03 Jun 2013

The Next Chaper

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After years of holding evangelistic crusades all over the world and preaching the gospel to over 20 million people, Evangelist James Robison sat down. He entered the next chapter of his ministry when God directed him to sit down in front of a camera instead of traveling over 300 days a year to preach in stadiums, auditoriums and churches. Each week, he interviews church leaders, Christian celebrities, authors and speakers from all over the world and all walks of life. James now reaches more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ through the media of television than he ever could in a traveling ministry.

Recently, Oprah Winfrey got out of her chair in the television studio and moved to the “Next Chapter” of her career. She travels around the world talking to people and having conversations with newsmakers, celebrities, thought leaders and real-life families. She claims that it is energizing to be out and about exploring new people, new places and new ideas.

The common denominator in these two lives is that they entered the new chapter by choice. James entered because of God’s direction to him and Oprah because she was ready to experience something new, fresh and vibrant.

Sometimes we aren’t given a choice to enter into a new season. It just happens in the midst of the twists and turns of life. Some of us were slammed into our future – taken by surprise – like a Tsunami.

In 2006, I launched a new chapter of my life when my husband died of West Nile Virus. I found myself pondering how I would navigate this new chapter of my life alone. Some of you have experienced this very thing. Would I live this season victoriously or sit in the chair of the past?  This brings me to an important question: Are you sitting in the chair of the past or are you embracing the present with tenacity of heart and the future with a sense of expectation?

In order to embrace my future, I had to be determined to leave behind:

  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger toward God because he didn’t heal my husband. I had to trust God’s heart.
  3. Depression and hopelessness
  4. Guilt (about things I could have done differently including medical decisions)
  5. Regret (move past the “what if” and “if only”)
  6. Believing the enemy’s lies about my future (or lack thereof)

After moving through an appropriate time of grieving (this is necessary with any loss we face) and letting go, it was now time to accept that my life would be different. Someone once said that when you lose a spouse, it’s like losing a limb. You have to learn to function with a part of you missing.

God showed me that my life was like a book. My husband’s name appeared in many of the chapters but the remaining chapters were yet to be written. Those chapters included me (my name) but his name no longer appeared. The Lord assured me that he had a plan for me and it was a good one with a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). God was not done with me yet!

When you go through hard times and losses (and we all do!); I encourage you to get God’s perspective of the next chapter of your life. Let go of the past and embrace the new. Ask this question: “God, what do you have for me in this new season?” “Is there anything that I need to let go?”

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-1

15 Apr 2013

Regret is the Past Crippling the Future

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Everyone experiences regret in some form. Whether your regret is from overreacting to a situation with words you wish you could retrieve, or a more serious regret, such as cheating on your spouse, we have all done things we wish we could take back. When we can’t get past our regrets in life, we are essentially crippling our own future.

Most of our regrets are fairly easy to identify because they are obvious: “I regret yelling at my boss and getting fired!” or “I regret overspending on my credit cards. Now I am thousands of dollars into debt.” These regrets are no-brainers—easily recognizable.

However, experience has taught me that some of our deepest regrets are not so clear. They may require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to shine His light into the deep and dark crevices of our soul to discover the truth. In my own life, I was unable to identify some of my regrets apart from receiving such revelation from God.

Because of past hurts and trauma, I had believed many lies and had wrong belief systems that were woven into my identity. The enemy uses hurt and trauma to cause you to become stuck and keep you from experiencing God’s plan and purpose. In order to see the truth, receive healing, and move forward, I needed divine unraveling of those lies and wrong beliefs. I needed to see my regrets from God’s perspective.

Discovering the origin of regret can sometimes be challenging – especially if we are attempting to do it in our own power and understanding.

Let me challenge you today to ask God to reveal to you those places where regret is keeping you stuck and unable to move forward. Ask the Lord these following questions. Listen quietly for His answer and take your time.

  1. Lord, is there a regret in my life that You would like to help me identify?
  2. Lord, would you show me how You see that regret? I need your perspective.
  3. Lord, is there anything I need to do to make amends?

Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own. Jeremiah 33:3 Message

08 Apr 2013

The Upside-Down Kingdom

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Many years ago, I attended a large Women’s Conference in Southern California. When invited, I was given the impression that I would be called upon to say a few words. I didn’t plan an elaborate presentation but simply prepared a short talk should the opportunity present itself.

As you can imagine, I dressed appropriately for the occasion with a little extra flair in order to present a well put-together kind of woman. Much of the event was being held outdoors in a beautiful California setting so the dress was somewhat casual. I was given the name of a woman who would be my point of contact when I arrived. She would show me the ropes and make sure I knew what to do as a volunteer for the event.

I introduced myself around until I found my assigned person. She greeted me warmly and pointed me to the area that I had been assigned to serve. As we walked into the designated area, she picked up an apron and began to gently tie it around my waist. Then she handed me a huge kitchen knife and began to explain my assignment more thoroughly. “You will be cutting watermelon and cantaloupe to serve the ladies for lunch and breaks,” she informed me with a sweet smile on her face. “Thank you so much for being willing to help us,” she went on.

I was in shock. I smiled while concealing my true feelings, took the knife from her hand and thought, “There must be some mistake.” Well, guess what? It wasn’t a mistake – that was my assignment for the day.

The Lord and I began to converse immediately as I drown in my humiliation. “Lord, I don’t understand,” I protested. “This is not what you have called me to do.” He began to download to me like few times in my life and then I knew that it was a heavenly set-up. He began by saying, “Linda, I was God but I humbled myself and became a servant.”  I remembered Philippians 2 where Paul tells us that Jesus was equal to God and that he emptied himself and made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.

Those things that make us important in our world become unimportant in the upside-down Kingdom. He taught me that day as I fought to hold back the tears and continued to cut watermelon and cantaloupe with a joy that I didn’t know existed. Here are some of the things he taught me about His Kingdom:

  1. To lead, you must serve.
  2. To live you must die.
  3. To gain favor you must cease your labors.
  4. To be strong you must be weak.
  5. To be promoted you must promote others.
  6. To be rich you must give everything away.
  7. To win you must be last.

The enemy and our human nature will always entice us to desire being at the top – to want the best and most prestigious – the most powerful! In the upside-down kingdom, the servant is always at the top. The one who dies is the most powerful and the richest give everything away.

I’m thankful for the gifts and talents that God has given me and I want to use them for His Kingdom. But, I don’t ever want to forget that he is the giver of those gifts and talents and without Him, I can’t do anything!

I am the vine, you are the branches; He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5

 

18 Mar 2013

Contentment

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The late Charles Spurgeon said, “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

I just got back from Colombia this past week and have been pondering over the trip. We visited a school in the slums of Cali that was established by the local church for young children who have one parent or none. Some of the children have been farmed out to aunts, uncles, grandparents or anyone who can take them. These children have nothing.  I couldn’t help but marvel at the joy that a simple hug would bring to those precious children who are starved for love.

I wanted to take them all home with me and lavish them with clothes, food and gifts that our children here in the states enjoy. And, I realized how discontented we can be at times when we have so much. Bottom line, contentment is not about what you have or don’t have.

Discontentment stems from ingratitude and a belief that God doesn’t love you or have your best interests at heart. Contentment releases you to enjoy all the good things that God has given you. Contentment comes from a grateful heart and a grateful heart has no room for envy.

Seriously, our world promotes discontentment and dissatisfaction with what we have. Clever marketing techniques continually remind us of the newest gadget or advancement in technology. We are convinced that our lives won’t be complete unless we obtain them. We tend to compare our lifestyles and possessions with those around us which only adds to more discontentment. In addition, the enemy is always present to remind us of what we don’t have — whether it is possessions or anything that your heart desires.

If your happiness or contentment is determined by what you have — or even another person, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Life is like a vapor the scriptures tell us – here today and gone tomorrow! Things rust and decay and are replaced by more advanced technology.

If you allow your contentment to come from your relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never be disappointed or discontented.

The Apostle Paul experienced moving in the power of the Holy Spirit and being loved by God’s people. He also experienced being jailed and stoned by angry mobs. He stood before kings and also endured hardships of every kind. Paul assures us in Philippians 4:11 that his contentment comes from his relationship with Christ, not his circumstances.

Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

I don’t know about you, but I need a constant reminder that I need to cultivate a heart of gratitude and contentment in a discontented world. I want to know that I am complete in Him and to be grateful for all the blessings that I enjoy.

 

 

25 Feb 2013

Finding Freedom

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Finding freedom is about moving toward something and not just away from something. While it is important to identify the obstacles in your life, it’s also essential to identify those things you’ve been unable to move toward because of the things that stand in the way.

God’s Kingdom is about love, peace, healthy relationships and most importantly, intimacy with Him. What keeps you from an intimate relationship with God? What stands in the way of you living in peace? What hinders you from loving people and being loved by them? God’s perfect design is for you to experience them all.

Scripture tells us that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (II Corinthians 3:17). It all starts with Him. We are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10) – not in anything else! However, we all desire to have healthy relationships and live in peace.  God wants that for you! Is there anything that is keeping you from possessing them?

The enemy’s kingdom is about hate, discord, strife, turmoil and unrest. Do those things exist in areas of your life? Why are they there? When did they begin? What areas of your life and thinking do not line up with God’s word?

In finding freedom to live the abundant life that Jesus died for us to have, there are four areas we need to examine:

  1. Soul wounds – those places where people have hurt your heart (events, abuse, neglect)
  2. Believing lies (about self, God and others)  – ungodly beliefs are often established in youth (and sometimes adulthood)
  3. Life patterns – repeated ways of doing things (they often existed in family of origin)
  4. Demonic bondage – those areas where the enemy has built strongholds that exist because of coming into agreement with the powers of darkness rather than God’s word. Demonic bondage can exist due to involvement in the occult or false religion, giving place to fear, generational iniquity, hurt and trauma, Idolatry, soul ties (to unhealthy things and people), unforgiveness and bitterness, word curses (words spoken over one’s self or by authority figures), etc.

 

Are there areas of your life where you aren’t experiencing freedom in Christ? I encourage you to invite God’s presence. Take time to ask and inquire of him:

 

  1. Lord, is there an area of my life where I’ve experienced hurt or trauma?
  2. What was the lie(s) I believed (about myself, you, others) when that happened? Did I come into agreement with the lie? What is the truth?
  3. Is there a life pattern in my life you would like to change? When did it begin? If that changed, what would my life look like? How would it affect my relationships?
  4.  Have I (or my ancestors) given place to demonic bondage? Ask God’s forgiveness on your behalf and on behalf of your ancestors. Command anything of evil over you and your family to leave – never to return – In Jesus’ name!

Replace it with the opposite spirit (example: love for hate) – Ask God to fill you with His presence and the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22):  But the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

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.

John 10:10

 

18 Feb 2013

Unresolved Disappointment

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I remember a time when someone disappointed me so deeply that I didn’t believe that life could ever be the same again. My heart also broke for others involved who were hurting that caused another whole level of pain. When I finally realized that I couldn’t physically or emotionally carry it any longer, I gave it to the Lord to carry it for me.

I was driving my car when a wave of emotion came over me that was overwhelming. I pulled to the side of the road, my body fell across the steering wheel of my car as I wept and cried out, “Jesus, help me! I am so disappointed – I bring that disappointment to you. I can’t carry it anymore!” And He took it,  just as I asked him to. I felt the emotional pain lift from me and my body relaxed for the first time in days.

I’m sure you have experienced disappointment – we all have! Just as we have all experienced regrets that we wish we had the power to change. We’ve all thought, “If only” or “What if”.

Disappointment has been called the twin-sibling to regret. Regrets stem from our human nature to question the path our lives have taken because of the decisions we’ve made. Here is a helpful way to distinguish between regret and disappointment.

  • Regret focuses on the personal choices that contributed to the poor outcome.
  • Disappointment focuses on the outcome itself: such as failure, non-fulfillment, defeat or setback.

I challenge you to consider the “what ifs” and “If onlys” in your life? They will keep you stuck in the past until you deal with them. Does anything come to mind? Have you grieved those losses? Have you asked God to carry the pain? Have you asked God to show you how he sees your regret and disappointment? Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

Let God show you his heavenly panoramic perspective of what you are going through. I think you will be amazed!

Surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows (This represents both physical and emotional sickness and pain). Isaiah 53:4

11 Feb 2013

Your Thoughts Determine Your Destiny

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Did you know that your destiny is determined by what and how you think? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do my thoughts inspire me?
  • Are my thoughts plagued with self-doubt, fear and worry?
  • Do they cause me to feel happy and peaceful or stressed and victimized?
  • Are my thoughts true?
  • Are my thoughts serving me?
  • Is there any reason to keep them?

It is important to know the thoughts you are thinking and to be aware of what is going on in your mind. Every thought that goes through your mind is not yours! If you believe they are, you won’t think that you hear God. The adversary (the devil) sabotages our lives through our thoughts. He comes to you disguised as you – or God!

In II Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul tells us that we should take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Do your thoughts line up with the Word of God or contradict it? What do you believe? What is written on the tablet of your heart regarding God, self, marriage, children, relationships or leadership?

Everything you say, do, and physically manifest, begins with thoughts. Your thoughts:

  1. Decide what you think about self. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7
  2. Determine your reality (perception). If you think about something long enough, it will become real to you.
  3. Reveal whose voice you are hearing (God or adversary). Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” John 10:27
  4. Decide whether you live in faith or fear. Faith is reward focused. Fear focuses on consequences if you fail.
  5. How you battle sin and temptation. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God.” James 1:13
  6. Determine how you lead. Christian leaders should be examples of the highest kind of character and morality and see potential in those they lead.
  7. Establish whether or not you succeed in marriage – see spouse through God’s eyes.
  8. Influence how you parent your children – see what God sees in them.
  9. Affect your health and well being. Stress is the result of toxic thinking and prevents the immune system from doing what it was designed to do naturally.

 

Beware of the thoughts coming in and out. Do they line up with God’s word? Ask God to show you any lies you have believed concerning all the areas discussed above. Inquire of Him: What is the truth? Meditate on the following verse and learn to live a grateful life focusing your thoughts on the positive and not the negative. When you do, the words that come out of your mouth will be faith-filled words.

 

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Philippians 4:8 {MSG}

 

 

05 Feb 2013

Foolish Words

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It is foolish to belittle a neighbor; a person with good sense remains silent.

Proverbs 11:12

In the classic children’s movie, Bambi, there was a cute little rabbit character named Thumper. Thumper was an energetic, quick-tempered, bunny rabbit. Thumper’s mother, the level-headed, authoritative, matriarch of the family, always had words of wisdom for her babies. She would appear from out of nowhere when her little ones were up to no good. When she had their attention, she would sternly pat her foot to a disciplinary beat.

My grown daughters still remember me using her classic phrase when they would say unkind words about someone: “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all!” We could all learn a lesson from Thumper’s Mom!

In the Bible, foolishness is often linked to the mouth or tongue. That’s probably because the tongue is one of the primary areas that get all of us into trouble. Our fallen nature makes it easier to say something negative or critical than something uplifting and positive. A conscious effort must be made to say something that will build-up one another. James 3:2 says, “If a person does not stumble in word, he is a complete man, able also to bridle the whole body.” That means that if a person can control his tongue, he can control his entire body! That’s powerful stuff.

James 3:8 continues, “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The first time I read that passage it seemed almost defeating. I remember thinking that I would never be able to conquer what came out of my mouth. Then I had a reality check. Of course I can’t do it, but the Holy Spirit working in me can. I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit who helps us in our weaknesses.

Be aware of the words you are speaking. Give the Holy Spirit permission to help you to put a guard upon your mouth. Only speak words that will build-up or lift up another person.

 

28 Jan 2013

Knowing Your Enemy

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I’ve walked with God for a long time and one thing I know – God often gets a bad rap for what the enemy does. One of my greatest challenges in ministry is dealing with people who blame God for the disasters and failures in their lives. While some things are a result of our own poor choices, the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 “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.

Bottom line, God has a plan for your life that is good and the enemy has one for destruction. The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Pastor Jimmy Evans once said, “Satan attends every funeral.” He was referring to the fact that the enemy often uses death to divide people from God. He lies to them that it was God’s fault or that He did nothing to save their loved one. The truth is that bad stuff happens to good people because we live in a fallen world. There are many things we won’t understand this side of heaven. Those are the times we must trust God’s heart.

Sometimes people have a disconnect that prevents them from seeing God as a loving heavenly father who has their best interests at heart. This is especially true of those who have been abused. While it is sometimes challenging, I do believe people can be lead to the truth if they desire it. But ultimately, each person must have their own encounter with God. Hopefully, it will result in their own change of personal belief systems that include (1) recognizing His sovereignty, (2) accepting the fact that we indeed live in a fallen world and in the midst of it all, God never leaves or forsakes. Only then will their hearts embrace truth and the faith to move forward where they have been stuck. Bottom line, it requires letting go of blaming God and releasing the anger held against Him and putting it where it belongs – toward the adversary!

Sometime ago, I felt the Holy Spirit gave me a great illustration to share with people when they are deceived about God and are seeing Him as their enemy. He showed me a picture of a person walking down a country road. All of a sudden, without warning, a dark figure hiding behind bushes along the way jumps out, approaches them from behind and begins to beat them with a baseball bat. He beats the person black and blue, to a bloody pulp, and leaves them for dead. All of a sudden, the injured person slightly raises their head up from the ground, opening one eye. Peeking from behind bruised and swollen eyes, they get a glimpse of the dark figure. This figure (representing Satan or one of his messengers) points toward heaven and says, “He did it!” — Referring to God, of course! Because the injured person is in a wounded state, they buy the lie.

When you don’t understand how the devil works, you are wide open for destruction. The devil has to disarm you before he can defeat you. He lies to you and there is no truth in him. He never has a good day and decides to go easy on you.

If this is an area where you struggle, I encourage you to invite God’s presence and ask Him to reveal His nature to you. Turn your eyes toward heaven and declare as Jehoshaphat did, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12

 

21 Jan 2013

Discovering Your Reality; Truth or Lies

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Several years ago one of my grandsons was struggling with passivity and a lack of motivation. Instead of getting rough on him and following some bad advice, our family decided to seek God and get to the bottom of the problem. As it played out, we discovered that he was feeling defeated, fearful and unqualified to step out in some areas. After asking him some questions that would bring insight into the situation, we discovered that when he was in third grade, a teacher had called him an idiot. She had asked him a question and he didn’t know the answer. She also withheld recess for the other children until he came up with the answer – which he never did. The classmates became angry with him because they had to suffer with him. Double whammy! Not a good day for him!

He was still carrying the embarrassment of having been shamed and was convinced he wasn’t smart enough to embrace the challenges set before him. He came into agreement with the lie fed into him through a teacher. The enemy had used a person in authority to plant a lie that would remain a part of his belief system until he understood the truth of who God says that he is. By the way, Jesus told him, “You are not an idiot. You have my mind.”

Sometimes, the enemy works through others or he may come to you disguised as you. You think the negative thoughts are your thoughts. And, they become your reality. Ask yourself this question: Would I choose to think these thoughts? Ask God, “What is the truth.” It makes Him happy to answer.

Deception is about believing lies, being misled, tricked, entrapped or betrayed.  My pastor, Robert Morris, says: “If a person is deceived, he doesn’t know that he’s deceived. If he did, he wouldn’t be deceived.” Someone once coined the phrase, “FEAR stands for false evidence appearing real.” The enemy is a liar and there is no truth in him.

The Apostle Paul taught that spiritual warfare primarily deals with the “Pulling down of strongholds.” But, what are strongholds? They are the lies that the devil feeds into our thoughts. We accept and believe them and those lies became our reality.  Until those thought processes are discovered and destroyed by application of the truth, the Word of God, we are deceived into believing lies about self, God and others.

The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of truth and love. The kingdom of darkness is lies and deceit. Scripture tells us that the devil is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).  I encourage you to learn to recognize negative thoughts and lies. Let truth become your reality.

If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:31-32