Archive for the ‘Confessions of a Past Life’ Category


He told me everything I ever did.”

Samaritan woman at the well.   John 4:39

Remember this was the woman who Jesus took the time to converse with when she went to draw water, hoping no one would be around.DSC_0186

 

Jesus offered her “living water” or a life of freedom, abundance and no condemnation.

And after their little conversation, in which Jesus revealed that he knew the truth about her messed up life- that she had been with a number of men including those not her husband and she had been hiding out in shame – she realized that he was someone special. Important. A prophet. Or better yet, the Messiah!

She had believed that someday the Messiah would come, and when he did, she was ready.

There was no condemnation in Jesus telling her the truth about her life, only freedom.

Isn’t it a relief when something we’ve hidden comes out in the open?

We don’t usually think of our sin or shame being uncovered as a good thing. But Jesus confronts us to free us, not to shame us.

Because of everything I had done and everything done to me, I was entangled and trapped by every kind of fear.

Recognize any of these?

  • I was afraid of making people mad and what they would say about me.
  • I was afraid of not being loved.
  • I was afraid of a failed marriage. Again.
  • I was afraid of never being good enough for someone.
  • I was afraid of making mistakes.
  • I was afraid I wasn’t submitted or committed enough to live up to God’s word.
  • I was afraid of being abandoned.
  • I was afraid of losing my children because I couldn’t support a family on my own.
  • I was afraid nothing in my life would ever turn out right.

Quite a list, huh? My fears kept me so stuck, I couldn’t see the truth.

Like the woman at the well.

So when Jesus plainly spoke truth, she breathed a sigh of relief. And couldn’t wait to tell people!

Francine Rivers has a new book out, Bridge to Haven, in which the main character, Abra lives this very battle. Circumstances create lies in her young mind and heart, and she clings to the lies rather than believe the truth. Because of those lies and the fear they create, she makes choices that entangle her even more, until her life is such a mess, she can’t imagine it ever being worthwhile.

I can relate.

Next week, I’ll share a couple of other things that kept me stuck in a mess. But until then, may I pose a few questions?

What are you afraid of? What truth do you need to see or hear? Has someone who loves you tried to tell you, but you were stuck or unable to see?

See you next time for more True Confessions.

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We’re continuing our series on becoming free…

I recognize women who have tried to protect themselves by denying the truth of their past sexual abuse, domestic violence or a spouse’s sexual addiction. Denying the lie they are living and the part they play. It’s excruciatingly painful to face the truth head on. To acknowledge the depth of dysfunction, and the stuck place we can’t seem to get out of. But the cost down the road, if we don’t, is so much greater than our current pain. Europe 228

I wish I could tell them.

These women see the consequences of their broken lives in themselves and in their children and are in despair, but they are afraid to look at the truth. How they got there and why they stay. They are lost in a hurting, hopeless world. I know.

I was one of them.

I believe the woman in the Bible, the one at the well, was one too. But when Jesus sought her out and spoke truth to her, she glimpsed a glimmer of hope.

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’” (John 4:19-20)

She believed he was a prophet. Maybe he could untangle the mess that was her life.

Was she ready for that?

I wonder if she was trying to change the subject, or if she was trying to prove how “good” she was by telling him what she knew about religion. Often, when the Lord whispers some truth about our lives that we aren’t sure we want to deal with, we focus on a past or future circumstance – well, it was like this… – or another person’s issues instead. Maybe we bring up someone else as a comparison to alleviate our shame, or to evaluate how good we are based on how bad they are.

And how many times do we respond based on what we think God (or someone else) expects?

Or maybe this woman wished she could have a relationship with God, but because someone told her there was only one way and one place, she felt excluded. Besides, the shame she felt was enough to make her exclude herself from any kind of worship. Don’t we often deny ourselves from connecting with God?

How could he want someone like me?

Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.’”

The truth is, Jesus is happy to have us come to him any time, place and way, if our hearts are sincerely directed towards him.

The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’” (verse 25)

This woman clung to what she knew. Someday Jesus was going to come and explain everything. That was her hope. I can imagine her wistfully looking towards the mountain, picturing how Jesus would make everything in her life right again.

Someday.

Can you imagine her astonishment when Jesus said,

‘I who speak to you am he.’?”

The same shame-filled woman, who had earlier avoided the crowd, now went eagerly to find them. She couldn’t wait DSC_0020 (2)to share how simply being in the presence of Jesus had transformed her life.

And God has the same for us.

When we worship, when we take in his words spoken to us through the Bible, when we engage with Jesus, he transforms our life. No matter what it looks like. No matter what we’ve done or what’s been done to us.

So, what if this is the year we face our life? What if this year we let him transform us?

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We continue our series on deliverance from spiritual bondage

In our trouble, there is hope.145 (2)

Jesus is always waiting for us with open arms. And he finds ways to draw us to himself so we will want to seek what he has for us.

Like the woman we’ve been reading about. First, Jesus spoke to her when others wouldn’t have done so. Next, he offered he something she needed. Water.

Something so simple, but with such depth.

The woman was invited to find out more. And she needed something. So she asked

Where can you get this living water?” (Verse 11)

She wanted to understand who it was that dared speak to her. Her curiosity led her to ask if he was greater than the only thing she knew who had authority, which was Jacob, the patriarch of the Jews. But Jesus is greater than she understood, and what he offered her was more than she could imagine.

Bigger than her expectations.

His offer ignited hope.

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him, will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (verse 13-14)

Initially, I think the woman was simply looking for a practical way to avoid facing the daily shame of going to draw water in public. Maybe she was tired of trying to go there in the heat of the day to evade the crowd.

She didn’t realize that Jesus had so much more for her. Not just a quick fix for the symptoms of her life, but a change of heart, and life with a new beginning.

Nevertheless, she was hooked, and wanted whatever he had.

The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this living water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”(verse 15)

And because she asked, Jesus gave.

He began by revealing the reality of her current life to her. He gave her the chance to confess, repent and allow Him to exchange the brokenness of her life for something new.

Jesus did this by asking her to call her husband. She answered she didn’t have one. She told him part of the truth; he told her the rest of it.

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.”(verse 17-18)

No condemnation. No judgment.

Jesus simply spoke the truth in love and left it to her to decide what she wanted to do with it. He knew her heart was tired and ashamed, that she longed for something better, but first she had to look at the truth of what her life had become.

Why do we hear the truth spoken in love by God or a dear friend or family member as judgment?

Most of us have been spoken to with that self-righteous finger-pointing attitude. And we’ve have spoken with that accusing tone too. Haven’t we?

But that isn’t Jesus’ heart towards us.

That is Satan’s voice. The wolf after sheep, the prowling lion looking to devour. He is the accuser and condemner who entices us into something, offering it as the answer, the valuable thing, the only way out and then turning on us when we are trapped by it, jabbing us with a jagged finger of judgment.

Is it any wonder we point at others desperately seeking escape?

But God offers us truth as a way out.

It may be painful and feels counter intuitive. But it is where we begin to break free. And Satan loses his grip one clawing finger at a time.

What is the reality of your life? Are you ready to ask Jesus to help you with it?

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Last week we began looking at the story of the woman at the well in Samaria…

Jesus entered an unexpected, undesirable place.

He was tired from his journey and sat down by Jacob’s well. The place was deserted, as the disciples went off in search of something to eat.

I don’t believe this is coincidental.

Jesus could only speak openly with the woman he was about to encounter if she was alone. Her shame would have been too overwhelming. Which is why she probably chose this time, when no one else was around, to go to the most public place in town to draw her water.

She went to draw water, but Jesus was drawing her to Him.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’    John 4:7131 (2)

Okay, I think she might have been a little rattled. I picture her almost defiantly answering Him. In her shame, she felt the need to be on the defensive.

The Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’” (verse 9)

She asked “How can you ask me for a drink?” Obviously she was surprised that a Jew would speak to her, and the fact that she was a woman was an issue as well. Nice Jewish men didn’t hang out talking to Samaritan women at the local watering place.

I think maybe she wondered how He was allowed by his “laws” to speak to her. Otherwise, she might have asked why He would, but instead she asked how He could.

Jesus was gentle in His response.

He answered,

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” (verse 10)

We don’t ask for what we aren’t aware of.

She didn’t know that God’s gift was forgiveness for her sins and eternal life. She didn’t recognize Jesus. All she knew was her pain. When we are in pain and shame, we often can’t comprehend that Jesus is reaching out to help us even if we have been calling for him. Sometimes, like the woman, we wonder how He can even speak to us.

Our broken life doesn’t disqualify us from God.

It is the very thing that can drive us to him, if we let it. It is what he longs to restore and make right. If we’ll let him.

Can you feel a glimpse of his love for you?

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Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.                            Oswald Chambers

For most of my previously married years, I saw my marriage as the biggest problem with my life. It’s true, it wasn’t good. I longed to be free from the daily stress of emotional and sexual abuse. But while marriage was a nightmare, it wasn’t my main problem.

God wanted to set me free from so much more than a broken marriage.

My life had been dictated by guilt, fear, shame, pride, and wrong perceptions of God, myself and others. Those were the things entangling me and causing me pain.

How did I get there?

Compromise. 

While some compromise (sharing and rearranging ideas in order to come to an acceptable solution) is good,  another definition of compromise is

to expose or make vulnerable to danger, suspicion, scandal, etc.; jeopardize     (dictionary.com)

As a molested child, my life was compromised. And I learned from then on to continue life in compromise, allowing things I didn’t want, to dictate how I lived each day. I accepted a lower standard that was not safe or good.

Living in compromise clouds our vision of who God is.259

I made choices that led to destruction even while I was seeking God, because I didn’t understand God. My perceptions were based on an emotional filter that hung over my life like gauze, clouding what I saw, and giving me an entirely different view without any clarity. Like being in a house of mirrors, my thinking and emotions were distorted. Thus everything in the world around me was as well.

Compromise makes God become to us only what we think we need based on what we think we want.

We can’t see what we truly need that is actually something better than what we want. And our growth is stunted when we seek God on our own terms. It leaves us frustrated with God, thinking that He doesn’t hear us, or purposely won’t answer.

We may believe He is harsh or angry with us.

In this stuck place, we can’t move ahead, but keep returning to the same places over and over wondering why nothing changes for us.

Ironically, it is only as we step out in faith and obey God that we see the truth. Only then can He can lead us into areas of growth and healing. God is faithful to care for us regardless of our circumstances, but in the beginning all we can see is the life we’ve created, surrounding us like a dungeon wall. There seems to be no escape.

God longs to free us. He always has a way out.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at a story from the Bible that moves my heart. Every time I read it. And I continue to receive healing from a new perspective of it every time. We see from this story in John, chapter four, the great love and escape God has for us.

The story of the woman at the well in Samaria shows the process of how God untangles us from the entrapment of our choices, reveals the truth of who He is, and enables us to share our experience with others to set them free as well.

This is a story of the deepest love and compassion of Christ for the most shamed of women. It is a story of the faithfulness of God, the forgiveness of Christ and the joy of new life.

If we want to see the truth about God, then we first must be willing to see the truth about our lives.

Are we willing?

Jesus was returning to Galilee and “…had to go through Samaria,” it says in the fourth verse of John 4. I want to point out that He could have skirted around Samaria as most Jews would have done at that time. The Samaritans were not a highly thought of people. Maybe that is why Jesus had to go there. For the sake of the banished woman and the outcasts of the town.

His great love compelled him to go into places others wouldn’t.

What place are you in that you need Jesus to visit? He will if you ask him. It doesn’t matter where…

A drug house? Jail? The local bar? Isolation in your home? The hospital? An affair? Mental illness, alcoholism or a food addiction?

Maybe it is a secret area no one knows about. A stash of candy or pornography. Or perhaps it’s something outwardly “acceptable,” but you know deep down it might be an issue – like a television program or social media site you can’t walk away from. Anything that dictates our thoughts, time, energy or money is a stuck place of compromise and skewed perspective.

Next week we’ll continue, but for now, let’s ask ourselves to be honest. And let’s ask Jesus to open our eyes to him and the truth that will set us free.

He promises that “…the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32b

 

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I’ve read a lot about religion lately.IMG_3527

The other day I remembered an orange button that adorned my leather purse when I was about sixteen. It claimed something like this:

Jesus is about relationship, not religion.

I recall when I saw it in a gift shop at youth camp, the concept grabbed my heart. It encompassed what I had been learning as a youth reading my Bible. Primarily the book of John, which I felt portrayed Jesus’ love for me the best because it was written by Jesus’ best friend on earth. I longed to spend time with my new friend and live in a way that made him proud of me. I didn’t get that his life for mine really meant just that. His blood covered over my sin. There was nothing I had do about it except accept it and be grateful.

But I grew up in an age of religion. Big time.

Right and wrong were about being right, and therefore someone else being wrong. Being right meant someone else had to be wrong. Good guys and bad guys. Church goers and “heathens.” Oh, I knew what the Bible said about grace and all that, but it also had plenty to say about not sinning. I took that to mean that the less I sinned, the more right I was. Which naturally meant other people who sinned more than me were wrong. Wasn’t that the standard?

No, that’s just plain dangerous thinking.

Does that mean I learned not to sin? Nope. I was pretty messed up and did a lot of foolish things based on my messed up perspective and my rebellion. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get it right. Fighting to be right left me frustrated and hurt others as well as myself. Until I learned the simplicity of repentance. That coming clean about my stuff, all of it, with complete honesty to Jesus and those I hurt is the only way to freedom. But that’s not religion.

When God created people, he wasn’t starting a religion.

He wanted a relationship with us. And each other in the same way he, in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), enjoys relationship in heaven. He is love, therefore he longs for us to love him and others. He even tells us that those are the greatest commandments. Makes sense that if we recognize his love for us and love him in return, he will give us the ability to love everyone he created.

His ultimate showing of his love was to come to us, giving himself up as a sacrifice to make a way for us to still be in relationship with him even when we choose to sin – to cut him and others off. Because let’s be honest; we’ve all had thoughts of wanting to do harm to someone at some point in our lives even if we haven’t actually followed through with it. And at some point, haven’t we all decided that our ways or plans were better than God’s?

On that basis, we need God’s love and forgiveness in order to have a right kind of relationship with him and with others.

The problem with religion, whether it’s Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism or Mormonism (name any you want here), is they are all man’s way of trying to get to God when God already made a way for us to be in a relationship with him through Jesus. Even as Christians or followers of Christ, we can cling to our particular denomination and its traditions rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

But we don’t need to figure out a way to make ourselves right.

God did that for us. So all of our rituals whether they be worshiping a particular way or bowing down the right number of times or wearing a specific outfit do nothing to create a relationship with the creator of us and our world. We miss the point if we focus on those things. We miss loving God and each other. Especially when we insist that our way is the right way. Jesus said that he is the way. He is the truth. He is how we live rightly loving one another. And he is the only one who gave the ultimate example and lived again to prove it.

If we chose a relationship over religion, how would that change the way we live?

 

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How many of us really know who we are?

Most of us have been shaped by words spoken to us in anger or impatience or from another person’s broken perspective. Who of us didn’t have some kid or kids at school tell us we were stupid, lame, ugly, fat or unwanted for some reason. I know I did. Repeatedly. Statistics show that most children have also suffered from the criticisms, insults and abusive words flung at by overwhelmed, scared or generally messed up parents (aren’t we all?). Many of us have felt the abandonment or rejection divorce brings. Four out of five have been exposed to some type of sexual abuse.

Is is any wonder we struggle to understand who we are?

God created us with a specific design and plan for our life. (Yes, even you.) He delights in the unique personality that makes us, well – us. He knows every nuance, every tilt of our head, all the abilities we possess and what makes us smile. And he loves it when we exhibit those traits. No wonder Satan, the enemy of God and us, whispers lies, uses the wounds others have pressed on us, and creates circumstances to distort the beautiful creation of God that we each are.

But how do we find out who we are and become ourselves again?becomingmyselfbookcover

In her most recent book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You, Stasi Eldredge shows us how. Becoming Myself takes us straight to the throne of Jesus where we are loved, delighted in and encouraged. As we read, we are transformed by the renewing of our thoughts about ourselves, our God, our relationships and our world. With intimately honest stories that come from the depths of her heart, Stasi reveals how we can see ours more  clearly. While her primary audience is women, every person needs what God shares through Stasi in this book. It tops my “must read” list of books. It’s not only enjoyable and entertaining, it is a life-changing read.

 

In what ways have you lost yourself? How have you learned who you were truly meant to be?

 

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