I live an in apartment building on the second floor. One day, after a long day at work, I came home to a strong odor of cigarette smoke in my home. I immediately thought that someone had been in my apartment smoking. I don’t smoke, so I assumed maybe a maintenance man may have done it. But when the situation continued, I realized what was happening. I have a few neighbors who smoke, including one of the tenants below me. When the weather turned cold, he took his smoking inside and the smoke entered my apartment through the ventilation system.
A few days later, after a particularly smoky night in which I had to leave my apartment, I spoke with my neighbor about it and he was very apologetic and happy to work with me. I explained to him how the smoke stayed in my apartment for hours. He replied, “I can’t believe it was so strong…I only smoked two cigarettes…” I too was surprised to find that only two cigarettes, from a neighbor’s apartment was enough to make my whole apartment toxic. Since then, he’s been great about the whole thing and keeps most of his smoking outdoors.
A few weeks later, while getting ready for work, the Holy Spirit suddenly spoke to me, “That cigarette situation was a spiritual lesson.”
“Really? How so?” I asked. Then, this verse suddenly came to me; “Just a little bit of leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” (Gal 5:9.) I immediately understood. Just as it only takes a pinch of yeast to affect a whole lump of dough, it only took a little bit of smoke to poison my entire apartment. Spiritually speaking, it only takes a little of something impure to poison our whole soul. A little bitterness, a little rebellion, a little toxicity, a little pornography. It doesn’t matter what it is, just a little will affect our whole person. If you doubt this, let me ask you a question; If I handed you a piece of cake and told you it only had a “little bit” of bird droppings in it, would you still eat it? How bout if I handed you a glass of milk and told you it had just “little bit” of turpentine in it?
So, when it comes to taking in a movie, is a “little bit” (or in this case, a lot) of sexuality and dark, promiscuity okay to take into my soul? Will it affect just a little, quarantined part of my mind? Or will it poison my whole soul? I can answer that question every time I’m in my apartment and a “little bit” of smoke from downstairs seeps in my home. There is no place the smoke doesn’t go, no corner that it misses. My whole apartment is affected. My air is affected, my nose is affected, and my peace is affected. Yes, just a little movie like Fifty Shades of Grey will hurt me. Even just one of the sex scenes will hurt me…a lot. And the lingering effects are that once we see something, we can never un-see it. It leaves a lasting imprint on our brain.
No, I won’t be going to watch Fifty Shades of Grey. There are plenty of other great movies that I’m looking forward to seeing. Yes, sometimes a movie can surprise you with a sudden sex scene you didn’t expect, but knowingly going to a movie that is impure is a little different. I might as well sit down at my dinner table and have that piece of cake and glass of milk.
A woman received an engagement ring from her fiancée. Upon inspection she realized that it was a fake diamond, however, she went ahead and married him thinking he probably intended upgrade the ring someday. Immediately after the wedding though, he handed her a paper with a long list of duties written on it: Have dinner ready at a certain time, be quiet during his study times, clean house, etc. The new bride suddenly felt doomed with the realization that this wasn’t a real marriage after all, and he didn’t really want a real relationship with her…he only wanted a servant. He didn’t invest in a real ring because she wasn’t valuable to him.
Unfortunately this resembles the type of marriage relationship most church people have with Jesus. They believe that once they commit to him, he has a list of duties and rules to follow in order to serve him. This false belief creates a great wall between Christ and his bride. Jesus never said he wanted a bride to serve him. That is not his heart at all! In fact, quite the opposite. In Mark 10:45, the bible says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
If you think Jesus sought you out, ransomed and redeemed you so that you can “serve” him, you’ve missed out on the whole love relationship he wants to have with you. Instead of being the joyful bride of a loving groom, you are a servant-wife. And that’s why sometimes you don’t feel close to God. You must understand the kind of relationship God wants with you. John Piper puts it this way:
The radical call to Christian discipleship is NOT a call to serve Jesus, but to be served by Jesus as we serve others, and to be ransomed by him from death… He is not just saying, "Serve the way I serve." This is the Son of Man serving me! Ransoming me from my sin and my death! Refusing to be served by me. Insisting on being the Servant and the Savior in my life…He is saying, Yes, drink my cup. Yes, share my baptism. Yes, serve others. Yes, be the slave of all. This is what it means to be my disciple. But don't serve me! I have not come to be served. I will not be served like this. I will be the servant. In your relationship with me, I will serve you. I will work for you.
Jesus’ message for his church – his bride – is this: You are the apple of my eye. I have put a beautiful and valuable ring on your finger to signify my commitment and love for you. I purchased it with my own blood because it was the most precious thing I could offer you. You are mine and I am yours. LET ME SERVE YOU! Let me minister to you, heal you, inspire you and bring you joy! I don’t need you to clean anything, fix anything, or build anything. I will do that. I don't need you to improve yourself, change yourself or the others around you. I'll do all that too. I just need you to learn to let me love you by supplying all your needs. If you can do that, everything else will fall into place.
Ever watch a child play with a ball? He is so fixated on the ball that he blocks out everything around him. Children are only able to focus on the object in front of them and possessing it is their only goal. The child fears that if the ball disappears, then it is lost forever. Try to take the ball away from him and he cries. Give the ball to another child and he throws a jealous fit. If the ball gets away and bounces into a busy street with oncoming traffic the child blindly runs after it unaware of the danger that threatens him…..until Dad sees the whole scene, runs and swoops up the child to save the day.
There is a psychological term called “fixation” in which one is stuck in a state of being fixated on an object, desire or person. This stage of emotional development is usually resolved in younger development stages, however, because of family dysfunctions, traumas or woundings, sometimes this important stage is stalled and people can be stuck. The way this plays out in our adult lives is that we fail to see all the options that are available to us. Instead, we can only perceive and fixate on whatever is right in front of us. If someone takes that thing away, we throw a fit. If it runs from us, we will chase it, even to the detriment of our own safety. The danger of fixating so intently on the goal of our desire is that bad choices inevitably follow.
So, here is what I often witness: A single person wants to be in a relationship or get married and that desire becomes the object of their fixation. Then those desires drive them to almost insanity. They are obsessed with the search for the “right” person. Then, when they find someone, they cry if that person leaves and they will even chase that person to the ends of the earth because they think their only chance of getting married was tied up in that one person. Here is the cold, hard truth; the problem is not that the other person got away, the problem is that you’re stuck in stage of fixation that has kept you at the emotional maturity of a child and unless this gets resolved, it will wreak havoc on your future relationships making them completely dysfunctional. You can't be in a healthy relationship unless you are healthy first.
I mentioned earlier how a dad sees a child chasing a ball into the street and he runs, swoops up the child in his arms and carries him to safety. This is exactly why your relationship did not work out. God saw that you were headed for danger and he intervened. But instead of putting you down again to go play with your ball, he has decided to take the ball away and teach you how to function with the emotional maturity of an adult. Most likely, that “ball” is out of your sight right now and you are a little panicky or angry. If the possibility of marriage or a relationship isn’t within your sight, you fall apart. You can’t function. You don’t want to go on any more. Do you see the childishness of this?
In order to heal you, God must take you away from marriage and a relationship and in another direction that is all about maturing and healing you. Marriage is not in the plans for you right now, and they won’t be until you have faced your past head on and allowed God to heal you. The problem is that people are very reluctant to follow God on paths that temporarily take them in the opposite direction of their goal. These paths don’t often make sense and they are not immediately recognized as part of the solution. It resembles finding the solution to the Rubiks Cube. At several places in the solution path, it is necessary to move the cube in ways that seem to make the goal seem farther away. But unless you make those moves, you will never ultimately reach the final goal.
How do you open a locked treasure chest? Well, if you have a key, you simply use it. That is the shortest path to your goal right? But what if you don’t have a key? More steps may be needed, and those steps may require your going AWAY from your goal in order to ultimately reach it. So you may need to leave the chest, search for the key, possibly make a few phone calls to inquire about it, find the key, return to the chest and THEN finally unlock it.
The key to your future is hidden in your healing and you must let God take you through that process. Start praying about the ways you exhibit childishness or fixation in your relationships. Start asking questions. Ask the Holy Spirit, “Why did I react like that?” Why can’t I let go when I need to?” Why do I feel anger rise in me so easily?” God knows the answer to these questions and he will reveal the answers to you. The bible tells us the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives is to teach us these things. John 16:13-14:
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. John 16:13-14.
It is God’s desire to make known to you all the things in your heart that he wants to heal. When you are healed, he will give you the ball back, then take you back to that treasure chest with the key to open it for you.
The definition of the word “hypocrite” is: “A person who puts on a false appearance.” We all are hypocrites to some extent in that we have a tendency to project ourselves as someone other than we truly are. We all like to look like we have it “all together” even if we really don’t. Our tendency to be hypocrites can be a result of our life experiences such as childhood woundings, shame, sins, adult rejections or just good old pride issues. In order to shield ourselves from further hurt or humility, we create layers of protection around ourselves by projecting an image of a cleaner, neater, hipper, stronger or more righteous version of us. But it is a false image and what we end up creating is a pseudo personality that is shaped by our perception of what we think others want us to be.
Whoever we are trying to please, we will put on a new and false appearance for. For instance, take a kid who is abused by his parents. In order to spare himself from the embarrassment of his school friends, he creates a pseudo persona at school that says, My family is okay and my parents the coolest. Or, consider a wife who is abused or neglected by her husband. To cover up the ugliness of her home life, she presents a public persona of a totally different nature – a cover up. Her social media posts and pics portray a happy and perfect marriage, but behind closed doors, she is in pain. Or how about this one: Singles, who have had failed relationships, try to come across as the strong, I-don’t-need-anyone person. Or, they may have numerous escapades with the opposite sex, and then flaunt their “prizes” to show everyone else that they are still “okay” and desirable. But in truth, they are lonely, they are hurt and they are wounded.
As for me, I’ve got my own hypocritical persona that I’ve built over the years. It looks something like this: My childhood was perfect (but it wasn’t), I succeed at everything I do (actually, I fail a LOT), My life is all together (when in actuality it has been a train-wreck at times), and lastly, I’m very confident (but I have insecurities I don’t tell anyone about). So, my pseudo personality that I present to everyone is one that says, I have it all together and I’ve never had any issues or problems like ‘others’ do. But here’s the hitch: That is the Stacy everyone knows and loves. Unfortunately, that’s not really me, and on the inside I know that the person they love is my pseudo personality – not me. And so, deep down, that leaves me feeling unloved. It leaves all of us hypocrites feeling unloved. Get this: It is impossible to feel truly loved when you know that the real you is hidden and unrevealed and what people “love” is the pseudo version of you – the hypocrite you. The image we hope will give us a better light in the eyes of others, later becomes our ruin and shields us from what we really want – love.
If we want to be truly loved, we have to do this thing right! God created love and He gave us a definitive, insightful picture of the powerful way love works: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Ro 5:8) Think about it: while we were still sinners! While we were ugly, weak, insecure, abused, train-wrecked, arrogant sinners, true love sought us out and proved His love for us. He loves us – not the pseudo us, not the hypocrite us – the real us. That kind of love is powerful, healing, and deep and it is the only kind of love that will ever make us feel truly loved.
So, how do we bring that into our relationships with others? This is going to scare you…you must become vulnerable and let them know the real you. You must remove the layers of hypocritical facade that you have worn for years. You must be transparent and show your “sinner” self. Truthfully, we may think we are fooling others when we hide our weaknesses, but even though they can’t always pinpoint what’s wrong, others already know there is something fake about us, and that is a layer that comes between us and them. For them to truly love us, we must let them see the ugly parts. And ironically, those are the parts that endear us to them…because they are real. As the bible teaches, our humility, lowliness and imperfections attract real love that is God-sent.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” They had a deep, genuine relationship with God and each other. But when they sinned, they immediately reached for a covering – the fig leaves – and with that symbolic action they put a wall - a pseudo, hypocritical layer - between them and God. He still loved them, but they could not feel it. Covering our sins and weaknesses only puts layers between us and those that we love. A pastor once told me that many husbands and wives don’t have intimacy because they have layers and layers of coverings between them. They may be physically naked before each other, but emotionally they have about 8 coats on.
So, what then are we supposed to cover ourselves with? Part of that answer is found in the Book of Esther. Esther was amongst hundreds of women who were brought to the King so that he could choose from them a new queen. The bible tells us that each woman was given her choice of jewelry and clothing to “enhance” her beauty so that she might have favor with the King. Esther, however, wisely followed the advice of the king’s eunuch and wore only what he told her to wear. The bible doesn’t tell us what she wore but whatever it was, it worked because the king “loved Esther more than any of the other girls” and he made her the queen.
I have a sneaking suspicion that while the other girls were putting on layers of pseudo clothing, trying to outdo all the others, Esther took a different approach. 1 Peter 3:3 gives us a hint as to what this other approach is; “Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” Ahhh, “unfading beauty”… how refreshing!
The real you is an unfading beauty that will be truly loved for who you are – not who you project yourself to be. The real you will attract a love that you can feel - a love that is committed, loyal and healing. Yes, removing all our hypocritical layers is risky because it requires true vulnerability on our part and that is to put ourselves at risk to be hurt. But the alternative is a life without true love – a life where only your pseudo-personality is loved – not the real you. It’s time to be who you were made to be, not who you wish you were. There is only one you and there is a special love that has been assigned to you. Whether this love ever finds you is up to you; if you are covered by layers of hypocrisy it may pass right over you. But if you reveal your true self, true love will find you.
"For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me--the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!" Jeremiah 2:13
I sat in a room full of beautiful women a few nights ago. We were being real about our desires and longings. Sometimes, as a single person, you realize that it's been ages since you have been held, touched or loved. It makes you acutely aware of the thirst for it. Its a thirst for living water, something that renews and gives life, something that fulfills.
I addressed the issue head on; "Every woman in this room knows someone that they could call tonight and that guy would be over in a flash for a major make-out session - am I right?"
Heads nodded. Even as I spoke that sentence I remembered the times years ago when instead of waiting for God to fulfill my longings I made that phone call. I also remember the emptiness of those times. I may have had satisfaction for a short time, but there was nothing lasting, no comforting coolness, no refreshing, no restoration. Its a broken cistern. It is seeking out our own satisfaction instead of running to the fountain of living water. It may be quick, easily obtained, wildly exciting or even intoxicating...but its a god of our own making and that god never delivers what we really wanted. Its a distorted hope with a slow leak that drains you until every dream you had for true connection is gone.
I hate broken cisterns. But I love Jesus. And Jesus loves people who have dug broken cisterns. He loves us and he is always standing by with a vessel ready to saturate us with a fresh outpouring of living water.
Our little group of women came to one conclusion the other night - we will wait for God. In the bible a well represents truth. Jacob met Rachael at a well, Isaac's Rebeccah was found at a well and we will wait at the well for God to supply our need. In the meantime, we are basking in living water that renews us, strengthens us and satisfies our thirst.
Proverbs 25:28 A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
I am always asking God to give me wisdom about relationships. One night while praying God flashed a quick vision before my eyes. It was a chain with a broken link. At the time, I couldn't understand the meaning but I knew the revelation would come soon. Three days ago he gave me the answer and here is it: A relationship is only as strong as its weakest link. In essence; a relationship is only as strong as its weakest partner.
I looked up some definitions regarding "weak-link" and here are a few I found:
The last definition reveals the true danger of a weak link. Our enemy, Satan is not so dumb and he can spot our weak links a mile away. He is very good at pulling relationships at both ends until that weak link finally breaks. He pulls through stress, temptation. anger and a host of other things. Broken relationships are his specialty.
So we have some homework. This is not an assignment to cast a judgmental eye towards ourselves and others. This is an opportunity for God to heal what is weak or broken in our life and the lives of those around us. Lets ask God to reveal to us the weak links that we need to PRAY over. The broken walls, the areas in our life where we need self control. Because, after all, he is our redeemer - and EVERYTHING is redeemable under the blood of Jesus!
God wants to prepare us for our future marriage so that when evil attacks, the links will remain strong. Allow God this time to prepare you so your marriage will last a lifetime. What is YOUR weak link?
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthian 1:27
Paul knew all about weak and foolish things when he wrote this verse. He had spent many years persecuting and trying to destroy the church. But one day, while on his way to imprison more Christians, Paul had a life-altering encounter with Jesus. As a changed man, Paul, the man who tried to destroy the church, suddenly became God's instrument to build the church. Paul - the church planter. Funny isn't it. He must have looked on his earlier years and thought, "Oh, what an ignorant fool I was."
I was meditating on this a few weeks ago and in my conversation with God I said, "Well, I was an ignorant fool in my marriage. If anyone did their share to destroy marriage it was me. In fact, I pretty much made a mockery of marriage. Oh, what an ignorant fool I was..."
I then heard His gentle but unmistakable voice say, "That's exactly why I'm now going to use you to BUILD marriages."
"Ummm...God, that might not be such a good idea. There are people who probably think I should be that LAST person to talk about marriage. God? Did you hear me? I really think I'm NOT the one you want speaking on that subject."
So, imagine my surprise when a week later a pastor approaches me and says, "God has made it clear to me in several ways that I am supposed to ask you to speak at our marriage retreat next weekend." Yes, a marriage retreat....to BUILD marriages. Trust me, I'm as shocked as anyone. But I'm also in awe and amazement at our God who uses the weak and foolish to shame the strong. So this weekend I'm speaking at a marriage retreat.
And here is what is so wonderful - as I been studying and praying I have rediscovered my profound love for marriage! Marriage is the most beautiful and poignant picture of Jesus and his bride. Marriage is new life. It's miraculous. It's oneness. It's mystical. Marriage is REALLY important to God and as it is becoming more and more extinct, he is adamant about protecting it. Oh, what a fool I was that I didn't see this when I was married. Oh, how weak and utterly foolish I was...but oh, how good God is to use my failings for His glory. That's why they call him "The Redeemer." That's why I love Him.
Job 5:18 For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.
Marilee sat on the examining table as Dr. Grace carefully ran his hands along the lower part of her leg. She had broken that leg four years earlier but was still experiencing pain that caused her to limp. After a few more moments of probing, Dr. Grace said, "I'm going to have to re-break the bone."
"Re-break my leg?" Marilee gasped as her memory revisited the pain of the first break. "Is that really necessary? Will it be painful?"
Dr Grace replied with compassion, "When your leg was broken, your bones didn't fuse back together correctly and your leg healed wrong. If I don't re-break it and allow it to heal properly this time, you will experience pain for the rest of your life and your leg will never work the way it's supposed to. Yes, the re-break will be painful, but I will help you through it. I do this often and I have a wonderful success rate."
Do you see a parallel here between Marilee's broken leg and your broken heart? A long time ago your heart was broken. In your efforts to suppress the pain you ran to any source of healing that you could get; another relationship, music, hobbies or whatever took your mind off of the brokenness. But God, the creator of your heart, could see that it didn't heal correctly and for that reason, it doesn't work quite right. It limps...and it experiences pain often. So he allowed your heart to be re-broken. Yes, he allowed it! And he even ORDERED it. And now he is personally tending to your healing. Psalm 147:3 says, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
Healing is painful. But in God's miraculous and upside-down kingdom, pain is healing. As you feel that pain, to heal correctly, you must run to him and him only. You can not run to anyone else or anything else. He is your doctor and he knows how to heal you. He is also your Redeemer and he knows how to redeem you. He loves to redeem! He loves to rebuild! He repairs, restores, recreates and yes, He even re-breaks. He does this all because his loving desire is for your heart to work properly. Why? Because He intends for you to use it again. There are more people ahead in your future that God wants you to love with the purest and most sincere love - His love. He must teach you His ways and His love. Not the way you learned in the past, a NEW way of loving. Let him un-break your heart. You still have a lifetime of love ahead of you.
Recently a friend of mine, Shannon, adopted a child from Africa. Upon returning home with the new little girl the family soon discovered how starved for food she had been. She could not stop eating! Over-eating became an issue and Shannon would have to take the food away explaining to her that there is more food coming later. Her explanations were met with tears and angst as the little girl could not comprehend a "supply" of food waiting for her.
God spoke to me through this one day. When we see singles over-dating they are actually starved for love so they think the answer is to gorge themselves on the opposite sex with as much attention as they can get. I see this with those who keep multiple people on the hook at one time and move in and out of new relationships often. And as the little girl fought and cried when her food was taken away, people in starvation mode FALL APART when their source of attention is taken away.
So let me ask you this: What feeds your soul? What are you hungering for today? Is is that long awaited text? Is it to meet someone new? Is that what will truly feed your soul? Maybe you're not getting it right now and you're throwing a fit with God. But, maybe He is withholding it for a reason - because he doesn't want to feed your flesh, He wants to feed your SOUL and cure your starvation.
There is a "supply" waiting for you that will truly satisfy your hunger. Look at this verse from Psalm 63:5. "My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods..." This is fascinating! Your soul can be so satisfied that you no longer hunger for fruitless relationships. There is MORE FOOD! And how do you get this food? The rest of the verse tells us, "...with singing lips my mouth will praise you." This is one of the mysteries of the kingdom - what we speak out with our lips fills us on the inside. Praise fills you up!
A relationship with the opposite sex should be a bonus - not the meal. When we are satisfied with Jesus first, a relationship then feels like a wonderful desert and everything falls into place as it should with no expectations. Today ask yourself - "What feeds my soul?"
He sent a man before them – Joseph sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons; Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him. Psalm 105:17 -19
It was a bright, sunny morning as Joseph rubbed the last bits of slumber from his eyes. Hope and excitement burst into his tent like the rays of the sun as his thoughts raced about the dream he had just woken from. He dreamed that he would rule over his household.
Joseph thought of all the land his father owned, the cattle, the sheep, the servants and even the households of his brothers. He imagined his father anointing him, the youngest, in the presence of his brothers as “Master Joseph.” Then he imagined his brothers falling before him as he took his father’s place as the head. No doubt, Joseph probably thought he would soon be the richest teenager in the land.
But all Josephs’ dreams came crashing down when soon after, he was sold by his brothers into slavery and then sent to prison under a false accusation. It didn’t seem possible – one day he is given a special word by God, and the next day that same word seems buried under a pile of impossible circumstances.
As Joseph sat in a dark prison days passed, and then years until Joseph’s dream finally seemed like the distant blur of a childhood dream. Or did it?
The bible tells us that during those years that Joseph was shackled and in prison, that word kept reappearing and replaying itself over and over in his heart testing his faithfulness and character. At times it must have seemed like a cruel joke - Joseph would remember the dreams and then look around at his circumstances. He wasn’t the head of anything. In fact, he was living the polar opposite of his dreams! However, something dynamic was happening during those tests.
What happens when a word that God has given us tests us while we are waiting for it to manifest? God tells us the answer in Psalm 12:6
And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.
That word is refined and purified until the day it is taken from the furnace of clay and then it shines like the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. And sister, YOU are the furnace of clay! Somewhere along the line, God has given you a word and placed it into your spirit; you will be healed, your children will serve the Lord, your marriage will survive, your finances will turn around, and each time you see that your circumstances aren’t anywhere close to that word, that word is tested. Each time you say over your circumstances, “I still trust God!” That word is purified and glorifies God.
The day finally came when Joseph was rewarded for his faithfulness and his dreams came true. He was given honor, position, wife and family and the list goes on. Joseph’s answer exceeded his expectations and he not only became ruler of his household but of the richest country in the land! Surely if we could interview Joseph now he would say, “It was worth it all!”
Hold true dear sister. If God gave you a word, He will bring it to pass. It will most assuredly come with some tests, but it will happen and it will exceed your highest expectations!