Confessions of a (Mostly) Reformed Control Freak

Okay, I admit it. I’m hopelessly addicted to trying to control my own situations and the outcomes — or at least I was. Now, I’m jumping into the abyss with both feet, and I’m learning how to not be afraid to fall.

Take a dive

People who don’t know me well may perceive my new found disregard for over-planning and over-strategizing to be reckless or naïve, but I assure you this assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. After years of trying to do things my own way, I’m finally learning to let go of my controlling death grip one finger at a time and just trust God. He is constantly faithful even when I fail to trust His plans and timing (Psalms 136:1-7).

My over-planning antics aren’t working so well. I have spent the majority of my life meticulously planning, strategizing, and implementing all sorts of scenarios, attempting to anticipate the outcomes. I feared the “what ifs?” of life, and anxiety was usually the root cause of the need to feel in control. Although I no longer battle the same level of unhealthy anxiety I once did (see blog post “My Encounter with the God of Love“), I’m hardheaded enough to still demand to do things my own way; and, as a result, I cause needless turmoil for myself along the way. I want to live a life without surprises and without heartache; but God continues to lovingly remind me that I’m never really in control no matter how hard I try (James 4:14-15).

Sometimes, painful experiences amplify spiritual immaturity or weaknesses. The biggest revelation regarding my control freak issues occurred within the past couple of years. I was confronted in my spirit that my struggle for control over the little things in life have caused me to be less willing to relinquish control over big things. In essence, I was indirectly demanding for God to take a backseat while I handled whatever the issue of the day was on my own. In my blog post “He is Worthy to be Trusted, Part 1: My story of hope during financial crisis”, I described the terrifying situation when my husband’s job and the family business was simultaneously lost shortly after he and I married. This was one of many circumstances God used to show me just how out of control I am and how sovereign and trust worthy He is. Glory be to the God who hears our cries and lifts us from the miry clay of our circumstances. As difficult as some situations can be, I don’t regret the out of control moments. The most spiritually growing times of my life have occurred in the midst of trial or pain.

God is a loving father. Do I believe God caused the job loss or the turmoil surrounding the situation? No, I have never believed He would do harm to His children, but I do know that He will use a bad situation to strengthen us, to teach us how to trust, and to grow closer to Him. Also, I believe the submissive act of relinquishing control allows God to use us. If you are willing to trust, He’ll never fail you, and you’ll never be too afraid to jump (Romans 8:28).

In Summary. I’m not trying to suggest with this blog post that planning and strategizing are bad efforts. They are good practices for aiding us with achieving the optimal goal. After all, you will rarely go anywhere without first planning to eventually end up somewhere. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes we don’t have all the answers and we need help. Sometimes, life is difficult and a situations get out of control. The good news is that God knows every situation and its outcome; He is always in control. The only way to know for sure if what God says about being worthy of trust is true is to hold you nose and take the plunge.

When He calls you to walk upon the water with Him, will you trust Him to guide you atop the violent waves of this life? The most liberating decision I ever made was just to trust God at His word and let the rest go.

 

 

 

Stop Lying to Yourself: find freedom from mental bondage

We all struggle with things we’ve told ourselves we can’t escape. In some ways, what we’ve told ourselves is true because we give a self-fulfilling prophecy: “I have an issue (doubt, anger, hopelessness, a sense of worthlessness, etc.). It’s just the way it is, and I can’t escape it.” And guess what? You won’t escape because you’ve fulfilled what you’ve declared to be a truth in your life, but the whole truth is you do have power over your struggle.Staring out the window
 
Identify the lies and choose not to believe them. The Devil, our enemy, will lie and twist truths to convince you that you’re a slave. You may feel you’re not worthy, it’s something you can’t change, or you’re a victim. Those thoughts are lies.  Don’t listen to them.  In addition, we are good at lying to ourselves by making self-defeating statements like, “That’s just the way it is”, “But I’ve always struggled with that”, “That’s just something I can’t change”, or “I’m working on getting over that issue, but I guess it’s just going to take a while.” The enemy knows if you allow yourself to be enslaved, you will be distracted, paralyzed by your circumstances, and useless to the call the Father has put on your life. You have a choice to let enemy control you. You also have a choice to evict the thoughts, feelings, or negative emotions before they take root and darken your mind.
 
Confess the sin to the Father. Ask the Father to forgive you for the mental thing to which you’ve allowed yourself to be bound. For example, if you’ve struggled with bitterness over a situation that happened to you and you’ve used that as an excuse to become a hopeless or angry, confess those things to the Father and ask Him to forgive you. If you’re not sure where to look for inspiration about how to confess and talk with the Father for the issue you’re battling, here’s a great blog post from a fellow Christian blogger that may help: http://revivedlife.com/blog/prayer-to-release-anger/. There’s no magic formula or prayer template, but if you are sincere in confession and forgiveness, the Father is always faithful to forgive.
 
Make declarations over the situation. Know that you have power over the enemy because Jesus has given you that authority. Just as Jesus spoke directly to demons and disease to cast them out and bring healing, you can do the same thing. You can make declarations by stating something like the following: “In Jesus name, anger (or whatever it is you’re battling), be gone! You have no power over me. I chose to set my eyes on things that are good and righteous because they please the Lord. I cast out feelings and emotions that are not of God. I have been purchased by the blood of the Savior, and He is worthy to purchase my freedom.”
 
Troubles may come and go. Life happens, but you choose whether or not to allow your circumstances to open doorways to negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions. As soon as a new negative thought tries to enter your mind, immediately offer it up to God and choose not to allow it to take root. As a trusted friend once told me (and he was right) when I was swimming in self-pity and doubt, “You are a strong soldier of God. Now start acting like one!”
 
Believe and trust that God has freed you and move on. The keys to your chains have already been purchased. Live free. 🙂

My Encounter with the God of Love

I suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life. In addition to this disorder, I felt shame and unworthy of God’s love and grace even though I had been a Christian for almost 20 years. But now, I can’t deny I’m loved.

In September 2012, I found myself sitting in a prayer service thanks to the strong urging

Joy and freedom

of a good friend. I remember listening to the live praise music and other Christians around me worshiping God with a love and adoration I didn’t yet understand. I felt nothing. After months of crying and begging God to pull me out of a desperate situation that had only deepened my anxiety and depression, I was completely drained.

“I know you’re real and powerful God, but where are you?” I remember thinking.

The prayer service message that night was all about oppression, mental and physical bondage and how our spirits are affected by these things. As the prayer director spoke, I realized I was the person who needed to hear the message.

“What an odd coincidence,” I remember thinking. But now I know it was a divine appointment.

When the message concluded, there was an opportunity for prayer and worship before we were dismissed. That’s when I felt a tug on my heart as if God was saying, “Go ask for prayer” – so I went to the alter. As the prayer director began to pray over me, she motioned for an intercessor to join us. The girl who assisted didn’t know my story, but immediately said words I’ll never forget, “God wants to know He hears your cries. You think He’s not listening; but He hears you, and He loves you. He calls you His precious daughter.”

After the young intercessor spoke, the prayer director placed her hand on my forehead and prayed for God to break the hold of spiritual oppression and restore my joy. Suddenly, I was overcome with an immediate feeling of immense love and joy. It struck me so hard and so fast that I felt like I might stagger backwards during the prayer, and that’s when the giggles started — and I couldn’t stop. During prayer, joy and happiness overpowered me, and the silly giggles increased into laughter. I felt the love of the Father completely engulf me, sweeping away the pain and the darkness I suffered for so many years.

When the prayer ended, I realized I was a different person. My anxiety disorder was gone and peace had replaced it. I undeniably know God loves me. I will never question His love for me again. For the first time in my life, I have learned to trust with my whole heart.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope it has encouraged you.

There’s No Going Back

The blog post below was written by my husband.  Enjoy!

– The In-Place Missionary

Lights leading to Cross Bible

I grew up always going to church. My parents were both Christians and were always heavily involved in the churches we attended. We were members of three different churches throughout my childhood and my late twenties. The churches were of different denominations, but I would consider all of them traditional and conservative. The Sunday morning services were structured and usually similar – sing a few hymns or praise songs and listen to a sermon. There were also different things going on at times other than on Sunday mornings, such as a Wednesday night supper, small group meetings, student ministry activities, etc.

In all my years growing up in the church, it always seemed the sermons were always basically about how I should act and live my life – I should tithe 10% of my income, I shouldn’t curse, I should do this list of things to be a better parent, etc. I don’t say this to imply that there is anything wrong with that. Those things are true. There is nothing wrong with getting instruction on how to “be a better Christian.” The problem was that I didn’t realize there was so much more to God than what I had experienced up to that point in my life.

The turning point for me began when I went to a conference at a local church that was actually very close to my house. My wife had a friend at work who told her about the conference, and she agreed to go. The conference was Friday night and Saturday morning. I missed the Friday night service because of work. My wife got a friend to go with her on Friday; I joined them Saturday morning. When I first walked into the building, I noticed you could feel God’s presence overwhelmingly in the church. The service started with worship music, but it was not the kind I grew up experiencing. I wasn’t familiar with the songs, but it wasn’t the songs or the musicians or singers that struck me. It was the way the people in the congregation were worshipping. I could tell they were really singing the songs to God and pouring their heart and soul into worshipping Him. They were crying out to God and sometimes shouting and dancing, but I sensed it was not for show. During worship services I had previously experienced in other churches, people stood around and sang, a small number of people might close their eyes, or a couple of people may lift a hand while singing. It was completely different from what I was familiar with.

This is the part where I should say I am an introvert. I am usually pretty quiet and reserved. I must admit I was a little bit uncomfortable attending this church at first. Yet something about it drew me in, and I felt called to regularly attend there. I tried to resist and told God it was uncomfortable, but God instructed me to step outside of my comfort zone in order to really grow. The fact that it was uncomfortable for me was the point.

I have been going to this church every Sunday now for about nine months. It has really changed everything I thought I knew about being a Christian. I have seen and heard many testimonies of the sick being healed, even the dead being brought to life. I have seen people, including my wife, receive visions from God. I have seen people give prophetic words over others. I never experienced any of this in the first 30 years of my life growing up in the church. It seems a lot of churches worship God and talk a lot about Jesus, but they put the Holy Spirit in a box and don’t allow His power to work.

Jesus says in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” (NLT). Jesus performed all kinds of miracles, from healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and casting out demons all the way to bringing people back from the dead. Yet He says if we believe in Him, we can do all those same things AND EVEN GREATER WORKS! Not growing up being taught these truths, it blew my mind to think I could lay hands and heal people in Jesus’s name. The way I grew up, prayer was a passive act, meaning you only asked God to do things like heal people. You didn’t actively go to the person, lay hands on them, and say “in Jesus’s name, be healed!”

I am still learning a lot about the power of the Holy Spirit, so much so that I almost feel like a new Christian. I am diving in though because I want God to work through me to impact the lives of others through healing, prophetic words, or even just encouraging others. I have seen Him work through others at my church through healings, prophetic words, and speaking in tongues. I long for Him to use me like that. Once you have tasted and seen the awesome power of God, there is no going back to worshipping God passively and distantly.

I think two sentences from a book titled The Essential Guide to Healing by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark sum up my feelings: “Just as Jeremiah criticized the Israelites for creating with their hands gods who were helpless, modern man has created a “god” who is helpless to act in this world. A god this writer refuses to worship.”

Written by Clay White

A Free Gift

Another great post written by a friend of mine:

One evening, my wife and I watched a video we borrowed from a friend called Finger of God.Finger of God is part of a trilogy of short films put out by Darren Wilson. The trilogy is a documentary where Mr. Wilson and company travel to meet people around the world in attempt to ask a simple question: who is God?

I was touched by one scene in Finger of God in particular. A group of Christian missionaries were visiting Turkey. One of the missionaries named Heidi Baker began talking to a Muslim woman through a local Christian pastor who was interpreting for her. The woman suffered from blindness in one eye which Heidi asked permission from the woman to pray for.  As the missionary and local pastor prayed, the woman was healed from her affliction. Afterwards, the woman praised Allah. In response, the local pastor tried to correct the woman by saying it was Jesus who had healed her, and he seemed quite annoyed the woman kept praising Allah. Finally, the missionary pulled him aside and asked him not to continue to correct her.  The point was the woman was healed.

As I watched the scene unfold, I thought, “Yes, the missionary is absolutely right.” The fact God loves all His children and He just healed one from her afflictions without any conditions attached was the point. The healing was a gift, no strings attached.  The local pastor was so focused on getting the old woman to acknowledge the healing was done through Jesus, he missed the most important part of it all. It is so obvious to me it’s like the 300lb gorilla in the room; yet he missed the point. With great sadness, I feel I can’t say it enough.

Sometimes, we miss the forest for the trees. We’ve all been guilty of this at some point in our lives. We get so wrapped up in the details of something that impassions us that we lose focus on the big picture and what we were trying to accomplish; therefore, I will ask an important question.  Do we know what we want to accomplish? Maybe more importantly, what is it that God really wants us to do?

Written by Leslie Hardin

My Savior’s Embrace

I want to share a beautiful vision with you that I had about a month ago. At the time, I was walking through a set of trials and was asking God to protect me, give me peace, and guide my steps.  On the eve of the climax of the trials, I had a dream of tremendous peace. In many ways, I am still speechless by the captivating imagery that flooded my mind.

I found myself standing in a long, white gown inside an alabaster building.  At first, I wondered where I was because everything seemed unfamiliar, but I quickly realized I was inside a gazebo nestled within a garden. Staring out the window

My breath echoed softly throughout the stone building, providing a complimentary rhythm to the gentle flapping of the luxurious purple curtains hanging across the entrance. I listened to the comforting sounds as I slowly walked across the cool floor towards a window overlooking the garden.

As I looked through the window, my eyes were immediately drawn to the vibrant wildflowers filling a meadow before me. They overwhelmed my senses in a vibrant kaleidoscope of rainbow colors as they swayed and nodded to the wind. I stared upon them for a long moment, enjoying their silent song, but they paled in comparison to the man who stood among them.

The man in the flowers was slender and adorned in a purple robe. His shoulder-length chestnut colored hair played gently in the breeze, joining the flowers in their harmonious dance. The man appeared to notice me the moment I saw him and slowly lifted his arms towards me, beckoning me to come to him.  Although he never said his name, I knew it was Jesus.

Excitement welled within my soul as I quickly ran out of the gazebo and down the alabaster steps. I bound through the flowers towards Jesus; but the more I ran, the more I realized he was the same distance away as when I started. I stopped running and stared at him curiously for a moment, realizing I couldn’t reach him.

“Don’t come to me.  I will come to you,” his voice echoed gently in my mind.

“Okay,” I obeyed as I closed my eyes, focusing on his words.

As I stood very still, I felt his comforting arms across my back and shoulders; and I leaned my head into his chest.  I drank in the scent of his robe which smelled of the sweetest roses and wildflowers.  The warmth of his embrace and the rise and fall of his chest comforted me the most. I couldn’t help but think it was a similar embrace to one my father and mother gave me as a child to comfort and protect me from the pains of this life. 

“Don’t leave,” I begged as I opened my eyes and gazed upon the flowers around us. 

“I’m always with you.  Trust me to protect you,” he assured.

“I will,” I promised.

For the first time in my life, I remembered His words and trusted Him completely to protect me, and He did!  He is always faithful.

In His love,

Heather

Praise You in the Storm

I write this blog post, feeling strongly someone may need a word of encouragement while walking through the desert today…

The saying is true that life can be a series of mountain peaks and valleys.  In fact, many times, I find myself in some sort of valley instead of sitting upon the mountain top; and I’ve heard people ask, “How can you believe in God when your life turns upside down?  If He’s real, why would He let these things happen?” After all, my husband and I have had a lot happen to us in recent years: deaths of parents, witnessing one deteriorate mentally; financial crisis, almost the point of ruin; emotional distress and oppression, straining our marriage; and physical sickness — just to name a few. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

One simple truth is my bedrock in moments of trial, pain, and sadness.  He never promises life won’t be hard, but He is always sovereign.  How can I turn against the One who knows my steps before I take them and knows the stars by name?  My pain is His pain.  Yes, I truly believe He cries with us when we are stricken with grief and sorrow; but at the same time, the mantle I’ve been given leads to victory.  “Then Jesus wept.” – John 11:35 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28

In my life, He has proved Himself worthy to be trusted over and over again, no matter how small my faith is in the moment of weakness and pain.  I’ve learned without question the most desperate moments which cause me to fall to my knees, knowing I can’t walk another step, is exactly when He miraculously and undeniably shows up.  He never fails to arrive just in time.  Like a knight on a white horse, he scoops me from the ground and carries me to safety.  How can I reject my faithful Lord who has never failed me?  In His mercy, He protects me.  If I trust Him to take the burden, His peace surrounds me.  As a wise man once said, “God will never let you see the battle without first giving you the victory.”  Besides, what is there in this life to be afraid of?  Even if I die, He has conquered death. “O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:55

Struggles of this life ebb and flow like the tides, but His love and grace is constant.

“Oceans (Where feet may fail)” YouTube video by Hillsong United

Be an Ambassador

It happened again.  This week, I sat in front of the television, watching the news and found myself angry, ashamed, and saddened.  It wasn’t the violence, desperation, or human condition, usually flooding media these days.  Instead, it was the realization of society’s view of Christianity today and how in some ways it’s our fault the world views us the way it does.

As I listened to a news anchor calls the values of my Father “outdated”, “backwards”, and “self righteous”, I felt the breaking of my heart for people who will never know His love because they don’t know the truth about Him or His Son based on how we represent Him.

Now don’t get my wrong, there are plenty of God fearing, completely sold-out-for-Him followers of Christ out there, but those representations don’t appear to be what the world sees.  They see a body of people who judge the world, live in excess but withhold giving abundantly to those in need, fight among themselves, and who speak love but do not appear to know how to love themselves.  They see people who confine themselves to a building of four walls where they go to upstage each other on supposed holiness and get their “Jesus fill for the week.”  They see a lot of fakes, and a lot of rules (Luke 11:35-44).  Would you want to follow a god that appears to condone such actions from His people?  Whether this is truth or not, this is how many people perceive us.  If you don’t believe me, try typing “christianity is outdated” into Google.

How do we change the world’s view of us?  We go back to His model.  We start loving people.  We live like we have a love worth dying for.  We start showing people the type of unconditional love Jesus died for, and we believe it and strive for it with ever fiber of our souls (John 3:16).  We build relationships among each other and among people in the world who may be wandering hopelessly seeking a love they’ve never known.  We build each other up instead of tearing each other down.  We always speak truth; but we speak it with grace, love, and peace.  We pray for each other.  We speak with the authority we’ve been given even when it scares us.  We do not only what’s right, but sometimes we even do what’s hard.  We speak to nations.  We become servants of one another (Matthew 23:11). As my pastor stated profoundly this morning, we should be obedient in carrying out what He tells us to do because “It may not even be about you.  It may be God getting you in a place to touch others around you…We need to start acting like who we are.”  We need to remember who we stand for even when we’re having a bad day because “God still speaks through you even when you’re having a bad day.”

I am just as guilty as anyone else, and I don’t mean to come across as preachy or condemning.  But as western world culture turns farther and farther from God, we should feel an urgency, not an apathy, for affecting those around us.  We should attempt to share His goodness and blessings in a positive, unmistakably different way every day.  We should be ambassadors and represent Him well (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Act:*

  • Act as a new man/woman.
  • Act declaring (declare truth and His goodness).
  • Act as a conqueror instead of a prisoner.
  • Act as a blessed man/woman instead of a pauper (no matter how much or how little you have).
  • Act righteous and not as a sinner (He has made you worthy!) – Romans 6:11
  • Act free, not bound (He has freed you from the chains.  Go tell the world!)
  • Act as a son and an heir (let to world know how good your Father is).
  • Act forgiven (and forgive others).

* Wise words from Pastor Richard Marcello.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.  Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything.” – 1 John 3:18-20

In love and peace,
The In-Place Missionary

He is Worthy to be Trusted: My Story of Hope during Financial Crisis

If I told you I’ve been through some hard times, you’d probably not be surprised or even overly sympathetic because most of us have been there.  Many of us have faced tragedy and devastation at some point during our lifetimes.  Life is hard.  People can be cruel and disappoint us.  But God is worthy to be trusted.  He is always good.  Period.  Below is a story about His complete peace and goodness during financial crisis:

Early in our marriage, my husband and I suffered what should have been a debilitating financial meltdown due to greed and power surrounding my father-in-law’s business which was taken from him by key people in the company.  My brand new husband, who was part of the company, lost his job which was most of our income.  Also, we had foolishly financed our honeymoon which compounded our troubles.  My husband’s father lost not only his business but his primary source of income.  Close friends who were involved with the business venture either lost their money, jobs, or turned on my father-in-law who was the CEO and founder of the company.  Times were dark.  I can still remember getting the phone call that literally brought me to my knees in tears as my husband told me that we had lost everything.  But we didn’t lose everything.  Our hope, marriage, and dependence was on Jesus, our firm foundation.

I’ll be the first to tell you it wasn’t easy to trust God or anyone else during those times.  I am the ultimate distruster.  If I can’t do it all myself, I whine a lot.  Hey, I’m just being honest!  I’m a control freak, but in the situation with my husband’s job, I had to be dependent.  I had no choice.  We could barely pay our bills.  Each month looked bleak, but He is always faithful.  He is sovereign and He provides exactly what we need.

We never missed a meal.  He always supplied us with food — even from people who didn’t know we needed it!  They simply felt compelled to make a casserole for our family and would knock on the door and say, “We don’t know what you’re going through, but God put it on our hearts that you might need a couple of meals.”  Also, we never missed paying our bills.  When we’d pray, asking God for help, with complete dependency on Him to supply, He always did.  If we needed $500 to pay bills, it was miraculously supplied to us by the time the bill was due.  Again, many times the people closest to us didn’t even know we were in need, but the exact amount of money or food needed to get from month to month was supplied.

Eventually, we recovered financially.  The whole situation taught us how to be better stewards of our money and grow together as a married couple.  It also taught us how to be more dependent on Him overall — something I’ve never been able to do well!  We look back now, and I think the most amazing thing about the entire situation is God gave us peace beyond all understanding through the crisis.  We knew He would supply and He always did.  Just as a father looks after the welfare of his children, God the Father — the Ultimate Father — wraps us in His protective arms if we rely on Him.  He always wants the very best for His children.

Matthew 6:27-28

New International Version (NIV)

27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.”