Thursday, December 18, 2014

There IS Hope in the Lord!

I'm making this entry to show those who are led to my post, to my blog, and directed here divinely, that in the midst of the horrible evils of this fallen world, there truly is ONE HOPE to cling to: Our Lord Jesus and Savior! This is going to be a little different than my other posts in that it will focus on the Hope that we have as born again Christ believers and to show those who aren't saved, and who haven't received His free gift of salvation, that nothing in the world will fill you up, complete you, hold you, love you, comfort you, walk with you, carry you, guide you the way the Lord does! Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." 

In the Psalm of David, he gives a plea for deliverance and forgiveness. It's one of the most beautiful chapters to read and I will give you this time to read through it by posting it here.
Psalm 25:1-22, 
v1) "To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
v2)  O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me.
v3) Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
v4) Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.
v5) Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.
v6) Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, For they are from of old.
v7) Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.
v8) Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
v9) The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way.
v10) All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
v11) For Your name’s sake, O Lord, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
v12) Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
v13) He himself shall dwell in prosperity, And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
v14) The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.
v15) My eyes are ever toward the Lord, For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
v16) Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted.
v17) The troubles of my heart have enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses!
v18) Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive all my sins.
v19) Consider my enemies, for they are many; And they hate me with cruel hatred.
v20) Keep my soul, and deliver me; Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
v21) Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.
v22) Redeem Israel, O God, Out of all their troubles!

Our lives can sometimes become so overwhelming, so chaotic and so broken that it makes it difficult at times to see there really is hope because our eyes are focusing on the physical world and not the spiritual one. We have tough times. We have heartache. We have loss. We have pain. We have a number of things that affect us and makes us feel hopeless. But as you can see by David's plea, the Psalmist poured out his heart, knowing where his hope rested, even during those difficult times. This is something we ALL need to do. Because, there is no other hope that can be found in this physical world. No matter what you obtain, how much money you make, how successful you become, how loved you may feel, or how many friends you may have. Not one single thing in this world can promise you anything BEYOND this world, nor can it promise you that all of those "things" will last an eternity. They won't. They can't. They don't.

It always breaks my heart to know someone who has no hope. Who doesn't know there's a loving, caring Father in heaven who has His arms opened wide for them to run to if only they believed! Having this kind of Hope doesn't make you exempt from any of the worldly pains and sorrows and misgivings but this world is temporal. What is waiting on the other side for those who believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is an eternal salvation, an eternal HOME. The Hope. People who don't know Jesus as their Savior, will look for hope in many places, from the bottom of a bottle to drugs to relationships that are toxic. Don't look for hope in the wrong places because you won't find it. It may APPEAR as though you found some hope, but only for a moment. Hope comes from God and He alone is worthy of the hope we place in him.

When we have HOPE in the Lord, He will show us love, mercy, grace and gratitude because He has unfailing love in us! How wonderful to know and experience this kind of a Father! See, Hope is faith in ACTION. Hope is what gets you through the night when darkness seems to be closing in on you. Hope is the belief, the faith, that you aren't permanently stuck in the darkness or boxed in with no way out. With each chapter that we move through in our book of life, we have to graduate to the next chapter. Sometimes we graduate quickly because we learn that lesson or lessons, quicker. Other times, not so much! Might take us a little longer to graduate to our next chapter in life but just know that God has a plan for your life! His plan is to give you hope! Yes! That's exactly what Jeremiah 29:11 tells us! "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Surrendering to God’s will gives you hope. The key to finding God’s will is to surrender your life Jesus and to serve Him fully. All of your tomorrows are solely wrapped up in the complete surrender to the Lord. James 4:13-15, "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; v14) whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. v15) Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

Hope is the Anchor of Our Soul
Sometimes God guides us in ways that at first we’re not too happy about. We may think we want to take one direction because it "feels" right or is something WE desire but soon find out that God has other plans! He takes you on a different path because you've surrendered and you're allowing Him to guide you in ways that are pleasing to HIM but may not be so pleasing to YOU! It's happened to me on more than one occasion! It's actually happened a lot in my career path and I've seen it happen all too often in other people's career paths as well. I used to ask myself why I tended to notice other's paths in their careers so much but it became clear that a lot of times, God will use our jobs and work places to sharpen us, mold us, teach us, humble us. Before long, I'd counsel people telling them that sometimes they needed to take a job because of what they could LEARN as opposed to taking a job for the MONEY or prestige. Learning things like new skills, talents or new environments, in order to progress into the job of their dreams. Sometimes the most valuable lessons can be learned through the most unlikely of places. I'd advise some to not be so focused on what THEY thought they needed to make a year, but to gain experience and skills along the way instead.

In my own career path, what I THOUGHT I wanted to do, and what felt right for me, wasn't anything close to what the Lord had in mind! Looking back, I can say without doubt, He definitely knew better than I did! But the path I had to take to get to where He was guiding me, wasn't such a pleasant smooth drive! A bit bumpy and sometimes even muddy, but never dull and always full of newness and excitement. I was humbled. I was taught some wonderful lessons. I was shown my strengths. I was shown my weaknesses in order to be able to work on them. Each step of the way, I surrendered. I didn't say easily, just willfully! If you are in the will of God, then nothing else matters. However, if you're in the will of God, then whatever else happens to you, definitely matters GREATLY to God. God is your refuge and strength and HOPE! 2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Simply put, WORK HARD!

So what is hope actually? What does the dictionary describe it as? Let's take a quick look. 1) to cherish a desire with anticipation 2) to desire with expectation of obtainment 3) to expect with confidence: trust 4) desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment. The Biblical definition is not a "hope-so" kind of hope but rather a KNOW-SO kind of hope. Our hope in God is surer than the sun rising in the morning. Genuine hope is not wishful thinking, not a wishy washy kind of feeling, but rather it's more of a firm assurance about things that are unseen that are still in the future. We need to stand firm in our faith, waiting for, but more-so, expecting a spiritual breakthrough. Expecting the fulfillment of all of God's promises. Expecting growth in our Faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. Expecting to come through the wilderness with more faith, trust and spiritual maturity than we had before entering the wilderness. The spiritual testing that we go through and our growing in the Lord is the patience we're being taught when yesterday seemed like the perfect day to solve all your problems! This boils down to waiting on God's perfect TIMING! That's why we really need to put all of faith in Jesus to be able to know that as we believe and trust, we also walk in faith and have hope in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing His timing will be perfect.

God Has a Plan for You!
The times we are living in are so full of evil, so troubled and so devoid of love. I look around and see so many things wrong that would give cause to people not finding hope or losing hope because they've put most of their hope in the things of this world. People are losing their jobs, homes and families. The stock market falls and crashes. The amount of natural catastrophes and disasters are unbelievably increasing. Nations are turning against Israel, the apple of God's eye! There are wars popping up all around the world, and rumors of wars. There is an increase in violence. There are terror attacks. More and more Christians are being persecuted, some to their death, for their faith. There is a great uncertainty for many in what the future holds. In today’s economy, if you only look at it with your physical eyes, then there really is little to hope for in the future. However, God is never caught off guard nor is He ever caught by surprise. God knows the future. He knows the finite details that we humans can't begin to understand. You aren't the only one that ever felt there is no hope, my friends. Even the Bible heroes had their own times of doubt when they wanted to give up. Job, Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, even the powerful prophet in the Old Testament, Elijah. We are all the same. We feel the same things. But Jesus died for our sins, to give us HOPE that only He could do!

Here is real hope. When a person reads the Word of God (Bible) they can, and will, know for certain, without a doubt, that they have a secure, certain future with God through His Son Jesus Christ! There's nothing in this fallen earth more certain than hope in God. He will never leave us nor will He ever forsake us. He is our anchor in the present and for the future. He is the rock that we need to build our homes upon! Where is hope found? It's found right in the Bible, all throughout the Word of God. Psalm 119:74, "Those who fear You shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word." and in Psalm 119:81, "My soul faints for Your salvation, But I hope in Your word." and again in Psalm 130:5, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope." So with that established, let's take a quick look at the different kinds of Hope found in the Word, the Bible.

1) Redemptive Hope - Psalm 130:7, "O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption." As a born again believer, you can rest assured that God’s love is unfailing and He will deliver us in the days of calamity. He's rescued the born-again believers from certain judgment and promised us an eternal home with Him. And instead of using ink to seal it in writing, God signed this redemption with Jesus’ own blood! The very blood that seals you permanently and covers you eternally. When our hope is in the Lord and not in ourselves or others, it's a rock solid hope.

2) Gift of Hope - Psalm 119:49, "Remember the word to Your servant, Upon which You have given me hope." God has given us the Holy Spirit to seal us, of which we can lay our trust in Him for our hope. This is evidenced in Ephesians 1:13-14, "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, v14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." 

3) Future Hope -  Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." God definitely has plans for you. He plans for you to have a secure future, one full of promise. He knows those plans even if you don't. A financial adviser might have plans for you too, but they don't know the future, or its outcome. However, they may try to plan for a secure future but they don't have the ability to bring it to fruition. Only God knows your future and can plan it better than anyone else, and much better than we can ourselves.

4) Protective Hope - Psalm 33:20, "Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield." Our hope in God is a shield of life. Not only a shield in our eternal life but also in this present, physical life. He's our help when we need helped and He's our shield when we need protecting. Our hope is in God ALONE for our shield and help.

5) Restful Hope - Psalm 62:5, "My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him." We've all wrestled with tomorrow as we lay down at night to go to sleep. Suddenly, without much warning, all the "what if's" begin to pop into our minds, stealing our sleep, and worrying about what lays in wait for us when we wake the next morning. But. worrying about tomorrow is only borrowing trouble from tomorrow and spending it foolishly on today. When you realize that tomorrow is already taken care of by God alone, then you can find rest. The hope you have in Him will give you much needed rest because it's so much easier to sleep at night when you know that your tomorrow is in God’s hands.

6) Reverent Hope - Psalm 33:18-19, "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy, v19) To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine." The phrases "fear in the Lord" or "those who fear him" does not mean a fear of punishment or retribution. Many people don't quite understand those phrases in the way they are meant and try to make God out to be some kind of a tyrant when in fact, He is just the opposite! This type of fear is simply a reverential respect and us standing in awe of our Creator God. It means that those who reverence God and His name have nothing to fear at all; no evil, no pestilence, no begging for bread, and no fear of want. His unfailing love is upon those that fear or revere Him.

7) Guiding Hope - Psalm 25:5, "Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day." We are finite creatures that can't look beyond our today's. It's not something that is humanly possible for any of us to do. But God has planned every step we take, guiding and protecting us, even in those areas where the darkest shadows of death seem imminent in the lowest valleys (Psalm 23). We might try to plan our own course of action but it's God Himself who determines where our steps go (Proverbs 16:9).

The Christian life is tough. It's a life of suffering, a life of struggle. The Apostle Paul tells us however that these struggles, testings and sufferings are not to be compared with the glory that is to follow. We are not alone in this struggle. The Christian life may be tough but it's because we take the narrow path and we have an enemy that is targeting us just because we belong to the Almighty God! It may be a life of struggles and suffering but it's the most rewarding, fulfilling, wonderful life you could ever live!!! You see, when Adam fell, all of creation suffered in the wake of his sin. All of creation has been subjected to futility and frustration. All of creation groans and anxiously awaits the restoration of all things. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Hope, for He assures us that great glory awaits us. Hope and Joy should be the trademark of a Christian life. We should be known by those two things.

Following God’s will is an adventure. Serving the Lord doesn't mean a pain free life though. But, following God’s will DOES mean a life filled with joy and hope. If you make choices to honor the Lord you will live a life of no regrets. The best time to start doing God’s will is now, right now. Hope in the Word of God and in His unfailing love is a done deal! There is no need to wonder about the certainty of these sources of hope, because they're immovable, immortal and unchanging. So when we have hope, we need to wait for what we hope for patiently, being joyful in our hoping and practicing endurance and looking to the encouragement of the Scriptures. As you go to the next chapter of your life, you have the promise that Jesus will go with you, He will never leave you or forsake you. Put your hope in the Lord.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Who Does YOUR Identity Belong To?

Galatians 2:20, " I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

God created each of you for a purpose! For a divine, appointed purpose! To God, you are so important and you mean everything to Him. You've got the greatest potential to be used by the Lord, for the Lord and with the Lord as long as you allow Him to direct your life in the way you should go. The Lord knows all things and He certainly knows what's best for you and me. Think for a moment what it actually means to have the Lord guiding your life. Think about the mistakes you'd avoid, the heartaches that could be avoided and the pains of knowing that by your own flesh, by your own choices, you really have NO direction at all without Him. There's an emptiness without Him. There's a dark void deep within that yearns for light to fill the darkness that only the Lord can do! Think too about what it would really mean to be a part of God’s plan for the world.

The world's philosophy is simple. Live for self. The Word of God says die to self. The world is run by Satan. He is the "god" of this world. Having a dependence on yourself or your possessions instead of God will lead to a fall because it is actually Satan who forces your dependence on yourself or worldly possessions. That's what he does in order to gain ground. He wants nothing more than for you to find your identity in him, in the world, in the darkness and in sin. His time is short. He knows it. Proverbs 11:28, "He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage." Also in John 15:5 we find this, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." This tells us where our identity really is for those who are born again Christ believers! We are to live in total dependence upon Christ, who is the power and wisdom of God.

Our Fingerprint in Jesus
A person’s identity is valuable to them and it's equally valuable to a thief. We should all take care to protect our identity from getting into the wrong hands. Identity theft is a growing national concern and it's estimated that over 9 million individuals have their identity stolen each year as of 2010, and growing with each passing year due to technological advances. Even children have their identities stolen. As frightening as it is to think someone, some stranger, knows too much about you and has invaded the most intimate of things by violating your privacy, as Christians, there's another identity that is more important and more valuable to us, and to the enemy. Our Christian identity. When we are saved, we are set apart. That's MY spiritual identity and it's far more valuable than any other identity that a thief could take from me. But just as it is important to me, it's also important for Satan and his pathetic minions too. He wants to steal your identity and those hands are the wrong hands to gain access to your privacy, to your identity. He can be compared to those “dumpster divers” who literally rummage through people's trash just to find a receipt, a check or anything else with a sliver of information that could possibly reveal our personal and/or financial identity. Satan dives into our hearts with his evil, diabolical intention to steal our spiritual identity, our moral purity, and it's done so subtly through the morally corrupt secular world. The fallen world that Satan uses, with all of its trappings, does his bidding for him in order to quietly lure us into compromising our spiritual identity.

Philippians 2:3-4, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. v4) Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." This is a good example of not being self-centered, selfish and prideful! The three things Satan uses in this world to trap us, to lure us, to gain access to our minds and hearts. We are not to trust ourselves, but we are to trust God. Remember that our hearts are deceitful above all things as quoted in Jeremiah 17:9, and so it can't be trusted on its own. So then that means we have to test everything in light of God’s word so we know it's true, it's godly and it's His will. We have to trust Him in following God’s principles that we find in the Bible. Most people rely on their own wisdom and reasoning, and few seek God's counsel. This is what is meant in Philippians 2:3-4. Our confidence needs to be in the advice that God gives us through His word because we know it to be true. We are to live by faith, NOT in our own fleshly selves. but in Christ. The believer knows that he has a carnal, fleshly nature. This nature is fully corrupt and sinful. It's the nature that Satan takes advantage of when our fleshly desires get in the way and our guards are let down. It seeks to destroy us. But the believer has the Spirit of God and a new nature that comes from God is a new identity in Jesus Christ! Our new identity nature allows us to understand God’s principles and how to apply them throughout our lives.

Now, it's here that I will point out the very word that Satan likes to throw around at us Christians through all formats to snag our sin nature. The "C" word. COMPROMISE. It's one of the most dangerous words for a Christian to adhere to, especially in this evil world we're living in right now. Our enemy, the devil, tricks us with this word by tempting us with lies that we can "handle" it. For example, take an R-rated movie. This is just ONE example of MANY. We all know it's full of profanity, sexual situations, gratuitous violence and nudity. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we shouldn't be watching such movies, much less entertaining the idea in the first place. But, here comes Satan dangling the shiny object in front of our noses telling us, "Well, look, it has a good story line. You can watch it because it has a good meaning behind it. The acting is superb, too and has your favorite actor playing the lead role. Go on, you can just overlook the profanity and close your eyes during the morally impure scenes. Afterall, it can't HARM YOU." That's one of the biggest lies Satan tells all of us is that it can't harm you! Oh but brothers and sisters, it most certainly CAN and DOES! The more he plants these thoughts to compromise what we know we shouldn't, the easier it becomes to make us trip and sometimes fall. It makes it easier for him to steal our identity. The stuff of which we observe, whether it's with our eyes or ears, we will soon begin to focus our lives, thoughts and actions around those things. Then we begin to slowly accept those things as acceptable behavior, eventually embracing it and ultimately participating in it. That's the normal progression for moral degeneration, beginning with a compromise, and don’t think for a minute that Christians are immune from Satan’s temptations. I'm not and neither are you.

You see, we are twice born creatures trying to live in a once born world while at the same time, being set apart FROM them. For unbelievers. this doesn't make sense because they are, unfortunately, living and taking part of the once born world, once born culture without ever knowing our Lord and Savior. Satan lays his traps everywhere we look and the bait he places before us can be  quite tantalizing. We live in a world of moral arrogance, selfishness, and self-centeredness and honestly, it's just spiritual adultery to pursue the pleasing values of this world while pledging our love for God. Satan knows this all too well....and after us, he comes. We are not righteous in ourselves. Romans 3:10-12, "As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; v11) There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. v12) They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” Our true righteousness is based ONLY on a sincere belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. This isn't head knowledge of Christ, but rather it's a personal belief, commitment to Him and a personal relationship with our Savior that changes our lives forever. It's a true belief that directs, instructs and controls your life.

John 10:10, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." Satan wants to steal your identity so that he can use the giftings, callings and purposes that are on your life from God for his own selfish purposes! Once he steals your identity, (has control of your soul) he uses your soul to kill your spirit and destroy your destiny! Also to destroy everything that you have dominion over! But look at what Romans 11:29 tells us, clearly, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." When we, as Christians, fully understand those words, those powerful words, we will become much stronger against the wiles of the enemy because we belong to royalty and with our royal heritage comes powers through the shed blood of our Savior who died on the cross for all of our sins and who is ALIVE. Satan has already been defeated! He's just trying to upset the apple cart.....Many genuine Christians are still tormented in their minds because a principality of darkness planted a lie deep within their minds sometime in their distant or recent past that they've nurtured, believed and allowed to take root by believing the lie because they kept rehearsing it repeatedly out of their own unregenerated soul or unrenewed mind. This is why it's so important to stay in His word, daily renewing your minds and sanctifying your souls.

We can spend our whole lives building our credit, building our identity and our identity credit and in a split second, somebody steals your identity and your future is destroyed. The same thing holds true in the spiritual realm. You can spend your entire life building your spiritual identity, building your relationship with Jesus and finding your place in royalty, but in a blink of an eye, all it takes is one moment to forget who you are, and who you belong to, and make a careless, thoughtless decision. A momentary lapse of reasoning that will take us years to fix the mess of what just one decision did, all because we forgot who we are! The lie that the world and the devil likes to whisper into the ear of our hearts and minds is: "I have to be strong". Being "strong" is the crux of all of it really because being strong is associated with being independent, self-sufficient, self-centered. All the "self's" can be attached to being "strong." But let's look at the TRUTH that's taken from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, "And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 

1 Peter 5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour Here are just a few ways." Peter informs us that Satan is a thief seeking to steal your identity as a faithful child of God. Let's take a look at some of the ways Satan can accomplish this thievery.
1) SATAN STEALS ONE’S IDENTITY WHEN ONE BELIEVES JESUS TO BE GOD’S SON, BUT REFUSES TO ACCEPT ALL SCRIPTURE AS GOD’S WORD. The great majority of humanity doesn't follow God’s Word in their daily living or in their religious practices. Because of this carelessness, Satan sees an open door and encourages us to do as the majority does, as the world does and as our flesh would do. Primitive man became so corrupt that God had to destroy him from the earth, saving only righteous Noah  and his family as found in Genesis 6-7 and 1 Peter 3:20-21. Following the flood, we find how man again became wicked so God chose Abraham through whom He would eventually bring Jesus to save man from sin Genesis 12:1-3 and Galatians 3:16. The LORD still commands, "You shall not follow a crowd to do evil" Exodus 23:2.

LOVE THE WORLD MORE THAN GOD. Twice in the parable of the sower Matthew 13:18-23; Luke 8:11-15, Jesus speaks of the wicked one snatching the seed of God’s Word from the hearts of men. Jesus said for the child of God this happens when they are choked by cares, riches and the pleasures of life. The apostle John charged in 1 John 2:15-16"Do not love the world or the things in the world, if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Look what is said here in Hebrews 3:12, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;"

STATING, “THY WORD IS TRUTH.” (John 17:17): For those whom Satan has stolen through unbelief, God’s Word warns in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, v10) and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved." “Saved” in this passage is the same as “sanctified” in John 17:17. For those who don't believe God’s revealed truth, who turns from His revealed Truths, Satan has stolen their identity as children of God.

Many believers fall into his sticky trap, sometimes intentionally, but mostly unintentionally because they believe the lies. All of his dirty lies. What lies? The lies that speak about their identity in Christ. For example 1) I am not good enough, 2) I am insignificant, 3) I am worthless, 4) I am bad, 5) I am a failure, 6) I am not lovable. 7) I am broken. These lies penetrate the depths of one's soul, to such a depth that results in empty feelings of being lost, hopeless, damaged, misunderstood, frustrated, alone and vulnerable. The worst part is these lies are often lived out as absolute truths because they've believed them long enough that they've become a reality. Believing those lies in this manner guides the person toward destruction… further away from God’s plan. Just like the enemy wants them to do!

But there's good news! No, there's AWESOME news! We can have VICTORY in Jesus and RETAIN our IDENTITY IN HIM! Let's take a look at several ways to retain our identity, to fight off the lies of the enemy and to walk with Jesus boldly in our heritage!
1) BE ALERT! 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." Staying alert to the lies that the enemy wants so desperately to tell us and convince us of, is imperative to not losing our identity to this lowly thief. Satan doesn't want us to be alert. In fact, it's the opposite. He wants us to be filled with distractions, with "noise" and with the world so we don't see what's around the corner ready to attack!

2) PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD! Ephesians 6:10-18 is long but IMPORTANT, and I'm going to copy it in its entirety. 10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. v11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. v12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. v13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. v14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, v15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; v16) above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. v17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; v18) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints...." If we walk out of the house, or even wake up and forget to put on the whole armor, we leave a part of ourselves open to attack, to identity theft.

3) RESIST AND STAND FIRM! 1 Peter 5:9-10 tells us, "Resist him, stand firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. v10) But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." Resisting the devil will make him flee from us and in doing so, we are able to stand a little firmer ground, growing stronger through the Lord. Our faith needs to be strong and grounded. It needs to be built upon the solid rock of our Lord and Savior because no other way will we be able to resist the devil much less overcome!

4) PRAY! Matthew 26:41 speaks much truth about the power of prayer! "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Our flesh IS weak, no matter who you are, no matter how mature of a Christian you are, and no matter what we try to do. That's why God sent His only Begotten Son to die for our sins, for our weaknesses in our flesh because we couldn't, and CAN'T, do it without Him! As we pray to Him daily, and are watchful of the wiles of Satan, we begin to feel the "will of the spirit" more and more and our transformation into the likeness of our Father takes precedence.

5) PROTECT YOUR THOUGHT LIFE! This is so important but many people, many Christians too, don't see, or refuse to see, just how dangerous a thought, a simple, seemingly harmless thought can be. But it can be extremely harmful because once it takes root, we become that thought.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. v4) For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, v5) 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," And then in Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." We are warned and instructed several times to guard our minds and thoughts and to protect them from receiving thoughts that aren't of the Lord. A thought, good or bad, takes roots inside of our minds and those roots reach our hearts in no time! What we think, therefore we are....

6) KNOWING GOD'S TRUTH! Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Not much more needs to be said because this is His truth sent to us to quench our thirst, to fill our bellies and to nourish our souls! We do need to present ourselves approved and rightly dividing the word!

7) FLEE FROM TEMPTATION! 1 Timothy 6:11 tells us, "But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness." As we flee from our temptations to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness, those things become who we are on a daily basis. It's part of our sanctification. Daily renewing our minds and fleeing temptations. To do so, we MUST call on our Lord, know Him intimately so that we know His will and character, and walk upright with Him.

8) STAND IN GOD'S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND GRACE! I find more and more Christians finding this difficult to do because either they don't feel worthy or they don't understand grace! Standing in His love and Grace is such a beautiful thing and more beautiful is finding your worth in HIS eyes to receive it fully! Revelation 12:10-11, "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. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." 

Where We Belong!
These are examples of how we should live in order to retain our identity in Christ! If we can do this, then the biggest, but weakest, thief can't steal our identity. As you continue to trust God on a daily basis, you will begin to believe His truths! The wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, not the wisdom of the world. James 3:17, "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." Ah, the beauty of the words of our God! His instructions to us and in how we are to gain wisdom and from where, just shows us how much He really LOVES us unconditionally! We need to surrender to His will and resist the devil so he will flee from us. James 4:4 just might sum it up the best saying, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." 

If you believe in the Lord as your Savior, then you don’t have to continue believing Satan's lies. You can claim your identity! It’s yours. You just may have forgotten your place in God’s family. Maybe you've allowed these lies to creep into your mind and heart. There is still hope, the greatest hope. The wonderful thing is that you don’t have to go looking for the thief that stole from you in order to get your identity back. God's taken care of it already! He's the best Judge, the ULTIMATE Judge, we have and He restores all!

Hebrews 10:22-23, "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."

So, don’t risk losing your spiritual identity! It is the single most valuable, important thing that any Christian has in their spiritual possession, more valuable than anything in THIS fallen world. It's our eternal identity. And the enemy doesn't want us to know that, or understand it, because if we do, then it's harder for him to fool us. He wants us weak, worldly and tempted. He doesn't want us to know our heritage, nor does he want us to own our eternal identities. He wants us focused on "self" rather than Jesus! Galatians 2:20, " I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  God's cure for the problems of "self" is a transformation. God has a plan and a way for you to live your life. It's a way by which you will overcome the difficulties of this life.

Guard YOUR identity and KNOW who your identity belongs to! It's never too late!

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Our Moments of Impact

Acts 9:3-6, "As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. v4) Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” v5) And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” v6) So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Paul was on his way to persecute Christians. Then he had a moment of impact, a defining moment, that changed the entire context of everything that he knew before that. The redirection, refocus, redefinition would ultimately come directly out of that moment. A God encounter moment can happen at any time. That moment of impact that changes you forever. And we have many of those moments that define our paths if only we took time to recognize them.

Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). This signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. It is used to define a specific time that exists in between regular time ("Chronos"); a moment of undetermined period of time in which something unique, powerful and special happens. Kind of like a watershed moment that affects every aspect of the person's life forever more. In the New Testament Kairos means "the appointed time in the purpose of God", the time when God acts (e.g. Mark 1.15, the kairos is fulfilled). Kairos is approximately used 81 times in the NT according to Strongs and it seems to be an indeterminate time, a "moment" or a "season," whereas another Greek term chronos (used 54 times) refers to a specific amount of time, such as a day or an hour (Acts 13.18, 27.9, etc.).

It is here that I will share one of those moments, one that I've shared before on this blog but just recently had been made more aware of the actual "impact" of how it defined me, and my life, in a new way. The Lord kept subtly reminding me of my car accident. As I was recounting it to my doctors, I used the term, "at the moment of impact" and that phrase stuck with me. I really didn't question why because when something sticks with me in the way that the phrase did, I immediately know it's for my best interest and there's a REASON it's being imprinted in my thoughts. I also know that when it's time, the reason will be revealed. For those who are new to this blog, I will give you a shortened version, and for those who are my followers, it will be a refresher course.

I was on my way to work, traveling the same route I always traveled. The road was a 50 mph road. I had come to a complete stop behind a vehicle that was turning. I was watching him turn and had my head turned slightly to the left in the direction of his turn. As he completed the turn I just began to bring my head around when suddenly the horrible sound of crashing metal was heard, I felt and heard the breath being knocked out of me and that's all I remembered until I became conscious again. I was knocked out cold! He was estimated at going 50 mph, which was the posted speed limit, and didn't brake. He hit me at full force from behind while I was a complete stop which increases the impact quite a bit. Later that evening, while laying in the hospital room waiting for tests to come back, I turned and looked over to the person who was there with me, and said, "This moment of impact will forever change my life. This is my defining moment." I didn't know just how true that statement would turn out to be!

There are some things that only God knows about that accident, but then there are those that I still can't believe! He was with me, protecting me in a way that I just couldn't imagine! I had said a FEW extra prayers along my way to work with a little bit more of an urgency than normal. I don't know why. I just did and followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do so. Some of those prayers consisted of things that I didn't even understand why I was praying them until AFTER the accident. The impact was serious enough to knock me out, closed headed brain hemorrhage, to break my finger, to crack my elbow, give me a concussion with a mild TBI, sprain my wrist, give me whiplash, rupture a disc in my neck and total my car. This wasn't a fender bender. I had my seat belt on and thank God for that because I'd have been through my windshield or with worse injuries. My sudden fuzziness and inability to remain oriented after coming to was the one thing that made me KNOW this was going to change my life forever.

I was told that I needed to see a neurosurgeon because the CAT scan showed a cyst on my brain, obviously unrelated to the accident. An incidental finding. I saw the same neurosurgeon doctor that was on call that evening who looked at my CAT scan results. He told me it was confirmed by the CAT scan film that it was the cyst, a colloid cyst that the medical community calls a "sudden death cyst" because of the location. No doubts, right? I asked him. None whatsoever. In fact, he was so sure, that he bet me his house! That's pretty "sure." He showed me the "cyst" and I'm totally fascinated by looking at my own brain and seeing this image of the cyst residing nicely inside. Of course, I ask if this could possibly be blood, considering I did have a hemorrhage. He said no because of the location and the edges were too smooth. He explained to me that with a closed head trauma injury, blood has a hard time getting to this location without a massive open head wound. OK. He then scheduled me for an MRI of my brain saying that he's more worried about my brain than my spine and neck right now. THAT was serious to me. I walked out of there with a "refusal" to accept that diagnosis, I sent out prayer requests to those I knew for healing and for the will of God to be done. I did my MRI, then went back to the follow up a week, maybe two, later and my doctor was in shock. There was NOTHING there. Not a thing. He said he couldn't explain this, how he and his superior who, between the two of them, had 50 years experience, were baffled and couldn't understand it. I said it was prayers and the will of God that did this miraculous healing. At which point we then began to concentrate on my neck and spine, the other reason I had to come to see him. For reasons only known to God Himself, the cyst was a full miraculous healing but the neck and spine wasn't. He made another statement regarding my accident and he said had my head been turned just a hair more to the right, I'd have been paralyzed or worse.....another "moment of impact!"

Our Moments of Impact
My moment of impact. My defining moment. I've had many in my life and some were so profound that it made my belly flip flop! This was no different. I knew this was one of my own moments of impact and I had a choice in how I was going to respond to it. When I explained my accident and some of my symptoms to the neurologist that I was referred to just recently, I used that term again. Then no sooner did I say it, the Holy Spirit sealed it for me. This was going to be what I was to write about...but I'd have to wait until the time was ripe. And here it is.....ripe and ready! Let's define what a moment of impact really is and what it means. It's a time in our lives that has the power to change our life forever. These moments can be good, bad or even devastating moments. A moment of impact is really a defining moment. They're opportunities for us to show who we really are, what we're really made of and who we really belong to. These moments of impact mold us, shape us and direct our lives. It isn't so much the event that ultimately defines us, or molds us, or shapes us or even directs us. But rather, it's how we respond TO those moments of impact that'll change us forever. Now don't misunderstand me, an event most definitely CAN be impactful but it's really more about our reaction to the event because the event is actually momentary. Lasts sometimes just a few seconds to a few minutes and it's gone. However, the residual effects of that event, the emotional, mental and even spiritual effects can last much longer. It's with those emotions, mentality and spiritual responses though that will determine our change....for the good, the bad or indifferent. See, God watches all of us to see how we will handle our moments of we'll handle our defining moments.

Jesus Himself had a defining moment! Matthew 4:1-11, "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. v2) And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. v3) Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” v4) But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” v5) Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, v6) and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” v7) Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” v8) Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. v9) And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” v10) Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” v11) Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him." Here, Jesus is confronted and tempted by the devil. This is a defining moment because Jesus responds to the devil by standing FIRM against evil, thereby demonstrating His dedication to His Father! Jesus passes the test. You see, it was His RESPONSE that defined that experience, that temptation. Jesus is our example in how we, too, should respond to OUR moments of impact, our defining moments! He knows what it's like for us to be tempted, to be hurt, to be deceived, to be in pain, to be disappointed. He knows it ALL. He took every single bit of those wrongs, sins, injuries, pains, sorrows, disappointments, anguish with Him to the cross! He took it ALL for us!

And Job is another example. Job 1:1-22, "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. v2) And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. v3) Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. v4) And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. v5) So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly. 

Satan Attacks Job’s Character
v6) Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. v7) And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” v8) Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” v9) So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? v10) Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. v11) But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” v12) And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Job Loses His Property and Children
v13) Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; v14) and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, v15) when the Sabeans raided them and took them away - indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” v16) While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” v17) While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” v18) While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, v19) and suddenly a great wind came from across[d] the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” v20) Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. v21) And he said:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” v22) In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong." Job loses everything! He lost his children, his health and his wealth. Job's immediate response to every single moment of impact, and he had many, was to continue to serve and honor and love the Lord! This is thus teaching us that during our own moments of impact, we need to continue to serve, honor and love our Lord God almighty! Sometimes, just like Job experienced, God allows us to experience our own difficult tests, enduring those moments of impact to see how we will respond.

A God moment sets the balances of your life, for the rest of your life. They define you from that point on as a different person. If they don't change you, or redefine you, then you are missing out on one of His most beautiful lessons. I've known some people in my lifetime that  have had some moments of impact that instead of learning and growing from them, and instead of allowing it to change their lives in a good way, just did the opposite. It broke them. It tore them apart. It destroyed them. But they didn't respond to those moments in the way that God would have wanted them to respond. They didn't know Jesus the way that He wanted them to know Him so they went through life destroyed and destroying others around them as a result. It's sad. These moments happen to all of us. I always call them my "reference points" because every "moment of impact" that I've had, is a reference point from WHERE I WAS and what changed in my life....who I was. Those moments may have been extremely difficult to experience at the time, but as I look back and see how the Hand of God was working IN that situation, how He was there with me all along, it's praise worthy! I've sometimes described my moments of impact as a moment when a lightning bolt collides and crashes with the here and now, with the very second that seems to stop.....impacting that moment forward. And yes, there are right ways and wrong ways to respond to these moments. All throughout the Bible there are examples of men and women experiencing challenges and successes. Sometimes, success was taken for granted and abused. In other cases, we can see how some were able to rise above their challenging situations they faced. The Lord allowed all of them to experience both the personal highs and lows, and He allows us to do the same thing.

Some people get so caught up in life, in the world, in the brokenness, that they don't SEE those moments of impact as defining moments. Especially those who don't know Jesus as their Savior. It's important to have those moments of impact become your defining moments! Find them. Embrace them. They’ll take the breath right out of your lungs. It's at that one moment when time stands still; life stops for a second. They come suddenly but they grow slowly. Defining moments at the moment of impact are those moments that are divinely arranged to redefine our lives. They're there to set us on a new path that changes the way we live, act, talk and shapes us into the person we should become. People had them all the time in the Bible – shaping them and growing them into new people. Missing those moments, not being able to recognize those moments or not being able to SEE them for what they are, you become the person not quite like what you could have become, and definitely not like the person that God was wanting you to become. Some of our best defining moments from our moments of impact that God has orchestrated, are in our failures, NOT our successes, shaping us in our brokenness, the greatest. Sure we can experience successful moments of impact but it's not through those moments that change happens. It's not where God transforms us. It's not where we see His power the most.

There are two things about defining moments that are true; first, people are not limited to just one defining moment in our lives because there are MANY and second, defining moments will have a huge impact on our lives when they happen. Most likely, once you have a defining moment you are never the same again. That one moment of impact....that one defining moment, keeps changing us, molding us and growing us. There have been so many defining moments in our lives that have changed our lives forever and ultimately set the course we'd follow for the rest of our lives. Many of these defining moments are recorded in God’s Word. The Bible is a great place to see good examples of moments of impact and defining moments. Moses had a number of defining moments in his life, like when he found the Burning Bush and God spoke to him. I believe that moment of impact in Moses' life was enough to change anyone forever! Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego had defining moments when they were taken into captivity. Daniel had a defining moment when he was thrown into a lion’s den. Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego had a defining moment when they were thrown into a fiery furnace. King David had many defining moments that affected him in positive ways and in negative ways. The Bible is FULL of moments of impact that gives defining moments to those experiencing them! And think about THIS for a moment.....our moments of impact, our defining moments, can then eventually cause moments of impact and defining moments in others lives! Take Joshua for instance. He had many defining moments that eventually caused the whole nation of Israel to have defining moments.

Face Time with God!
In Exodus 33 we get just a hint of one of those defining moment for Joshua in verse 11.  It tells us that when Moses left the Tent of Meeting Joshua wouldn't leave the tent. Why? He was spending some face time with God and it was changing his life. It was a his moment of impact....his defining moment. In Deuteronomy 31 when Moses chose Joshua to succeed him as the leader of the Israelites and to take them into the Promised Land, that was a defining moment. When Joshua came to the Jordan River at flood stage once again, another defining moment for Joshua and for the nation. His defining moments lead the nation Israel to their defining moments. God never allows ANYTHING in our lives to happen without a reason! It's for us, it's for someone else, and even for nations! Another defining moment came for Joshua and the people of Israel when they suffered their first defeat against Ai. How would they react because they were defeated? This would define them. They made a bad choice and tried to defeat the city while depending upon their own resources instead of relying on God. The very fact that they turned their back to God defined them. Joshua is such an example about how all of his moments of impact and defining moments caused a nation to have defining moments of their own. I would highly suggest taking time to read it in it's entirety because I don't have enough time or space to point out all the moments that became so pivotal. I will give one more example about Joshua below but I will emphasize reading it at your own speed because so many lessons are to be learned from this book! We are not defined by our defeats. We are defined by how we respond to them. It's our response to those moments when life impacts with us that can totally change our lives! How we respond can make us conquerors or cowards. It's a defining moment.

Joshua 24:14-15, "14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! v15) And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  All the people are summoned together and Joshua challenges the whole nation to make a choice as to who they are going to serve.  This was after all the fighting to take the land that God had promised them. The nation is faced with yet another defining moment. That's how Joshua approaches this choice with Israel. He gives them a little history report first and then he proceeds to tell them the above in Joshua 24:14-15. From this moment of impact on, the nation of Israel is going to make a decision that will define them. Will they be a people that is going to serve God or a people that is going to serve themselves? Are they going to be a people that depends on God or are they going to depart from the dependent relationship? Will they walk by faith or will they walk by sight? Will they live as covenant people in a pagan culture or will they succumb to the influence of evil around them?

I would dare to say that I believe people in our society today are faced with the same moments of impact and defining moments as these and it would definitely sound exactly the same. Everything we experience in this life is no different than what has already been experienced. It's just different circumstances painted within a different picture. That's why they call it the LIVING BIBLE! They were living in a day when they needed a moment of impact and a defining moment. But we, too, are living in a time when WE need to have a defining moment. Our moments of impact! We need to decide if we are going to stand secure in our position with Christ. We need to decide how we are going to respond at the moment of impact, whether we will allow it to change our lives forever, and grow us, mold us and shape us, or are we going to let it deaden us, break us, or devastate us to the point we rebel against the very one that wanted us to draw close? When we're faced with temptations and problems are we going to live as a saint standing in God’s grace? When other family members are driving us up a wall, and they will, when our kids are making us pull our hair out, and they do, when our parents are frustrating us, when we mess up, and we will, when we lose something dear to us, and we have, when we are not feeling well and when we are hurt; are we going to stand firm? Are we going to stand firm, stand up and praise the Lord for His blessings even through the wilderness? WE SHOULD!

Paul said in Ephesians 6:13-15, "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. v14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, v15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;" 

Moments of impact usually come in three different places.....most ALL of our moments of impact can, and will, fall under one or all of these places in one form or another.
1) Through pain...emotional, mental or spiritual and in varying degrees of intensity. The Apostle Peter is a good example of someone who had a defining moment because of a great emotional pain. He betrayed Jesus, not just once, but three times in one night alone. His heart was broken because he did something he thought he'd never do. Scripture says that Peter wept bitterly because of his actions. This was his moment of impact...his defining moment. He could either give up and run away or he could face the others and face Jesus. Peter chose to stay and follow Christ. His decision and his defining moment was based upon his pain.

2) A defining moment, a moment of impact, can come from a piercing truth. The Apostle Paul’s conversion to Christianity was based upon a piercing truth in Acts 9. No other person, apart from Jesus Christ Himself, shaped the history, the defining moment, of Christianity more than Paul did, all because he was exposed to the truth that Jesus is alive! The piercing truth that was revealed to Paul who was, at the time, called Saul of Tarsus, was that Jesus, (whom Saul was persecuting) was alive and well. Jesus revealed Himself to Saul and he turned his heart to God and became one of the greatest church builders in the history of the church.

3) A defining moment may come from an irresistible love for God. David was such a man. He had a deep, irresistible love for God and even though David stumbled and fell, as we all do from time to time, he knew God loved him. He knew that when he asked for forgiveness God would forgive him. The reason he asked for forgiveness was because of his love for God. He hurt God and when he was confronted with his sin, David’s love for God caused him to repent.

From Joshua and the Israelites to David, their moments of impact and defining moments all caused their lives to be changed dramatically and somewhat drastically! Their lives were all heading in one direction until God touched their life in some powerful, impactful way; and their lives began heading in a new and different direction. We all should long to have our own moments of impact, our defining moments and be able to recognize them as such. In order to do that, all we have to do is look to Jesus because He has many defining moments Himself! Let's first look at Mark 1:9-13, John Baptizes Jesus in v9-v11, "v9) It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. v10) And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. v11) Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then Satan Tempts Jesus in v12-v13, "v12) Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. v13) And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him." 

Here are just 4 ways, although there are more, to recognize our moments of impact becoming our defining moments in our lives. In order to learn to recognize our moments of impact, the first thing we need to take away from the lessons from Jesus is recognizing that when we feel we have to leave the safety of what we know, the comfortable part of complacency, in order to do what we are compelled to do. Jesus had a defining moment that said, “it is time to begin.” He had to leave the comforts of His mother’s home to begin His ministry to the public. He was compelled to do what He needed to do. There are times in our lives when we know that God wants us to do something and we have to make that decision to do it no matter what the cost may be because if He's compelled us to do it, He has already finished it for us!

The 2nd thing to take away from His lessons is when it seems that life just got exponentially harder because we are trying to do the right thing. Jesus was obedient to God, His Father, and that obedience led Him to the desert where He went 40 days without anything to eat. Then after the 40 days, He was then tempted by the enemy. It's not easy being obedient to God. In fact, it's hard and stressful sometimes. It doesn't always bring you roses and beautiful gardens to skip least not right away anyway! It brought Paul being shipwrecked, beaten, thrown in jail, and left for dead all because his defining moment lead him into obedience to God.

The 3rd thing to take away from His lessons is when it's our faith that dictates our decisions, rather than logic. Logic often times gets us in a little deeper than we would care to go because logic used without the Lord is nothing more than worldly advice. Jesus was compelled, there's that word again, to be baptized by John the Baptizer. He didn't NEED to be baptized by John, after all He is God. But, His faith in God’s plan took over and logic took a back seat. Right where it should the back seat. Some people never get to experience a defining moment in their life because they can't recognize the moment of impact that has been orchestrated to get their attention. The Bible is full of stories that prove faith overcomes logic. They can’t let faith control them. They WON'T let Faith control them. They would much rather control life themselves because it "seems" safer to them. To them, faith doesn't seem logical.

The 4th thing to take away from His lessons is when we can see God’s hand of protection all over us. Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him as stated in Mark 1:13. No food means no strength and yet He didn't have to worry about any of it, including food, because He knew God was going to take care of Him, sustaining Him, just as God protected the Israelites as they went into the Promised Land. God promises that He will protect us in the very same way.

Becoming a growing disciple of the Lord requires that we respond to those moments of impact that become our "defining moments" because they have been specifically placed before us on the path of life. Some by divine appointment, being allowed for whatever His purpose is in His Perfect Will for our lives, while others may be allowed as a lesson from our ill-advised, fleshly decisions that the Lord graciously turns around for our good. Pain is often the middle man, if you will, because sometimes it's through our pain that God gets our attention. We may not see that at the time of "impact" but I assure, it's there! These moments reveal the character of us all.....they reveal the character of all involved. Our action or inaction to those moments will define us. Jesus is our awesome example of how to respond to each moment of impact and to respond to our defining moments. Everything in our lives actually require some kind of a response if you really think about it. They may not all be defining moments of course, but they all require a response. Marriage. Divorce. Birth. Death. Love gained. Love lost. Healing. Suffering. Noise. Silence. Darkness. Light. We learn a haunting truth. We hear a daunting lie. All of these situations seem to demand a response of some sort on our part. But it's how we respond that makes a moment a defining moment. How will we respond? What choices will we make? Who will we become? Some moments of impact will effect one person differently than another based on the purpose for that particular incident or event. My car accident may not have had the same "impact" or defining moment to someone else, in the way it had with me. It was MY moment of impact and MY defining moment. It was special to what the Lord was about to do in my life, in me, for me, with me and to me! That's what a defining moment IS. CHANGE.

A month before my accident, the Lord called me to begin this blog ministry. It came to me so suddenly, so brightly, so intensely that I couldn't ignore the prompting. It was clear and literally from the moment I felt "compelled" and heard His direction in my spirit, to the conception of the blog, was all of two days! I was SO compelled that I knew better than to procrastinate on this and, instead, obeyed Him fervently! From the first few articles I posted and wrote for this blog in its conception until where the Lord has brought me to now in this ministry, has been amazing! Until recently, though, I wasn't able to see why this blog was so important for me to do and why the Lord dropped a boulder on my head to get my attention enough to do it quickly. I had just enough time to teach myself how to start this blog, what avenue to use in getting it out there, how to design it, and what its content should be, before my accident. There was a sense of urgency though, this I can remember clearly!

The months began to pass, the Lord began to speak louder and louder, and show me more and more. In the process however, I was noticing my short term memory had been more affected by the accident than I first thought, but I began to also notice that my word recall and comprehension when I read was affected as well. I'm not sure if that's the right term "comprehension" but to clarify that, I can read a paragraph and by the time I get to the 5th sentence, well, I forget what I just read. I have to then re-read it a few times and voila! I used to have an amazing memory and I still do to a degree. It seems that a specific part of my memory issue is affected and not all so I'm thanking the Lord for keeping most of it in tact! Long term is still awesome. There's different areas of the brain that is responsible for different kinds of memories. It's my short term that I've struggled with since the accident. Sometimes it will cause me to freeze right in the middle of what I'm saying or trying to say. I will scramble for the words and then carry on. I laugh it off because the Lord gave me a wonderful sense of humor and it has gotten me through a tremendous amount of pain, trials and tribulations!!! These things are out of my control and I can't change them, so I deal with them in humorous ways and poke fun at it instead! I do well for the most part and I thank the good Lord that it wasn't worse because it could have been! The Lord had His hands around me that very day. A little issue here and there I'm good with because I know, somewhere, there is someone worse than myself. The issue was noticed immediately, however since I knew I had a pretty bad concussion, hemorrhage and mild TBI, I expected it. I guess what I didn't expect was it to last longer than a year. It did though. I'm proactive and do training exercises at home and I've had a little progress. It's not anything that I am too worried about. It's frustrating, it gets embarrassing, but I've learned to deal with it thus far. I can carry on a conversation just fine...with a few hiccups. HA! I can read just fine...also with a few hiccups. But this too, was a moment of impact for me as well! I chose to respond to my accident with laughter, with joy in my heart and with full and complete Faith in the Lord and His will for my life. I chose to respond with a renewed trust because I knew He was there protecting me before I even knew I needed protection!

Just recently it became very clear why the Lord gave me this ministry. I'm not able to verbally describe things, explain things the way I USED to do before the accident, or in as much detail mainly because of the recall issue I'm having. I stammer for the knowledge stuck in my head. I can explain things just takes me a little bit longer with a little bit more frustration in getting it from my "storage room" to the audience. This issue became a little more evident as I was delving deeper into this ministry. It was then that I realized I didn't lose my writing ability! I'm able to write and explain and describe clearly and it flows out without thought most of the time! Then just as that was a defining moment, it also became another moment of impact for me as well. For as long as I can remember, I've written poetry. One of which I have posted on this site. God inspired, gave me the talent and allowed that wonderful gift to flourish.....until my mother passed over! I used to write two to three, sometimes more, a month. When mom passed over in 2004, something happened. It was like not only was my breath taken from me, but the words of my poetry left too. I found myself not being able to write, unable to be inspired. She was always my best audience and supporter, mostly praising me but sometimes, critiquing what needed to be corrected. She loved my poetry in a way a mother would but also in a way that inspired me and guided me as well. After her passing, I wrote three about her and her passing, shortly after she went home to be with the Lord. Then I was dry as a bone for years. I've written maybe 10 total, including her three, since 2004. I've prayed and begged and pleaded for the Lord to inspire me, for Him to allow me to write again....but nothing.

Well, as we know, God gives and takes away! I was devastated by my inability to write my poetry because it was such a big part of ME. But that was just it. It was about ME. It was FOR ME. I may have shared them sporadically with others here and there, always with my mom, but ultimately, it was for me. During this time of being dragged through the hot dry desert, I didn't realize that was the reason my ability to write was being taken away from me. Until.....recently. Until this moment of impact. God never took my ability to write from me at all. He took WHAT I was writing, WHO I was writing it for, and HOW I was writing. The WHAT was my inner most thoughts and experiences, spiritual and emotional, the WHO was for ME and a select FEW I'd share them with, and the HOW was poetry. In place of what He took, He was prepping me, guiding me, directing me, and leading me to THIS! To my blog for all of YOU! The WHAT turned into His Word and Gospel. The WHO turned into all of YOU. The HOW turned into writing lessons and these posts. What an AWESOME God is HE! There was one incident that pushed me into this blog, by divine appointment, to get me ready for what was going to happen shortly after. That incident spearheaded my desire, my deep desire to be in a ministry that would touch others. Another moment of led right into the other. Anyway, God replaced what He took from me but kept my writing ability in tact. This ministry was born. He is in control now, just as much as He was then! He went before me this whole time. He knew before I did the outcome. God took away my poetry writing so that I could be used to write this ministry for HIM and His people. How humbling for me to realize that all He took away was the way I wrote, but not my ability to write. So much more has been a blessing throughout my moment of impact in the accident! Too many to name.

So when I was led to write this entry, I knew that not only was I going to be sharing a part of myself but also letting each of you know that ALL of our moments of impact, our defining moments really can change our lives forever but they don't have to change them in a negative way! Having complete confidence in God’s plan for our life can teach us all that if we place ourselves in God’s Loving hands, regardless of our trials here on earth, He will give us perfect peace.

Our moments of impact and defining moments are a crossroads moment, a turning point moment, a breakthrough moment, a very important moment, and a critical, crucial moment! Our moments of impact demand a response because how we respond will ultimately dictate how the outcome will be to that moment. It's all about HOW we respond. There are defining moments that will forever change the identity and the destiny of a person. Your own legacy can be determined by where you stand and how you respond in the defining moments of your life. My moment of impact forever changed my life in many amazing ways. It defined me in ways that I wasn't sure were possible. God was sure though.

The defining moment for ALL of humanity, every individual and human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And THAT, my dear readers, is the ULTIMATE defining MOMENT that impacted the entirety of our very existence!

When you look back, there was one moment of impact, one decision, one defining moment that changed your course of living. There were many I'm convinced, but take some time to reflect on just ONE for the moment. Pray about it, asking the Lord to show you what ALL He did with you, for you, in you and through you. You will be amazed at what you learn. You will also begin to recognize those moments a little more readily and give them as a point of reference to those who you share your story with or witness to. You will begin to see other "moments of impact" arise from the one before and you will ultimately look forward to the next one that will be divinely set before you because you know that God has went before you and paved your way!

May God bless you richly in spirit. May He reveal to you those moments that not only defined the event but defined your character, changing your life, because of the way you responded. May He guide you in your walk with Him and keep you safe in His arms! In the precious name of Jesus! Amen!

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Society of the Victim Mentality

Have you ever sat back and just took a long, hard look at our society and the decaying stench that it wreaks and wonder how we got to this place in society? Have you noticed how it's never anybody's fault for what they've done? Have you noticed how it's everyone else's fault for the way someone has turned out, for how they act, for who they become, for all of their problems? Have you noticed that the victimizers become the victims? Have you noticed that there's rarely real consequences for the actions of those that are actually the perpetrators, for those who have done wrong, or for those who walk around mistakenly believing they deserve it all with their hands out? Have you noticed the increasing amount of people who declare that they "deserve" everything because they are OWED it all? Well, I have and I'm saddened by what I've been seeing. It's progressively getting worse with each passing year. If you haven't taken notice, maybe now is a good time to start.

I want to start off by pointing out that we ALL are a VICTIM of something in our lives! This is one thing none of us can escape no matter how we try. Every single person in this fallen world has been hurt, oppressed, wronged, abused, used, sexually violated, abandoned, rejected, hated, battered, robbed, shunned, terrorized, and a number of other causes of victimization that labels us a victim. Some have been a victim to many things while others only a few but we ALL have been a victim. So then why do some people end up choosing to remain a victim? Why do some people end up victimizing others as a result of their own hardships? Why do some people end up living their lives AS a VICTIM rather than breaking free from the chains that bind them? It's important to note that no one escapes becoming a victim to "something" or OF "something" but we ALL can escape the chains that bind us and keep us in that place.

In John 5:6, Jesus says, "When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?" In the book of John chapter 5 it gives us a clear view about a place called Bethesda, a supernatural city where an angel would eventually come down and stir the waters. That has always fascinated my inquisitive mind to just imagine an angel coming down from heaven to literally stir up the waters is something of a beautiful picture that forever remains in my mind! This is where Jesus found a man laying by a pool, along with many others, sick and diseased in varying degrees and in various ways. When the angel would swoop down and touch the waters to stir them, the first person to jump in was healed of whatever disease or infirmity they had! Talk about an amazing opportunity for an instant healing!

In this chapter and verse, it shows how Jesus walked up to a man who had been afflicted with an infirmity for thirty eight years. This disease gripped this man for most of his life. One thing Jesus knew is how easy it was, is and could be, for someone who has a disease for a long time to end up wrapping their whole identity around their disease. It happened then and it is still happening today. What comes against us, and something will, or has, can easily end up becoming a part of our identity, a part of who we believe we are, if we are not discerning enough. By that, I mean, simply put, we become comfortable with the very thing that holds us down or back from what God wants us. We BECOME what our bondage is, we become our own victim.

Want to Be Healed?
As you can see, the question that Jesus asks confronts the victim mindset right from the start. When you read this account, it may seem like Jesus is being a little bit uncaring, or even indifferent to the plight of this man, or at least by our modern day standards with our modern day minds. He doesn't ask for the man’s story. No need for intake to be done regarding what kind of factors even got him to this place. His question hits to the core of the man’s heart and motivation, point blank. “Do you want to be made well?” He cuts right to the heart of the matter, Do you REALLY want to be healed? That, my dear readers, is the key question for ALL of us. Do we REALLY want to be healed of whatever is holding us captive in bondage and keeping us a victim? That takes a lot of soul searching, being brutally honest with yourself and digging deep into the recesses of our hearts for things that will answer that question.

Now from my point of view, when reading that one simple question that Jesus asked the man, "Do you want to be made well?" seemed like such a simple question to actually answer with an emphatic YES! YES! YES! I WANT TO BE MADE WELL! But, reality hits and it's not so easy. Jesus asked a CLOSED ENDED question. Yes or No. But that's not what kind of answer He received from this man. Instead, the man replied, in John 5:7, "The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." The sick man felt a need to EXPLAIN the "why" instead of just answering YES. This is what we all do from time to time. We explain instead of just answering. Some NEVER answer while others eventually do. Now by not answering Jesus with a resounding yes, what we hear instead, is victimization telling Jesus a STORY.

You see, Jesus just needed a yes or a no. If he wanted an explanation, He would have asked for one. But He didn't ask for an explanation, He just asked a simple closed ended yes or no question. Victimization doesn't answer those kinds of questions, because it draws a thick line in the sand of what would be a requirement from this day moving forward. If he says yes, well, then he is personally responsible, and accountable, from now on. If he says no, he'd look like a fool to everyone. So instead of either of those possibilities, he gives Jesus a list of reasons WHY he hasn't been able to get into the pool. Sounds a lot like our society today, doesn't it? Instead of just answering a "yes" or "no" to help that was offered, a story was offered in it's place by the "victim." All of us, if we aren't careful, can carry within us a story that isn't the story God has given us.

The story we carry could be sprinkled, or even littered, with soiled chapters of unhealed pain, unresolved brokenness, distorted perspectives and limited thinking. We can carry that story with us into many different situations, into many different kinds of relationships and, ultimately, projecting it onto future encounters. That "baggage" is a heavy load for us to carry, let alone projecting onto the innocent people we come into contact with and we shouldn't expect them to carry theirs AND ours too! Hurt people ALWAYS hurt others. The man had a chance to address his story and replace it with the story that Christ was bringing to him, a beautiful story of healing and wholeness instead of the illness and brokenness that he was carrying around with him most of his life. It's the same exact story that our God is bringing to all of us today, but we really have to ask ourselves the same question. Do I really want to be healed? It doesn't matter what the story is or how you got where you are today because we all have a story. What REALLY matters is if you WANT, if you DESIRE, to be HEALED.

The idea of a victim mentality first arose in Adam, perhaps being the best illustration, in the first ever sin, recorded in Genesis 3:12-13, "And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. v13) And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Then Adam blames Eve and God, and essentially Eve blames the snake. The CLEAR Principle here is take responsibility for your actions! Before I move on, let's take a look at a few other relevant principles in the Bible.

Galatians 6:5, "For each one shall bear their own load." This principle is not to transfer your burdens onto others.
2 Thessalonians 3:10, "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." This principle is to not rely on the hard work of others but to earn your own way. If you're able to work, then you earn your keep.
Psalm 32:9, "Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you." This principle is to think for yourself!
Matthew 25:14-30 (parable of the talents) in v 24-25, "“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’" One man just buried his talent instead of putting it to use, blaming God for it! The principle here is don't blame others, take responsibility yourself!

I think those examples are pretty clear on what principles have been set before us and how Jesus does not want us to be victims because He overcame the sin of this world through His voluntary sacrifice on the Cross! His shed blood is covering us. His shed blood makes us victors! He IS victorious! In 2 Samuel 9, we read the story of King David and Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan and the grandson of the first king of Israel, King Saul. After Jonathan’s death, David went forward to show kindness to Saul’s house. At the tender age of 5, Mephibosheth became lame. He lived his entire life as a cripple. When David calls him forward, Mephibosheth says, “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?” Why did he ask that? Why did he have such a response? Well, because his whole identity was completely based on his own disability, when in fact he was the grandson of a king! But because he was so wrapped up in his own disability, he'd forgotten his royal lineage and was wallowing in self pity. Yet David looked beyond his disability and recognized who he was, and offered him a place at the King’s table.

How much time do we spend wallowing in our own self pity, moaning and groaning about the things that we struggle with on a daily basis? For many, it's so much so that it becomes who they are! This is the plot of the enemy, who is our adversary. It's exactly what the enemy would love nothing more to do than to keep us focused on our disabilities, on our brokenness, on our "issues," on our baggage, so that we are distracted from the calling of God on our lives. See, when we focus on being a victim, then the enemy becomes the victor. He is NOT victorious! He has only the amount of power over us that WE ALLOW! He wants us to have a “victim mentality.” If he can keep us as a "victim" then he can control the reins of our daily distractions, making us weaker and weaker and more distant from the Lord's will for our lives. But let’s not lose focus of the reality of who we are. In Jesus, we are a chosen generation, we are part of a royal priesthood, and the King has offered us a place at His table! We are heirs of His great throne! We ARE royalty because we are HIS! Look FORWARD, NOT behind!

Responsibility and Accountability
Let's talk a minute about being "disabled." One's disability need not be just physical. It can be emotional, spiritual, mental and then the physical disability. MOST people tend to associate the word "disabled" with the physicality of it's meaning because, like many, people are visual creatures by nature. One's disability varies and we shouldn't focus on just the outside, on what we can visually see, but we also need to look at the others as well. Those are mainly the ones that predict the "victim mentality" outcome. I say that because blaming someone else for your actions is not a physical disability, it's an emotional one. Blaming God for something that you chose to do or chose to disobey Him, is not a physical disability, it's a spiritual disability. Blaming hearing voices telling someone to do something is not a physical disability, but a mental disability. You see my point and where I'm going with this? The emotional, spiritual and mental disabilities are harder to "see" or "recognize" in others and so labels get put on them, they fall victim to being a victim and learn how to use that to their advantage. It happens all the time.

Now don't get me wrong, I KNOW fully that there are some REAL disabilities and REAL disorders that need professional help and treatment. Real abuse/disabilities have existed, and will exist, until the end of time. There are abusers/victims/disabilities in every strata of society, church and family. I KNOW there are REAL physical disabilities that also require professional treatment and help. I am not speaking about those because there are just some things that are out of our control. This post is not in any way speaking of those kinds of disabilities. However, I would like to point out that even the people with THOSE disabilities, can, and have been, healed by the Grace of God! He IS the ultimate HEALER! But having a disability of any kind, doesn't need to be, and shouldn't, be a crutch for skirting one's own responsibilities and being held accountable for one's actions. For EVERY adverse action, there is a consequence.

Disabilities brings me to a term that I really, really feel great passion about....LABELS. I'm going to spend a little time on this because it really ties into the "victim mentality" and how society had, and still has, a major role to play in its conception. A dear friend of mine knows this passion of mine all too well! I will point out that there are good labels and bad labels that are put on others and ourselves. Sometimes, because of some of the labels and how they make us feel, we add our own labels to the mix and end up an emotional wreck. And the opposite of that is true as well. Sometimes we hone in on a specific "good" label and add our own narcissistic ones and become so seemingly overly "perfect" that we lose who we really are because of how we NEED others to see us. Perfectionists. My focus is on the damaging labels because we all like and need good ones in our lives! A warm fuzzy, if you will! But even "good" labeling sometimes is heavily burdensome. So, one's identity can also boil down to a SINGLE LABEL and not just to a "disability"! When that label is a hurtful label, then that identity is immersed in lies. Lies, you ask? Yes. Lies. The enemy at work yet again!

Let's take for an example someone being labeled "crazy." That label is carried throughout their whole lives. They hear it, they see how others react to them, they feel rejected. The label that has been given to them hinders them. It hurts them. It makes them feel "less than." It slows down their growth as a human being and as a spiritual being. They then become that very label, whether it's true or not. Whether it's a real disorder or just that they're unique in their own way. By them becoming the label they have been given, they fall into a cycle of being a victim. Why? Well, they don't need to take responsibility for their actions because all they have to say is, "It's not my fault because I'm crazy." They don't need to be held accountable, and most of the time aren't held accountable in the same manner that another one would be, because all the courts and lawyers and mental health professionals have to say is, "Well it's not their fault because they're crazy. Mentally ill. They aren't able to understand." It doesn't matter if they can, if they can't or if they are. What matters is that they are a now a "victim" in a society of victims. What matters is oftentimes, the victimizers become the victims by default. They become whatever label, or in MANY cases LABELS, they are given and in turn become victims with a victim mentality. Remember, I'm not talking about the genuine disorders and disabilities out there. A label is nothing more than a hindrance to the person it's attached to and ultimately to the society in which they are living in. A hindrance is a bad thing and it's sometimes extremely hard to leave behind.

In John 7:53–8:11, we meet an unnamed woman. In the Bible, this section might be titled "The Woman Caught in Adultery" or "The Adulterous Woman." That titling is an accurate reflection of how she was seen by others. When the crowd holding the rocks looked at her, they didn't see her, as the person. They saw adultery, full stop. They saw the ACTION. The SIN. The CHOICE. At this point, I'd like to mention that SIN is also a disability. It disables us spiritually because it holds us back from what Jesus wants for us. It disables us by shame. It disables us by guilt. It disables our spiritual discernment. It disables our love towards others. It disables our desire for cleansing. Spiritually, having a disability can cripple our walk with the Lord! Now we all know what this woman felt like to one degree or another. Being labeled something because of a sin, an ongoing sin struggle, an unwise choice, or a past mistake. All we think is "when people look at me, this is all they see." Well my friends, Jesus is in the business of dealing with our labels. He's in the business with dealing with our disabilities. The woman in the story DID sin and she was caught in the act red handed. She, nor anyone else, was denying her guilt in the matter. According to the Jewish law, the punishment she deserved was to be stoned, even if those "religious" leaders of her time, were a little out of whack spiritually.

Jesus was about to teach her all about grace, but in order to do that, He wanted to get to the heart of this issue. His grace was bigger than her sin because His grace IS bigger than any of our sins!! He overcame our sins with His blood! Most of us know that the punishment for sin is death as it is stated in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Life is His free GIFT. Instead of death, Jesus offered the adulterous woman forgiveness. In just this one offer of forgiveness, we see Jesus' compassion and love for the sinner. So did her sins go unpunished? Did He let her off the hook? After all, that's what the entire crowd of accusers was worried about because they wanted justice. However, it is good to point out that what OUR earthly ideas are of justice being done is not in comparison to what is just in the eyes of God's justice system! We know, and we see, God is both loving and just. He didn't let her off the hook. He offered to hang there on the Cross for her instead. The theological word for what Jesus offered her that day is propitiation. Which means . . . full payment. He paid her sin debt in FULL! 1 John 4:10 says it this way: "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." He MAKES the full payment for our sin-debt. He IS the sin-debt payment. That's why this encounter is so radical because Jesus is God and He was the only one within the crowd on that day with the authority to condemn her. He didn't though. Instead, He dealt with her labels. Ah those labels!

Labels can also become disabling. So you can see how they intertwine with each other. One is used for a crutch to the other. I mentioned above how disabilities of all kinds can easily turn someone into a victim with a victim mentality. The biggest reason is that it becomes easier to remain in their disability because it's comfortable and they sometimes fear change. CHANGE can be disabling as well because if one fears how their life will change drastically by becoming more responsible, then it can also keep them stagnant in their lives. Those are the types that I'm referencing to in this post. The ones who SAY they want healed of their disabilities, infirmities and the like BUT do they REALLY?

Let's take for instance someone who is on disability. Someone who significantly improved from their original problem. They haven't worked in maybe a few years or even more, but their condition isn't so disabling as it maybe once was but they always seem to state that they want to be freed from their disabilities or be healed. Maybe they even ask the Lord to be healed but don't recognize the improvements that He has ALREADY done, either that or they don't want to see it. So I've been in contact with people like this and the question I've posed to them is, "Do you really want to be healed?" Their immediate response was YES of course! Well, then came the difficult part of this story.....and example. "Well, are you truly willing to give up your disability check if you get healed and no longer have this disease? Or if you are significantly improved and your disabling condition is managed?” Someone's TRUE reaction to this question is indicative of whether they're living with the "victim mentality" or not. They may ponder how their disease/condition/disability has actually developed and grown into a whole world of its own of perceived needed provisions that may be challenging to let go of. They became comfortable in the place they were living at mentally, physically and spiritually.

I am not trying to knock getting financial or medical help. That is NOT the point here. I firmly believe there are serious conditions, disabilities and diseases that require financial assistance and medical help. Those are the people that need it and should receive all the resources available to them! My purpose of what I'm trying to do and accomplish is getting to the root of whether or not someone really wants to be healed, truly, because with healing comes a new lifestyle, new responsibilities and an entirely new way of living. It also requires an entirely new way of THINKING. A lot of times people want the healing, but don’t want to embrace what a healed life looks like. That's what a victim promotes. They promote their need for rescuing with very little personal participation. Some people find it much easier to be an invalid, to be labeled and to be disabled by a society because they get plenty of attention while shedding all their responsibilities. If God is healing you, or has significantly improved your condition, there is nothing to fear. Start out slowly if you must but know that you should help improve your ability to support yourself or your family with the help of the Lord. You may still require some assistance while getting back into the swing of things but it's much better to do the will of God and BE IN the will of God than it is to remain in a disabling state of being which is not where He wants to you stay especially if He's already healed you or is possibly healing you now.

Can you see how labeling someone and having a disability go hand in hand? How they are a compliment to one another? How they can debilitate one's sense of self worth? How they CHANGE one's ATTITUDE towards themselves and the society in general? Attitude plays a part in whether one chooses to remain a victim with a victim mentality or chooses to become the victor. Sometimes it really is a choice. If you give someone a label long enough, they become that label and in turn that label becomes their disability. Their crutch. Their rock. Let's look back at the man by the pool for a moment. Why did Jesus ask that most important question to this man of whether he wanted to be healed? Is it possible to be paralyzed for 38 years and not want to be well? ABSOLUTELY and here's a few reasons why that is possible. I'm not saying this is for everyone, but think about what I'm really saying here.
1) The man had got used to his way of life. He became comfortable with what he knew and his way of life. The poolside was a familiar environment to him because the people he knew best were there. The man was a fixture - even something of a what we would term a celebrity. He had been seen waiting for the moving of the waters for so long that others saw him in the way he was presenting himself.
2) The paralyzed man's disability was his livelihood. It stirred up the sympathy of others and drew attention to him, not just to his disability. It's even possible that some of the regular visitors to the pool to dispense charity even admired him for the length of time he'd been going there. I'm sure he had a group of loyal people around him.
3) It's highly unlikely that this disabled man was prepared to meet the new challenges of a new life. He would need to find a job and support himself. In some ways for him, this seemed harder and much more demanding, than begging. And so he found it easier to remain disabled.

I bring you to this connection of the attitude because you will soon see how that plays a part in breaking free from the "victim mentality." The disabled man didn't respond positively or enthusiastically to the question Jesus asked of him. He didn't cry out, "Yes! Yes! Yes! I would give anything to be better." His heart didn't have the thrill of anticipation of actually being healed. But, instead, he told Jesus his hard luck story. Now remember, we all have a hard luck story to tell! The man had it ready to go because he told it often. Keep in mind that it pretty much made him kind of a celebrity at the pool of Bethesda. For 38 years, he'd been unable to take advantage of the up welling and stirred waters of the thermal spring by the angel. He didn't have any friends to help and someone else always beat him to it. He tells his story this way because he SEES himself as a helpless victim of his handicap and isolation. He became comfortable in the story and became the storyline. He wasn't willing to acknowledge the help he had to have received along the way in order to survive for so long. Someone must have moved him to the toilet, to be bathed and got him food. Did he really try hard enough to get down into the healing water? See he hoped to arouse and stir up some pity in Jesus and get a generous donation. The man's attitude wasn't in line with what he desired or what he said he desired. His attitude was self pity and that others needed to feel the same.

It is easy to develop a victim mentality and to allow a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual disability to rule our lives. Individually or in combination, however, I would like to point out that if there's a disability in one area, you are sure to find a disability in another area. We can give in to that illness, weaknesses of disposition or to circumstances. Or we can overcome. We can choose not to be a statistic. There are an innumerable amount of people who rise above their circumstances and refuse to be victims. In some cases, one's disability stems directly from circumstances. Look at the apostle Paul and how he continued on in his missionary journeys in spite of his thorn in the flesh. God's grace was sufficient for him. And God's Grace is sufficient for you too! We can use a disability for an unworthy purpose by trying to arouse sympathy, shirk responsibility, shying away from being accountable and excuse unworthy behavior. There is a growing tendency for juvenile delinquents to cite child abuse in mitigation for their criminal behavior. There is a growing tendency for adult criminals to incite mental abuse, emotional abuse or any form of physical abuse to shirk their responsibilities for their criminal actions. It doesn't stop there though because this "victim mentality" in our society is growing exponentially. You ever hear of supply and demand? This theory could easily be applied to this topic of discussion.

The number of "disability" disorders, conditions and diseases keep increasing each year. With the number of new diagnosis' there has to be a number of people TO diagnose. Everywhere you look, every corner you turn, someone is being diagnosed with something. Once again, I'm NOT speaking of the known disabling disorders, diseases or disabilities. I have great compassion for those souls! And for their caretakers as well! I'm strictly speaking of all of the other degrees that fall under "titles" and "labels" and "disabilities." Mental illness and physical handicaps/disabilities are very REAL and they should be treated as such! But I've found that many of those who are "victim mentality" living, mainly just have "issues." We ALL have issues, unresolved, irritating, frustrating issues. They don't warrant becoming a victim nor do they warrant being disabled. And they certainly don't warrant a disability. I have seen and heard how many people "work the system" in order to get a check, food, or any number of assistance out there to help those in need, just so they don't have to work and provide for themselves. They want to ride on the backs of others' hard work instead of doing what they need to do for themselves. The same is true for some criminals who truly are shirking their responsibilities for their actions. They seek out a "mental diagnosis" and where there's a demand, there is a supply! I've also seen some who, as soon as they saw improvement in themselves, wanted to get up and get back into the workforce, supporting themselves and/or families. I've also seen how the system became cracked and eventually broke because of the number of people being diagnosed with something. Those who have taken advantage of the system and who worked the system made it, and still makes it today, DIFFICULT for those who are really in NEED to get that help they desperately need and deserve.

The society we live in has this crazy need to diagnose everyone for anything remotely matching what someone may be going through. I just told my friend that I could scan through a million diagnoses and eventually find and become one that I could fit into. We ALL would. Why is that? Why is it that I could become "labeled" when I'm NOT mentally or emotionally disabled? Well, we go back to supply and demand and the victim mentality. There has been so many that have been diagnosed with some form of an illness that wasn't warranted. Just looking through the DSM, which is basically the Psychiatry's bible, one would find just how this is doing more HARM than good! Each year it seems there's a "new" disorder, a new mental illness. If something is wrong, find a label, slap it on and become that disability. These people are then thrown into the same society that they were plucked out of and let loose to work the system as being labeled disabled. Then get medicated so you don't know if you really are disabled or healed.

Yes, I have  a passion for this part of society because in my years, I've seen how the LACK of accountability, and the lack of responsibility, has hurt our society. It's hurt groups of people. It's hurt nations. It's also gotten worse. Shirking responsibility and accountability for our own actions and conditions has nothing to do with God’s precepts for our lives, regardless of the form we may cling to! I've watched people with normal issues, with normal problems, crippled because they've been forced through a system they didn't need to be forced through. Sad. Very sad. By the time they did break through, it wasn't long before they fell back into their old "comfortable ways." I really saw a shift in this area in the mid to late '80's. People who had been arbitrarily slapped with a psychiatric label were, and are, struggling because of it. As of 2012, there were 374 psychiatric labels and I'm CERTAIN there are many more being added to that list as we speak and since that time. Receiving any of the those psychiatric labels, from nicotine dependence disorder to far end of the spectrum schizophrenia, can cost someone their health insurance, job, custody of their children, self-worth, self-esteem or their right to make their own medical and legal decisions. And if patients take psychiatric drugs, they also risk developing physical disorders as well, such as diabetes, heart problems, liver problems, weight gain and other serious conditions. Not to mention they can become addicted, and there's another label, and another disability. So, in light of the subjectivity of these diagnoses and the harm they can and do cause, we really should be extremely skeptical, and cautious, of them. Especially in the event of a misdiagnosis or just having issues because sometimes those are the very reasons one gets diagnosed with a mental disorder in the first place....issues. Some years ago, I did some extensive research on this topic and it was disheartening to say the least. It's becoming routine to classify almost everything aside from happiness, as a disorder. That's why it's possible for the entire population to be labeled.....and be victimized.

It would be less troubling if such diagnoses helped patients, if they helped in specific circumstances, but getting a label oftentimes hinders recovery. It can lead therapists to focus solely on narrow checklists of symptoms, giving little consideration for what is causing the patient’s suffering in the first place. I'm going to take a bold stand here and make this statement. Because of the DSM guide and checklist of symptoms and the lack of truly finding the underlying cause of one's suffering, the SAME patient diagnosed with, say bi-polar for example, by one doctor would be diagnosed with something totally different by another! That's why there seems to be so many "doctor" hoppers. However, by the time they've finished going from doctor to doctor, they've been labeled so much that it's inevitable that they will become at least one of them. Many therapists see patients through the DSM prism, trying to shoehorn a human being into a category. Interestingly, even the writers of psychology’s authoritative manual on mental illness, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), cannot agree on what constitutes a mental illness. People have a need for categories and labels. As something of interest, I will share something written way back in 1994 as a way to gauge what things were already like in changing the face of mental illness diagnoses. Allen Frances, lead editor of the current 2012 DSM, defends his manual as grounded in science, but at times has even acknowledged its lack of scientific rigor and the over-diagnosing that has followed. He said, “Our net was cast too wide,” Frances wrote in a 2010 Los Angeles Times op-ed, referring to the EXPLOSION of diagnoses that led to “false ‘epidemics’ ” of attention deficit disorder, autism and childhood bipolar disorder. Then in the current manual, released in 1994, he wrote, “captured many ‘patients’ who might have been far better off never entering the mental health system.” Frances has even said that “there is no definition of a mental disorder. . . . These concepts are virtually impossible to define precisely.” 

Now let's get back to walking into WHOLENESS. Jesus heals the man by the pool, but the Bible doesn't say that He JUST healed him, but that Jesus makes him WHOLE. God is actually interested in all around wholeness. That's the COMPLETION of the healing! For most, we think the story is over and we move on to the next event. But Jesus actually runs into him at the temple and gives him a very interesting instruction. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14. Jesus was making sure he understood that he was healed despite his sin issues, but that if he didn't watch out his sin issue could easily rise up again, and this time he would be sicker than he was before. As I thought about that, I pondered "Is there anything WORSE than being an invalid for 38 YEARS?!" Well, apparently there IS. One of the sin issues this man carried was that he saw all portions of his life as a victim, and through a victim's eyes. This view didn't leave any room for love, hope and faith to operate fully in his life. It gave no room for Jesus. When we live as victims, we carry unbelief. Unbelief denies the real possibility of our own situation being able to be changed. We lose hope, we even lose sight of our purpose, and end up believing the lies that we don't have any more viable options available to us. Just like the man who was healed, we need to understand that we need to live as a victor, not as a victim. Oftentimes, part of our healing process involves renouncing the sin of a victim mindset.

Psychology is a secular practice. Psychology informs the construct of mental illness with a secular, materialistic worldview. Most secular clinicians don't even believe, or acknowledge, that people are spiritual beings who live all of their life under the authority of a God who created them and holds them accountable. Denying the Divine and the spiritual requires them to see all problems as physical and organic in nature. To them, worry isn't sinful; it is a proven organic mental illness that requires medical intervention. Sorrow isn't even spiritual; it's a simply a medical problem that ultimately requires a pharmacological solution. It's "science" and science is not an exact. It's a variable. Jesus is NOT a variable. I believe that as Christians, we must be responsible with who we choose to seek out IF we believe there are problems that are disabling us because seeking out a secular therapist will get you secular or worldly advice, counsel and help. Seeking out Christian therapists and counselors will get you Bible based, Scriptural counseling, advice and help because Jesus is the center and the focus.

Because of the victim mentality that has been ramping up in the past decade or more, it's been the cause of all kinds of laws being implemented, changed, enforced and created.  Since the beginning of time, Satan has used a deceitful and powerful weapon to catch people in a web of self-pity and "victim mentality".  It continues like gangrene through our present day and we are so tantalized by its "gentle force" that all of us are susceptible. It’s becoming increasingly frustrating listening to those who would choose victim-hood over freedom. It's a choice of attitude, and those who truly have been hurt, who are truly victims, who are truly living with disorders and who are legitimately offended are often the first ones to lead by example. By that I mean they are usually the one's expressing their choice to bypass victim-hood and to live in light. Meanwhile, a society often diminishes true suffering when it elevates simple childishness, hurt feelings and common unresolved issues to "victimization." The "victim mentality" has infected the entire culture because it's been left unchecked! See mental, emotional, and spiritual disorders/disabilities is in the realm of abuse and it's no longer clearly defined. It’s become quite arbitrary and severely subjective, even in the legal circles, and those who choose to see beyond their own offenses are belittled for not being a victim enough. Victim-hood, rather than victory, is what is encouraged. This is the society we live in and it's the culture that has been slowly cultivated to help with the supply and demand.

Your Ability Should be Your Response
When we view ourselves as a victim and operate in the "victim mentality" it ultimately allows us to excuse our behavior and it gives permission to let our society define who we are rather than being defined in Jesus! By viewing ourselves as a victim, as someone disabled by one thing or another, then everything can justified. Didn't Satan convince Eve she was a victim of God’s plan by disobeying making her feel a lack of privilege to eat the fruit? Eve blamed the snake and Adam blamed Eve and God. Thus both becoming victims.....we are NOT our labels! We are NOT our disabilities! We are NOT victims but rather victors! Our attitudes need to change. When attitudes change, so, too, does a society. When a society changes, the culture changes! Jesus really can heal all of these problems. In fact, His is the only healing available. Our culture believes that mental illnesses point to biology and require medical intervention. Those who are in the biblical counseling movement are really the only ones who know that the construct of mental illness actually has to do with the problems of the heart and require the gospel of God’s grace for healing. We need to further understand that it is Jesus alone who can deal with, and heal, all of these differing problems.  In a culture of mental illness we must be the people who point to Jesus "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed." (1 Peter 2:24).

We all face choices, we can become victims and live in the misery of defeat and shame or we can
break free from the victim mentality and be overcomers. Galatians 4:3-6 says, "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. v4) But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born[a] of a woman, born under the law, v5) to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. v6) And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” As Christians, we don't have any business walking in a victim mentality because God has already delivered us from it through the power of Jesus Christ. Jesus broke those bondages for us. Those chains are gone. We don't have to be in bondage to this world because this world belongs to Satan. If we are to go forth as a conquering army then this means each and every single one of us has to walk in the victory that He has given to us. A victim mentality doesn't bring us to victory. If you maintain a victim mentality then guess what? You will remain a victim. God has something MUCH better for you than that. In order to break free from the victim mentality, we need the truth of God's word to set us free from the bondages of our past. The principles of God’s word must become the guiding principles of our lives if we are to truly break this bondage.

Here are just three key principles, even though there are many more, that I'd just like to touch on before I close this post.
1) We Must Face The Pain Of The Past And Deal With It. - We have to be willing to take a good, long, hard look at our lives and discern how much of a victim we have actually become. Then we need to be willing to see what it was that caused us to fall into the snare and begin to deal with it. Hebrews 12:12-15 - "Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, v13) and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. v14) Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: v15) looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;"

2) We Must Take Responsibility For Our Lives. -  Romans 14:12 - "So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." No matter who or what may have caused you to fall into a victim mentality, it's ultimately your responsibility to get out of it. You've got to quit blaming others and feeling sorry for yourself and take responsibility for your life. The prodigal son is an example of a person who fell into the trap of a victim, but his victory was predicated on the fact that he took responsibility for his actions. "Luke 15:17-18 - But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! `I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you..." 

3) We Must Have Clearly Established Goals and Priorities. - Proverbs 21:5 - "The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty." If we don't take control of our lives by establishing goals and priorities, circumstances and others will do it for us. 

We live in a society that is producing an exorbitant amount of victims. Daily you hear about it on the news, in the papers, in studies, in churches, in businesses, in families and in courts. This is what the world wants us to be....victims. It's easier to label than it is to conquer! It's easier to remain disabled than it is to be set free into a new life. Jesus overcame! He is the ultimate VICTOR! God has something in store for all of us that is so much greater than succumbing to the elements of the world that already has fallen and belongs to the very one that wants us to become victims with a victim mentality!

Let's be diligent and walk in these Godly principles so that we can be victorious in all that we do. We are not alone. The Lord is right there with you, with us! 

What labels are you wearing today? What disabilities are crippling you mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually? Ask the Lord to reveal them to you so that you may seek His face in asking Him to help you overcome them. Ask the Lord for your victory. Remember don't let the poison of your past ruin the fruits of your future! And don't become another statistic....Satan doesn't need anymore.

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