Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Commentaries’ Category

The scripture teaches that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds”, or maybe more clearly, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds”. But I wonder to what degree we really understand what a “stronghold” is, or how to identify them in our lives.

 

The definition of a stronghold is a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack, a place where a particular cause, attitude or belief is strongly defended. In the context in which Paul was speaking it would be a cause, attitude or belief that is not from, or may even be counter to God, which we have accepted as truth.  Once established, it can become a conduit for the enemy of our souls to speak and work in our lives.

 

Though distorted mindsets can develop through faulty teaching (e.g. racism) or even just a bad example, strongholds are more often cultivated through first-hand experience; and generally speaking, the more traumatic the experience, the more powerful the potential for it to result in a stronghold.

 

While these experiences are a key element, it is actually the conclusions we draw from them that form the basis of the stronghold. For instance, a man abandons his wife and children with no warning or explanation.  The wife concludes that he must have been unhappy because she wasn’t as physically attractive as she’d been when they first married, and thus develops an obsession with losing weight, which ultimately leads to an eating disorder.  The enemy tells her that if she were just younger, or thinner, or prettier, then she’d be worthy of love.

 

Their daughter, who felt like she was daddy’s little princess, concludes that everyone who says they love you will eventually leave you, resulting in a jealous insecurity that poisons all of her future relationships, and compels her to be promiscuous. For her, the enemy becomes a type of translator, encouraging her to interpret every little action as the beginning of an inevitable abandonment or betrayal.

 

Their son, who deeply admired his father, concludes that men were never meant to be tied down to one person, and struggles to commit to anything. Whenever he starts to feel close to someone, the enemy reminds him not to fall into the trap his father did.

 

In truth, none of those conclusions are accurate, but through this deeply painful experience an emotional and spiritual stronghold is formed, which then becomes a channel for further damage. No doubt the Lord wants to tell the mother that she is the apple of His eye, and that physical beauty is a fleeting thing; and to assure the daughter that He will never leave her, nor forsake her; and to remind the son that a woman was created in response to what He saw missing in a man, and that there is a wholeness that can only be experienced through that union.  But if the stronghold is powerful enough, they may not have ears to hear any of those words.

 

Because these things are generally held in the most remote and protected regions of our being, we can be completely oblivious to their existence. Intellectually, the wife can vehemently defend that her former husband’s action was in no way her fault, but in the deepest part of her heart she doesn’t believe that’s true. Like her, we can all develop a blind spot, which allows the enemy unencumbered access to that area of our life.

 

While identifying the specific nature of a stronghold isn’t always easy, there are some readily identifiable patterns that seem to accompany their presence. Recognizing these patterns in our lives can become the first step toward our recovery.

 

One such pattern is the tendency to personalize situations and to perceive them as personal attacks, even when they are seemingly innocuous and involve total strangers. The person who cut you off on the highway didn’t just fail to see you, they did it purposely because they thought they were better than you, or because of the car you drive, or because of the bumper sticker you have, or…  Like little ones on the playground, you’ll swear that “they did that on purpose” even if there is no logical reason to believe they did.

 

Closely related to that pattern is the penchant for being easily “triggered”, which causes your reactions to be completely off base in relation to what is actually happened. The clearest example I can give of being “triggered” is something I witnessed while I was in the Navy.

 

During those years, guys routinely messed with each other and rough housed. One day, a big guy named Bo snuck up on a smaller guy named Jim, and grabbed from behind.  Jim let out a blood curdling scream, and rammed Bo into a piece of machinery, causing him to let him go.  When Bo released him, Jim turned and furiously began to pummel Bo with his fists.  Eventually, it took five guys to restrain Jim, and keep him from killing Bo.

 

At the time, Jim’s reaction didn’t make any sense to us, but we later learned that his step-father had molested him for years, and that what he was experiencing at that moment wasn’t his friend playing a practical joke on him, he was reliving the terror of a 5 year old being raped by his step-father. Sadly, this episode cost Jim his career.  Though it is an extreme example, it drives home the seriousness of this issue.  Our responses are often inappropriate because we’re emotionally reliving some other moment.

 

Not all patterns are that dramatic, it could be something as simple as the tendency to make the same mistake over and over again. Like a pothole in a street you travel on a daily basis, you promise yourself that you’re going to avoid it this time, and somehow you still manage to drive right into it.  You can rationalize that the city ought to fix the road, but you might also wonder at your own propensity for repeatedly finding that hole.

 

I knew a lady who married a man named Jim, who turned out to be a bit of a mean drunk and was often abusive toward her. Eventually she divorced him and married a man named Jeff, who also turned out to be a bit of a mean drunk, and who was also frequently abusive toward her.  Eventually she divorced him as well, only to marry a man named John, who also turned out to be a bit of a mean drunk, who…  Ultimately, she concluded that she just didn’t have any luck with men.  I would submit that “luck” had little to do with it, and that there was something deeply rooted within her which caused her to find this same type of man over and over again.

 

Another, more subtle pattern is a propensity for being “out of season”. Given that life unfolds in seasons, it is important to discern the season that you’re in, and to embrace it.  Thus, when the enemy of our souls has found a foot hold, he delights in having us show up to the pool party in a parka, or to the snow ball fight in a tank top.  We consistently find ourselves being “at the wrong place, at the wrong time”.  In fact, if you watch someone whose life is unraveling, one of the first signs of trouble is that they’re asleep when everyone else is awake, and they’re awake when everyone else is asleep.  I’ve often seen parents who want to be their kid’s “friends” when they’re young, and then try to parent them when they become adults.

 

As difficult as it may be to break out of these life patterns, our God offers us “divine power to demolish strongholds”. Tearing them down takes away places for our adversary to hide, and limits his ability to speak into our lives.  Like the psalmist beseeched, we need to ask the Lord to “search me”, to “know my anxious thoughts” and ultimately to “lead me in the way everlasting”.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Last week my wife mentioned a sermon she’d heard about, “Scorekeeping”, which reminded me of something I’d written many years ago.  After scrounging around my notebook, I found it, and it seemed worth sharing.

Scorekeeping

 

Early in my walk with the Lord, I felt like He drew my attention to our very human tendency to keep score and/or to count the cost.  I believe that this trait is so naturally occurring in us, that most of us aren’t even conscious of the fact that we do it.

 

While we may not remember recording every little incident in our mental/emotional database, we can often recall them with amazing clarity when we feel like we’ve somehow been slighted.  These vivid recollections of what we’ve done for others, or what hasn’t been done for us, or what has been done to us, or what others got, or what we didn’t get… are all evidence that somewhere inside of us we’ve kept a pretty detailed ledger of these transactions.

 

We can often use the data from this internal record book as evidence to plead our case to others, or as a weapon against those we want to hurt, or as our excuse to withhold the love, support, and forgiveness God calls us to give.  It becomes the fuel for jealousy, covetousness, discouragement, slander and self-pity.  There is a natural tendency to want to keep these accounts balanced (e.g. I have given, therefore I am entitled to receive…) and to feel as though we’ve been victimized if they don’t, but as with so many other things in our human nature, this doesn’t really line up with God’s word.

 

If we were to be designated the scorekeeper for a football game, we’d first have to understand the point system.  We’d need to know that a field goal is worth 3 points, that a touchdown is worth 6 points, that a kicked point after touchdown is worth 1 point, that a conversion (i.e. a pass or run into the end zone) after a touchdown is worth 2 points…  Without that understanding, we couldn’t accurately understand or convey who was winning and who was losing.  It is the same in life; if we’re going to keep score, we better understand the point system, and as believers that understanding needs to come from our Creator.

 

As we look to His word, we can quickly see that our natural minds will likely score the game much different than our spiritual minds will.  The natural mind says that it is worth more if our good deeds are recognized and appreciated, while scripture says that it is more valuable if they’re not, because they then become an eternal treasure instead of a temporary one.  Our natural mind seeks to receive a blessing, while the spiritual mind understands that the blessing is in the giving.  The natural mind sees the cross as foolishness, while the spiritual mind sees it as the power of God.

 

Another way of expressing this dynamic is the metaphor of an account ledger.  Just like with a checkbook, every deposit and every withdrawal is recorded.  Once again our natural mind tends to want to make judgments about our state of being based on our account balance and again this comes in conflict with the ways of God.  The scripture is filled with passages that challenge this way of thinking.  We’re told not to return evil for the evil that is done to us; to bless those who persecute us and to love those who refuse to love us back.  Beyond telling us not to seek equality in these transactions, the Lord urges us not to even keep a record of them.

 

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the Master chastened the workers who complained that those hired in the final hour of the day were paid the same as they were.  He reminded them that He’d paid them a full day’s wage, just as they had agreed upon, and essentially told them not to be concerned with what He paid anyone else.  Jesus voiced much the same sentiment at the end of the Gospel of John, when Peter thought that John was promised something better than what he was; the Lord scolded him saying, “What is it to you, you must follow Me”.  Proverbs tells us that a stingy man is always thinking about the cost, while the epistles tell us that not only does love cover a multitude of sins, but that it also keeps no record of wrongdoing.

 

If we are going to be the people God destined us to be, we need to stop looking to this imaginary account balance for our sense of justice. Instead, we must trust that the God we serve is just and that His sovereignty is sufficient to ensure that justice will ultimately be served.  We need to remember that whatever measure we choose to use with others, is the measure that will be used with us.

 

The enemy of our souls wants us to believe that if we could get this imaginary score high enough that we’d find peace, joy & fulfillment; but the truth is that these things can only be found in the person of Jesus.  Keeping score and/or counting the cost keeps us focused on ourselves, our situations, our wounds, our failures and other people.  When we succumb to this way of living, our prayers can be reduced to reciting our score card to God (and anyone else who will listen), and we’ll ultimately forfeit the healing and provision His death gained for us.

 

If we really believe that Jesus paid a price that we could never repay, than we should have no need to count the cost.  Any price that we pay is a bargain compared to what we have received.  If we can grasp that truth, our scorecards and/or balance sheets, will become our testimonies.

Read Full Post »

Children carry the burden of their parents weakness.

Read Full Post »

A popularly held idea is that protests draw attention to an issue and create dialogue; but I’ve noticed that depending on the nature of the protest, it more often distracts us from the real issue and creates rhetoric. Dialogue is talking to each other, presumably with the intent of reaching some new level of agreement, while rhetoric is talking at each other, generally used to establish the superiority of our position.  One has the potential to move us forward together, while the other can become the basis for civil war.

Read Full Post »

All slumber, but few find rest.

 

Read Full Post »

When you don’t know who you are, you unwittingly rely on others to show you, which ultimately turns you into a slave to what other people say and think about you.

Read Full Post »

OK, so I’m not losing sleep over who gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the latest batch of nominee’s reminded me of how haphazard this process can be.  This year voters get to pick from a wide variety of artists, which includes overlooked bands like The Zombies and MC5, singer/songwriters like Todd Rundgren and John Prine, genre pioneers like Kraftwork, and Rage Against the Machine, 80’s phenoms like The Cure and Devo, dancefloor divas like Chaka Khan, and Janet Jackson, or popular favorites like LLCoolJ, Stevie Nicks and Def Leppard.  It’s not that I have a big issue with any of these artists, it’s that there are so many other deserving candidates who seem to have been forgotten.  USA Today ran an article in recent days naming what they considered to be artists that were “snubbed” (e.g. Blink-182, Bone Thugs N-Harmony, Jane’s Addiction?), and while they did name a few I hadn’t thought of (e.g. Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Snopp Dogg, Kate Bush),  they left off what I considered to be the more obvious choices.  The three groups that jump to my mind are the Doobie Brothers, Boston, and The Guess Who.  Each one of those bands produced at least a half dozen classic songs that are still being played on the radio 40+ years later.  Their credentials are far superior to many of the other artists who are already in the hall.

In many cases, members of popular bands are also enshrined for their individual careers (e.g. Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, John Lennon…).  Along those lines, I believe that a singer like Paul Rodgers should be admitted for his work in bands like Free, Bad Company, The Firm, and Queen.  Similarly, Sammy Hagar (Montrose, Van Halen, solo career), Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio) and Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith) should qualify for their stellar careers.  With bands like Journey and Cheap Trick already recognized, it’s hard to understand the exclusion of bands like Foreigner and Styx.  Similarly, if Deep Purple was worthy, so is Bad Company, and if Bon Jovi belongs, so do The Scorpions.  I don’t mind newer acts like Radiohead being nominated, but I don’t want to see some of these classic acts forgotten.  If you need further proof for the artists I mentioned, listen to the following:

  • The Doobie Brothers: Long Train Running, Black Water, China Grove, Jesus Is Just Alright, Taking it to the Streets, Listen to the Music
  • Boston:  More Than a Feeling, Foreplay/Long Time, Piece of Mind, Don’t Look Back, Rock and Roll Band, Feelin’ Satisfied
  • The Guess Who:  American Woman, These Eyes, Undun, No Time, Share the Land, No Sugar Tonight
  • Paul Rodgers:  Alright Now (Free), Bad Company (BC), Ready for Love (BC), Shooting Star (BC), Feel Like Making Love (BC), Satisfaction Guaranteed (The Firm)
  • Steve Winwood:  Gimme Some Lovin’ (Spencer Davis Group), Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith), Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic), John Barlycorn Must Die (Traffic), Arc of the Diver
  • Sammy Hagar: Bad Motor Scooter (Montrose), Heavy Metal (solo), I Can’t Drive 55 (solo), Dreams (Van Halen), Right Now (Van Halen)
  • Ronnie James Dio:  Man on the Silver Mountain (Rainbow), Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath), The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath), Holy Diver (Dio)
  • Foreigner:  Cold As Ice, Long Long Way from Home, Feels Like the First Time, Hot Blooded, Urgent, Juke Box Hero, I Want to Know What Love Is
  • Styx:  Lady, Suite Madame Blue, Come Sail Away, Fooling Yourself, Blue Collar Man, Renegade
  • Bad Company:  Bad Company, Ready for Love, Seagull, Shooting Star, Feel Like Making Love, Rock and Roll Fantasy
  • The Scorpions:  Holiday, The Zoo, No One Like You, Rock You Like a Hurricane, Still Loving You, Winds of Change,

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »