Is God Really in Control?

20160917142321The sovereignty of God is a topic that has been much debated for hundreds of years. I don’t presume to have a different or better perspective about it than those who have written and argued long before my time. However, in view of recent events, I felt led to share some insights that have likely been shared many times before. As we have endured the most heated, intense, and contested election in most, if not all of our lifetimes, I’ve seen the sentiment plastered all over social media – “God is in control!” It is usually said to those who are worried, fearful, or uncertain about what the future holds. Do we ever really stop and think for a minute if this platitude is even true?

Let’s go back to the beginning, when God created humanity, and really look at how He set things up. Genesis 1:28 is the first verse that mentions man and his commission from his Creator. “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” So the first thing they were commanded to do was to be fruitful and increase in number. The word translated “fruitful” literally means to increase, to branch off, to show fruitfulness, etc. The word “increase” is very similar and the result of these two commands is to fill the earth. This not only referred to Adam and Eve having children, but it also included expanding the Garden, where God had placed them and given them authority to do this. Eden was the one perfect place on the earth.

The enemy had already been forced out of heaven, taking one third of the angels with him. Remember, God is not bound by time, so there is no past, present, or future in the eternal realm. The other command God gave to Adam and Eve was to fill the earth and subdue it. This word “subdue” has connotations like, “dominate, tread down, force, make subservient, to subject.” Why would God say this if there weren’t forces at work that needed to be dominated? This explains why the enemy showed up, to try to thwart God’s plans to take over the planet through His masterpiece of creation. Of course, we know the end of the story, our ancestors sinned and fell from God’s glory. The good news is that Jesus came and in our place, regained the authority we had handed over to our adversary. He then again commissioned us, His people, to “go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I commanded you.” (paraphrase, Matt. 28:18-20)

Sound familiar? God never advocates using force or violence to accomplish His domination of the planet. His way is the way of love and mercy. It is His kindness that brings people to repentance, to change the way they see and think about Him. His plan has always been for the knowledge of His glory to cover the earth, and He does that through broken people like you and me. Psalm 115:16 says, The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth He has given to mankind.”

So what does this have to do with His sovereignty? It is true that He is sovereign, meaning He rules over all. But to say He is in control of all things is not true. He allows hurtful things to happen because He has given man free will, and wounded people wound people. To say it is His will for innocent children to suffer, for unborn babies to die, for murders, rapes, and other untold traumas to happen every day, is to say He is not good, and nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, He can use whatever He wants to accomplish His purposes, but that is His redemptive nature, not because it is His will.

He has given us power and authority over all the power of the enemy, who is out to steal, kill and destroy. We, as His people, have failed to use what He has given us to bring everything in subjection to His will. Rather than going after sickness, disease, poverty, abortion, and other issues, through fasting, prayer, and action, we have believed the lie that, “Well, God is in control, so there isn’t anything we can do about it.” Meanwhile, the world is waiting to see us rise up to be the salt and light He has called us to be. Even creation itself is said to groan with longing for the sons of God to be revealed. Jesus stated His mission early in His ministry by quoting from Isaiah 61. He said He was anointed to bind up (heal) the brokenhearted, set the captives (those in bondage) free, restore sight to the (spiritually) blind, to set the oppressed free (the unborn, women and children who are exploited, those trapped in poverty), and to proclaim the Lord’s favor. In other words, He came to alleviate human suffering, but until He returns to set up His kingdom, He has limited Himself to work through people. That’s why in the Great Commission, He told us to go and do the same; in fact, He said we would do even greater things than He did!

I once heard an illustration that could be used to explain God’s sovereignty, I think it was originally said by Charles Spurgeon, but I’m not certain. He used the example of a large ship, like a cruise ship, where there are many passengers, each doing their own thing, yet the ship is set on a certain path and will not deviate from it. The ship represents His sovereignty – He is in control of the ship arriving at its destination, but He doesn’t control what everyone on the ship is doing. Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:10, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,…” God has given us a part to play to see His will be done on earth; He simply will not do it all. He will help us to do our part if we’re willing, and He’ll be faithful to do His part.

The Root of Our Issues

eaf686b0b3662bef021b18454c375595If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know I’ve been involved in every form of healing ministry there is, physical, emotional, and spiritual, for about twenty-three years now. I’ve heard more stories than I can remember, stories that greatly disturbed me, saddened me, and some that angered me. It is difficult, if not impossible, to listen to people’s pain and not be impacted by it in some way.

I feel that I’ve seen it all and heard it all, and that nothing really shocks me anymore. I have learned much about human behavior and why we do the things we do. Along the way it has become apparent that we all share a common “root” that is often the culprit behind dysfunctional patterns. In some way and to some degree, we have all experienced abandonment and rejection, and it affects us similarly, yet we respond according to our unique personality. The more I minister to hurting people, the more I believe this is the root of all, or at least the majority, of our issues.

Abandonment and rejection cause us to feel alone and unwanted. We feel as though we are always excluded or left out. This belief contributes to feelings of insecurity, fear, shame, anger, and control, to name a few. It often leads to a victim and poverty mentality and orphan spirit. In order to find acceptance, we may turn to performance, perfectionism, and people pleasing. Others will react the opposite, becoming rebellious, withdrawn, and angry. Both reactions are forms of control.

This destructive duo will often draw people into addictions to numb their pain. Those addictions can take many forms, such as substances (drug, alcohol, food), sexual (pornography, promiscuity, fantasies), accomplishments (workaholism, drivenness, selfish ambition), performance (affirmation, praise, recognition), idolatry (materialism, appearance, pride), and these are just a few. Even good things like ministry, fitness, success, education, etc., can become addictions and, therefore, idols. Any activity we participate in can be taken to an extreme when our motive is to gain acceptance and affirmation.

Some have experienced abandonment and rejection far worse than others. It can happen to children whose parents divorce, or when one parent dies young. Sometimes it may not be physical, but emotional. Emotional abandonment can happen when one or both parents are emotionally detached and unavailable for their children, usually because they are so bound up in their own pain. Abuse is also a form of rejection and abandonment. These two traumas will lead to all kinds of fears, and a lack of identity, which produces insecurity. Insecurity produces jealousy, envy, competition, pride, anger, and many other issues.

Other problems that result from abandonment and rejection are shame, fear, and control. When the people who are supposed to love and care for you the most abandon or reject you, it gives place to the lie, “What is wrong with me?” “Something must be wrong with me, or my parents wouldn’t have ________,” (divorced, died, beat me, left me, etc.) Shame tells us we are hopelessly flawed, defective, and shameful. These lies lead to fear, fear of being discovered, exposed, rejected, abandoned, abused, etc. And fear motivates us to control. Control takes on many different forms, such as, anger, withdrawing and isolating, rebellion, rage, passivity, domination, manipulation, and intimidation, among others.

It is important to have at least a basic understanding of these things, not only for our own well-being, but so we can learn how to better relate to others in a healthy way. Abandonment, rejection, and all their ensuing issues will affect every relationship we have, at least until we receive some healing and possibly deliverance. Patterns of broken relationships are a sure sign that we are believing lies that may stem from these issues. Seeking godly counsel and inner healing and deliverance ministry can certainly help you get free and prevent further damage. Jesus paid the price for our healing – spirit, soul, and body – and we bring Him glory when we gain the freedom He willingly and lovingly paid for!

The Only Legitimate Form of Control

How-To-Teach-Your-Child-Self-Control-713x509Galatians 5:22-23 is a familar passage: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The fruit of the Spirit is the manifestation of the character of Jesus seen in and through us when we submit to His leadership. In this brief article, I want to focus on one aspect of these attributes of His nature, the fruit of self-control. Self-control can be described as self-discipline and restraint; willpower and levelheadedness. Vine’s Dictionary defines it as, the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.”  

Jesus exemplified self-control many times, in His dealings with the religious leaders, in His power over temptation, in His willingness to submit to the tortures of, and leading up to His crucifixion, to name a few. He never retailiated when wronged nor tried to defend Himself against His persecutors. He was victorious over the enemy and His own flesh in His wilderness testing. He is our model for what self-control looks like.

As believers, we often work harder to try to control others than we do ourselves. Leaders frequently attempt to control their congregations because of the fears and shame they struggle with. Yet, as Graham Cooke says, “Self-control is the only legitimate form of control in the Church.” Stiving to control others is actually a form of witchcraft, and a sign that the controller is controlled by fear and shame.

Self-control is one facet of God’s Spirit that is sadly lacking in many churches and believers’ lives. A lack of self-control often manifests in angry outbursts and fits of rage, fleshly indulgences like overeating, overspending, pornography, sexual sin and various addictions. Rather than seeing it for what it is and seeking help, many come up with excuses as to why they are the way they are, and that they can’t help themselves, which is another example of a victim mentality. When we succumb to this toxic thinking, we are deceiving no one but ourselves.

Two of the enemy’s favorite forms of temptation are the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. He used this tactic back in the Garden of Eden and still does to this day. If he can tempt us to indulge our fleshly desires and passions, he can damage and even destroy our witness for the Lord. We must learn to recognize his subtle strategy and resist him by submitting to God’s Spirit and the fruit of self-control. If Jesus lives in us, it is not impossible, for He is far greater than the enemy. We can do ALL things through His limitless strength within us!

We become what we behold, so the key to allowing the fruit of the Spirit to flow through us is to meditate upon these virtues as seen in our Lord and Savior. As we meditate upon His Word, we, like Jesus, become the word made flesh, taking on His likeness more every day. When we demonstrate the fruit of self-control, others will take notice and know there is something different about us. And more importantly, we will bring glory and honor to God.

The Essential Need for Healthy Boundaries

A key factor in determining and maintaining our emotional health is our ability to set broken wallshealthy boundaries. Those who live in continual stress, anxiety, frustration, fear, etc., often do so because of their inability or ignorance in knowing how to do so or what healthy boundaries even are. Many grew up with no boundaries, such as those who were victims of abuse. But for our own sake, and the sake of those around us, it is critical that we learn.

Proverbs 25:28 says, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.”  In other words, you could say a person without boundaries has no self-control — he has given control to circumstances and those around him. In Biblical times when a city’s walls were broken down, the enemy had easy access to come and go as he pleased, stealing, killing, and destroying that city and its inhabitants. This, of course, is a perfect picture of a person with no boundaries that allows the enemy to control and ultimately destroy them.

Boundaries keep us safe and enable us to be in control, not others or the enemy. By control, I am speaking of self-control. We decide how we show up in any given situation. We do not react to the demands of others, or the current situation. We can step back, get into the Spirit, and respond as He would have us to. A lack of boundaries will cause us to react in the flesh every time. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, so we have access to that grace because He dwells within us.

Setting healthy boundaries enables us to say “no” to the demands and requests of others that would drain us of energy and eat up our time, without feeling guilty. If we are unable to turn down these requests and demands, or we feel guilty doing so, it is a sign we lack boundaries and self-control. We have become people pleasers instead of God pleasers. If our typical response to situations outside of our control is fear, anxiety, anger, rage, impatience, etc., it means we have given control over to those situations and are not walking in self-control because we have not set boundaries.

We must determine in advance what we will and will not, allow to control us. It is much more difficult to make the decision in the heat of the moment. We must decide we will not allow difficult situations to steal our peace and joy. Instead, we will look for the good that God promises to bring from them. In dealing with people, we must resolve to control our own schedule and activities to include spending time with family, leisure, and time for ourselves before committing to other things. We must know our limitations; we cannot do everything. One of the enemy’s greatest tactics is to keep us busy – away from our spouses and children, tired with no time to rest, stressed and anxious because we know we can’t do it all – all the while believing we are doing great things for the Lord. This can lead to physical illness, mental breakdowns and burnout, strife and division in the family, etc.

As in all things, Jesus is our model for life and ministry. He knew how to set healthy boundaries. He left needy crowds to spend time with His Father. He never gave in to the demands of others; He knew when it was, and wasn’t His time. He took time alone, away from even His disciples, to rest and commune with the Father. He didn’t go to every sick or demonized person that needed help, but only the ones the Father showed Him. He was never stressed or anxious, never fearful or uncertain; He walked in continual peace because He had perfect self-control. Thankfully, we have Him to help us grow in this ability every day!

Have you set healthy boundaries? If not, why not? I would love to hear your story!

Shame – The Identity Thief

One of the most powerful and destructive tools of the enemy used to keep shamepeople trapped in bondage is shame. Shame has been around since the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2:25, an interesting statement is made: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Interesting, because it is the first mention of shame in Scripture. It seems evident that God clearly wanted to highlight this fact to us. Not only does nakedness refer to their physical state of being without clothes, but I believe it can also refer to their total emotional vulnerability. There were no barriers to intimacy between them, or in their relationship to their Creator. They had nothing to hide, no fear of being exposed, no reason to withdraw or withhold themselves from one another. What a contrast to our lives today!

By the time we get to Chapter 3, verse 7, things have changed dramatically. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the first of many results occurred immediately: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Although both verses contain the word “naked” in English, in the Hebrew, two different words are used. The first one, found in 2:25, means to be without clothes. The second one, in 3:7, comes from a root word meaning crafty, subtle, or shrewd. I believe this is referring to their sense of wrongdoing, not just their physical state. Suddenly, they went from a state of perfect bliss, joy, and peace with one another and with God, to feeling something completely foreign to them – shame – that arose from their disobedience. In an instant, everything was distorted, corrupted, and perverted. Today, the enemy still uses this powerful weapon against God’s people.

Shame lies to us and tells us we are defective, flawed, evil, and shameful. There must be something wrong with us, it whispers in our ear. No matter how much we feel we are living to please God, one perceived wrong word, thought, or deed, and it rears its ugly head again to beat us down. Not only does it lie to us to try to steal our identity, it also convinces us that we must hide the so-called “truth” of our shamefulness from others, or we will surely be rejected, abandoned, criticized, judged, etc. Those who fall for the lies, therefore, are afraid to share their struggles with those who could help them get free. Instead, we turn to control to protect us from further pain, by wearing a mask, withdrawing, isolating, putting up walls, and other ungodly behaviors rather than taking that risk.

The truth is, we have all sinned and fallen short of what God intended us to be. We’ve all made mistakes, done stupid things we’re ashamed of, and made choices we now regret. We are all equally in need of Jesus’ blood, shed at the cross. No one sin is greater or worse than another. God knew all of this before any of us were ever created. He could have chosen not to go through with His plans. He could have decided to create beings that were programmed to obey Him perfectly. He could have elected to exist for all eternity within His own triune nature, with perfect love and harmony between Father, Son, and Spirit. But He didn’t!

Knowing all that mankind would do, He chose to make us His very own sons and daughters. He willingly agreed to pay the highest price possible to deliver us from all shame, guilt, and condemnation – and every other work of the devil! If you struggle with sin and shame, how much longer will you allow the enemy to torment and steal from you? Help is available, and freedom is your inheritance as a beloved son or daughter. Jesus already paid the price, and He deserves to receive the reward of His suffering – you!

 

How to Get Free From Fear

In over 20 years of ministry I have found one of the most common issues we all struggle lovefearwith is fear. Fear is defined as, “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Fear is debilitating for many people, paralyzing them from living a fully productive life.

Fear entered the human experience in the Garden of Eden. After eating the forbidden fruit, Scripture says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen. 3:7-8) Never before had Adam and Eve tried to hide from their beloved Creator.

There are multitudes of fears that can plague us – fear of death, fear of punishment, fear of loss, fear of the dark, fear of rejection, fear of poverty, etc. Fear stems from a lack of faith, or trust in God. I have heard it said that there are 365 verses in Scripture saying, “Do not fear,” or “Do not be afraid.” This clearly indicates that God understands our tendency to be fearful, and desires we become free from these fears. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul states, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Fear does not come from God; it comes from the enemy. He uses it to control God’s people, hindering us from walking in obedience and thus, receiving God’s blessings.

When we walk in fear on a regular basis, not only are we being controlled by the enemy, but we also become controlling ourselves. We try to control others and our circumstances, believing that by doing so, we can avoid pain. There are many forms of control – isolation and withdrawal, anger and fits of rage, wearing a “mask,” passive aggression, passivity, taking on a victim mentality; these are just a few.  This is a great deception for we cannot control anything or anyone other than ourselves. The only legitimate form of control is self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. In 2 Timothy 1:7, quoted above, the word translated “sound mind” literally means self-control.

The good news is that God has given us a way to get free from fear and the control that comes with it! The Apostle John tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) God’s love is the only perfect love because He is Love. The way to get free from fear is to receive the revelation of His perfect love for you. Revelation comes from the Spirit and far exceeds mere head knowledge. If we lack this critical revelation, we must ask Him for it, knowing it is His will for us to be free – free to be loved by Him, free to love Him, others, and ourselves as He does.

The more we experience and receive His love, the more secure we will become. Our faith and trust in Him will grow stronger and deeper. We will no longer fear what others can do to us, for we will truly believe that He works all things together for our good. (Rom. 8:28) His love enables us to surrender more fully to Him, letting go of our need to control. We will be free to love and serve Him wholeheartedly. Then we can love ourselves because He does, and love and serve others with the love we have received from Him.

What effects have fears had in your life and walk with God? Comment below.