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Note as of April, 2014: Hello All! I am consolidating my writings into a new blog- Walking in Wholeness: Insights into God, Medicine and Healing. I will no longer be posting to this blog, so I invite you to subscribe to the new one! Thanks and God bless

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Moving Into Costly, Yet Priceless Higher Places

Upon the heels of a major breakthrough in my healing this month, came two more significant trials. After having experienced a week of amazing health (perhaps the best since 2004), I was hit with insomnia unlike anything I have ever experienced before. No exaggeration. It has been two radical extremes. The six hours of prayer ministry that I received three weeks ago released me from some major strongholds, and for the first time in years, my blood pressure normalized, my energy soared, and despair vanished. When this continued for a full week, hope rose in my heart- yet it was tentative. So when a friend said to me, "If you think you have been healed, why aren't you jumping up and down with excitement?" I explained to him that it's hard to do that when you've been in prison for so long. The freedom just feels too good to be true, and you fear trusting it.

Besides, I've had windows of feeling well throughout my journey with Lyme disease. Although...this time it felt somewhat different.

I'm not sure if the insomnia and attack upon a very important relationship in my life were the retaliation in the spirit world for the freedom I had attained following the prayer, but it made sense that if the enemy could get me to become so sleep-deprived to the point of not being able to work or drive a car, I would doubt I had been set free at all. If he could get me to sink into despair over the potential loss of a close friend that I deeply loved- this would further destroy my health.

As I shed copious tears of frustration, I felt God asking me to take His hand and to come up into a higher place of Truth with Him. Moving into higher places with God always has a cost, because it means thinking and doing things that are hard, or which feel unsafe. It means trusting that what He has said He will do, He does, and that what promises, He makes come true- despite the lack of visible evidence. This time, it meant accepting apparent deprivation, making some difficult choices, and staying in the reality of my new found health freedom- though darkness was once again coming against that freedom.

Whenever I don't trust God, moving into higher places with Him feels costly. Yet whenever I am able to trust Him, I know that getting to the higher places is priceless, and that the cost is worth it.

Some months ago, God gave me a prophetic dream. In this dream, I was in a department store, and I had to try on three different evening gowns. The first dress that I tried on- a pink one- was too tight for me. The second- a vibrant purple one- was just slightly too big. The third- a red, frilly dress- fit me perfectly, though I didn't like it much. In the Bible, colors have meanings- both positive and negative. When I asked for revelation of the dream, I was told, "The pink dress didn't fit you, because you have outgrown childish things. The red dress fits you because you are in a season of spiritual warfare (red in this case, signified warfare). I wanted to wear the purple dress, but God told me I wasn't ready to wear it yet. Several months later, He told me through my prayers that He wanted to put me in the purple dress, but that I needed to overcome certain harmful attitudes and behaviors in my relationship with Him-especially unbelief. Purple in the Bible means royalty, and is also synonymous with the gifts of leadership and administration.

Because two of my spiritual gifts are leadership and administration, I took the dream and God's words as a sign that He desires to move me into places of higher authority, in my work and life's calling. But first, I must move into higher places with Him. This requires doing what feels counter-intuitive to my heart and mind, in order to overcome those sins that keep me from being fully free.

God's kingdom is like that, though. Upside down and counter-intuitive. Upside down because the person who wants to be greatest in the kingdom must humble themselves and become a servant; and counter-intuitive because blessings sometimes come from doing what feels wrong and unsafe to the carnal mind, but which is right in God's kingdom.

Only when we trust God can we effectively submit our thought processes and behaviors to Him, especially when we desperately think we are right (but He is silently suggesting otherwise). It takes courage to heed that voice, and even greater courage to do what He asks, because it opposes worldly philosophies, carnal knowledge, circumstances and most importantly, our heart, which screams for our needs to be met-right now.

When life is rough, I struggle to believe that God cares about my needs. Though His hand is extended, I recoil because I fear what going into the Higher places means. Is it not just a place of servitude and more trials? How do I know I can count on His Word to do what it says? After all, just look at the evidence of my life...all the disappointments and grief... Besides, it's just so hard to do what He asks. That whole delayed gratification thing just seems to extend into infinity.

But then I remember the purple dress, and the multiple times that God has shown me the color purple, through visions, dreams and prophecies of recent years. The promises He has given me- though they have been countered, not only by circumstances, but by well-meaning practical friends in the world who pooh-pooh prophecy and the notion that God gives us personalized promises today.

Still, I want to wear that dress, and I want my freedom. So though sleep-deprived, I have decided to reach for His hand...May He give me the grace to hold on, and may the conviction of truth propel me into those Higher places, where deception, despair, sickness, loneliness and sadness cannot survive. May He encourage all of us to take His hand, because it was for our freedom that Christ Jesus died- on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Growing Up Into God...from Performance to Prosperity

Our acceptance by others in society is often based upon our performance towards them. We learn that if we jump through the right hoops; be witty, smart and intriguing to others, we'll win friends and influence people. If we do things right, we'll be rewarded. If we make the right decisions, life will go well with us. For some of us, as children, the praise we got for getting an "A" on our report cards, or the punishment that was meted out to us for failing to live up to our caregivers' expectations, taught us early on that, "If you do well, you will be loved. If you mess up, you'll be rejected."

God's love isn't like that. Yet we often have to walk with Him for years before we can scratch the surface of the reality that He loves and accepts us for who we are, and what we do or don't do.

We drag our performance-based mental patterns into relationship with Him, and begin to "do" for Him, in order to receive from Him. We praise Him, because we are told it brings blessing. We feed the poor, because we think we will garner His favor if we do. We read the Bible, because that's what we're supposed to do if we want to grow in Him-right?

The Church encourages us in our endeavors with a long list of "shoulds" and "oughts" and sermons that proclaim, "If you do this...then you will get this..."

Our belief is this: Get on God's good side, and follow His commandments, and He'll meet your every need.

But then we screw up. We curse our friends. We gossip about our spouses. We complain, bicker, lie and manipulate. We fail to read God's Word. We get too tired to pray. Distractions keep us from spending time in the presence of the Lord.T hen our bills mount. Our health fails. Loved ones leave us, and we logically conclude: "Uh oh. I must be screwing up too much". And then we think, "...Maybe if I prayed more...maybe if I stopped speaking so many negative words...God would bless me."

We then resolve to do better. We devise a routine that will help us to get into God's Word. We come up with strategies for remaining in His presence, and determine to do so-come hell or high water. We promise God we'll try harder, in the hopes that our promises will move Him to take away our debt, heal our broken bodies, or restore our relationships.

Yes, praising God brings us closer to Him. Serving our neighbor, instead of cursing him, attracts God's favor and blessing. Remaining in His Word transforms us. And there is a heck of a lot of truth to, "If you do X, you will get Y..." The Bible is full of admonitions to do this in order to get that. Kind of like the way the world works, right?

Well...not exactly. In God's realm, obedience and the blessings that result, come as a byproduct of experiencing God's presence. They are the end that results from the means, rather than being a means to an end. In the world, we "do" because we want to get. In relationship with God, we do because we have already received.

Obedience in the former scenario is based on performance, while in the latter, it is the natural outcome of being a vessel through whom God operates.

Don't think I get this. I don't. If I did, I wouldn't still subconsciously wonder at times what I still need to do in order for God to heal me. Thoughts of, "If I just had the right thoughts, God could bless me. If I just spoke positive words of affirmation more, the law of God's healing would take effect and I would be free."

These are tortuous thoughts for a soul that battles severe symptoms on a regular basis. Really? God expects me to be happy and positive when I hurt like heck most of the time? I don't think so.

And when well-meaning souls inside the church foist that sometimes harmful belief, "Happiness is a choice" upon the afflicted, it brings the afflicted into deeper bondage because the despondent response of their souls is, "I have tried to be happy...but I just can't. I hurt too much. But maybe this is why God can't heal me...I'm not positive enough."

I'm not condoning laziness or an attitude of victimization. God gave us an assignment and the power to bind the devil and obey His Word, but sanctification isn't achieved overnight. Also, it's nothing we can bring about by our own free will. Because we have to know who we are in Him first, and more importantly, who He is for us, if we are to be the vessels of love and power that He has created us to be. And only He can bring that revelation to us. For if it's up to us in the end, then He isn't really our Savior. He is at best, an advocate who admonishes us to pull ourselves up by our own frayed little bootstraps- something that not even the most self-determined of the wounded can do.

At the 2011 Voice of the Apostles conference, Pastor Rodney Hogue described what he called "The Three Stages of Christian Growth." He said that in the first stage, the newborn Christian is like a baby; self-focused, with only an ability to receive from God. Their only thought is, "Me, me, me." Because that's how babies are. They can't give. They can only receive from their caregivers, but as they do, they grow into maturity. No wise parent would expect their baby to give anything back to them, for the baby is helpless, ignorant and innocent. And as newborn Christians, God is the same with us.

As we mature in our walk with the Lord, and grow up into young adults, we move into the second stage of Christian growth. In this stage, we begin to focus on others, and give to them as well as receive from them-and God.

In the third stage of our growth, we become mature adults, who not only serve others, but also see life from God's perspective. When others see us in this stage, they see Jesus.

According to Rodney, if we try to bypass being a baby before God, and neglect to receive from Him, and instead start out our walk as newborn Christians by "doing" for Him, then our works for God will be borne out of performance, instead of being a natural outflow of our relationship with Him.

We can't give away to others what we haven't received from God. And until we are children before Him, and He grows us up into Him, we will be giving to others out of our own strength, rather than His. We will operate for Him instead of through Him.

Some of us have never learned to receive from God, because society has taught us that we must earn His favor and approval, in order to receive from Him. But it is He who first gives to us, so that we can give back to Him and the world. His Word says: "We love because He has first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

The fastest way to kill a performance-based relationship with God is to become like a little child (or a baby!) before Him. If you started your Christian walk at Stage Two instead of Stage One, it's okay to go backwards and become that little baby that you never were before Him. God is okay with it-no, He delights in it!- because He knows that true progress forward in our walk with Him can't happen until He has fed, nurtured and grown us up into Him.

Let Him give to you-extravagantly and abundantly-, as you just lie there and cry out to Him, expecting Him to meet your every need. Be the innocent, ignorant, whiny, whimpering, noise-making baby that you never got to be. And most importantly, drop the silly notion that babies are supposed to serve their Daddies. Let Daddy nurture and love you, so that as you mature, His love will start to flow naturally from you. Because then, and only then, will your service to Him be from the heart, and not from a place of performance. And only then will you have true peace.