii] 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:23-24

[iv] Hebrews 7:27

[v] Ephesians 1:7-8

[vi] Hebrews 2:14

[vii] Romans 8:1

[viii] 2 Corinthians. 5:21

[ix] Luke:10:17-20

Grace in the Dark - Post #20

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Finally! We are beginning Chapter 3 - “The Platform of Grace”

Since we are now joined to Christ,

we have been given the treasures of redemption by his blood—

the total cancellation of our sins—

all because of the cascading riches of his grace.

Ephesians 1:7 TPT

I would beat myself up. Yes, I did. Yes, siree-bob I did.

No not with a whip or scourge, but in my head. Taunting, tormenting words clouded my thoughts every time I tripped up in life – which seemed to me, copious amounts of times every single day.

Why did I say that!!?

Why did I do that again!!?”

Why can’t I get past this!!?”

I vowed I wouldn’t do that, and here I have failed again!!?

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Lord!”

I have participated in enough pastoral counseling sessions through the years to know that I am not the only one who has had these conversations play out in their mind. Both men and women have told me they hear this same haranguing voice in their heads, beating themselves up with – guilt.

Oh yes, guilt! That feeling of never measuring up, failing, and being a disappointment to myself, to others, and most of all, to the Lord Jesus. The guilt that seemed to roar louder in my head than the truth of God’s grace. That black cloud that never hovered too far from my thoughts, pouring down a deluge of tyranny every time I stumbled. Not only when I fell into habits and behaviors unbecoming a Christian, but anytime I perceived that I had appeared less-than or foolish to others. You too?

  • Guilt. The whip that has driven so many away from faith because the torture of not measuring up to snuff is too heavy a load for a soul to carry.

  • Guilt. The driving force of religion and religious legalism to keep folks in line, under control, and manipulated.

  • Guilt. The shame that keeps on giving, declaring, “You will never be good enough or get life figured out, so why bother?”

  • Guilt. The dreaded emotion Paul talked about when he didn’t do what he should and did do what he shouldn’t have.

Yes, Paul recognized that guilt-whip himself. The darkness of unconquerable struggle within the human soul. He cried . . .

Oh, wretched man that I am![i]

Yet from Paul’s desperate cry, he moves us immediately toward the first step of finding freedom, not only from guilt itself, but from the very habits and traits that start the avalanche of guilt’s torment. In the very next verses in his letter to the Romans he shares with us:

I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Romans 7:25, 8:1

Paul directs us toward one of the most important avenues to experiencing God’s grace in the dark and the power of His amazing grace to walk out of the dark into His light.

[i] Romans 7:24

Grace in the Dark - Post #19

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Oh my goodness. I forgot to post this for Monday’s email. Today, let’s finish up chapter #2 of Grace in the Dark by looking at reasons why, as Spirit-filled Christians, we can still stumble…

Our next source of unwanted darkness that may cause us to struggle in our personal lives is our inheritance of generational tendencies – bondages – handed down to us through our families. This may include a single incident in an immediate family, but more likely these behaviors are a long line of issues that seem to permeate from great-grandparents, to grandparents, to parents, to us. Just like eye color, hair type, and facial features passed onto us, the hooks of the enemy and the environments from those who have lived before us can be woven into our personalities without any choice on our part.

 

Does my brother exhibit the same type of anger we see our father exhibit? Does my sister seem to sabotage her relationships just like Aunt Betty did? Does my child’s moodiness, reflect my own propensity to give place to emotions? The Scriptures tell us that generational hand-me-downs are not something to be ignored and they certainly play a part in some degree to our own plight.[i]

 

How often I swore I would not let pride rule my life as I watched my own dad’s struggle with it. However, it did. I also seemed to inherit a great batch of insecurity that preceded the pride just like him, too. I had no idea about his insecurities until he let me peruse an old diary of his from high school. Each page of this old leather-bound book journaled my dad’s deep insecurity. Even as you read this, I am sure you are rehearsing your own familial tendencies that are now yours to some degree. Right?

 

It doesn’t have to be a major trauma we may experience for us to allow enemy strongholds in our soul.  I am sure my own fourteen-year bout with bulimia arose from a seemingly innocuous event from with my third-grade class in elementary school.

 

I, along with my friends, was called by the teacher for the early morning line-up after a recess time. I trotted up with everyone to stand on the yellow marker, but some boys in my class began to chase one of my best friends around the line-up. My friend was pretty, petite, and with long blond hair. At the time, I was the tallest and chunkiest girl in my class with a mass of curly hair that went every which way! As I watched my friend being pursued by the boys, I entertained a whisper from the enemy that my appearance was everything and to be pretty and desirable was an indication of worth. This tiny wound to may soul had had far-reaching implications for my life!

As Paul wrote in Romans 7, our working harder and trying to do better to end our personal struggles often ends in frustrated guilt. Sin, unhealed wounds, and generational hand-me-downs may be at work in us and we wonder and question God why we can’t seem to stop these unwanted behaviors, addictions, and reactions. Oh, how we need His grace in the dark! His grace to not only save us, but to heal and deliver us – this is the power of the gospel of Jesus.

 

We read of Paul’s struggles that he recorded in Romans 7, however it is the very last verse of this chapter where we see the light at the end of our seemingly endless tunnel of personal darkness. Paul directly takes us into the first steps of God’s infinite grace for our finding freedom in Romans 8:1. Remember, at the time of Paul’s writings, there we no chapter and verse numberings or separations:

 

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

 

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Romans 7:24-25, 8:1

 

This is the beginning of His much-needed grace in the dark of our complexity. This is the platform of grace we stand upon to launch us from bondage into freedom. This is God’s lavish and gracious provision for us to take a step forward, holding His hand tightly as He walks us out of our soul’s struggles. Are you ready to take a leap forward onto the platform of His amazing grace?


[i] Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18

Grace in the Dark - Post #18

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Continuing in Chapter #2!

When a similar hurtful incident occurs later in our adolescence or adulthood, we may succumb to the reactions, emotions, or thoughts we initially made room for in our youth. When hurts, large or small, take place in our formative years, the enemy can create havoc in our souls – lies about ourselves and about God are his weapons of choice.

Take for example a parent’s divorce. Let’s say a dad or mom walks out the door and life is never the same it once was for the family. One sibling may say, “Good riddance!” and move on, seemingly unscathed by the trauma. The next sibling may believe that it is all their fault that the family split has happened. Sibling number three, may seethe in anger at the unfairness of it all. How the individual interprets the situation or allows the enemy to whisper into their ear can set up a lifetime of hurt whenever similar losses take place in the child’s future– i.e. the break-up of a girlfriend, the loss of a job, or a wayward child. A person may act out in their lives what they falsely believed to be true at the time of the first incident.

The child who believes the break-up of her family was her fault may find the wounds of the past resurfacing when, let’s say, a dear friend cancels a lunch date. Feelings of sadness beyond what might be considered normal arise or possibly they question themselves, “Did I do something wrong?” Tormenting thoughts of self-analyzation may happen as she turns over in her mind where she may have erred causing the friend to break the date. This unhealthy inward focus then spirals into dark places in her mind and heart that may take hours or days to recover from. Sound familiar?

Sibling number three from our example may struggle in adulthood with pornographic images. This temptation seems particularly hard to overcome when he experiences a boatload of blue feelings or disappointment. Self-pity may arise. Pornography, or any harmful indulgence, may be a self-medicating balm that feels deserved because, gosh darn, life is hard and unfair and I deserve some relief!

In their book, It’s Momplicated, about mother and daughter relationships, authors, Debbie Alsdorf and Joan Edwards Kay, relate their own dance with lies about themselves that they carried well into adulthood:

I wish this weren’t my story (Debbie writes). These kinds of life-shaping wounds go deep. My mother left her imprint on me, and it shaped me. And though it wasn’t all bad, I have spent years understanding the impact and unraveling the pain…I sought counseling in my fifties and was surprised to learn that a current situation was triggering feelings of rejection that had developed in my early relationship with my mother…It has been theorized that each of us holds three to five core lies about ourselves or God…[i]


[i] Debbie Alsdorf, Joan Edwards Kay, It’s Momplicated (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2018) 6, 154,158

Grace in the Dark - Post #17

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Hi Everyone!! Here Goes… We will just a few more weeks to finish Chapter #2. Suggestions? Comments?

Paul, the Apostle warns us to “not give place to the devil.”[i] This doesn’t mean our enemy can take possession of our lives, but we can allow him to oppress us or set up a stronghold in an area of our soul. The Greek word topos Paul uses here, translated as the English word place in his statement, is a noun defined as “a place, location, any portion or space marked off, a condition or station being held.” Figuratively the word is used as “an opportunity, a power, or occasion for acting.” Paul is telling us that we can give the devil an opportunity to have territory or topography in the way we think and feel.

 

For instance, if we experience a hurtful circumstance, especially in early childhood, and continually think about it, relive it, and in essence give place to it for any length of time in our thoughts and emotions, we may find ourselves unable to get past the hurt. We may interpret, or allow the enemy to interpret for us, the hurtful situation in the form of a lie about what really happened at the time of the incident.

 

Lies, unfortunately, are simply easier for us to believe. Choosing the truth about a situation almost always requires faith on our part. Jesus made a big deal about lies vs. truth, bondage vs. freedom, in John 8. In our early childhood, even if we were in the best of Christian homes, we seldom have the ability to process a hurtful circumstance correctly. These wounds may be rehearsed over and over again in our young hearts and minds with the possibility that we may believe the devil’s lies. These lies might concern our worth and abilities, or cause us to have insecurities, fears, or struggles in areas of faith that reach into our adulthood.

 

Remember, our adversary doesn’t play fair. When we dabble with his lies in our thoughts and emotions for any length of time, they can become like truth to us. This enables an unspoken agreement with them to be made that we may not even be aware is taking place. It is similar to when Paul wrote the Corinthian church not to be yoked with an unbeliever. He states, “what agreement does the temple of God (us!) have with idols.”[ii] Yet, we may create these agreements or unions with darkness anytime we choose a lie over God’s truth. We have opened the door for our adversary to ensnare us.

 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”

(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

 

When a similar hurtful incident occurs later in our adolescence or adulthood, we may succumb to the reactions, emotions, or thoughts we initially made room for in our youth. When hurts, large or small, take place in our formative years, the enemy can create havoc in our souls – lies about ourselves and about God are his weapons of choice.

 

Take for example a parent’s divorce. Let’s say a dad or mom walks out the door and life is never the same it once was for the family. One sibling may say, “Good riddance!” and move on, seemingly unscathed by the trauma. The next sibling may believe that it is all their fault that the family split has happened. Sibling number three, may seethe in anger at the unfairness of it all. How the individual interprets the situation or allows the enemy to whisper into their ear can set up a lifetime of hurt whenever similar losses take place in the child’s future– i.e. the break-up of a girlfriend, the loss of a job, or a wayward child. A person may act out in their lives what they falsely believed to be true at the time of the first incident.

 

The child who believes the break-up of her family was her fault may find the wounds of the past resurfacing when, let’s say, a dear friend cancels a lunch date. Feelings of sadness beyond what might be considered normal arise or possibly they question themselves, “Did I do something wrong?” Tormenting thoughts of self-analyzation may happen as she turns over in her mind where she may have erred causing the friend to break the date. This self-analyzation then spirals into dark places in her mind and heart that may take hours or days to recover from. Sound familiar?

 

Sibling number three from our example may struggle in adulthood with pornographic images. This temptation seems particularly hard to overcome when he experiences a boatload of blue feelings or disappointment. Self-pity may arise. Pornography, or any harmful indulgence, may be a self-medicating balm that feels deserved because, gosh darn, life is hard and unfair and I deserve some relief!

 

In their book, It’s Momplicated, about mother and daughter relationships, authors, Debbie Alsdorf and Joan Edwards Kay, relate their own dance with lies about themselves that they carried well into adulthood:

 

I wish this weren’t my story (Debbie writes). These kinds of life-shaping wounds go deep. My mother left her imprint on me, and it shaped me. And though it wasn’t all bad, I have spent years understanding the impact and unraveling the pain…I sought counseling in my fifties and was surprised to learn that a current situation was triggering feelings of rejection that had developed in my early relationship with my mother…It has been theorized that each of us holds three to five core lies about ourselves or God…[iii]

 


[i] Ephesians 4:26-27

[ii] 2 Corinthians 6:16

[iii] Debbie Alsdorf, Joan Edwards Kay, It’s Momplicated (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2018) 6, 154,158

Grace in the Dark - Post #16

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Bless y’all for hanging with me through Chapter 2 - Christianity 101 of why we a Spirit-filled believer can struggle so much…let’s continue…John Eldredge’s quote at the end is SO powerful…

How did we become such messed-up beings?

First, we inherited a whole boatload of issues from Adam’s debacle. I mean really.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned...Romans 5:12

Adam’s sin and brokenness became our sin and brokenness, let alone all the sin and brokenness we come up with on our own. Next mix in the evil that the devil plagues us with in our thoughts and hearts:

...in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Ephesians 2:2-3 

Until the Lord takes each of us home to heaven, we are subjected the schemes and ploys of our adversary. Although he is a finite being, he through his demonic minions takes delight in our vulnerability and weaknesses – most especially when we are most susceptible – our early childhood. The traumas, hurts, and wounds suffered in our youth, compounded with our fractured inheritance from Adam – can cause a place in our souls for the enemy to set up shop.

As author/teacher John Eldredge writes:

You see, we don’t really develop our core convictions so much as they develop within us, when we are young. Down deep, in the inmost parts they form, down in the deep water, like the shifting of the continental plates. Certainly, we’d reject the more disabling beliefs if we could; but they form when we are vulnerable, without our really knowing it, like a handprint in wet cement, and over time the cement hardens and there you have it…Now what we’ve come to believe about those ultimate issues was handed to us early on, in most cases by our families.

Grace in the Dark - Post #14

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Here we go! As we move on in Chapter 2 — explaining how our hurts, hang-ups and struggles can be directly related to our souls. Praise God! His heart toward us is to restore our hearts and minds! Let’s continue…

Still, we get so messed up.

 

Our spirit within is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but our soul and body are still up for grabs by the one who still holds the world in his sway until the return of Lord Jesus. (1 John 5:19)

 

What’s a believer to do? Personally, I was so confused for years that I – a Spirit-filled, charismatic believer – could have such struggle with my habits, behaviors, and reactions.

 

Why was I so easily hurt and offended by people? Why did I react the way I did when certain situations would arise? Why couldn’t I stop living with an eating disorder? I mean really – why couldn’t I just stop binging and purging? Why was my thought-life filled, non-stop with thoughts I didn’t want and scenarios of fantasy – where I was always the beautiful heroine, by the way – that seemed to be increasing and increasing without abatement? Why...was it so hard to follow Jesus when I loved Him so much? You too?

 

Well, we are in good company:

 

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells;

for to will is present with me,

but how to perform what is good I do not find.

For the good that I will to do, I do not do;

but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Romans 7:18-19

 

Paul, the apostle, had the same struggles we do now. He knew the work of sin and death was still a part of his life. No, not within his Holy Spirit filled spirit, but in the arena of his soul. We think New Testament believers had a leg-up on us but they didn’t. They were hot-messes just like we are now!

 

What is this complex area of our being where our own selfish desires, habits, and struggles seem to rule along with the deep-seeded places of addiction or reactions that seem to come from the pit of hell itself?

 

The Bible clearly tells us that our soul is the county-seat of our heart and emotions; what we feel – our joys and sorrows, the effervescence of happiness and the lows of discouragement. Our soul encompasses our heart’s hurts and wounds, desires and longings, and our sense of pride or worthlessness and everything in between.

Post #13 - Grace in the Dark

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Hi Everyone! We are still in Chapter #2 which discusses why we can be such broken human beings even though we are a child of the King! So keep reading Chapter 2 in next week’s post…Bless you! Love, Sue

But God. Those famous two words that start so many Bible accounts. But God.

But God intervened. Grace happened. God Himself taking the form of a man to save Adam and Eve and all of their descendants, crashed the enemy’s lines as a wee baby. The Greatest Rescue Mission ever.

Old Testament prophets.

A virgin girl.

A star in the sky.

A manger in Bethlehem.

Jesus came to fallen earth to rescue His children and restore their relationship with the Father. Jesus, fully God became fully man, but divested of His royal prerogatives as God. Although He was – and is  - coequal, co-divine, co-existent, and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit – He came to walk the planet in like flesh and blood as His wayward children. Jesus did only what His Father told Him to do (John) and lived utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit (verse). He was tempted like we are, and yet with not one failing or sin to His name Hebrews 4:15. He defeated the ruler of the earth with His sacrificial work on the cross (Hebrews) in our place, both satisfying the wrath of God and the penalty of death that was upon us Hebrews 9:12. He shred to pieces the indictment of sin against us and publicly disarmed the enemy’s demon hordes.

 

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,

He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:13-15

And for those who receive His work on the cross and resurrection, Lord Jesus gives them the right to be the very children of God John 1:12. In the moment of belief and receiving Christ as Lord, the chasm between God and the individual is mended Ephesians 2: 14-18 and the once dead spirit of man and woman is raised from the dead by the Spirit of the Living God who indwells and seals them for eternity 2 Corinthians 1:22. Eternal CPR as they are born again of the Spirit, just as He said (John 3) Authority is reinstated, intimate fellowship with God restored, and eternal life secured for every believer by faith Luke 10:17-20, John 3:16.

Still, we get so messed up.

(To be continued next week! Thanks for hanging with me…)

Post #12 - Grace in the Dark

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Eeek! To understand His grace in the midst of our hangups, hurts, and behaviors, we need to see WHY we can struggle so much. This post is from Chapter #2 of the new book. Please read prior and future “Grace” posts for what took place in Eden that still affects us today. Here goes:

What happened to their souls? In that fateful, fleeting instant of momentary enjoyment of the forbidden fruit – their souls were eternally separated from the One who had formed them. The One for whom they were created to be the object of His uncontainable, untamable love. All that gone in an instant. A great divide – an impassable chasm – between the Godhead and man and woman.

What happened to the dominion the Lord God had originally given to Adam and Eve? And what about their authority to maintain and rule the planet with all of its natural God-created wonders: the ability to name and categorize plants and animals and to study and receive from the earth’s bounty? Well, all of these were lost as well in that treacherous bite. And worst of all, this dominion – this authority – it did not default back to the Creator. No-siree. It was handed hook, line, and sinker to the devil himself. Goodness and fulfillment gave way to evil and dissatisfaction. Light and truth bowed to darkness and falsehood. Love and justice lay down before hate and tyranny. There was a new kid on the planet and he didn’t play fair.

No, the devil still never plays fair. He had man and woman where he wanted them. Their spirit was rendered dead (Eph 2 ) due to their trespass and sin against the Father. Their body began to decay and become susceptible to sickness, weakness, and death (2 Cor). And their soul – the beautiful creation of God where He housed Adam’s and Eve’s human heart, mind, intellect, decision-making abilities, and their unique, one-of-a-kind, no-two-alike personality – was now separated from God forever; its treasures to be mined for the adversary’s purposes.

 

But God. Those famous two words that start so many Bible accounts. But God.

 

But God intervened. Grace happened. God Himself taking the form of a man to save Adam and Eve and all of their descendants, crashed the enemy’s lines as a wee baby. The Greatest Rescue Mission ever.

 

Old Testament prophets.

A virgin girl.

A star in the sky.

A manger in Bethlehem.

Post #11 - Grace in the Dark

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Hi Everyone! This post begins Chapter #2 - Why We Struggle? (Can anyone come up with a better title?). If you are just joining me here on my website…PLEASE take a look at the previous posts - preferably Post #1 - to see what this new book will be all about! This Chapter will discuss why we, as Spirit-filled Christians, can struggle so much in our strongholds, behaviors, addictions, and reactions. Chapter Two starts below:


We are complex beings. I mean, really – we are.

Next, drop our complexity into the mix of a fallen, broken, evil world currently being manipulated by an ungodly, uncaring and diabolical tyrant John 5:19, well, you have a recipe for all kinds of struggle. All kinds of darkness.

It was never meant to be this way – this hard. Our Heavenly Father created man and woman with intimate care in His very own image. The Father designed, the Son was His spoken word of creation, and Holy Spirit breathed life. As a wedding present, the Father gave the perfect couple authority over God’s creation on earth Gen. 1:26. Everything was perfect, bountiful, flourishing and ever, oh so good.

But we know the story, the fallen angel, Lucifer, was on the prowl in the form of a serpent. He did what he does best and only knows to do – deceive. And he did just that. He ensnared the woman with a lie and she introduced the scheming snake to her husband. Together, the man and the woman partook of the one and only thing their loving Father had told them not to, and they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Oh what take place at that first bite of disobedience and rebellion.

Up until that time, Adam and Eve had been free. Free, free, free.

Free to enjoy. To live in wonder. To live in perfect shalom – the Hebrew word for completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, fullness and prosperity. Free to love the Father in perfect communion and live in His caress, the Son’s fellowship, and the Spirit’s power, wisdom, and insight. Nevertheless, in that first bite all was lost. Literally. Though their earthly body did not drop dead on the spot, it began its journey of decay until it would eventually and unavoidably return to the dust it came from. What did die in that instant was their precious spirits. The unseen place within in them where they communed with the Almighty without hindrance. No barriers, no walls, no sin.

And their souls? In that fateful, fleeting instant of momentary enjoyment from the forbidden fruit – their souls were eternally separated from the One who had formed them. The One for whom they were created to be the object of His uncontainable, untamable love. All that gone in an instant. A great divide – an impassable chasm – between the Godhead and man and woman.


Have a Glorious Easter, Everyone!

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It doesn’t get better than this…

"But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."

Matthew 28:5-7

Grace in the Dark - Post #10

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...Until...I began to know Him.

Until I began to know Him for myself, in the quiet of being alone with Him and not leaving until I experienced His real and present presence and heard a word from His Word speaking directly to my life.

Grace is difficult to receive and apply until we come to the end of our ropes and just sit and let our Heavenly Father do all the work. Until we cease the laundry list of prayers and shut up – to put it bluntly and let Him whisper truth into our hearts. Until the Bible is less a homework manual – whoever liked homework? –  and more a love-letter. It’s the last thing we want to do and it seems counter-intuitive, but we must give up our efforts to live the Christian life and cease from our labor and let the Holy Spirit – the great Paraklete* – live it through us instead. We need to stop falling from grace and start living in it.

O foolish Galatians!

Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,

before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?

This only I want to learn from you:

Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law,

or by the hearing of faith?

Are you so foolish?

Having begun in the Spirit,

are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

Galatians 3:1-3 NKJV

You may still be struggling in the dark but now realize that you are not alone in the struggle. Jesus is right there with you in the pit of that gloom and His grace is more than enough to inch you up out of the slimy walls that once looked so daunting. What a relief.

In Christ Jesus there is grace in the dark. Not paltry, flimsy, or fleeting grace but substantial, riches-of-heaven’s-glory grace, favor, acceptance, and her sister mercy – pity, action to help, clemency – for each of us in the midst of life’s personal struggles. The only part we play is to move from the sandy shore of hearing about God’s grace and mercy and run headlong into a running dive into its enveloping waves.

{This is the end of Chapter #1, First Draft. Thank you soooo much for joining me on this journey as we head into Chapter #2, next week! The Reasons why we struggle….}