The Two Battles We Face in Life

saint-georgeLast week, I wrote about the basic truths, or keys, of spiritual warfare. If you didn’t see it, you can read it here. Today I want to expand upon these truths so that we can learn not only how to get free, but also, how to stay free. These are the two battles we must deal with throughout our lives – getting free from bondage, and staying free. Then we can walk in victory and the abundant life Jesus died to give us. Both battles require several things: 1) we must first recognize our need, 2) we must be willing to get help from trusted friends and/or leaders, 3) we must realize that we have to do things differently than we did before, and 4) we must be determined to persevere and not give up. Getting and staying free requires work, but if we are willing to do our part, God will always be faithful to help us in our weakness.

In my twenty plus years of ministering to people in bondage, I have often seen those who come for ministry expecting a quick fix. Our human nature, or flesh, wants to get out of pain as quickly and easily as possible. Unfortunately, God didn’t set it up to work that way. He works through process, and we must learn what that process looks like and how to cooperate with Him in it. The whole point of the process is to conform us into the image of Christ. That is always His will for everyone. This is why it’s impossible to by pass or cut short the process; He simply won’t allow it. He is fully committed to completing the good work He began in us. Therefore, it would be to our benefit to learn to cooperate with Him.

The greatest challenge in these battles, I have found, both in my own life, and in the lives of those I’ve ministered to, is changing the way we think. If we don’t learn to do this, we will never get free. Jesus’ predominant message when He walked the earth was “Repent!” To repent means, to change the way we think. Most, if not all of our problems, stem from this one issue. We do not think the way that God thinks. (Is. 55:8-9) We are not even close! To truly repent, we must learn to renew our minds.

There are three areas we need to renew our minds in – 1) our thoughts about God, 2) our thoughts about ourselves, and 3) our thoughts about others. This goes along with our ability, (by God’s grace), to fulfill the greatest commandment – to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. When we renew our minds to the truth of who God is, we will see ourselves as He sees us, and we will see others as He sees them. This must happen before we can love anyone. To know God is to love Him; to love God, is to love ourselves the way that He does, which then enables us to love others as He does.

Think about how different the Church would be if we all had our minds renewed! This is precisely why the enemy’s greatest weapon against us is deception. For when our thinking is distorted by lies, we are unable to love God, ourselves, or anyone else. Love is our greatest weapon;  without love, as Paul said, we are nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) Having an unrenewed mind is like looking through a window that is severely cracked. Everything on the outside looks skewed and awry; we cannot see anything clearly. This is our hardest and most important battle, and God won’t do it for us. If we are willing to put forth the effort, He will certainly help us!

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to renew the mind is simple, but it does require time, effort, and patience. First, we must recognize and break agreement with the lies that we have believed, and receive the truth, as God reveals them to us. We must meditate on the truths every day for 30 – 60 days, until they become real in our heart, not just in our head. Head knowledge will never change us; it must be experiential, revelation knowledge that Holy Spirit reveals to our spirit. This comes from daily meditation. Meditation is simply thinking about, pondering, contemplating, “chewing on,” praying over, repeating the truths until they become second nature to us. It is similar to a cow chewing on its cud. The cow eats, regurgitates, and chews its food several times before finally digesting it. We must do this mentally, which requires disciplining and training our minds, literally.

We can do this as part of our quiet time each day, picking a Scripture verse, and journaling our thoughts and what God reveals to us. I won’t go into detail here about how to do that, but if you want to know more, you can read an article I wrote about this here. Learning to renew our minds is one part of the battle to get free. It is also a life-long habit we must practice to win the battle to stay free. It is God’s command to us (Rom. 12:2), and He never commands us to do anything He doesn’t give us the grace to do. We can do all things through His strength!

 

 

 

 

Keys of Spiritual Warfare

26033-thinkstockphotos-100176797-1200w-tnMy first introduction to the subject of spiritual warfare was around 1990. The church we were members of at the time held a conference called Resolving Spiritual Conflicts. Little did I know at the time that God would use that seminar to open my eyes to the reality of the spirit world, and the forces of darkness that occupy it. Because I didn’t grow up in church, I had no prior understanding of these things whatsoever.

Over the next several years, my understanding grew as I studied and read books on the subject, went through several phases of inner healing and deliverance, taught and ministered to women in addiction recovery, in church, in support groups, went through extensive training, and used all of this in my own ministry for over 10 years. It certainly wasn’t something I would have chosen to do, but it was part of God’s assignment for me and He gave me the grace I needed. Below are a few nuggets that may be helpful for those who haven’t gone down this same road. Far too many believers are still bound up, including pastors and leaders, and need to be free to be effective witnesses for the Kingdom.

Since the beginning, the enemy’s strategy against man has been to call into question God’s Word and His nature. This is clearly seen in his conversation with Adam and Eve in the Garden. In Genesis 3:1-5, the enemy questions what God said, and then lies about why He said it, implying that 1) He didn’t really mean what He said, and 2) He is trying to keep something from you. In other words, God’s Word can’t be trusted and He is stingy and withholding good things. We know our ancestors believed the lie, and to this day, many still believe these same lies. I was once one of them.

Satan’s greatest weapon against us is deception, for the nature of deception is that you don’t know you are deceived. In order to get free from deception, you must trust someone else (who is telling you that you’re deceived), more than you trust yourself. Not many are willing to do that. But there is another weapon he used before they got to the stage of deception, and that is temptation. We see this in verse 6 – “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Here, we see the three most common ways the enemy tempts us, 1) the lust of the eyes, 2) the lust of the flesh, and 3) the pride of life. This same strategy is seen in Jesus’ encounter during His forty day fast in the desert. It is also mentioned in 1 John 2:16. If we can learn to recognize these three types of temptation, we can resist them, and he has to flee. (James 4:7)

The third weapon the enemy uses against us is accusation, for his name means “accuser” (see Rev. 12:9). He is said to accuse God’s people day and night, before God’s throne. (Rev. 12:10) Unfortunately, he also works through God’s people to accuse each other. He first deceives us into believing that other Christians are the enemy, then uses us as his pawns to bring strife and division to the body through false accusations. We must learn to discern and confront this in ourselves if we are to bring in the great harvest of souls God is longing for!

Not only does he continually attempt to stir up dissension in the body, but also in our relationship with God. As stated earlier, he deceives us into believing lies about the nature of our heavenly Father. He looks for every opportunity, especially in our sufferings and trials, to malign His character. If we believe God is angry, disappointed, fed up or disgusted with us, or that we’ve sinned one too many times, we will not draw near to Him. If we believe God judges us when we sin, that He withholds from us because He is stingy, that He is displeased with us in our weakness and immaturity, we will not learn to trust Him. If we believe we must adhere to a set of rules, perform our perceived religious duties, such as fasting, prayer, worship, etc., or act super spiritual all the time, we will become religious and self-righteous, like the leaders in Jesus’ day.

The devil will even twist Scripture to achieve his purposes, just as he tried with Jesus in the wilderness. He disguises himself as an angel of light, often in the form of a “prophet” or “teacher,” or other leader that will lead us astray. He is able to perform false signs and wonders, deceiving many who flock to see such things. One key to discerning true supernatural activity, prophetic words, dreams, visions, or other revelations is this – does it lead you to worship Jesus in a deeper way, or does it cause you to follow after man?  Does it cause you to go harder after God, or lead you to pursue greater knowledge? We must use wisdom and discernment to recognize the difference.

There is much more that can be said, but these are basic truths, keys to help you get free and stay free from the bondage of the enemy. May the Lord continue to teach us His ways, so that we can walk in truth and the freedom He paid such a high price to give us!

 

 

Walking in Truth in an Epidemic of Deception

truth-lies-signIn today’s world, we see deception growing at an alarming rate. It seems more and more people, both believers and the lost, are being duped by fake news sites, false teachers, and duplicitous leaders than ever before. For years, a growing belief that truth is relative has become widespread. Many think that as long as they are sincere in their beliefs, they can decide for themselves what is true or not. But they are sincerely wrong, because truth is not relative, it is absolute. Truth is defined by one person only – the One who IS truth, and His name is Jesus. (John 14:6)

Jesus said the devil is a liar and the father of lies, and there is no truth in him. (John 8:44) So we know that much of the deception we are seeing is a result of people who are believing his lies. But Scripture also tells us we can deceive ourselves. This can happen in several ways: our prideful hearts can deceive us (Obadiah 1:3, Jer. 49:16); sin can deceive us (Rom. 7:11); believing God can be mocked can deceive us (Gal. 6:7); believing God tempts us can deceive us (James 1:13-16); and believing hanging out with the wicked won’t corrupt us, can deceive us (1 Cor. 15:33), to name a few.

Jesus said that knowing the truth will set us free (John 8:32), so seeking after, loving, and embracing truth should be one of our greatest desires and pursuits. We have been given God’s Spirit; He is also called the Spirit of Truth, who will lead us into all truth, according to Jesus. (John 16:13) He also acknowledged that God’s word is truth. (John 17:17) It is through speaking the truth in love that we grow into maturity. (Eph. 4:15) The belt of truth, in Eph. 6:14, is symbolic of truth being the piece of our protective armor that holds all the other pieces in place. Walking in truth is indeed great protection, guarding us from the enemy’s attacks. The Father seeks worshippers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Truth is vital to our spiritual growth and maturity. We must not settle for mere head knowledge of it, however; we must daily apply it to our lives. Deception is the enemy’s greatest weapon because the nature of it is that you don’t know when you are being deceived. To get free from deception requires one to humbly submit to someone they trust more than they trust themselves. Believing lies will always lead to deception – always. We must know the truth for ourselves, believe it, receive it, and walk in it, no matter the cost. To not do so is spiritual suicide.

One of the scariest passages in Scripture is Romans 1:18-32, describing the downward spiral God allows in the lives of those who know, but suppress, the truth. This word, “suppress” literally means “to detain, hold back, hinder, or restrain the course or progress of.” These people knew God, but didn’t glorify or give Him thanks. They exchanged His glory for His creation, worshipping and serving His creatures rather than Him. And they exchanged His truth for lies, and did not believe knowing Him was worthwhile. They even knew that doing these things is wrong, but continued to do them, and approved of others who do likewise. We can see this happening all around us even now.

Obviously, God sent His Son to show us and teach us the truth so we can be free to know Him as He truly is, and to know ourselves as well. He has given us His Word and His Spirit to help us. It is up to us to take advantage of what He has made available, to ask Him to, “Show me Your ways, Lord, teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God, my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.” (Ps. 25:4-5)

Recognize and Get Free From Unrealistic Expectations

Have you ever expected something from someone that they didn’t live up to? I’m sure reality-check-ahead-sign-unrealistic-stealing-dreams-blog-e1407820920643-400x400every person that has ever lived or ever will, has. I suppose it is just part of our human nature. We expect things from the people around us all the time, mostly without realizing it. We expect our friends and family to be there when we need them. We expect our spouse or significant other to always love us. We expect our children to adopt our values. We expect others to be grateful when we help them. These are just a few examples.

It’s not necessarily wrong to expect certain things from others. But when we expect more than they are capable of giving or doing, our expectations are unrealistic. When we have unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up to be hurt and disappointed. Years ago when I was very wounded, I actually expected my husband to be able to read my mind…no joke. I had some pretty serious issues. Each time he failed to do so, which was pretty much all the time, my heart was more deeply wounded. As I later learned, no one is capable of reading my mind, other than God. It wasn’t my husband’s fault or intention to hurt me, it was my own naivete or stupidity that was at fault. It was a lie I was believing from the enemy.

I have seen many others fall into this same trap. Maybe you have, too. So how do we avoid making this same mistake? First, ask the Lord to show you any unrealstic expectations you may have towards anyone. One possible sign is continual conflict in relationships, or a pattern of broken relationships. Another is continual feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, or betrayal. Be honest with yourself when you are hurt by someone. Ask yourself what you were expecting from that person. If your expectation seemed reasonable, then try talking through the issue or get counseling from a third person if needed. If you were expecting more than was humanly possible, take responsibility for your mistake, apologize, and seek forgiveness.

Sometimes it may help to put yourself in the other person’s place. How would you feel if they were expecting from you, what you were expecting from them? Ask the Lord to show you the lies you may be believing. Renouce and break agreement with them, and receive His truth. Avoid blame shifting; it never resolves anything but only adds to the problem and the hurt. Look to the Lord to fulfill the needs only He can meet. Some needs aren’t meant to be fulfilled by people. God designed us to be dependent upon Him first and foremost. What we receive from others is then just icing on the cake. Expecting others to be your all, to make you happy, complete, satisfied or fulfilled will only lead to hurt, anger, and disappointment. It isn’t that others may not want to be that, but that they cannot. They aren’t made to, and neither are you made to be someone’s all in all.

Take responsibility for your unrealstic expectations and do whatever is necessary to change them. This will set you free to love and enjoy your relationships without the weight of those expectations being placed upon them. Changing your beliefs will also help prevent unnecessary hurt and disappointment. Remember that even those with the best intentions will let you down at times, all of us do. We are all in need of God’s infinite grace and mercy!

 

Are You a Prisoner of the Performance Trap?

Charlene S Hughes

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, it’s never enough? That even when youHamster Wheel Runner do your very best, it still isn’t good enough? These thoughts lead to feelings of discouragement, frustration, even despair. Sound familiar at all? I would guess most if not all of us would say “Yes!” One of the most common struggles we face as human beings centers around issues of performance. This is one example of what I wrote about in an earlier post, Are Toxic Beliefs Derailing Your Destiny?

Usually these thoughts come from words we heard from parents and other adults during our childhood. Or maybe it was just the look you got when you brought home a bad grade, or didn’t make the team, or didn’t do as well as your sibling. Even well meaning parents can unwittingly convey negative messages. This usually also involves withholding love, affection, or…

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Get Victory Over a Victim Mentality

Have you ever known someone with a victim mentality? If you have, chances are likelyvictim sign you would know it. However, it is highly unlikely that the person who has chosen to believe this lie is aware of it. Of all the issues I’ve seen and ministered to over the years, this is one of the most difficult to get people to recognize and be willing to deal with so they can be free.

Someone with a victim mentality tends to wallow in self-pity. They believe everyone and everything is out to get them, and they feel powerless to do anything about it. When difficulties and disappointments come, as they do for all of us, they feel particularly targeted, as if nothing ever goes right for them. It seems to them that everyone else has it easier. They feel continually attacked by people, life in general, and even God, at times.

Often, this belief has its root in some traumatic experience. The “victim” felt violated, taken advantage of, unfairly accused, mistreated, etc. When it seems to happen over and over, they become convinced that this is just their lot in life; it will always be that way. This expectation then gives place to behaviors that actually set them up to be re-victimized. They usually become angry at the people or situations that have “done them wrong,” but underlying the anger is the feeling of powerlessness.

The belief of being powerless leads to blame-shifting, i.e., “it isn’t my fault; it’s someone else’s fault.” Victims refuse to take responsibility for their own behavior. They will make excuses for themselves, while blaming others, God, or life in general. Their outlook on life is negative. They find it difficult to trust anyone. It is a very debilitating lie!

So how does someone get free from this belief system? Often, inner healing and deliverance is needed first, so that the person is able to recognize the lie. We all choose to believe the things we do – no one can make us believe anything. Realizing they have chosen to believe this lie and live accordingly, is the first step to getting free. Repenting means, “to change the way you think,” and is necessary, for believing any lie is sin; it is coming into agreement with the enemy, the father of lies.

The next step is learning to take responsibility for their actions. This may take time, for old thought patterns don’t go away immediately. Meditating on the truth often, will accelerate the change in thinking. The truth is, God has given us free will, which means we can choose what we want to believe. Even when painful things happen that we didn’t choose, we can determine to respond in faith, believing God’s Word to work it all for good in our lives. He desires truth in our innermost being (Ps. 51:6) because He IS Truth and what He says about us is true. Growing in intimacy with God will further help us become aware of, and secure in, our true identity as God’s beloved child. We can be free, if we choose to be!

Are You a Prisoner of the Performance Trap?

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, it’s never enough? That even when youHamster Wheel Runner do your very best, it still isn’t good enough? These thoughts lead to feelings of discouragement, frustration, even despair. Sound familiar at all? I would guess most if not all of us would say “Yes!” One of the most common struggles we face as human beings centers around issues of performance. This is one example of what I wrote about in an earlier post, Are Toxic Beliefs Derailing Your Destiny?

Usually these thoughts come from words we heard from parents and other adults during our childhood. Or maybe it was just the look you got when you brought home a bad grade, or didn’t make the team, or didn’t do as well as your sibling. Even well meaning parents can unwittingly convey negative messages. This usually also involves withholding love, affection, or approval until the child does “better.” As a result we (or our children) believe the lie that, “I must measure up in order to be… (accepted, approved, loved, etc.).”

No matter how good or godly our parents were, or we may be, we were all born into sin and are flawed as a result. Generational sins, as described in Exodus 20:4 affect us all until we learn how to get free from them (a topic for another blog post!). Performance, perfectionism, striving and people-pleasing are all symptoms of this root of rejection. This toxic thinking causes us to strive to achieve, to earn acceptance from others through various means, to become a human “doing” rather than a human being.  We just can’t seem to do enough, or do it well enough. When our efforts don’t achieve the results we expect, we become offended, angry, frustrated, depressed, etc.

Often we blame ourselves, thinking that if we could only do it better, we would gain the acceptance and approval we long for. So we keep trying over and over, with each new person we meet, or each new situation we face. This destructive cycle typically leaves a trail of broken relationships in its path. Many believers give in to hopelessness, disillusionment with their faith, and their inability to “fix” the problem. Or we may blame God and harbor anger and disappointment in our hearts toward Him. If you can relate to this pattern of thinking and behaving, there is good news – you can get free!

The first step is to recognize that you have believed a lie that you don’t measure up, aren’t good enough, and/or can never meet the standard. We unknowingly believe lies because they feel true, based on our circumstances and life experiences. Some lies, such as this one, have a measure of truth in them. According to God’s Word, none of us measured up to His standard (Rom. 3:23). His standard is the only one we are expected to meet, yet none of us could.

But the good news is that He made provision for us through His Son. Jesus met God’s standard of perfection for us, freely giving us His righteousness in place of our sin. Because He met God’s standard for us, we can rest in His finished work on the cross! We no longer have to earn acceptance for we are completely accepted in and through Him. We don’t have to strive to achieve because He did what we could never do. Plus, He has given us His Spirit to empower us to do what we cannot do in our own strength.

It is essential that we forgive those who communicated this lie to us – parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, spiritual leaders, etc. And we must forgive ourselves for believing this lie and living it out in our lives. We should also repent, asking God to forgive us and receiving His forgiveness. His acceptance, love, and approval of us alone can satisfy our deepest longings. When we become secure in His love, we won’t need to continually receive approval from others.

Have you been a prisoner of the performance trap? How do you plan to get free? Comment below.