The Quest for Glory
by Randy Meulman
Further Along The Quest for Glory
by Randy Meulman
Kewadin, Michigan 49648
This book, Further along the Quest for Glory, is available through booksellers and directly from the publisher.
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Copyright © 2012 by Randy Meulman
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God who loves me
Jim Moore, my partner in spirit
Terry Constant, my editor and friend
Scott Peck, who I know and love, but
have never met, but will one day
Tom Haxby, www.tomhaxbyphotos.com,
for the photograph of sunflowers
Real or Unreal?
Jesus promised, "I came that you might have life and have it abundantly," Is that what you are experiencing in your Christian walk? Is your life full of joy and bursting with aliveness? Are you free to be you with all of your flaws and imperfections, or are you haunted with feelings of regret and failure? If people really knew who you were, if they knew the secrets of your past, would they reject you? And what about God? Would He be angry with you if you became truly and fully honest with yourself?
John wrote in the New Testament, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love."
Do you feel that you need to be perfect? That is what fear is all about, isn't it? We are not perfect. Fear is the only reason we lie and hide from ourselves, from others and from God. Ironically, being perfected in love takes away all of our fears.
Have you ever heard it said that God can have nothing to do with sin? Well, if you are a sinner like me, then God can have nothing to do with you. So if you truly want to relate to God, you must either live in denial or pretend that you are somebody that you are not. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be further from the truth.
Christianity is about being made alive. Jesus, while conversing with Nicodemus, a Pharisee of his day, declared emphatically, "Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born anew he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Every such birth is not just an instance nor a stand-alone event. Rather, it is the beginning of new life. The driving dynamic that infuses that life from the moment it begins is growth. The destiny of every acorn, even while it is still small, is to become the oak.
Jesus came to create a new race of people reconnected to God in love. Christianity is all about the new creation and this new creation is accomplished by the very Spirit and energy of God. The book of Galatians describes the fruit of this new creation: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Is that what you are experiencing in your new life, the life that Jesus promised?
A successful business man in his forties who has been a professing Christian since his youth announced to me recently that he no longer believes that Christianity is the only way. This man has spent countless hours working with prisoners and alcoholics in their recovery processes. He no longer sees the relevance of Christianity and what he has been taught is just not working for him.
A middle-aged woman was devastated recently when she traveled down-state to meet with the man she has been dating. The man has two sons, ages 21 and 14, and both attempted suicide on that same weekend. This woman and I have talked about the Lord on several occasions and she mentioned to me during one of our conversations that she felt alienated from organized religion and completely alone in her search for life.
For others the abundant life that Jesus promised evaporates into vague and wishful ideas with little or no reality in their lives. So they settle for lives that do not deliver joy or happiness but which seem to avoid the pain that they feel so deeply. They are involved in "Christian activities" and attend church weekly. But their lives remain sterile. "It isn't perfect but, for me, right now it works" is the thought in which they take comfort as they move through the fog, settling for what little they can get instead of true fulfillment.
For many the business of Christianity is not working. People are burned out and the abundant life Jesus promised has been reduced to a vague myth without substance. This situation is not only true for laity but for clergy as well.
Jesus promised, "I came that you might have life and have it abundantly." That statement is either true or false. If you are not experiencing the new Christian life that Jesus promised, then come with me. Let's look together at the new creation that is ours in Christ.
One of my favorite people in the entire world is M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled. Peck defines love as "the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth." Peck clearly understood the mystery involved in attempting to examine the unexplainable, as the nature of love is too large to be fully understood and expressed with words alone. Spiritual growth is about true life. Bury an acorn in the ground and watch it grow into an oak tree. One can talk around that growth, but the actual process of that small seed maturing into a large tree is not explainable.
Personally, I am coming to understand what Jesus promised when he said that he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Life as I know it now is full of joy, beauty, and hope. I have come to experience a profound sense of well-being. I feel secure. My life includes the freedom to be me with all of my flaws and imperfections because I accept my individuality and separateness. I know that I am truly loved and forgiven. Though I spend much time alone, I seldom feel lonely. There is certain quietness in my spirit. I feel so alive.
Life is also painful. I find that there is something inside of me that wants to avoid any pain. I think most of us shy away from pain, but for growth to occur, we must give up an amount of our old nature which is proportional to our growth. This process of giving up is what I call the death process of the self-centered me, and it is painful. Jesus said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." In a letter to her sister, Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote, "If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter."
When Jesus came to earth, he came to create a new race of people and he made this goal possible with his death and resurrection. The Christian life is the process of shedding our old natures and growing in our new natures. We can understand true love only within the context of our new nature which contains the Spirit of Christ. Paul, in a letter to the Corinthians, wrote about the nature of this love. "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." One reason love never ends is because in the new creation we do not die and the resurrection process starts now for those who are in Christ. Further, we will shed our old bodies and receive new bodies in the future and that will be a truly glorious day.
Looking back over my life I wonder, "How can I feel so alive?" I am 66 years old and for the majority of my life, if given the choice, I would have chosen never to have been born. For more years than I care to remember, I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin and I went to great lengths trying to please others, desperately needing their love and approval. I would charge ahead, achieving goal after goal, never resting in the moment. Fruitlessly I believed that one day those people would have to love me after they saw all I had accomplished. I would have proven myself worthy. When I never felt their love, I found solace only in the bottle and the illusion of a better tomorrow.
One becomes free only when one knows he is truly loved by God. I mean loved at the core of his being, completely naked before God and not ashamed. Truly and experientially knowing this love is the essential part of life that is key to spiritual growth and without that key we are wanton, empty vessels. At the heart of spiritual growth, I have discovered the God who absolutely loves me. He is a good God and wants the very best for me. I’m not afraid of Him. He is the very source of my life and in Him there is no darkness or death. There are many who do not personally know the God of whom I speak. Instead, they have inaccurate beliefs about him. As I look around me, I see a world knee deep in hell, separated from a true relationship with God. Violence and chaos reign as people try to suck the lives from one another in futile attempts to fill their empty lives.
Only the Lord can create and provide spiritual growth within us.
One aspect of our "old nature" is that while it speaks of "love," it ignores a new creation in Christ, the only incubator for true love. True spiritual growth is not in its agenda. The reality is, that when we live in our old natures, we are really interested only in our own nourishment to the exclusion of others. We desire our happiness. Our self-centered selves are unwilling to tolerate the unhappiness, loneliness and suffering that often attend real spiritual growth. Our "old natures" primarily want to use others to satisfy us. Several years ago I was flying back from a business trip, heading to DFW airport. It was a night flight and there were several empty seats. A stewardess approached me and asked if she could have a few minutes of my time. Over the next half hour she told me about an affair she was having with one of the pilots who was married. She was at a crisis point in her life and needed to make a decision. "What should I do?" she pleaded. The pilot in question would not leave his wife. We continued to talk and I asked her questions. As our conversation developed, it seemed to me that the pilot needed to make some decisions too. Finally after more deliberation, I told her that I had an answer for her, and she looked hopefully at me. "When we get to Dallas," I said "don't call him." A sad look fell over her face and she looked away from me. "I'll do anything but that", she said–"anything but that." I can't tell you the number of times I've heard that statement in my life–"I will do anything but that."
Christianity is about being made alive, born again into a new creation. For a Christian, a person who has experienced the new birth, spiritual growth is an inherent part of the new life. The new birth and inherent spiritual growth comprise a new creation. This new creation is the state of being for a Christian, a person who truly believes in and trusts Jesus.
The new creation is the beginning of a new life of spiritual growth and the person of the Holy Spirit is the power generating the process of that growth. The Holy Spirit operates in and through love. Notice the word "person"–not doctrine, creed or belief system–the living person of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual growth is a gift and not an achievement on our part. It is not an objective that our flesh has to accomplish nor wants to accomplish. Spiritual growth results from truly experiencing the love of the living God. True spiritual growth is rooted in who God is. It does not come about because of what we do or accomplish.
Coming to really know the one true God who loves me is a miracle to me. There are so many gods in this world with which I want nothing to do. Spiritual growth for me has been a gift and not my achievement. My spiritual growth has been the result of God working in my life and me responding to His love.
A few years ago, without cause or purpose on my part, I was ushered into the presence of God. At the time that this occurrence took place in my life, I knew very little about the loving God about whom I am now writing. I was suddenly surrounded with inexpressible light and love. Words cannot begin to express the glory that surrounded me. The magnitude and intensity of the glory of this love was unfathomable. It was not so much what I saw–since human eyes have no comparable ability or experience–but what I felt. I experienced an infusion of unimaginable joy and jubilation. It was a vision of radiant beauty, magnificent splendor, surpassing all measure or comprehension. Peace was triumphal and celebration all encompassing. All I can do is babble around what I experienced and felt.
I want to share this God with you. I want you to participate in the new creation which Jesus came to secure for and offer to us. God is waiting for you–right now, where you are. Before we proceed, I encourage you to ask our living God to open, to reveal, the meaning of my inadequate words to you. May God bless you and write His love upon your heart.
For people who know Jesus, who have accepted him as Lord and Savior, who look forward to the day he returns, what could be better than having him over to our houses for dinner? Jesus himself seated beside us! Asking him questions! Learning from him! Personally interacting with him! What could be better? Do you have an answer? People living the new life that he promised know the answer. Jesus answered this question.
Let's backup for a moment. Most of us know that Jesus came to earth, died for our sins and rose from the dead. The reason he did this was because we were hopelessly lost. The world in which we live is dark and growing darker, because life separated from God is death. If you are a Christian, you know this to be true. Jesus came to create a new race of people, a race of people intimately connected to God in love. This new race, new creation, comes only through resurrection from death, which begins the day we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
How does this resurrection process work? When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, are we suddenly ushered into the kingdom of God on earth? Well, yes and no. I know there was a moment of joy that touched my life the moment I accepted Jesus–it was a glorious touch of heaven. But there were many things in my life that God was changing. Many are continuing to change. Choices must be made. God is not a bully, and He is not going to force us to change our destructive attitudes and habits that plague our lives.
Have you ever heard it said that God can have nothing to do with sin? Well, if you are a sinner like me, then God can have nothing to do with you. So, if you truly want to relate to God, you must either live in denial or pretend you are somebody that you are not. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be further from the truth. Jesus took on the sin of the entire world, swallowed sin up, and emerged victorious. It seems obvious that God is the only one who has the solution for our sin. And since God is the only one who can deal with our sin, we need to be open and honest with him. You will never fully understand or participate in true intimacy with God if you are not completely honest with Him. You must be open and honest about your darkest secrets–those choices that keep you from truly living. Do we think that God does not already know everything about us? Do we think that we can hide anything from him? We are fooling only ourselves when we fail to be open and honest with Him.
When Jesus was born and walked among us, he lived under the law in Israel, the Law of Moses. He kept all of the law and all of the commandments of God without sinning. Most of us know this truth, but the question remains. How is having the Holy Spirit in our lives better than having Jesus over for dinner? Remember when Jesus said, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Pretty harsh statement! The Old Testament law was based on the failures in men's hearts. To illustrate, imagine that you are a man wrestling with lust for women, pornography or some related issue. While Jesus is at your house for dinner, he confronts you about your lust because he knows it is damaging you and your marriage. In the Gospels, while under the Law, Jesus confronted many people about issues damaging to themselves or others–especially in the religious community. What are you going to do if you are fighting lust on a legalistic basis? I can tell you one thing for certain. Apart from the Holy Spirit, you are going to fail. Every man reading this paragraph knows what I am writing about.
Try applying the truths found in the Bible without the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. Try keeping all of God's commandments. You cannot do it and, if you try, you will live in defeat. You will live in self-deceptions and false appearances as most of us have done often in our lives. This failure is why denial permeates people in many Christian circles. Trying to live the Christian life apart from the Spirit is impossible. Indeed, there is no such thing as Christian life apart from the Spirit. In the book of Galatians Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Have you ever tried loving the unlovable? What about the person at work that you cannot stand? What about your spouse or ex-spouse whom you loved so much at one time? Try producing joy in your life when you are bored or depressed. Try producing peace when you are terrified. Try healing the childhood hurts that still plague your life. Make all the New Year's resolutions you want, but if you are an obese person who cannot stop eating, then you know what I am writing about.
Jesus did not keep the commandments because he mustered up the will power on his own. He kept the commandments because He was in a relationship with His Father. Before Jesus began his public ministry he went to the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. When Jesus came out of the water, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended on him. Jesus then went into the wilderness, fasted for forty days and was tempted by Satan. Jesus withstood the direct temptations of Satan. Notice that the Spirit was in Jesus when he confronted and defeated the temptations of Satan. Jesus fulfilled his mission on earth in the power of the Spirit. As a man, Jesus walked in the Spirit in a way that he has made available to us.
We may now have a similar relationship with our Father. Life in the Spirit is about the power to love and to live accordingly. It is not about mustering up our wills in our flesh, which only results in failure. The Spirit of God has come to set us free. Yet the Spirit will never violate us or force us to submit to Him–never. That is an important element in why we often miss the working of the Spirit in our lives, because He does not bully us or shout at us. An event in the life of Elijah, the prophet, is a great illustration. Elijah was in the wilderness, hiding from his enemy, king Ahab. Elijah had confronted Ahab and was now waiting for guidance from God. We read, "Behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice." God gave Elijah guidance in a soft and personal voice–not in displays of power.
Perhaps you like judging your neighbor and trying to take the speck out of her eye while ignoring the log in your own. Each of us is a mess. The answer to living in failure is that the Spirit of God can guide and deliver us, if we really want personal victory. The Spirit provides the power for us to change and actually resides in us. Jesus knew that having the Spirit in us would be better than having him over for dinner and sitting next to us.
For a large portion of my Christian life, I could not identify with Jesus' words promising that a joyful and abundant life awaits those who follow him. My life had all of the outward markings of a solid Christian walk–taking up the cross so to speak–which by my understanding at that time should have produced the joy and abundance of which Jesus spoke. After a seriously troubled and wild youth, I became a born-again Christian at the age of 19. In my late 20's I went to a highly regarded theological seminary and gave myself over to studying and memorizing a great deal of the Bible. I joined an evangelical organization and witnessed to many people. I gave 20% of my income to Christian organizations. I visited prisoners and their families. I opened my home to the down-trodden. I led Bible studies. I led prayer groups. I led people to Christ. Sounds pretty good and Christian, right? But, something was wrong. Joy eluded me. Life eluded me. The illusion that I was God's man helped ease my feelings of inferiority based on a lack of love in my life. Maintaining this image did not set me free. Abundant life was just a phrase. I was not truly alive inside. I did not have a clue what the problem was. I tried to solve the riddle by giving myself over even more to the Christian call as I understood it. I am sure that some of you can relate to my faulty solution. Yet the answer did not lie in the area of more service or more activity. It was found in the gentle person of the Holy Spirit. Christian activities apart from the Holy Spirit do not produce the resurrected life. In my own life, all the energy and effort I expended trying to please God, resulted in a void and emptiness in my spirit and heart.
What I say next might be the most important thing that I have to say. The next time you are fighting depression, boredom or temptation, ask the Lord to deliver you from yourself. Honestly tell Him, "I can't do this Lord. Deliver me from myself and create in me the person You intend me to be." Trust the Lord. You are not giving up yourself, not throwing away yourself. God will lead you to be your real self, not the shattered image of someone you are not.
We do not need more information, more head knowledge, to be intimate with the Lord. All we need is the willingness to be honest with him and ourselves and the desire to be transformed. Some of the most miraculous experiences I have had with the Holy Spirit (and I mean miraculous) were in the early days when I knew very little about God. The Holy Spirit will come to you where you are in your walk with Jesus. If your life is a complete mess, so be it. It does not matter. You do not have to do something or become someone you are not. The Lord will help you, as you are, to sort things out if you allow Him to. He will freely give you the power to change.
For many years, I tried to perform for God. Like Paul before his conversion, I was a modern day Pharisee and, like Paul, there are not many people who are willing to go as far as I did in my religion. I was a true zealot. I memorized over 50 chapters of the Bible. I could recite chapter and verse. I was an expert in evangelism and Christian apologetics. I lost few debates–even with my professors when I was in college. I went to seminary, was a full-time Christian worker and recruited many people under the guise of discipleship. There are missionaries around the world today because of those efforts, yet all of it was in the flesh. Christian activities apart from the Spirit of God do not produce life. I do not care what they are. I can remember visiting a church where the music team was a group of ordinary people, people who invited the Holy Spirit to be with them. When I went into the church, I could feel the Glory of God. I am an ex-marine and not the type of person who puts his hands up for anything. When the music started, my hands went up automatically. The Spirit permeated that room. Let me reiterate. It does not matter what activity we do, from evangelism to Bible study, if the Spirit is not in it, it is dead.
I want to share a few observations about the working of the Holy Spirit that may be helpful for you. The Holy Spirit and religion have nothing in common. There are numerous understandings and definitions for the one word "religion." I am using a particular definition–religion is doing things to earn favor with God, following external rules, regulations and laws to be right with God. For many years, I had ideas about God that were simply false and had nothing to do with God. I wasted years of futile energy and effort thinking that I was pleasing God. Religion bolsters our egos because of all we think we are doing for God. Such religion is the enemy of God and is nothing more than people creating gods in their own images.
Do not think for a moment that you are going to feel more righteous as you get to know the Lord. You are going to become more and more alive and free in your spirit. As to feeling righteous, your estimation of yourself will plummet, but not your joy in the Spirit. The apostle Paul is a good example of what I am talking about. When Paul was a Pharisee, he viewed himself as the most righteous man alive. After encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus and later when he started his ministry, he viewed himself as the least of the apostles. During the middle of his ministry, he viewed himself as the least of all Christians and there were many more by this time. At the end of his life, Paul called himself the "chief of sinners"–the worst person who ever lived. It sounds like Paul was getting worse, doesn't it? Yet, Paul's goal was to attain the resurrection and I don't mean after he physically died, since resurrection then was a given for Paul. I am talking about living the resurrected life while he still walked on this earth. There is something about being transformed by the Spirit that stamps out all self-righteousness and attitudes of moral superiority.
My relationship with the Holy Spirit is a relationship of trust in an atmosphere of complete love. The Spirit's love for me is complete. Words alone cannot fully express the intimacy and freedom in my relationship with God in the Spirit. This Spirit is the same Spirit that Jesus had and has. He is the author and finisher of our faith. What gets tricky from time to time is the process of death that we all experience if we are truly growing.
Remember, I am talking about the death of the old nature and growth of the new nature, the new creation. This death process can be extremely painful–as painful as any physical pain. For example, most of us think of depression as a bad thing when often it is part of our growth process. In order to grow in Christ, one has to give up the "old part of self" to make room for the new. Depression is often an indicator pointing to our need to let go of the old in order to discover the new. Recently I was going through a very difficult time in my life and there were times when I suffered bouts of depression. These experiences were as if fogs of blackness settled over my soul. I did not know from where they were coming. I felt like a drug had been injected into me which was draining me of all joy and hope. The first thing the Spirit revealed to me was that I was not being punished. Things simply could no longer be "the way they used to be." I had to make room for the new. So I asked myself a question, "What is causing my depression that I must give up?" I got a pen and paper and started writing a list. The list included a lot of material things that I truly valued. Along those same lines, my sense of self-worth, based on material success, was on the line. I thought that I would look bad in the eyes of people because failure was involved. I had to give up feelings of security, as change would be involved. The list grew. I looked at the list when I was done, and I knew that all of the things to be given up were temporal in nature. That knowledge did not make giving up the list easy, but it did make it real in light of the growth process. I prayed over the list and then gave it to the Lord. Minutes later, the depression was gone and did not return.
I do not want to make the process sound simplistic or always immediate. Sometimes the process is confusing. Grief often runs deep, and working through our grief takes time. We must feel, experience and work through our grief in order to grow. In addition to emotional grief, I have had struggles where demonic forces were involved. The main point is that the Spirit is with us in the midst of such struggles, regardless of the details of the cause of the struggles. The Spirit works in us even when we are not cognizant of him.
There are many voices that come to us that are not from the Lord. Satan wears many faces and often appears as an angel of light. These voices engender fear and bondage. When we begin truly to know the Lord and His voice, we discover that He is a God of life. He is a good God. He is a gentle place of shelter. He wants to set us free to experience the abundant life that Jesus secured with his death and resurrection.
Several years ago while on a business trip to Kauai, Hawaii, I was confronted by demonic forces. If I had not been a Christian at that time, either I would not have gotten off that island alive or I would have "made a deal" with the devil. The "man" who was responsible for putting a curse on me was a wimp, a shell of a man in and of himself. But this person had aligned himself with demonic forces. He said to me, "I have a symbiotic relationship with higher powers and they are not good. Our relationship is based on mutual respect. I serve them and they serve me." When he turned these forces against me, I thought I was going to die. I knew fear like I had never known before, and I had been a sergeant in the Marine Corps and had spent 14 months in Viet Nam. Also, I had been a Fort Worth police officer and had seen lots of action.
I will not go into detail concerning the encounter that took place on the island of Kauai since I did so in my previous book, The Quest for Glory. In Chapter 2 of that book, I went into the incident in its entirety. That book is available for free on my website, www.thequestforglory.com, for those who are interested.
When this experience took place, I knew virtually nothing about the power of Satan though unknowingly I had been in the grip of evil for much of my life. At that point of time in my life I did not even believe in Satan or demonic forces. Since that time my eyes have been opened and I am very aware of demonic forces. In and of ourselves we are utterly helpless when it comes to the power of Satan, and I learned this lesson the hard way. When I finally escaped from that island and was on a plane flying back to Dallas, if the pilot had informed us that he needed to ditch that plane into the sea, I would not have felt any fear. And I mean that! The terror that I had experienced with those demonic forces cannot be adequately expressed in words. Pure fear, intensified many times over, is as close as I can come.
Today I do not fear demonic forces because, in Christ, they have no power over me. As a matter of fact, in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit I have exercised authority over demonic forces on several occasions.
Pretending these evil forces do not exist has no benefit. Being controlled by evil unknowingly brings about death in our lives just as surely and quickly as submitting to evil knowingly. Read the gospels in the New Testament. Jesus often cast out evil spirits. Where do you suppose those demons have gone? Trust me friends, they are not on vacation nor have they disappeared. One of the most insidious lies that Satan has foisted on the human race is the illusion that he does not exist.
A friend of mine who is a grandmother was concerned about her grandson who was exhibiting strange behavior for a long period of time. He would talk about putting curses on people. She felt fear in his presence. Even though he was only 13 years old, other people were also terrified of him. This boy's step-mother, who is one of the kindest and sweetest people I know, would drive around the neighborhood after work not wanting to be alone in her house with him. I had asked on several occasions to let me pray over the boy but was blocked at every turn. The grandmother professed to know Christ, but I have found many people who are skeptical when it comes to demonic forces. I understand this because I had been skeptical also. I ordered M. Scott Peck's book, People of the Lie, for her. Peck was a brilliant psychiatrist and bestselling author who was educated at Harvard. Peck did not believe in demonic forces nor did he believe in demonic possession. He set out to prove they did not exist. He found out how completely wrong he was when he met the real deal. When I received the book, I gave it to my friend in the hope that she would influence her son and family to let me pray over the boy. The dad was dead set against me doing so. A week later I followed up and asked her what she thought of the book. She told me that when she started to read the book she was hit with a spirit of fear and terror, the likes of which she had never known. She immediately slammed the book shut never to open it again. I was never allowed to pray over the boy.
When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and to eat from the forbidden tree, their eyes were opened, and they knew they were naked so they hid in the garden. When God called out to them and asked why they were hiding, Adam responded, "I was afraid." Fear had been born. Fear, in its essence, is a result of being separated from God who loves us.
The fear in your life and mine is directly or indirectly related to Satan and demonic forces. You and I, in and of ourselves, are helpless when it comes to conquering these filthy spirits. If your life is filled with fear and gloom, you know what I mean. Try as you might, you cannot free yourself. We live in a world system that is controlled by fear, and Satan is the god of this world, largely through fear. We were all born into slavery.
Fear keeps us from truly living and robs us of joy and hope. We fear all kinds of things. We fear death, both for ourselves and those we love. We fear losing control or losing our health. If we are sick, we fear not getting better. We fear running out of money or not having enough. We fear punishment, abandonment, loneliness, disappointment, boredom and pain. We fear not getting our needs met. We fear God. We fear the devil. We fear fear itself. It seems there is no end to this business of fear.
A good friend of mine says the opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. I believe him. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in my life that I hate more than fear. In the New Testament John wrote, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear." He goes on to say, "He who fears is not perfected in love." I know this statement is true in my own life. When I am filled with the love of God, there is no room for fear in my life. When the love of God is not operating in my life, I am constantly battling fear. So the big question becomes, "How do we become perfected in love?" When we answer that question, we overcome our fears.
Jesus Christ has conquered Satan and all evil, both in life and in death. When Jesus rose from the dead, the victory in the battle for mankind was won. He took you and me with Him. You can live a life without fear right now if you allow the Spirit of Christ to live within you.
Let me say that if you are a fearful Christian who has gone no further in life than to believe your sins are forgiven, you will remain in bondage and fear until you know the power of Christ's Spirit living within you. Some of the most fearful and miserable people on earth are Christians who do not know what it means to live in the strength of the Spirit. I was one of them for a long time. Satan had me tap dancing all over the place with his lies and many of those lies came through the lips of the religious community.
How does the enemy come at us with his litany of lies? In the New Testament Peter said, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you." Paul in Ephesians taught, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Further, Paul said to take "the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one." What in the world were these men writing about?
When the devil comes at us with flaming darts, their genesis seems to be our own thoughts, our own inner selves. We are shocked and horrified that we can think such thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts and fears suddenly come upon us at the strangest times. These thoughts might be obsessive or irrational in nature, but there is power behind them. Fear gnaws at us. Maybe an ugly or lewd thought comes to mind. Sometimes these arrows even come as doubts or blasphemies. Perhaps there is something in your past that you have done and you are ashamed of what you did. You have asked God and the person you have wronged for forgiveness, but what you did comes back at you with a rush of condemnation like it happened yesterday. Maybe you cheated on your spouse or had an abortion. Maybe you were involved in an incestuous relationship. Maybe you cursed God or cheated a friend.
Satan is relentless in reminding you of your sins. Feelings of condemnation and despair wash over you. "How could I have done such a thing?" we ask ourselves. Satan always works through our fears. He whispers to our fallen natures and we are ignorant of his designs. One result is that we fret about our futures. We ask ourselves, "What if this happens?" or "What if that happens?" We run in circles imagining, fearing, the worst. There is power in those questions and thoughts. They wreak havoc with our emotions as our spirits are entangled in warfare with our fallen natures, natures that Satan stirs up. We try to suppress our bad feelings which leads to depression so we run to a doctor and take antidepressants or we turn to drugs or alcohol. We use anything to numb our minds and quiet our fears. We do whatever it takes to escape the pain. Joy is sapped from our lives. The new life that Jesus promised evaporates into a vague and wishful idea with little or no reality in our lives. So we settle for a life that doesn't really deliver joy or happiness, but it does seem to avoid the pain that that we feel so deeply. "It isn't perfect but right now it works for me," is the thought in which we take comfort as we move through fog searching for what little life we can find instead of true fulfillment.
In the book of Galatians Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit. Paul stated, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."
If you ever want to test what kind of spirit is influencing you, just bring to mind Paul's list concerning the fruit of the Spirit. For example, if you are truly a Christian and remember something in your past that arouses feelings of condemnation and guilt, then you can know for certain that the source was an evil spirit and not God. This is true whether a memory or thought comes from a spirit or a person. Remember, Satan often appears as an angel of light. Paul wrote in the New Testament, "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Our righteousness is based on Jesus, who he is and what he has done, not on what we have done or will ever do. Satan wants us to feel bad about ourselves–to feel guilty, condemned and hopelessly separated from the love of God. He wants us to be full of fear and dread. He wants us to have a heaviness of spirit, despairing of life itself, while we are forever trying to do for ourselves what only God can do. If we are preoccupied with our flesh, which is open to the whispering of satanic lies, then the Spirit of Christ is inhibited from flowing into us and through us–filling us with the love and truth about our forgiving God who loves us and died for our freedom.
Let me clarify what I mean in several of the topics that I am exploring.
The first clarification is about which feelings I am describing. I am talking about feelings of condemnation and guilt, not about legitimate regret. Godly sorrow never leads to feelings of condemnation. Rather it leads to joy since we, in Christ, are not condemned. Godly repentance helps us to walk in the Spirit. Repentance in its truest form is letting go of the old to walk in the new.
The second clarification has to do with timing. Every internal battle is not between you and a current spiritual attack, that is, not you facing a current evil spirit in that moment. It is often more accurate to think of a current struggle with your old nature. We develop habits, often habits based on the desires of our old natures, which are influenced by evil spirits. Many of the habits develop in our past when an evil influence ("flaming dart") has penetrated and embedded in our fallen nature. In the present something happens that awakens that old influence and you must struggle with it. In my personal life, I have struggled with many such old habits (influences) from my childhood for many years into adulthood. So, our old natures store "flaming darts" and we encounter them throughout our life, in addition to current spiritual attacks. The good news is that we can overcome these influences if we trust Jesus and live in his Spirit.
The third clarification is what I mean by "flesh." I am not talking about our physical bodies. The flesh is our old natures, our fallen natures. I am talking about that part of each one of us which leads to our self-centered and willful desire to be our own god. The flesh is proud and haughty. The flesh hates the limitations of being human. Our flesh loves controlling others and the world around us for our own agendas. The flesh also loves being a victim and wallowing in self-pity. (Do not expect consistency in the desires of the flesh, indeed, in evil.) It is preoccupied with "self." It wants things "my way" and is easily upset when things do not go the way that we want them to go. Frank Sinatra sang the song "My Way." I can also remember Sinatra saying of his own personal life, "I'm for anything–prayer, booze, anything to get you through the night."
Many years ago when I was a police officer in Fort Worth, I was called to a hospital where a man had just attempted suicide. He had shot himself in the stomach because his wife had run away with another man. I talked to this man at length and gave him the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Several moments passed and a sad look washed over his face. He finally said to me, "I know what you are saying is true but I'm not willing to give up my life." I could not believe my ears. Here was a man who had just attempted to kill himself and he was not willing to give up his life. Now that I am much older, I have come to realize that the flesh resides in all of us, influencing us in myriad ways which seem insane to an outsider.
The spirit of the flesh is preoccupied with self and is void of true love, although it may often speak of love. Remember what Satan promised, "You will not die…you will be like God, knowing good and evil". Not only have we not become like God, we have become less than human as we fret and worry, scrounging out an existence. Satan controls this world of flesh, and he is in control of this world system in which we all "live." The culmination of this system will take place after the anti-Christ comes on the scene deceiving the world. When Jesus returns, he will destroy Satan and demonic forces with the breath of his mouth. Make no mistake, my friend, the victorious outcome of this war is already accomplished.
When we know who we are in Christ, the devil has no power over us. As a matter of fact, we have authority over the devil. The authority we have is in direct proportion to our relationship with God. We cannot take on Satan in our flesh, and to do so means defeat. What I am talking about is the new creation. The Holy Spirit actually resides in us, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.
Now for some news that many of us do not like. God allows the process of temptation to take place. Even Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested, tempted by Satan himself. You and I have to choose. In the Garden of Eden, when fear did not exist, mankind chose death. Now, in the present and in a state of fear and death, we must choose life. We are involved in a process of shedding the "old nature" and growing into the new. Satan is a bully and a liar. If the Spirit of Christ did not dwell within me, Satan would have destroyed me a long time ago. In Christ you must stand up to filthy spirits. The Lord allows testing to strengthen us and to free us from fear. He wants you and me to be free from the spirit of death within us. Suffering is involved. Death to our self-centered nature is involved. M. Scott Peck wrote, "All neurosis is the result of an unwillingness to suffer legitimate pain." After we suffer for a little while the Lord will restore us. Either we trust in God who loves us and raised Jesus from the dead, or we succumb to our fears and to the lies of the devil who wants to enslave us and keep us from really living. There is no middle ground in the struggle to have true life.
Like it or not, we are all involved in a spiritual battle, whether or not we want to be. It is like the man during World War II who was a pacifist and wanted to get away from the war. He purchased an island in the South Pacific. Later, one of the major battles in the South Pacific was fought on his island. There is no place to which to run.
Jesus' kingdom is not of this world and that is why Christians look forward to His return. God has prepared a place of incomprehensible beauty for those who know and trust Him. The fullness of his kingdom transcends time and is so beautiful and vast and breath-taking that only eternity can contain it. That doesn't mean we can't experience the glory of God now, because we can. The kingdom of God is also within us. God wants us to grow in love and "there is no fear in love."
How can we deal with this spiritual battle as it works out in our lives? The answer is by putting our trust in the God who loves us. This is about a relationship with the living God, the God who provided our salvation. "He [the Holy Spirit] who is in you, is greater than he who is in the world." There are hundreds of ways this victory works itself out. Here is an example from my life. I like to think of myself as a man's man. I'm not the type of guy who wants to be taken care of by anyone. One morning when I was getting out of bed, I fell to the floor with a dizzy spell. I thought I was having a stroke. Fear absolutely engulfed me and all I could envision was me being an invalid and having someone to take of me. I was paralyzed by fear–nothing could be worse for me and fear ate away at me.
I knew better than to ask God to deliver me from my circumstances because He never answers those prayers for me. So I asked Him to deliver me from my fear, and He did! It was a day later before I could see a doctor, but I was completely at peace, in a bubble of grace. I felt no sense of urgency. It turned out to be an inner ear problem which was easily taken care of.
The reason I use this illustration is because we often pray for the wrong things. The Lord seldom (I could say never when it comes to me) delivers us from our circumstances. We constantly pray and look for the wrong things. For years I was looking for financial security. It does not exist. If we think we are financially secure, we are delusional. My brother told me about a man he knows, who lives in California and who is worth billions of dollars. This man became upset when he realized that he would die one day and that he could not take his billions with him. Absolute financial security in this life is an illusion. When coupled with the reality of death which faces us all, the compulsion for financial security is insane. There is insanity in striving desperately for many of the things we desire.
I have had to work through a great deal of fear and pain in my own life, so the last thing I want to do is to sound simplistic. Like many people, when I was a child, I did not get the love I wanted. Like a madman driven by passion, I ran down more dead end roads looking for love than most people are willing to run. Love has never come naturally to me and for years my life was plagued with fear.
As I previously quoted, "There is no fear in love." In the New Testament John also wrote, "For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love." How in the world does one become perfected in love? In Paul's letter to the church at Corinth he wrote about the attributes of love: "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." Wow! You might want to read that list again. Who in the world can do that? The answer is quite simple, no one but God. That is who God is. God is love. When you get to know who God is and you know that he loves you in this way, then while you are in his presence, your fears vanish and you begin to truly love.
There is no simple formula to follow. We live in fearful times, and if you have put your trust in the wrong things, then it is likely that you are scared and battling fear. Let me encourage you to get to know the God who loves you. Courage is involved. You have to make a choice. The key to overcoming fears is to intimately know the God who loves you. There are times, in the midst of turmoil and conflict, when evil is pursuing me that the Holy Spirit brings to mind these words, "Be still and know that I am God." The God who created heaven and earth and all good things, is with me. He is in control and produces good for us out of these evil attacks. He is the God of resurrection and eternal life. After my spirit is quieted, I am reminded that He does love us and we are never alone. The Lord is a gentle place of shelter for those who trust Him. In Him there is no fear. The more I learn to trust Him, the more joy and peace I experience. I even love more. Fears that have haunted me all of life are losing their power and fading away.
There are many religions in this world with corresponding gods. The young men who flew airplanes into the world trade center were serving a god of hate and retribution. There are gods for pleasure and there are gods who demand sacrifice. For just about every human need or desire, you will find a different god along with a prophet claiming that his god is the only true way to enlightenment. It is mind boggling when you think about all of the gods men worship. But the simple truth is that men have created gods in their own images, and we have all done so to varying degrees.
We all have mental pictures of god, regardless how distorted those images might be. Many people have secondhand beliefs in gods based on their religious upbringing. I can remember a childhood song that went something like this, "Give me that old time religion, give me that old time religion, it was good enough for Mama, it was good enough for Papa, give me that old time religion." Let me inform you that the "old time religion" was not good enough for me and brought me nothing but slavery. Much of our behavior is motivated by a need to maintain an image of ourselves and we simply project that image on to God. Many of our beliefs are based on prejudice, superstition and traditions. We squabble over our differences and wage war against one another. My family of origin worshipped what I call the monster god. For many years I railed at this god for everything bad in this world. I cannot count the number of times. I hated the god I was raised with. One day the Lord showed up and I stood in His presence. I have been forever silenced. For once you have been in the presence of the one true God, you will never again question His loving kindness or glory.
When Adam and Eve disregarded God's warning and ate from the tree, the trust between them and God was broken. God created us to be in loving relationship with Him, which is where we find true freedom. Adam and Eve opted for independence and chose to become their own gods. They believed the lie and separated themselves from the One who truly loved them. Ever since that day, we have created gods in our own images.
Many Christians know the story of Adam and Eve, biblical history and the teachings that follow. We tend to be prideful in our knowledge and belief systems. With an air of superiority, we point accusing fingers at other religions around the world. Somehow we feel secure that we have escaped the process of creating gods in our own images. But when we examine the reality of God in our own lives, many of us see that we have reduced God to an idea of what we want Him to be. True Christianity is God supernaturally forming a new creation. A new creation is a person in personal relationship and communion with God in place of the old fallen person separated from God.
Have we created a god in our own image? Who is this God that put the tree to be in the garden in the first place? What really took place when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
For years I viewed God as some mean old ogre who did not want me to have any fun. "No, no Johnnie, don't touch your penis. That's naughty and bad." When I was a child I heard, "This is the Lord's Day," and so we had to go to church. It did not matter one bit that I was bored out of my mind. The monster god we served needed to be appeased with our appearances and efforts so that good things and not bad things would come our way. Was this the god that was speaking to Adam and Eve in the garden?
The eternal God of light and love created us to be in perfect union and freedom with Him, in an unbroken relationship of love and life. Trust was at the center of our relationship, and we were naked before Him and not ashamed. God created us in His image which included creating us with free wills. We must choose. Free will, if you really understand what it means, can be terrifying. I have a stepson who had a problem with drugs for many years. He would not give up the drugs and he finally died from an overdose of heroin. He had been warned on many occasions of the danger and he should have known better. "Why?" I asked myself a thousand times? I didn't want him to make that choice, and I think, if it had been up to me, I would have taken away his choice to take the drugs. The loss of this young man was devastating to me. Though free will can be terrifying when you truly understand it, it is terrifying only when one is separated from God. God does not rule by fear but Satan does. God warned us not to eat from the tree but we refused to listen.
When the serpent came along to tempt Eve, it did not tempt her with some petty temptation like we are often tempted with today, such as lying, cheating on our spouses or taking something that does not belong to us. No, these are mere mosquito bites in the grand scheme of things. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he deluded them with a false promise for the whole enchilada–which is the basis for all separation and death. "You will be like God knowing good and evil". When Adam and Eve made the choice to be like God, in essence they wanted to be free from the creator who loved them and to work out their lives in their own way. They chose to be independent from the love of and relationship with God, which He intended for them. All of us, each and every one of us, in our own way, is answering that eternal question in the here and now. Do we want to be free in a loving relationship with God as we stand naked before Him, or do we embrace the lie of Satan which is bringing this world to the brink of utter destruction?
A friend of mine, a dear old lady, is involved in a number of religious activities. She attends church weekly and studies her Bible along with other Christian materials on a daily basis. She meets with her Bible study group and is dearly loved by everyone in the group. When a need arises she is the first person who promises to pray. She often makes prayer requests herself. She works in her church office on Wednesdays. Her husband for 65 years died a year ago. While he was alive, she nagged and upbraided him, in a vicious and humiliating way, on a daily basis. It was obvious that she despised him and held him in contempt. She did not respect him in the least and called him a weak man to his face. She told me that she was not sure if she ever loved him. When her husband was still alive, I asked her if she would consider talking to the Lord about her relationship with her husband, and she confessed to me, "God never answers my prayers." "Never?" I inquired. "Never!"
My question is this, how can a person think that she is in relationship with the living God, and, at the same time tell me, that God never interacts with her? He "never answers my prayers." One key distinguishing mark of man conceived religion and corresponding religious activities is no personal relationship with God, no personal communication with Him. We cannot have a personal relationship with a god who does not exist, who is a figment of the imaginations of our fallen natures.
I am not saying that God does not love this dear woman, because He absolutely loves her. Also, I am not saying there is anything intrinsically wrong with the activities in which she is involved. But this woman is powerless when it comes to the real issues in her life–as we all are. Her daughter informed me recently, "This is going to be a hard week for Mom because this is when Dad died last year." I thought, "What in the world is she talking about?" Her mother hated her Dad.
The truth of the situation is that this woman is a very lonely and dependent person. She is incapable of experiencing wholeness apart from Christ. I am not saying that she does not do things for others, because she does. But her motive in doing those things is to create attachments in others to ensure her own care. The problem with this motive is that if being loved by others is our need, then we will fail to obtain it. The real issue here is her inner feelings of emptiness and loneliness which come from not knowing God on an intimate level. God, and God alone, can fill these holes in us. The reason all this is so sad is that He is right here waiting for us to receive to Him, knocking on the doors of our hearts.
Satan on the other hand will do everything in his power to keep seducing us into thinking we can live a Christian life in our own power. Look around you and look into your own life. Is the unexplainable power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life as you experience the abundant life Jesus promised, or are you caught up in the business or busyness of religion?
When Satan comes and whispers in your ear, his lies
seem so right, no matter what they are. One of the most subtle and deadly forms
of his deception is running rampant across this country. The deception I speak
of is at the very core of who Satan is. That deception is found in the unholy
spirit of judgment which is founded in the lie, "You will be like God
knowing good and evil."
All of us have been injured in one way or another. It hurt when my rotator cuff was shattered and the doctor put nine pins in my shoulder. I mean it really hurt. In my life, the pain from physical injuries has been minor and short-lived in comparison with the pain from injuries to my heart and spirit. Though I have often contributed to my own pain, I also have been the recipient of such injuries from others. I have been wounded by people and I have inflicted such hurt upon others. One such instrument of pain is critical judgment, our propensity to judge other people. Often this judgment is directed towards our friends, our husbands, our wives, our parents, our children, our business associates and even people we do not know. This spirit, this attitude, of judgment has the ability to deeply wound us all.
Several accounts from those who wrote the New Testament warn us against a spirit of judgment, including the words of Jesus himself. This spirit of judgment seems right in the moment, but in the end it produces death. This spirit is characterized by a lack of love and has the power to destroy.
Have you thought much about the spirit of judgment? What is judgment? Why do we judge one another? In its essence, a judgmental spirit assumes the moral high ground and affords us a feeling of righteous superiority over those whom we are judging. There is a form of power in this thinking that renders us justified in our own minds. It is a spirit that allows a person to set oneself apart from and above another. It encourages us to establish a false sense of authority, control and well-being. We see ourselves as qualified to judge one another as if we had an innate ability to pass such judgments, as if we ourselves did not share the same flaws. At the very heart of this judgment is a falsely elevated sense of self-worth. It is not only an artificial way of dealing with our fears and hurts, but it is also a way to feel better about ourselves at the expense of others. We want to see ourselves as righteous and others as unrighteous. But the prophet Isaiah clearly and emphatically smashed our delusional self-images of being righteous when he said, "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." In a pointed and powerful parable, Jesus described the position of self-righteous religious people who despise or belittle others:
Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their eyes were opened and all of mankind entered into a broken relationship with God. Death! As a result of this broken relationship, we have been left in a world defined by good and evil, right and wrong, rather than by permeating love in the presence of the living God. Man was ushered into a mindset defined by his definitions of "good" and "evil" and in which he can consider himself to be the judge of others–seeming, in his eyes, to be like God!
However, there is right judgment, and it exists in the form of true spiritual discernment. That discernment is always connected to the Spirit of Christ in which life and love reign. Right judgment does not have an elevated sense of moral superiority or preoccupation with self. Neither right judgment nor the Spirit of life indulges in jealousy, gossip, moral superiority, haughtiness, unforgivingness or anything lacking love. Jesus said, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." If we are connected to the Spirit of life, then we are connected to the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ. If we are not connected to the Spirit of Christ, then we are connected to the spirit of Satan who rules this fallen world. In our fallen natures we want to believe the best about ourselves in regards to good and evil. We get caught up in appearances and wanting to look good to others. As a result, we deceive others and are deceived by them. This is what religion is all about. Religious people appear to serve God, but they have no personal or real relationship with Him. I am referring to the religiosity of many church goers in distinction from those who are in a true personal and spiritual relationship with Jesus. Jesus spoke directly about these so-called religious people and the fate that awaits them. "On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you evil doers."
Why do we judge? Why do we judge our friends, neighbors, spouses, children, parents and people of different races and nations? It's like we can't help ourselves. On the one hand we know we should not judge, but on the other hand we feel completely justified in doing so. What is at the core of this matter of judgment? There are many reasons why we are so desperately flawed, but the heart of the issue is that we do not know that God loves us. We may recite what we know from church, that God loves us and Jesus died for our sins, but we do not really know this love at the heart of our being. We are afraid of God–often without consciously admitting that fear to ourselves. We are also afraid of death.
Let's go back to the Garden of Eden. If we see eating the forbidden fruit as primarily an act of disobedience we likely will see an angry God. If God is truly angry with us, we need to appease Him and the solution is obedience–good versus bad behavior. We work at obeying rules, Bible verses, the Ten Commandments, and a host of other social and personal behavior modifiers that we deem appropriate. We pursue all of this so-called Christian morality so that we will be good, so that God will not be angry with us. We try to do this because Satan promised we would be like God and in our fallen state we believe his lie. We attempt to lead good lives outside of the presence God and we fail. The central issue is not disobeying God. The central issue is that we do not truly trust God. The issue is a relational issue of trust, that is, seeing God for who He is and trusting Him. All false judgment and fear stems from not trusting God. God is love. But we do not know Him and we fear that He is angry with us. This fear is ultimately what led Adam and Eve to cover themselves with fig leaves after they fell. Similarly, we hide from God and one another in our lives today. We are afraid of God so we cover ourselves, feeling ashamed. We cast our judgment upon others to further veil our own imperfections from ourselves. In truth, we are trapped within a lie. We must hide and stray further from God's love rather than trust in Him.
The terrorists who flew the planes into the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 defined their actions by good and evil. Those young men were willing to give up their lives because they were convinced that Americans are evil. They believed that what they were doing was for God. Righteous indignation was their motivation and they sacrificed their lives for the angry god whom they worshipped. They did not know the God Who loves them.
In many ways, today’s political and religious climate parallels the political and religious atmosphere in the time when Christ was on earth–especially with the current conservative Evangelical movement. I believe that if Jesus came in physical form today, he would be met by a reaction similar to the one he previously encountered. Many people in the religious community of his day thought they were close to God because of all they were doing for Him. Their lives were filled with religious activities. They studied and memorized scripture and gave a tenth of all they owned. Their lives revolved around many religious activities, keeping hundreds of rules. They felt morally superior to those around them who did not believe as they believed. Jesus ministered in that religious environment. When he did, he not only turned heads, but he turned water into wine. He made the blind to see. He loved the people that many leaders in the religious community despised. He broke many religious rules. He raised the dead. There is no doubt in my mind, that if Jesus were walking the earth today, some of His closest friends would be homosexuals. They would feel completely loved in his presence just as tax collectors and sinners did in his day.
Talk about not being politically correct! Consider the story of the Roman centurion who came to Jesus to have his servant healed. Jesus said that he would go to the centurion’s home to heal the servant, but the centurion said that was not necessary. The centurion believed that Jesus needed only to say the word and his servant would be healed. Jesus marveled at him and said, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." Remember, this man was a centurion in the Roman army. He was an experienced soldier, a killer, in the minds of the religious community. He was a hated symbol of the Roman occupation. Can you imagine Jesus saying something like that to a soldier in Saddam Hussein's Royal Guard? Can you imagine the outrage?
The reason many of the religious people hated Jesus was because he was not one of them in spirit. He did not believe what they believed. They had hundreds of years of traditions, and he trampled on what many of them viewed as sacred. They believed that they knew who God was and what God wanted. They prided themselves on their commitment, but when God (in Jesus) showed up, they hated Him. In their rage and hatred, those religious leaders demanded his death. In the end it was not the Roman government that killed Jesus. Rather, it was the religious community that demanded a death sentence from the Roman governor. What did Jesus do to those people who hated, beat and spat upon him while he was hanging on the cross? He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." That, my friends, is the heart of God.
The spirit of judgment that I am writing about is joined at the hip with religious pride. What is at the core of the rage that crucified the Son of God? I have witnessed preachers on television raging against homosexuality while I am sitting and thinking of some of my dearest and kindest friends. What is at the core of a person that allows him to feel a sense of moral superiority over another and to think that he has the right to judge another? What is at the core of our anger when people do not believe the way we do? We cling so tightly to our ideas of what we want, the way we think things should be or what we deem appropriate, that we find ourselves constantly disappointed and frustrated. To truly understand this spirit, one would have to understand the nature of Satan, who is the father of pride and the accuser of those who are in Christ.
The spirit of judgment of which I am speaking is intimately linked to Satan who is incapable of love, which brings us to the heart of the matter. Satan cannot love, but he can lead us into a sense of false power. He convinces us of our personal rightness and is relentless in doing so. He gives us feelings of superiority to stand our ground. This spirit desires to suck the life out of others because it has no life of its own. This spirit or sense of superiority can turn into a whimpering victim when someone dares to hurt or defy us. How dare you hurt me! I will never forgive you! Our flesh fans this fire of our personal and righteous indignation. Much of what is taking place today in the name of Christianity is nothing more than us, as individuals, trying to change our fallen nature, which does not work. So we want and pretend to look good to others. Appearances are very important to people caught up in this spirit of judgment. They fear exposure as frauds while tenaciously defending their positions of rightness. Jesus called the religious people of His day "whitewashed tombs."
The reason trying to change our fallen nature does not work is because we need a new nature. You cannot fix the old one. You cannot put "new wine into old wine skins." This truth is at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus came to die for us and was raised from the dead so that we could really live. Life is about the new creation in Christ, not patching up the old. There are no victims in Christ. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. When you know Jesus, you know God. When you really know God, you know that He is love and that you have nothing to fear. Condemnation is gone. Our own self-judgment, that cripples us with despair, self-loathing and fear, is gone. When we know we are loved just for who we are, then we can change, because through that love He empowers us to do so by His Spirit.
When we are filled with the love of God, that love is directed towards others without the spirit of judgment. It is like waking up to a new world with each day being new and exciting. We are filled with a beautiful sense of well-being and wholeness. The fear in us is gone and we know everything is alright. We do not fret about the world because we are no longer a part of it. In the new creation Satan cannot touch us. He is left to grovel in his own meaningless existence of hatred, unforgivingness and condemnation–forever wanton, seeking glory that is not his.
So then how do we live? Frankly, I don't have a clue as to the specifics of how that question should be answered for each individual. During this past year I have felt the brunt of this spirit of judgment being directed at me from people whom I know and love. I am sure these people had good reasons, in their own minds, and felt that their judgments were justified, but they were hurtful to me. I went to these people and asked if they would be willing to pray with me and to ask the Lord to break the stronghold of separation that existed between us. They said, "No." When they refused, I was upset and wanted to lash out and judge them in return. From my perspective, they were saying no to the only possible solution for our damaged relationship. It took weeks for me to work through these issues. Healing came slowly. I learned many things about myself and am gaining new freedom daily. I have found that no one can rob me of my joy and peace. It does not matter what another person does, even if that person does not want reconciliation. How many people still detest and hate their ex-spouses, many years after a divorce was concluded? Think of the staggering number of people who feel trapped in their marriages. The answer lies in working out such relational issues with the Lord. It does not matter if your spouse refuses to pray with you or to go through counseling. The Lord will lead you in areas of personal growth to the point where you may choose to leave or, perhaps, to stay in a marriage. Does God love your spouse as much as He loves you? You can bet your life on it! Does that mean He will be angry with you if you choose to separate? The answer is no, because God is not angry with us. But if we think getting divorced is the answer to freedom, then we are no closer to freedom than staying in a bad marriage because we think that is what God requires of us.
Nobody can define our individual relationships with God. The issue of trust must be worked out on our own with the Lord. We have to know God in order to be free. And if God is in whatever we are doing, love will be part of it. If a spirit of judgment comes over us, that spirit is not of Christ. Christ said about Himself, "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." The true Spirit of Christ is about life, not judgment. I could have told those young men who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center that what they were doing was not connected to God. I don't care how committed they were. I don't care how much they believed. I don't care how much they sacrificed. God was not in it. I know that. I also know that God is not going to patch up our old natures so we can be better people. Salvation in life comes through Jesus Christ. This salvation is about a new creation, and the process is one of death and resurrection based on our relationship with God.
I have come to realize another truth that applies not only to me, but to others. Most religious activities do not reveal God's love. Actually, many of the religious activities I participated in kept me from really knowing God. I was pacified by the illusion that I was connected to God through these activities. But the truth of the matter is, I did not truly find God until I stopped defining my life by these religious activities. Think about this for a moment. What kind of a god was I serving? What kind of a god needs my money? What kind of a god needs me in the ministry? What kind of a god truly needs me for anything? In truth, I was pathetically serving a pathetic god through activities that left me feeling empty.
God does not need you or me. He is complete within Himself. His lack of need for us does not diminish his love for us or his desire to be in loving relationship with us. No one can alter God's purpose, which is life. God is eternal life and this life is available to us in Christ. People in Christ are experiencing salvation, and one day that salvation will be complete with new resurrected bodies. We will experience inexpressible glory in the presence of God. There are times in our lives when God comes along our pathways with His love and wisdom and leads us to do a specific function that includes other people. Some call this ministry. When God is present, I am energized in my spirit and motivated by love. There is no sense of sacrifice. There is no spirit of judgment or superiority. Life is about extending energy towards the people and the things we love. When we experience the wholeness of Christ's love we know what it means to truly be free.
I am not saying that God is going to make everything safe and comfortable for us. God is concerned about our spiritual growth. God is not going to change our spouses, our children or the world around us so we can be comfortable and safe. People plead with God for things that He is not going to do. He is not ignoring us, rather he is seeking the best for us. If we truly want to see God work miracles (miracles in our lives), we should ask Him to change us. "Lord, deliver me from myself." "Lord, give me the capacity to love this person I detest." "Lord, help me to understand my reaction to this person and let me see this person through Your eyes." "Lord, through your Spirit give me the power to be free from this habit in my life that is controlling and enslaving me." "Lord, be with me and fill me with your love and joy in this situation which looks impossible to me."
A relationship of trusting God must be worked out individually by each of us. I talk to the Lord about things that would shock and embarrass many people. I can be emotionally naked with Him and I don't need to live in denial. He loves me and is always there for me. There are people who think of me as not being a good man. I laugh when I think about such opinions. Why? Because I am much worse than they know. What they do not know is that I am truly loved by the One who really counts. When we honestly get to know God, our loneliness and neediness vanishes. I have found that, for me, true healing has taken place only when I know that I am truly loved by God–loved at the very core of my being. When we know this love, we have discovered the deepest truth about God that can be known. This is the truth that will set us free. This is the truth that Jesus has enabled us to enjoy. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."
Like it or not, we are involved in spiritual warfare. As I have stated before, Satan often appears to us as an angel of light, and it is easy to be deceived. Sometime back my wife and I were having serious problems that made living together intolerable. Throughout our marriage of eight years, whenever we have had troubles we would turn to the Lord, and He was always with us and gave us clarity. He always came through for us–sometimes immediately, sometimes after several hours, sometimes the next day. He was always here for us. He specifically spoke to us when we invited Him in. But, this situation was different. The joy had gone out of our relationship and our conversations sounded like broken records. We weren’t even sure we wanted the Lord to show up anymore. We both felt trapped. I came to the conclusion that I was not the marrying kind. Long term relationships with women have never been my strong suit, as life seemed eventually to drain out of each relationship. In fact, long-term relationships with people, with the exception of a few very close friends, have not been my strong suit.
When it comes to my personal relationships, I often, with tongue in cheek, quote Jesus saying to His disciples, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?" If Jesus who is the Son of God got tired of people, it is little wonder that I run out of gas. Our marriage had run out of gas. My wife and I could not get past our views of how selfish and insensitive the other one was. I knew my wife was self-absorbed, and she knew the same was true for me. It was crystal clear to each of us just how flawed the other was. I am not saying that we did not recognize the fact that we each had our own individual flaws. Rather, we felt that the other person’s flaws were the fault of our marital woes. We were both at the end of our ropes. I told my wife that I thought we needed to separate and she said that if I wanted a separation we might as well get a divorce, since she did not trust me to work on the marriage. Completely defeated, I asked her if she wanted to pray and she responded with a tearful, frustrated and equally defeated, "Yes, I guess so." I started praying and talking to the Lord out loud, and after a few moments, I became aware that a stronghold existed between us. I told her so and was astonished when she said, "I agree." I then suggested we go to the Lord and ask Him to reveal the nature of the stronghold and to break its grip on us. Once again, she agreed. So we prayed in complete agreement. We desperately wanted the stronghold broken. The "Red Sea" parted immediately–and I mean immediately. Instantaneously, the stronghold was broken, gone!
The "parting of the Red Sea" in our case was certainly miraculous, yet I found it rather disturbing. On the one hand, my wife and I experienced immediate peace and confidence in our marriage being restored. Both of us sensed the renewal of the joy and excitement we had experienced in the past. Yet, neither of us had a clue as to the nature of the stronghold and what had happened to us. We just knew that God had delivered us. At the time I did not even know what a stronghold was. I just knew we were delivered from one. Anyone, who truly knows me, knows that I had to dig deeper. So I set about trying to find out what a stronghold actually is. More than that, what in the world did the Lord specifically deliver us from, and why didn't He show us who was at fault?
I called my very good friend Jim Moore whom I have known for more than 40 years. Though one could not find two people more opposite than Jim and I (except maybe for my wife and me), Jim and I are one in the Spirit. In Christ, Jim and I are connected like Siamese twins. I outlined the nature of the problem to Jim, and he listened closely as he always does. He asked me questions and mentioned that he knew strongholds were real because one had existed between him and his former wife. His personal stronghold had also been broken by the Lord. After we ended the conversation, Jim worked for the next several hours trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He was getting nowhere. When we spoke on the phone the following day, we knew we were dealing with an issue that was very elusive–one we could not get our arms around. As Jim and I talked about and stumbled around the issues of strongholds, I said, "When people are caught up in a stronghold they can't see it." Jim fired back, "That's where the power is!" The second he made that statement, I knew he was speaking the truth and the lights went on.
The power in a stronghold is that you cannot see that you are struggling with a stronghold. In this type of stronghold, I believe that we are blinded because we are convinced of our rightness and another person's wrongness. The next point we saw was that a stronghold is not a mistake or sin of the type in which we tend to participate daily. Someone cuts you off in traffic and you want to flash them the bird or someone tracks mud across your clean floors and you lose your temper for a moment and then it’s over. No, a stronghold is much bigger than that and much more insidious. It is not simply a wrong choice or a single act of "disobedience." A stronghold is where we, in the flesh, are influenced by a satanic spirit of death. It is this spirit that came to man in the Garden of Eden when Satan promised, "You will be like God."
When you really examine a stronghold, you will find at its core a lack of love. "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." You can recognize a stronghold in your life by a lack of love in your attitude toward another person. A stronghold is often difficult to see. You may feel completely justified in your hurtful attitude toward a person. You may be filled with a defensive attitude and a host of justifications for you feelings. A lack of love is the key indicator of a stronghold present in you. A spirit of reconciliation seems repugnant and even foolish, like casting your "pearls before swine." In its essence, a stronghold is void of love. Many people have the desire to be right rather than to love.
Psychiatrists have found that the desire to be right often becomes an emotional need in adults who were humiliated as children. As a result, these adults seek to elevate their self-images through judgmental attitudes of moral superiority as they see and portray themselves as victims. Have you ever been around an individual who constantly talks about being mistreated and how awful another person has been–a person who complains about the years he has suffered from physical or emotional abuse. This individual seems to revel in the brutality and mistreatments that he has endured. What possibly could be the nature of this pleasure? For some of these people, the most important element in their lives becomes having a sense of moral superiority. Such people often allude to love as the reason for enduring mistreatment, when in fact the motivation is masked hatred.
When we think of ourselves as doing something for someone else, we are in some way denying our own responsibility. Whatever we do is our choice. Whatever we do for someone is done because it fulfills a desire in us. Anyone who genuinely loves knows the pleasure of loving. We love because we want to. Maintaining an image of ourselves as being loving and compassionate can create a stronghold of deception from which it is hard to break free. If you are having real difficulty with another person or persons, ask the Lord to take away the condemning spirit that is gnawing at you. Ask Him to replace that spirit of death with one of love and life. There is no middle ground in spiritual warfare. In the book of 2 Corinthians Paul makes the statement, "For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God."
I have another good friend who was 34 when she first married. She went from being an independent woman to being married with three children in less than four years. Her husband brought his 8 year old daughter to the marriage, and my friend became pregnant after their first year together. Immediately after the birth of their first child and while on birth control, she became pregnant again–talk about pressure!
My friend is a stay at home mom who works her butt off cleaning, changing diapers, taking care of kids, car pooling, cooking and doing all of the endless and thankless duties of being a dutiful mother. Her resentment started to grow. Her husband, a man I really like, was also working his butt off–working 12 to 14 hours a day in our current bad economy. Both were becoming resentful. My friend told me she was almost at her breaking point. She had had enough! She was about to tell that ungrateful SOB, to whom she was married, what he could do with the marriage. She talked to one of her close friends and dumped her frustrations. Her friend pointed out that everything she was doing was her choice. The fault for her frustrations was not in her husband. The friend suggested, "Why don't you just stop cleaning and take care of your husband's sexual needs?" Her friend became very specific in her suggestion. As a man with sexual desires, I considered this counsel to be pure genius. My friend acted on her advice, and from the last report I received, this couple is doing better than ever. My friend knows the Lord but with all the pressures of daily living the relevance of God being there for her became lost. It took a friend who was willing to be honest that brought things back into perspective.
The problem with all of us is that we are terribly flawed. Even more, we do not know just how flawed we are. Indeed, we usually consider ourselves to be "good people." When we believe the lie about our basic goodness, this belief nullifies the purpose of Christ coming to earth, namely, to produce a new creation. Love implies effort and real love often implies being delivered from ourselves. Satan and his demonic forces do everything they can to keep us from realizing this truth.
I was plagued with feelings of guilt for the first 50 years of my life, though I truly was a born again Christian at age 19. I experienced the life giving touch of the Holy Spirit and spent peaceful time in the Lord's healing and loving presence when I first met the Lord, but those times were short lived. I fell prey to the deadly bondage of religious legalism and false Christian morality.
I bought into the message of the Christian community with which I was associated–the idea that I was supposed to conform my life to teachings in the Bible. Reading and studying the Bible were absolute necessities.
After dutifully immersing myself in the words of the Bible and listening to the counsel of the Christian leadership around me, I concluded that I needed to make changes in my behavior in order to please God. I decided that since God wanted commitment, He was going to get it from me. I would out perform everyone around me when it came to "Christian activities." That message did not work and led to death!
Let me share an insight into my personality. Picture me in a church in an audience of hundreds of people listening to a sermon. If the preacher were to say, "One of you sitting out there has unconfessed sin in your life and needs to get right with God," then I would immediately think he was talking about me. I would personalize and internalize the statement. Further, I would act on it. Many people would react in a similar way. Some people would externalize the statement and think that it applied to other people. Those others should do something about their that sin. A few people would understand and evaluate the statement in the larger context of the whole sermon. People have different levels of emotional health. But believe me when I say, "That was me at that time." The good news is that I am now living as a new creation in the love of God who has healed and is continuing to heal me."
After getting out of the Marine Corps in the late 1960's, I applied for employment with the Fort Worth Police Department. I had to take a polygraph test in order to be hired. The department wanted to make sure that recruits were not criminals nor closet homosexuals. I passed the test but it made me very nervous. The test covered almost everything in my past of which I was ashamed, and regardless of what you see in the movies, a lie detector test is hard to beat. The man who tested me was one of the top people in the country for administering the test. At one point he remarked to me, "I can tell you are not lying but you need to learn to be more accepting of yourself." I said nothing at the time, but I thought to myself, "If I did accept myself you would not hire me." Was my thought factually correct? Probably not. But it reflected my emotional and mental thinking at that time. Sadly, it reflects the emotional and mental thinking of too many people in today's world.
When I was a young boy, about eleven or twelve years old, I was fondled by an older boy at camp and I thought it felt good at the time. For years I was haunted with guilt concerning that incident. As an adult, feelings of fear and guilt connected to that incident continued to plague me, though I have never been attracted to other men sexually. At the age of 36, when I was married and had 3 children, I constantly had violent dreams. I was a tormented man and I did not know why. My wife at that time was getting a PhD from the University of Dallas. She had become friends with a Catholic priest to whom she introduced me. The priest and I became good friends. Over the course of his life he ministered to thousands of people in a healing way. He was a gentle place of shelter in the name of Jesus for me and many others. He was a homosexual. With the Lord, he helped me through my fears and I looked into myself with no judgment or condemnation. All of my violent dreams stopped, never to return. I know for certain that I was not and am not homosexual. But if I were, then I simply would be. I have no fear of homosexuals. I have good friends who are homosexuals and there is no judgment among us.
I am not saying that I embrace homosexuality nor am I saying I am against homosexuality. However, I do know that I have never met a person, who I came to know well, that is not flawed in some major way. We are all flawed in our old nature and in need of a new one. If you are a self-righteous person and kick against what I am saying, try this. Take some time to reflect on your past and write down all of the mistakes in your life that you have made, either in deed or thought, even those of which you are ashamed. Administer your own "polygraph test" for openness and honesty. After you complete your list and you are with your Bible study group, parents, grown children, or close friends, share the particulars of your list. The Bible urges us to confess our sins to one another. You will be surprised at the effect that this activity will have on any self-righteousness in you. We are truly forgiven and our sins are separated from us as far as the east is from the west. The reason? God loves us.
Jesus said concerning those who follow him, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Paul elaborated, "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Love is a gentle place of shelter in Jesus.
Among Christians, our "old nature" is the source of feelings of condemnation. The religious community, which defines "Christianity" in terms of Christian morality, engenders a spirit of self-righteousness and moral superiority. This self-righteous attitude results from a satanic lie and leads us to judge and condemn others. This spirit does not exist in God's new creation of us.
I have friends who are involved in various ministries around the world where God is producing miracles in the same way that He performed miracles when Jesus and his disciples walked the earth 2,000 years ago. Why does that surprise anyone? It is exactly what Jesus promised. Every one of us who has His Spirit is walking around with the Spirit of Jesus. Yet when I look at the church in America, with notable exceptions, I see an anemic, sterile and lukewarm environment that has little to do with the new creation. Rather, it is more about the business of religion. Remember, that almost all churches in the United States are incorporated entities of the states in which they reside. They have the same legal incorporation that businesses and charitable organizations have. It is accurate to say that current churches are state organizations. The business of "Christianity" can be accomplished in the old nature, but it cannot produce life. As the true church, we need to repent. We must stop viewing and running Christian churches as businesses, like other incorporated businesses. We need to stop viewing our Christian walk as merely another self-help routine that leads to improving our behavior for the purpose of becoming good people. We need to turn to the Lord for direction and look to Him to create new people, people living in the Spirit.
I also believe it is imperative to examine just what lies have crept into our churches, so that we can rid ourselves of these ideas. There is a subtle yet great sacrilege that has wormed its way into the lives of many Christians and stymied or killed their spiritual growth. Many Christians, often with the encouragement of a church, have taken the Bible and their own sense of righteousness about "being in the Word" as synonymous with obeying the "Living Word of God." A book meant to point the way to trust and faith in Jesus has become an idol (bibliolatry) and a stumbling block to entering into a deeper life-altering relationship with the Holy Spirit. As a result, we fail to experience the freedom and spiritual maturity that is available to us only through the leading of the Holy Spirit. As a young believer, I bought into this heresy. I can remember spending hundreds of hours studying and memorizing large portions of Bible. We often ignore the fact that the Bible is primarily an historical record of God's revelations to man. It is accurate to think of the Bible as a record of the words of God at the time rather than as "The Word of God." I wasted years in vain attempts to please God, trying to find a formula for my life. Trying to find security in a book and in a belief system proved to be death to me. Jesus summed it up best when he said to the religious community of his day, "You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."
In the books of Matthew and Luke we have two authors telling the account of Jesus when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. When confronted by Satan, Jesus quoted the scriptures. Ironically, the devil did the same. Word for word, they both quoted from the scriptures. I believe that the greatest lie in Christendom today comes directly from the lips of Satan declaring the Bible to be synonymous with the "Word of God."
I have stated before and want to state again: I have experienced firsthand the devastating consequences of the Bible being used as an instrument of bondage and death rather than of life. More than 40 years ago, after becoming a born again Christian, I bought into the lie that God Himself required me to study and memorize the Bible. My zealous pursuit of the book as the source of my life stifled the gentle, loving voice of the Holy Spirit that dwells within me. I spent hundreds of hours studying and memorizing verses, passages and chapters from both the Old and New Testaments. The same religious spirit of Jesus' day caught hold of me. I determined to be the most committed follower of God alive. All the study and memorization I did while under the influence of that religious spirit did absolutely nothing in helping me to have the life-giving relationship that I now enjoy with the living God. I have not been the only person to make this mistake.
In the New Testament we find a man called Saul of Tarsus (later renamed Paul) who was a religious leader of his day. Paul was an Israelite and a very devout man by his own account. He actually made the claim that there was no one in all of Israel who was more committed to his religion. He had no peer in regards to his religious zeal. Paul spent thousands of hours learning the scriptures and oral traditions passed down for generations. From his perspective, he kept the commandments better than any other man of his day. In his zeal for God, Paul became deeply troubled by a particular sect of people who followed a man called Jesus. Paul correctly understood that these people were a threat to the very foundation of what he believed. He perceived these Christians as the enemy of all he embraced, all he stood for, his very existence. So he set out to take action against them, to stamp out these people in the name of God. On one particular mission, while heading to Damascus, Paul was struck down by a blinding light, and I believe that Paul knew this light was the Shekinah Glory of God. Paul knew he was in the presence of God Almighty. While blinded and on his knees he cried out, "Lord who are you?" A heavenly voice responded, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." Paul’s world, as he knew it, came to an end.
Jesus was born at a point in history when Jewish religion was at a fever pitch, much like today's religious environment. His birth took place in humble surroundings and was announced only to humble shepherds who were watching their flocks at night. Further, only three wise men recognized a bright star to be the sign of the Messiah's birth. The Messiah, the Christ, who had been promised for more than a thousand years had come, and the religious leaders and community did not recognize the event nor Jesus. Unfortunately, our current religious community often does not recognize the spirit of Jesus in our lives.
The religious community of Jesus' day had a hierarchy involving the priests of the Temple, the Jewish elders and the Sanhedrin. Scattered through this hierarchy were Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, many of whom were devout in the practice of their religion. These religious people represented thousands of man-years (not man-hours) of study of scriptures and oral traditions. They faithfully studied and memorized the scriptures. Their lives were governed by religion, often to the point of fanaticism.
The man Jesus, who performed all sorts of miracles from changing water into wine to raising the dead, was hated by many in the religious community. Jesus knew that in all of their zeal and self-righteous knowledge they were mostly mistaken. The scriptures told a very different story from what a large majority of them understood. In the end, it was this rigidly committed religious community that demanded the crucifixion of Jesus. Ironically, the religious community used the scriptures to condemn him. Even Jesus' own disciples, Peter in particular, fled from him in disillusionment when Jesus was led to the cross. Was there no one who could see who he was? At one of the most crucial moments in human history, would no one speak on Jesus' behalf? Dogmatic study and interpretation of scripture had blinded religious leaders to the truth and experience of Jesus’ existence. Equally ironic, one person who did step forward to speak the truth about this man was Pontius Pilate's wife who said to her husband, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much over him today in a dream." Now let me make this point very clear. This Roman woman had learned more in one dream than most of the biblical scholars of Jesus' day had learned in a lifetime. After a thousand years of dedicated studying, those scholars did not recognize the one to whom their prophets and scriptures pointed. Jesus himself summarized it best when He said to the religious people of his day, "You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to Me; yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life."
The Bible communicates God’s presence, interest and participation in the lives of humanity. The Bible gives us an historical perspective and revelation from creation to Christ’s ultimate return. Within its pages we can also clearly see how the Bible has been misused. Satan quoted and twisted the scripture for his own evil purposes. Paul immersed himself in the Old Testament scriptures but misunderstood their meaning. He used his misguided beliefs to harm God’s people. History repeats itself, as we often fall prey to the same religious spirit that keeps us focused on written words instead of the author of life. The question becomes, "How can we be sure that we are using the Bible for life and not for death?" Jesus said that it would be to our advantage that he go away because he would send the Holy Spirit who would reside in us. And after the greatest event in human history, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ, he did exactly that. The point is this. If you are not discovering the fruit of the Spirit in your current religious pursuit–whether it is in the form of Bible study, devoted church attendance, volunteer activities through the church, sacrificial giving, and so forth, then you are missing out on the essence of what it means to be a follower of Christ, a child of God.
If you believe the Bible is the Word of God, then the Bible becomes God, which is idolatry. That belief often leads people to think that the Bible is a book of rules, laws, that must be followed. To be a "good Christian" a person must obey every perceived command, rule and law in it. Such a life is impossible, and you will live either with guilt or in denial. We know that an underlying purpose of the Ten Commandments was to increase perception of our sin and to demonstrate our need for a Savior–a teaching of Paul in the book of Romans. God knew that we could not keep the commandments. It was man in his pride who thought he could. Paul addressed the issue of law in the book of Galatians, when he said, "All who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.'" He also said, "A little leaven leavens the entire lump." Not only can we not keep the Ten Commandments, we cannot truly and fully keep even one. Try keeping all of the specific commandments and teachings of the New Testament as you perceive them. Jesus himself said, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart." Then he said, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Remember that being perfect is truly and fully living in love, in your heart and actions, all of the time. If, my friend, you believe you can perfectly keep all commandments, you are delusional. These words of Jesus were given to those under the old covenant. "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins." We are free in Christ. Remember, even the old covenant was pointing to Christ.
Many people have missed a real and personal relationship with our living God in the person of the Holy Spirit. They have substituted human routines and efforts. Specifically, they have substituted studying and teaching the Bible for a daily relationship with their Father.
The result is behavior modification based on human knowledge and effort. They have fallen into the trap of achieving righteousness through law–the same trap that ensnared the religious people in the time of Jesus–a trap that continues to ensnare religious people now. It is easier to point to the religious leaders of that day than it is to see and accept our own such failure today. Righteousness based on law and personal effort did not work for them. It did not work for Paul. It did not work for me. It never works for anyone. Such behavior modification, based on our own efforts, is a lie. As any parent knows, behavior modification might work on children until they begin to assert their own personhood. Then the trouble begins. Satan promised, "And you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When separated from God, our concepts of good and evil are not distinguishable in an eternal framework.
Jesus did not come to earth so that we would have to struggle to imitate him. He did not experience death on a cross and glorious resurrection so that we would have to scour the Bible for rules about how to live our lives. Jesus has nothing to do with us mustering up the will power to be good or with self-modification of behavior. Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Jesus died for all of the sins of the entire world, including yours and mine. He died so that we may a relationship with the living God who loves us and empowers us in the Holy Spirit to heal and grow. God made an immutable promise, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." This promise is about the new creation. We do not have to pretend anymore. We can talk to Him about anything, and He will not condemn us for our failures. He wants wholeness and life for us. We may work out our lives with Him knowing that we are completely loved. We do not have to hide behind our fig leaves any longer. If you are not experiencing what I am describing, then all you have to do is get to know Him. Trust Him, not beliefs about Him.
The new creation is about a loving relationship with the God who loves us, who has set us free. When we know that we are loved, every fiber of our being is affected. God is the only source of true love, and His love flows into and through us as we get to know Him. King David said, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me." And Jesus promised, "I am the resurrection and the Life." When we know who we are in Christ, we are truly free, because we really are free. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
Life as I now know it is full of joy, beauty and hope. I have a profound sense of well-being. I feel secure in the freedom to be me with all of my flaws and imperfections. Fear no longer dominates my life, and I am learning not to listen to the flaming darts that are thrown at me. Sometimes my new life seems unreal to me because I spent so many years feeling bad with so little hope and love in my life. There was so little of the real me. I was like a fish on a hook trying to get free.
I am discovering that life is not about being perfect but rather is about growing towards wholeness. I am relating what this process of growing looks like for me. My hope is that my story might help you in your process. I am a good fisherman and I have spent thousands of hours working at becoming a good fisherman. One can never become a good fisherman through the efforts of another. You have to work it out for yourself. But I have learned a great deal from men who are truly great fishermen. In regards to writing about my own life it would actually be much easier for me if I were a counselor or a psychiatrist and could use my patients for illustrations of growth. If I had host of such illustrations that were external to me, then I would not have to pull down my own pants and be naked before you (metaphorically speaking). I could present myself as a kind and loving therapist whose primary concern was for my patients' growth, but such is not the case. I have not even been a good patient and I thank the Lord for his confidentiality policy.
One of the reasons it is difficult for me to be naked before people is that there have been very few people who have truly contributed to my life in terms of love and acceptance which has resulted in my growth. This reason is especially true for many people who call themselves Christians. I do, however, have numerous critics. Maybe there is good reason for the criticisms I have received. I admit that I am not the type of person who fits in well at a dinner party with many guests who love to chit chat. I hate chit chat unless we are talking about fishing. I am very opinionated and dogmatic. My Type A personality might be related to my Dutch ancestry. General George S. Patton in World War II and Jonah in the Bible are two of my favorite people. I love Jonah who, in my estimation, makes John Wayne look like a sissy. With my attitude and mentality, I suppose it is understandable that I have ruffled a few feathers along the way. But I am acquiring some social skills as the Lord continues to work in my life. I hope that He is helping me to be more acceptable to people who find me offensive. Still, becoming naked before people is not easy for me.
Thinking about General Patton reminds me of a dream I had about him several years ago. In that dream I knew for certain that Jesus had died for George Patton and that he was truly a forgiven man. The dream was so real to me that I was overwhelmed with emotions, and I wept.
Before getting into details of my life, let me state that if you are truly free and we see things differently, then I would not be surprised at all. Freedom is a very personal thing and we are all different. The concept of freedom inherently implies variations and differences of perspective.
Terry Constant and Jim Moore are two of my best friends and I have known them for more than forty years. They have spent numerous hours helping me to write this and other works. I believe that the Lord has lead me to these tasks. There have been several times when we disagreed, debated and wrestled over exact wording to use in places. However, we all trusted the leading of the Holy Spirit. I envision our process to be like three rabbis splitting hairs over the interpretations of the finer points of the Torah. But in God's Spirit, these disagreements over specific words and thoughts have brought us closer to each other and to the Lord.
We had agreed on 99% of the content concerning the first 8 chapters and then we came to Chapter 9, "Free to be Me." Jim, my true partner in the spirit, commented after his first reading, "I don't relate to any of it." I retorted, "It's me." He replied, "No wonder I don't like it."
I cannot count the number of hours that Jim and I have talked about the Lord and the number of insights that I have received because of our relationship. Jim is as intimate with the Lord as any man I have ever met. And we have absolutely nothing in common other than our relationships with the Lord. Jim developed worldwide financial systems for Electronic Data Systems before he retired. He went from a suit and tie to having long hair and a scraggly beard. He began getting tattoos in his 60's. He looks like John the Baptist to me. He is saving his money to purchase his third Harley Davidson motorcycle so that he can travel the good old "US of A" again as he has many times before. He spends hundreds of hours in the Bible. I personally never open the Bible any more. In my estimation Jim is a biblical scholar. We do not like the same movies. I do not laugh at his jokes. And if we did not know the Lord, I would not spend 5 minutes with him. Is it any wonder our processes look and are different?
Terry, my editor, is equally different from me. He has always been a very popular man, unlike Jim who is a total recluse. Terry is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Texas, has a Master of Divinity degree from the largest Christian seminary in the history of the world, and has been through two PhD programs. He is an ordained Southern Baptist Minister. Terry was the Chaplain of the Fort Worth Police Department, was a Chaplain in the United States Air Force, was the Director of a national psychiatric program and has published many articles (one of which was used by request by a previous President of the United States in a proposal to Congress). He has taught, in three universities, courses that include: United States History, Western Civilization history, Old Testament History and New Testament History. He is a genius in programming and using computers, since he started programming in the mid-1960s when few people used computers.
Terry and I have more in common than Jim and I, but not much. Our relationship is also connected to the Lord. My point is this, how your relationship looks between you and the Lord is and will be unique. But everyone in a true relationship with the Lord knows that they are truly free. The rest of this chapter provides insight into my process, my road, to true freedom in the Lord.
In my view, what does it mean to be truly free? For me, God is my best friend and He is still God. I know that I cannot manipulate Him to do for me what I want Him to do. Believe me when I say that I have tried! I never pray before meals or any formal setting unless I am praying over another person who is in trouble or joining in with friends. My communication with the Lord is at a conversational level, but often there are no words. In my spirit I know that He is always present with me, and I know that He knows everything about me and loves me. The Lord occasionally speaks to me verbally (not audibly), but most of the time I do the talking. I never feel guilt in His presence but I often repent because of mistakes I have made or wrongs I have done. For me, repentance has to do with understanding my thoughts and actions in light of the new creation, instead of, wallowing in the feelings of condemnation and thoughts from the old nature.
For me repentance is not about good and evil or right and wrong. Repentance is about moving towards freedom and life. Often there is an intense struggle involved when letting go of the old which does not want to die. Delaying gratification has always been difficult for me and I hate the pain of trusting and waiting on the Lord when going from the old to the new. I feel free to talk with the Lord about anything that pertains to me. Completely naked, completely open and honest. For example, I do not look at pornography anymore because it is a bad thing with the idea that God is going to punish me. I know that is not true. God is not into such punishment. If there is any punishment, it is what I have done to myself. Perhaps thinking in terms of consequences is more appropriate. The reason that I do not look at pornography is because I do not want to be a slave to sexual passion that is disconnected from a personal relationship. For me, this would simply lead to wanting more and more sex and producing nothing but bondage. Being consumed by passion is not freedom, rather, it is slavery. I want nothing to do with such a lifestyle.
When I think of my own sexuality and how God made me, I believe that sexuality is one of God's most beautiful gifts. With the right person we can express ourselves in play, exploration and joyful abandonment. It is a beautiful experience when you are with the right person. Now am I saying that I have completely worked out my sexuality, what it means in totality? The answer is no. Since this is a very important area in my life, I talk to the Lord about it without experiencing guilt or wanting to hide.
There was a time in my life when making it through a night without drinking alcohol was not an option. I could not imagine facing an evening alone without being intoxicated, and I was married at the time. Today, I find the thought of drinking to escape, just so I can feel calm and whole, to be repugnant. I want nothing to do with alcohol. However, I still go to wine tasting events with friends and I have learned a good deal about wine and the different processes involved in making wine. I like smelling the various reds and distinguishing the differences among them. But I do not taste. I am not following a rule or law. I simply do not want to drink alcoholic beverages. I am living the freedom that I have in the new creation.
I am in great physical shape for my age. Even though I have children in their forties I still weigh the same as I did in high school. There are days when I talk to the Lord about my diet. I love to eat, and if I ate like I wanted to, I would be 200 pounds overweight. If I wanted to eat that much and be 200 pounds overweight, I would. The Lord would love me just as much if I were fat. But it would not be me. I like looking good and I love being fit. I like it that men in their 30's and 40's cannot stay up with me in the gym. But being fit has nothing to do with others. If there were not another person on earth, I would still be working out and watching my diet. It is who I am.
I love to fish by myself, but when I am fishing, I am never alone. The Lord fishes with me. When the sun comes up over Lake Michigan, I am struck with awe and stand in amazement as I gaze at the majestic beauty of God's creation. Often I am overwhelmed and at a loss for words. From time to time, I simply say, "Unbelievable Lord!" At such moments words cannot express the glory and worship that is in my heart.
But not all is bliss. Two years ago I blew out my rotator cuff and the doctor put nine pins in my shoulder. I was sleeping about two hours a night, in pain, because I refused to take the pain medication that was given to me. The Lord was with me. Every step of the way, He was there and His grace was sufficient. During those long and painful nights, I learned a great deal about myself, and the process of suffering made me a better man, taking away many of my fears. I don't understand how this can be, but it is true. This incident increased my capacity for life and discipline. How God weaves His freedom in the new creation is a mystery to me.
The last year has been extremely difficult for me at times, because many illusions about relationships have been stripped away from me–relationships that had been very important to me. One result is that I am growing which is never easy. Paul in the New Testament wrote, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." For my life, the verse could be worded, "All things work together for good because God loves me." Sharing joy and pain with a God who loves me has become my life. I am growing to be free, to be me.
Inviting Jesus to Join In
Not long ago a couple of friends, whom I have known for a long time, came to my home. We had a discussion that began to turn ugly. I felt completely misunderstood and tried to defend myself. Tempers flared but I did not want the conversation to turn into a fight. All three of us are Christians who know the Lord. So I suggested that we include the Lord in our conversation. I asked them if they would pray with me.
At first they seemed a bit surprised, but after thinking about it they agreed. When we started talking to the Lord, the entire atmosphere among us quickly changed. Our dogmatism disappeared and a spirit of humility and warmth filled our hearts. We continued our discussion and enjoyed our evening together. Why? Because we invited the Lord to join us. Are you having trouble with relationships, indeed with anything? I suggest that you invite the Lord to join you.
Once, a neighbor called me to help her with her aging husband who had fallen and could not get back into bed. He was a big man with only one leg. Diabetes was destroying his body. He was having difficulty breathing and I personally thought he was in the last few months of his life. His mind was still as sharp as a tack however. After getting him back into bed, I felt badly for him. I asked him if it would embarrass him if I prayed over him, and he said that he would appreciate it. I then asked the Lord to comfort him and to let him know that He was right there with him. "Let this man know, Lord, in some special way that he is not alone." I left the house. Later that day he called to thank me and said, "The Lord answered your prayer." Then he said something interesting, "The Lord truly works in strange and mysterious ways."
I do not know what my neighbor meant by his statement. I know that he knew that I was not a religious man and that I could be quite profane at times. I actually think that he had thought about witnessing to me over the last couple of years. But the Lord showing up and answering my prayers certainly is not strange to me. Whenever I pray with another person and we are both seeking the Lord's perspective and guidance, He always shows up. Why would that surprise anyone? Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them".
The Voice of God
Truly knowing God, knowing His voice, is an essential key to personal freedom. There are many voices that come at us. Satan often appears as an angel of light. No one can fully explain to another person what knowing the voice of God means for him. We, ourselves, have to learn to discern His voice. However, I have had people say to me on numerous occasions that God told them something, and I knew for certain that what they heard or understood was not from God. If God speaks to you, it will be a voice of love and truth. His voice is patient and kind. His voice is the voice of reconciliation. His voice will be full of hope and life. His voice will be for you a gentle place of shelter. His voice will never violate you in any way imaginable. He will not guilt you or cause you harm. You will never have to prove yourself worthy in any way by having to perform for him to gain his acceptance. He wants the very best for you. If you make a bad decision in your life, he will wait for you until you change your mind. He will not force you or threaten you to change. He will never enable or empower you to do anything destructive. He is a God of life. God is light and goodness, and there is no darkness in Him.
Pain and Suffering
If you try to avoid all pain and suffering, then you will not grow in Christ. The writer of Hebrews said that even Jesus, "although he was a Son … learned obedience through what he suffered." Such suffering is not masochism which is a emotional disorder in which a person derives pleasure when receiving punishment. Nor am I suggesting self-sacrifice which creates its own suffering under the guise of love. When we think we are doing something for another person out of a sense of sacrifice, we are denying our own responsibility. Whatever we do, we do because we desire to do so. All self-generated pain is connected to our old nature which leads to death and we must give it up.
I value freedom as much as anything on earth. At the same time I hate fear as much as anything on earth. Ironically, in order to become free I must face and feel fear, which is painful. To the degree that I refuse to face my fear, I live in bondage. Personal suffering or pain is an inherent part of learning, of personal growth.
Not long ago I awoke in the middle of the night, and I was overwhelmed by fear. Immediately, I told the Lord that I did not want to run from those fears. I let the fear wash over me, really feeling it. I did not fight or run from it. I asked the Lord to reveal to me the nature of the fear, what the fear was all about. Then I realized that the fear that I was experiencing was already inside me. The fear was being exposed without pretense since I was not trying to avoid the emotional pain that attended the fear. Sometimes we have fears deeply embedded in our unconscious or subconscious minds and have no idea how they got there. Such fears could be there from childhood and still be there many years later as an adult. Often a person cannot remember the source of the fears, the event that caused the fears. I personally have worked my way back to when I was a child and found the sources of many such fears. If you are willing to face the pain of confronting your fears, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate therapist. Once you confront those fears, they lose power over you. You will begin to discover freedom that you have never experienced before. As I stated in Chapter 7 concerning strongholds, the power in a stronghold is that you cannot see that you are struggling with a stronghold. The key to freedom is exposure, especially in the Spirit.
The pain of giving up our old nature is true and is obvious when dealing with addictions. Addictions involve a lack of wholeness in our personhoods–at least in our perceptions of ourselves. We are a society full of addicts. Workaholics, alcoholics, sex addicts, food addicts, drug addicts, busyness, religion, unhealthy relationships, entertainment and anything else to escape our own pain in existing.
The reason that giving up an addiction is so hard is that when we try to give up the addiction in the flesh (separated from God), we feel empty on the inside. Life seems to have no meaning apart from our addictions. The emptiness points to a lack of wholeness. A lack of wholeness leads to other problems. The root source of a lack of wholeness and its attendant problems results from not having an intimate relationship with God and often leads to laziness or a lack of courage in facing and dealing with ourselves. When you bring your addictions to the Lord, tell Him that you don't want whatever it is that enslaves you. Ask Him to reveal the true cause of your addiction. Tell Him that you want to become whole. There will be pain involved, but the Lord Himself will guide you with what you need. But you will have to choose to act. Remember, God is God and you are you. Overcoming our laziness is essential to our growth. I know that for me, in my laziness, I am constantly tempted to avoid the pain of suffering. Many of the problems the Lord reveals to me stem from an unwillingness to exert myself. Growth takes effort, and laziness becomes the opponent to be overcome. Often I ask, "Give me the motivation and the courage to do this, Lord." This is the way to wholeness.
Sometimes a good therapist can be helpful. So can books, such as the Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. But if you truly want to see a miracle happen in your life, ask the Lord to guide you, no matter where you are.
Courage and Faith
Our current world operates primarily in fear. People are motivated by fear. This dominating atmosphere of fear is a prime reason why it is difficult for people to trust the Lord. Many people come to Christian churches and become members because they believe in God. They fear punishment by God, so they believe what they hear to avoid punishment. Fear based motivation is the basic reason why many people obey traffic laws and laws in general. Sadly, this motivation of fear is also why many people become members of churches. It is easier to be controlled by our fears than to trust the Lord. People naturally, according to the habit of this world, follow fear. Hence, they can easily embrace the concept of a punishing God.
Faith and courage cannot be separated. Faith is belief in God and trust in Him that He loves you, that He is working for your good. People who believe in a punishing God believe in him, but in their fear, they say and do things mainly to avoid punishment. Belief in a punishing God is consistent with the way most Christians exist in this world. The reason that it is so difficult for most people to trust the Lord is that fear is not involved, since there is no fear in love. Courage is inseparable from faith, because a person who trusts the Lord is breaking away from the prevailing mode of life for most people on Earth.
Since this world operates on the basis of fear, when the anti-Christ comes on the scene, the whole world will follow and worship him. Why? Because of the habit of being motivated by fear. The anti-Christ will fit in well with how most people think. At that time, if a person does not have the mark of the beast, he will not be able to buy or sell. Money! Survival! It is all about fear and death.
Another one of my favorite people in the Bible is David. All of the army of Israel trembled when Goliath came forward at the valley Elah and challenged the God of Israel. All of the men of valor in Israel's army hid in the trenches. But not David who was just a boy at the time. David declared, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" David went out and slew the giant.
We all have giants in our lives and the issue becomes, "What are we going to do about them?" Do we want to be controlled by our fears and to hide in the trenches, or do we want to put our trust in the Lord and slay these giants? We can say with David, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for though art with me."
We all walk through a valley of the shadow of death at times in our lives. For those in Christ, we face a shadow of death, not death. Jesus died for us and rose again so that we could have a new beginning which is a new creation. Christians have no valid reason to fear a shadow. I have seen, I have experienced, the place that God has prepared for us, a place in which we will live and God will be with us. The magnitude and intensity of the glory that I witnessed is unfathomable. God did everything necessary for us to live with him in eternal glory. Jesus is "the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by" him. He did all for you and me. Do not deny yourself the new life that Jesus has secured for us.
May God bless you.
 The Bible, RSV, 1 John 4:18
 ibid., I John 4:18
 ibid., John 3:3
 ibid., John 10:10
 The Bible, RSV, John 10:10
 ibid., Matthew 16:24
 The Collected letters of St. Therese of Lisieux
 The Bible, RSV, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
 ibid., 1 John 4:6-10
 ibid., Matthew 10:30-31
 ibid., Matthew 5:28
 ibid., Matthew 3:16
 ibid., 1Ki 19:11-12
 ibid., 1 John 4:18
 ibid., I Peter 4:12
 ibid., Ephesians 6:11
 ibid., Ephesians 6:16
 ibid., Gal 5:22
 ibid., Romans 8:1
 ibid., Genesis 3:4
 ibid., 2 Thessalonians 2:8
 The Road Less Traveled, p. 17
 The Bible, RSV, I John 4:18
 ibid., I John 4:4
 ibid., I John 4:18
 ibid., I Corinthians 13:4-8
 ibid., Psalms 46:10
 ibid., Genesis 3:5
 ibid., Revelation 3:20
 ibid., Genesis 3:5
 The Bible, KJV, Isaiah 64:6
 The Bible, RSV, Luke 18: 9-14
 ibid., John 7:24
 ibid., Matthew 7:22-23
 ibid., Matthew 8:10
 ibid., Luke 23:34
 ibid., Matthew 23:27
 ibid., Matthew 9:17
 ibid., John 3:17
 ibid., Matthew 7:9-10
 ibid., John 8:36
 ibid., Matthew 17:7
 ibid., Genesis 3:5
 ibid., 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
 ibid., 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
 ibid., John 13:35
 ibid., I Corinthians 13:4-7
 ibid., John 5:39-40
 ibid., Acts 9:5
 ibid., Matthew 27:19
 ibid., John 5:39-40
 ibid., Romans 5:20
 ibid., Galatians 3:10
 ibid., Galatians 5:9
 ibid., Matthew 5:28
 ibid., Matthew 5:48
 ibid., Luke 5:37
 ibid., Genesis 3:5
 ibid., Matthew 11:30
 ibid., Jeremiah 31:33
 ibid., Psalms 23:4
 ibid., John 11:25
 ibid., John 1:14
 ibid., Romans, 8:28
 ibid., Matthew 18:20
 ibid., Hebrews 5:8
 ibid., I Samuel 17:26
 ibid., Psalms 23: 4
 ibid., John 14:6