Letting Go of Shame…

Freedom

(FreeImages.com/DavidSimmonds)

How is it possible that a Christian woman who strove to live her whole life to follow Jesus and who could write a research paper and preach countless sermons on the grace and salvation of Christ could not seem to let go of shame?

It does not matter whether the shame was over some major sin or whether it was over feelings of inadequacy and the failure to live up to a standard of perfection.  All that matters is when you feel overwhelmed by shame — when its weight seeks to crush your soul.

Have you ever cried out repeatedly for this burden to be removed, had people pray with you over the burden, and been able to name it and its cause but still not been able to let go of it?

Sometimes, the greatest challenge of a Christian is not in knowing the truth because we often know it; it’s in the living it out — the believing it.  As I have written in countless blogs over the years, what we believe is actually what we live — not what we profess with our mouths but what we profess with our lives.

I remember that Sunday, worshiping the Lord — my heart overwhelmed by His Presence.  Within that atmosphere of the holy awe of God, He began to speak to me.  What I first saw with my spiritual eyes was Jesus holding out His hands to me.  I then “heard” (in my heart) Him speak to me: “[my name], are you not tired of carrying your pain?”

I had grieved plenty for my sin.  It was not a question of repentance.  A wise friend pointed out to me that I seemed to feel like I had to really grieve — to really prove my repentance.  She recognized that I was putting the work of forgiveness back on myself — by my ability to repent or the measure of my repentance.  Subconsciously, I was thinking that somehow I had to reach some high standard of repentance before I could be free.  Of course, I new theologically this is not true, but what I knew did not matter as much as what I actually believed and lived.

I was trapped by my shame — overwhelmed by the pain of my imperfections.  The only thing good enough was perfection to me, and I could never measure up.  In fact, I failed abysmally at this standard and thus walked with crushing shame.  The crazy thing is I knew the truths behind all this!  I knew not to idolize perfection, and in fact, I had experienced breakthrough in this area before.  The thing is, I still had more breakthrough.  I still had an area where I could not experience freedom because I was still not ready to let go.

I thought I was ready.  I cried out to God for release from this burden on several occasions, but I did not understand the root of my bondage until Holy Spirit revealed it to me.  That Sunday when He showed me His hands and asked me if I was tired of carrying the pain, He showed me that I was carrying the pain of my failures because I was trying to punish myself.  

When there is an area where we cannot seem to walk in victory, there is always going to be a lie at the root of it and often an area of pride surrounding this.  Why do I say this?

  1. Because truth overcomes: “… and the truth will set you free.”  
  2. Because pride sets us in opposition or resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit and to the work of grace (God’s power and righteousness made available to us) within our lives.  “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  

If you are struggling in an area of consistent failure, ask yourself what the lie is or where there is pride attached to that area.

Without realizing it, I was trying to “serve penance” for my failures by holding onto my shame.  I wanted punishment so I refused to let go of my guilt.  This was all happening without me even realizing this is what I was actually thinking and that this was truly at the root of my problem.

Pride was all over this.  Pride will always cause you to resist forgiveness, grace, freedom, and the kindness and goodness of God and others.  Pride is independence at its heart and the desire to be your own savior, your own protector, your own provider, your own perfection.  It will lead to this odd combination of hating yourself because you are unable to measure up to your own standards of perfection and yet operating independently from God and others.

Note: Independence from God and others is often related to the mistrust of God and others.  That mistrust often stems from hurts experienced.  Lies entered our minds on the heels of that trauma, and we accepted those lies in our pain and confusion.

Once I was finally ready to truly let go of my shame, I was able to simply surrender it to Jesus.  As simply as that, He took the shame and pain from me — never for me to see the shame and my failures again.  Instead, what He spoke to my heart was that He would bring “beauty from ashes” and that He would redeem it all.  Someday, He would show me what He had forged from the ashes.

Friend, I know that I was led to write this today because someone is reading this today who needs to be set free from an area of failure.  I don’t care how big or how small the failure is, the only way to be free is to be set free.  “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

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Don’t Let Envy Keep You From Skating — From Living With Joyful Confidence

roller skates

(FreeImages.com/LukePartridge)

Last night, our family got to roller-skate with our church family.  What a blast!

It brought back so many fun memories of skating as a child with my sister in our unfinished basement.

As an adult, it is so much fun to be able to skate now with my own kids!  Last night, I loved being able to clown around with them, embarrass them a little, and just plain have fun!

As I was skating, I saw a kid that was really impressive in his skating abilities.  While watching him, I overheard some of our visiting kids say, “He is a show-off.”  I wish I had thought in the moment of an appropriate response, but I kept thinking later that evening: “It’s okay to let someone enjoy themselves, to enjoy something they are gifted in, and to not feel intimidated by someone else’s talent/gifting.” 

I was thinking how easy it is to judge another person.  Maybe the kid was showing off, but if so, maybe he was looking for someone to validate him.  Either way, enjoying someone else’s talents and abilities doesn’t cost us anything except our own insecurity and pride.

Why does it bother people so much when someone is displaying skill and talent?  Should we tell them to hold back or hide their skills?  Is the issue really about them displaying too much skills/gifts, or is it more about us — our insecurity that doesn’t want someone to outshine us?

Why not let others shine?

I was impressed by one woman, whom I respect, who recently stated, “I get my good looks from my mom.”  I have been raised to think that such a statement is arrogant, and it’s better to imitate weakness or to hide talents — to display false humility.  It was such a different perspective to see someone own their blessings and gifts.  Sometimes, it seems like we feel like we have to apologize for the blessings God has given to us.

A friend told me how someone recently said to her: “Humility isn’t the same as meekness.”  How true!!!

In other words, you can be humble but also be bold at the same time.  Just because you are “meek” or quiet doesn’t mean you are humble.  You can walk around “passive” and “submissive” but be full of pride and a sense of superiority.

Last night, I decided not to worry whether someone would take it as arrogance or not but to skate my best and to have fun, to be silly, and to skate with joy and confidence.

There is so much freedom when we quit living our lives to please everyone around us but live to please the Lord!!!

The result was I felt more confident on my skates, I had a blast with my husband, and I had fun with my kids and the other kids on the rink.  During a couple of the songs, as I felt the freedom to skate confidently and to allow myself to skate my very best, I couldn’t help but feel Abba-Daddy’s delight in me.  I couldn’t help but feel the pure joy that comes from living my life to His credit and to know that I can live my life with bold confidence because I live in the assurance that I am beloved and cherished by my Heavenly Father.

The Connection Between Pride And Fear

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/osprey-leaving-nest-1547342)

I believe God gave me one of those “light-bulb” moments when I began to realize there is a big connection between pride and fear.

At first glance, they can seem like total opposites.

Pride seems to indicate self-reliance and an over-inflated ego/view of oneself.

Fear, on the other hand, seems to speak of the opposite.  It speaks of self-doubt, doubt of others, circumstances, objects, and events.

The opposite of these two negative qualities is that of faith and humility.

Humility speaks of a sweet submission, a concern for others, and love.

Faith speaks of trust, reliance, and a measure of humility as well.

Just as pride and fear go hand-in-hand so do faith and humility.

When people are self-absorbed, we would call them proud.

What produces an obsession with self?

I believe that a lack of contentment and resting in the Lord brings about a preoccupation with ourselves. 

When we are “complete” in Him, we are secure in who we are in God, and we don’t need the validation of others.  It is insecurity that causes us to be preoccupied with ourselves.

What is faith — the true definition of faith?  Is it not a complete trust in the Lord and submission to Him?

Pride relies or trusts only in itself and will not allow itself to be mastered by anyone else.

It takes faith to humble ourselves before God.  It takes humility to submit ourselves to the care of God.

Faith is submitting oneself to the care of someone or something.

Fear, on the other hand, refuses to completely surrender to anyone or anything other than its own rationalizations or self-preservation.

For example, if I have an improper fear of riding in a car, I will refuse to get in one or will ride in it while anxiety roils through me.

There is no sense of security or peace while I am encountering the object I fear.

When I am proud, I am relying on myself — my own rationalizations, self-preservation, and strength to protect me.  I am my own “master.”  As my own “master,” I instinctively know that I cannot control everything or anything; and thus, I live in fear of the things that I can’t control.

Let me reiterate that again because it’s worth repeating:

As my own “master,” I instinctively know that I cannot control everything or anything; and thus, I live in fear of the things that I can’t regulate, contain, or dominate.

An indication of both fear and pride being alive in my life is if I struggle with “control.” 

Those who are able to put their trust/faith in the Lord and surrender to Him (in humility) experience the greatest peace and flexibility.  They understand that relying on themselves is the greatest position of weakness, but relying on God, the Great I am, is their greatest source of security.  They are confident and “relaxed” because they are “resting” in God — in Who He is — rather than in who they are themselves.

Pride produces fear.  It’s that simple.  It’s also a good chance that if you “suffer” with pride, you “suffer” with fear.  The opposite is also true: if you “suffer” with fear, it’s a good chance you “suffer” with pride.

Humility and faith are two of some of the best characteristics for walking in freedom.

Humility frees us from the bondage of self.  Faith frees us from the bondage of everything else, including ourselves.

Knowing the above truths have caused me to look more closely at my own heart and life and to be convicted of more areas that need to be yielded to the Lord.  It’s not from fear or “self-righteousness” that I confess these things but because I desire to walk in greater freedom in my spiritual walk.

What Does “Fear of God” Mean?

Scanner Fear 3

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/scanner-fear-3-1251133)

In Scripture, there are dozens – more like hundreds – of verses on “fearing” God.

When my husband and I were recently discussing this topic of “fearing” God, he was saying, “People should fear God.”  My response was, “If the only response this fear produces is to run from God rather than submit to God, it is pointless.  It’s a sinful fear that produces nothing good.  If though people fear God correctly, they will repent and turn to God.  That is the only kind of fear that is good.  In other words, not all fears of God are good.” (BTW, we both agree on this.)

Let me explain in more detail…

Is all “fear of God” correct or good?

What does it mean to “fear God”?

In the beginning of time, we see when Adam and Eve first “feared” God and what was the cause and result of that fear.

Genesis 3:6-10

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Here we see one type of “fear” of God.  This is what I would call “sinful fear.”  This kind of fear causes us to recognize the power of God, but instead of yielding to it, we run from it.

When confronted with the righteousness and power of God, we have a response to make.  We either repent and submit ourselves to God, or we reject Him/rebel and run from Him.

There are many verses that talk about the right type of “fear” of God.  Perhaps, this is better described as such overwhelming respect/awe that we are humbled and surrender our own wills to Him.

Deuteronomy 10:12

The Essence of the Law

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

Psalm 89:7

God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,
And to be held in reverence by all those around Him

The wrong kind of fear trembles at the power of God, still clings to its own self-preservation and will, and runs from or opposes the will of God.

The following verses describe the wrong kind of fear that the world has:

Philippians 2:10

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,

The world will “bow” before God but not in reverence/submission.  (At the confrontation of His Power, there is no physical strength left to stand in His Presence.)

Revelation 21:8

But the cowardly, unbelieving,[a] abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Psalm 67:7

God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.

The world will “fear” God but not to submit to Him.

James 2:19

19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

The demons “fear” God.  They fear His power but not in the “right” sense — that which leads them to submit or to repent.

To simplify this, godly “fear” leads us to repentance.  Sinful “fear” causes us to run, hide, rebel, just like we saw Adam and Eve do.

I believe that sinful fear is inter-connected with pride.  Rather than repenting, we run from God, which means we are relying on ourselves.

I believe that self-reliance is the definition of pride.  It is independence from God, which is sin.  See my earlier blog post: https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/the-simplicty-about-sin.

God had shown me earlier that rebellion comes from distrust.  God then posed the question to me: “From where does distrust come?”

Distrust can come from wounds, but it can also come from learning to rely on ourselves (self-reliance) which is pride.

This is the key thought:

Self-reliance is the flesh’s sinful response to lies about God as a result of the hurts we have experienced. 

We all experience wounds in this world — some to a greater extent than others.  It is how we respond to those wounds that changes everything!

There is one more aspect in regards to the “fear of God” that we need to discuss.  It’s the concept of consequences.

In the past, what I thought was “fearing God” was really more about fearing the consequences of my sins.

When I was walking more in fear of my consequences, I would confess quite regularly, but my motivations were fear-based.  I was “obeying” to the extent that I wanted to avoid the consequences and was terrified of them.

When I wrongfully fear my consequences, what am I in essence believing?

I am believing that I have gone too far or made too big of a mistake for God to redeem them.

The truth is so long a I am truly repentant and have submitted my new set of circumstances to God, He can redeem even them.

The fear of consequences motivates the more “fleshly-minded” Christian.  The “spiritual” or God-filled man is motivated by relationship — his/her relationship with God.

When I fear my consequences more than I fear God, my consequences themselves can become a “god” in my life.  They can become “larger” than God in my heart.  This becomes obvious when the fear of my consequences leads me to fear them more than believing God is in control of them.

When I truly repent and submit myself to God, He can redeem even the most horrific consequences and use them to bring good.  (See Rom. 8:28.)

Nothing is beyond the reach of God.

God is not mastered by anyone or anything.  Satan nor us can “put one over” on God.

He is Sovereign!

 

Doctrine Or Is It Tradition?

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Anyone who has previously read my posts on the subject of truth knows that I believe in absolutes.  Setting that aside, let’s delve into the topic of doctrine versus tradition.

So many churches cling to their traditions.  These traditions were often established to give a sense of order and “security” to those who like the comfort of familiarity and order within their worship.

Order is good and beneficial.  In fact, God is a God of order.  Most of life functions better within some sort of order.  The opposite is true; randomness breeds chaos.

The danger with our forms of order and/or traditions is the following:

  • Tradition can easily become so familiar that it becomes part of what we “worship.”  Worship may seem like a strong term to use, but if we follow something with no willingness to change the way we practice it, then it is part of what we obey and therefore “worship.” 
  • Sometimes, the practices we follow are more a result of the familiar and personal preferences then of actual conviction or of Divine guidance.

It can become difficult to distinguish between what is doctrine and what is tradition. Differentiating between the two is extremely important.

Tradition is an order, a form, a preference, a practice that has been established over a length of time (generally passed down from generations).  It is merely a personal preference.  This does not make it necessarily wrong in and of itself.  It can become very wrong though when it is adhered to with as much staunch teaching and in practice as if it was doctrine itself.

Doctrine is clear, Biblical teaching, based on the truth of God’s Word.  It is to be obeyed. 

It is also important to delineate between major and minor doctrines.  So often minor doctrines are emphasized as if they are major doctrinal tenets of our faith.  As some have said, “Don’t major in the minor.”  And another famous cliche’, “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.”

What becomes even more dangerous is when we are unwilling to change when it becomes apparent that the tradition is no longer applicable and has no reason for staunch loyalty due to its lack of Scriptural teaching.

Fear and pride can be the “root” of many of our traditions and resulting practices.  On the surface, it can all sound good, spiritual, and wise.  Yet, if we put our traditions above actual Scriptural teachings and use it to become the “pulpit” upon which we “bully”, ostracize, or discipline fellow Christians, we must ask ourselves, “What is really behind why we do the things we do?”

I love the following quotes taken from the book, Think Differently, Live Differently by Bob Hamp.  He said:

“Familiarity becomes tradition and unbending tradition becomes rigidity. Rigidity refers to a way of viewing reality. It is a mindset that says, ‘We’ve always done it this way, and change is evil.’ … Rigidity is a way of thinking that limits the fluidity of life and in so doing, reduces the quality of life. The Pharisees believed that a crippled woman should stay crippled because people were not supposed to ‘work’ (including healing) on the Sabbath. But Jesus healed her on the Sabbath because He had a bigger and better understanding about the true purpose of that day. Rigidity is not the same as order, though its proponents would say it is. It does not allow for change, growth, context, priority or any one of a multitude of factors that influence life. Rigidity is often the precursor to collapse. In the building industry, architects and engineers have discovered that in order to build earthquake-proof buildings, they must allow room for flex. When the ground moves, a building that is too rigid will topple. If the structure has some ‘give’ to it, it will sway with the movement and remain standing and intact.”

Traditions can replace the life of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but there is “fluidity” where God’s Spirit is working.

Don’t let your order become your god.

The Bully In The Closet

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There’s a lot of interest right now in the topic of “bullying.”  In fact, I recently wrote an article on “Christian Bullying” that got a lot of attention.

Sometimes though, it is so easy to focus on the wrongs among the people “out there” rather than the wrongs within ourselves.

This time, the magnifying glass may need to come a little closer to home.

As I wrote the article on “Christian Bullying,” I found myself re-evaluating my own personal actions and attitudes within my home.  I didn’t want to write about a topic about which I myself might be guilty.

There will be times when we will all struggle with the more “common” sins.  A question to be asked is: “Is this sinful attitude present in my heart?” 

If the answer is yes, I need to confess this before the Lord and to truly repent, which means to change the way in which I was going.

The root attitudes behind bullying are pride and fear.  Both of these sinful heart attitudes are very common and at the root of most sins.  Perhaps even all sins. 

Pride and fear work together.  They stem from the same lie.

Since both pride and fear are very common sinful attitudes, it’s a VERY good chance that those same sinful attitudes are prevalent in our own hearts and influence our own actions from time-to-time.

As I allowed God’s Holy Spirit to reveal my own attitudes to me, I began to see more clearly that “bullying” can be a lot closer to home than I might want to admit. 

I began to hear God’s “quiet voice” (Holy Spirit) speaking to my heart to reveal that I need to be cleaning out my own “closets”, “pantries”, and “sock drawers.” 

It’s easy for us to be so busy pointing out the flaws in our husbands, kids, relatives, and other Christians that we avoid looking at our own personal wrong attitudes and wrong actions.

Why do we shy away from that which is uncomfortable?  Fear? 

Why do we fear God’s “scalpel” that seeks to remove all the “dead growth” in our lives, all the “infectious wounds” from past hurts and lies?  Again, is it because we fear our wrong version of God?  Do we think that by admitting our sin(s), we will be forever condemned?

God knows of our sins.  He is All-Knowing!

Isn’t that the definition of “God” — that He is the most Powerful and All-Knowing Being?  If He knows about our sins already, how does our attempts to hide them help our case at all? 

Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in the Garden of Eden.  When they sinned for the first time, they discovered that the “knowing”, Satan (in the snake) promised, was a crushing awareness and personal acquaintance with their own sin.  They “knew” what sin is and the debilitating guilt and fear that accompanies it. 

Adam and Eve had sought life outside of God and found death instead.

God had given them every tree in the Garden of Eden to eat, including the Tree of Life, EXCEPT for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Just like the rest of humanity is often guilty of, Adam and Eve chose to eat the one thing they were told not to eat.  They chose to find “life” outside of God. 

Adam and Eve had disconnected themselves from their true Source of Life and had instead looked to the Knowledge of Good and Evil as its source. 

So much of “religion” stems from that same tree“Religion” is often about trying to find our “spiritual life” from a knowledge of good and evil.  That knowledge will either lead us to personally feeling condemned and living in fear, or it will lead to a proud and/or judgmental attitude — that we are better than those around us or that we are our own source of defining what is good and not good.  The roots are the same.

When Adam and Eve sinned, everything changed!  Their world changed.  Death entered.  Their fellowship with God was hurt.

Then Jesus came.

God’s plan was to send a Savior to fix the problems that started when sin first entered.  

The Savior would connect man back into the True Source of Life (an intimate relationship with God Himself) and would work to separate man from his false “roots” of security (Knowledge of Good & Evil).

The Savior would neither leave the sinner condemned nor condone the “weeds” of sin but would work to replace fear with peace and faith, to replace pride with delighting in God’s character and who we are in Him.

Neither pride nor fear can be present when we are walking in an intimate relationship and understanding of God and Who He is and Who we are in Him.

There is no room for condemning others when we truly understand Who God is.  There is no room for fear when we personally know God.

Fear and pride come when we are disconnected from God — when we seek to find “life” outside of God.

We hang onto these “rags” when God wants to give us the richness of His grace!

Those bullies in our closet, those rags in our drawers, those dirt piles in our corners … let’s open the doors and the drawers and turn on the lights.  It’s time we stopped trying to hide and cover our shame and allow God to purify and heal us from the inside out! 

God’s plan was never to leave us hidden in the dark or to leave us condemned by our own guilt.  His plan was always to reconnect us to our True Source of Life! 

As we are “connected” to Life, we can become a true “channel” to the world around us for God’s love and light to flow. 

“How I praise Thee, precious Saviour,
That Thy love laid hold of me;
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
That I might Thy channel be.

“Channels only, blessèd Master,
But with all Thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

“Just a channel full of blessing,
To the thirsty hearts around;
To tell out Thy full salvation
All Thy loving message sound.

“Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
A clean vessel in Thy hand;
With no power but as Thou givest
Graciously with each command.”

By Mary Maxwell