13/09/2016

He Watches Over Us!

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:19 pm by The Water Bearer

sparrow

Our minds are extremely powerful, capable of incredible feats of deep thinking, absorbing knowledge and understanding, and making innovative discoveries. Yet for many of us with a creative mind, which is so often accompanied with manic thought patterns laced with insecurity, our minds may at times begin to feel like an enemy that we cannot always trust to have our best interests at heart. This concept lies at the heart of Inner Angels and Enemies.

During our journey in faith we become aware of God’s ever present and watchful eye upon us. Even if we somehow managed to avoid and drown it out previously, we soon find ourselves very aware of its constancy as we pursue righteousness and Christ likeness.

I realised recently that my regular overthinking patterns are severely impacted by the pursuit of righteousness and the undoubtable fact that God’s eye never leaves me, plus my constant awareness of Him and ALL that He is. Which is wonderful when considering His abundant Love, Protection and Provision. Yet when concerning the wicked hidden intentions of our hearts, our pride and our selfishness, knowing that God is always watching can become something to shy away from, leading to self-condemnation and excess guilt.

Inner Enemies are always trying to convince us of God’s apparent tyranny. Using our vulnerability under God’s watchful eye, to emphasize our flaws and failings, in an aim to use our shame to motivate us to HIDE from God’s sight. This scheme goes back to the beginning of mankind when Adam and Eve first tried to HIDE from God in the Garden of Eden.

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”… (Genesis 3: 8-10)

Thinking on this we see that they hid themselves because they were ashamed. Yet God is well aware of our hidden flaws, and the things we are ashamed of, there is no hiding no matter how much we try. We can only distance ourselves from Him at our end, by closing our hearts off to Him and by trying to ignore His presence, leaving us separated from His covenant protection, and provision. Is that really what we want?

I was prompted to ponder this in more detail recently when I read this scripture.

“But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Psalms 33:18)

When we read that word FEAR we immediately begin to conjure up images in our heads of being afraid, scared, perhaps of someone unfair, selfish and even evil. This is The Enemy once again suggesting that God is an intimidating bully of some description. Yet that word Fear has interpretations meaning to “Cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe, and to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe”  This fear is the automatic response of our heart when we are deeply rooted in respect and admiration for God’s omnipotence. Just as any respectful child has high esteem looking up to those in a loving but firm position of authority over them, such as a parent, a guardian, a mentor, or coach. Therefore, we can have this same awed fealty when we return God’s gaze with our own.

Then we read about ‘those who hope in God’s unfailing love’. Those who have spent enough time in true relationship with the Almighty will have plenty of evidence of His goodness to find hope in His unfailing Love. The Holy Spirit who has been growing within us, guides us to depend on the truth of God’s Love, which God’s very nature and power are established in. It is only our Inner Enemies that hold up our shame and guilt as reasons to doubt the truth of His love.

But what about all those flaws that we are ashamed of? Doesn’t He want us to improve our character towards righteousness?

ABSOLUTELY! It is the most important task He has assigned each of us in the entire universe!

But righteousness only truly happens in us when we press into HIM. He offers us a way through His loving grace to develop a character like Christ. Under His watchful eye He purges our deepest hidden wickedness and replaces it with His very own spirit, He removes our shame and replaces it with freedom. When we constantly reciprocate His gaze by keeping our eyes focused on Him miracles within us begin to happen!

If we had valid reasons to HIDE from Him this whole system would fail!

Isn’t it about time we asked ourselves which entity has the most to gain from the consensus that God is someone to hide from?

The Enemy of God’s whole purpose in existence is to dethrone God and take his place, not just in the Kingdoms of the Universe but most importantly inside each of us. If God is not seated in the highest position of our hearts then the Enemy is, usually in the form of one of his worldly distractions. There is no 3rd option!

What better way to dethrone God than to undermine God’s unfailing love and righteousness, by giving us suggestions of God’s tyranny and reasons to hide our hearts from Him? These are lies in a devious attempt to keep us imprisoned in our own selfish prideful flesh so we may not seek to discover the abundant growth that comes from an intimate relationship with the Awesome Almighty Creator of the Universe who just wants to be close to us!

After everything God and I have been through together, He has unfailingly convinced me that He operates in this system of Love & Grace, reassuring me that there is NO need to HIDE from Him! My spirit grows in trusting Him each time I fall at His feet and He uses my failings and flaws to humble my heart and then uses me to glorify Him!! Amen!!

Therefore I am so utterly grateful for His ever watchful eye. :’) Aren’t you?

Let us not then hide in shame from the God who watches over us, let us reciprocate his loving gaze with our own and keep our eyes and hearts focused on Him. You will never regret it!

snoopy

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03/06/2013

A Slave To Guilt – No More!*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:12 pm by The Water Bearer

Slave

I used to think my Dad was narrow minded and hard to please (back when I really didn’t know him). He would ‘tut and huff’ under his breath if he came across something that bothered him, and I always felt guilty just being myself around him. I later learned that he wasn’t tutting at me, (He was tutting at the increasing level of evil which he felt all around him), but I was so used to guilt trips, that I thought I was disappointing him each time I heard that “Tut”.

After 10 years of close relationship with my Dad I came to believe I was good enough. Good enough for him, and good enough for God. When he passed away and took his place with the stars, I knew his approval, acceptance and love for me could never change. He loved me and was proud of who I am. This realisation gave me a wonderful freedom from the guilt that had haunted me all my life. Then everything changed. I began to work hard on building boundaries against those who used guilt to manipulate me. Those who tried to make me feel not good enough, so that I would change to suit them.

It seems a popular topic at the moment. Many feel guilt from expectations, and the difficulty of establishing a healthy boundary with those who use guilt to manipulate. And many more think their expectations should be forced onto others, at the cost of being kind, or giving grace. They become manipulative, without even realising it.

The problem with having expectations is that you can be thrown into a negative mindset when they are not met. I remember being adamant about what I thought others should do, especially a romantic partner, a parent, or a sibling. It caused me to be constantly disappointed, surrounded by drama, and bitterness grew easily in my heart.

We all have various expectations, it is what makes us human, but are they reasonable expectations, or are they restrictive, high, and unreasonable?  Do we expect others to behave in ways we have determined to be right or acceptable, and find it unbearable when others have completely different views? This can make personal relationships extremely complicated and difficult.

Guilt has some terrific benefits to the human condition, it convicts our hearts when we need to correct the choices we have made. To develop and grow into who we really want to be. The consequences of our choices is what brings about this healthy type of guilt. Sometimes we can come to the conclusion, for ourselves. Other times we forget to self-assess and it takes an outside source to point it out to us. These can all be beneficial experiences in the long run,  if we are open to them.

However, when someone tries to force us to feel guilty because we didn’t meet their unreasonable expectations, this guilt changes from being beneficial to being manipulative. It is up to us to get honest with ourselves, to consider if we trust ourselves to decide, and if WE can live happily with our choices. The reactions of others may or may not be in line with our thinking, and it seems to have become too common to slip into trying to please every man and his dog, as a priority over what we believe is right for us, living guilt free.

This is such a complex issue and so many variables make it hard to give one simple answer. That being said, I have found that being a “people-pleaser” (i.e. trying to stop people being disappointed in you) only gets you so far before you begin to lose sight of who you are and who you want to be.

Setting a healthy boundary decreases this manipulation. This boundary might be, to consider the feelings of others, but only so far as to weigh up the possible consequences of your choice, and accept that they may not like your choice. Recognize that coming up against opposition doesn’t automatically make you wrong, or in need of a good dose of guilt. Think it through, are they being reasonable or not? Are they supporting the choice you are making for YOUR own reasons? Or are they putting their own expectations over your permission to choose for yourself?

I am so very glad that I had Dad to show me how toxic high expectations can be. He taught me to aim for grace over restriction, to try being accepting instead of dissatisfied.

Life is hard enough without tripping over the graceless expectations from others. We are human after all. The ability to get it wrong and change is upon our own shoulders, no one elses. Grace is a blessing waiting for us to grab onto. Give Grace to others, but also Give Grace to yourself and be freed from manipulative guilt!

Free

13/10/2012

Confessions

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:26 am by The Water Bearer

Some years ago a series of events led me to understand that God was calling me. It took me a long time to swallow chunks of the pride I had relied upon since childhood, and answer Him, but when I did ….OH BOY!

My eyes were opened to the huge pile of sins I had been building up to the heavens, and all the time up to that point I had thought of myself as a “Good person”, better than ‘most’ anyway.

I believed in God and had no other God’s (not understanding that I let everything in my life control me rather than Him, He was always the ‘Last Resort’). I had no graven images (besides a few healing crystals, some tarot cards, plenty of pagan witchcraft symbols and ornaments, but I didn’t really believe in them, did I?) I honoured my Mother (as long as I was getting what I wanted) – (My Dad was out of the picture mostly up to that point, so I didn’t need to honour him, did I?) I certainly didn’t kill anyone (although I let my anger get so out of control that I spoke it out without a second thought). I didn’t covert anything (of course I was envious of everything anyone had that I wanted, but I let no one know about it, so that’s not the same thing is it? It’s normal to want to be happy and fulfilled, right?) I didn’t steal (much) or fall into adultery (well not the whole way) I remembered the Sabbath (Yep I remembered that my Mum left my Dad on a Sabbath, and that was it. If I happened to be resting on a Sunday it was because I was too hung-over to move!) I didn’t take the Lords name in vain (If you mean saying it in anger, then maybe a little, but only when I was really angry, which I suppose was a LOT) And I would never lie (unless it was for a good reason, which I could usually come up with every other day)

So there are all Ten Commandments broken! Shattered! And that is only the beginning!

I thought I was a loving person to my fellow man, but I realised I manipulated others with kindness into making me ‘happy’. I gave gifts and cooked meals, but was it really from a good place of generosity, or because it was expected and I wanted to appear good? I did like giving gifts and being kind and working hard, but I was not honestly in-touch with my heart enough to know what my true motives were. I believed the first reason or excuse I could come up with, without questioning the possibility of it being from a place of flesh, not from a Christ-like heart.

I can go on and on to list more and more of my sins. I could speak of my selfishness or my bad temper, of my weakness in temptation, or my provocative nature. I could speak of my materialistic tendencies, or my impatience and fear when I do not trust God. I could tell you of the countless times I listen to the lies of the enemy and let them convince me to act in all manner of sinful bitterness and hatred toward others. God knows them all and I continue to confess them every day, as they rear their ugly heads. No matter how many ‘good deeds’ I do, I will never pay the price and take away my blame. I can never do anything worthy of taking away the amount of shame I deserve to feel for my heart of flesh and worldliness.

Thankfully, through one Son’s sacrifice, breaking all these laws is not my one-way ticket to an eternity of torture and pain. God realises that we are incapable of upholding all these laws, they are there to show us our sin. That we may look at them and measure ourselves against them and become aware of how far from God’s will we actually are.

“Why then was the Law given? It was imposed later on for the sake of defining sin” Gal 3:19 (WEY)

“Know that it is NOT through obedience to Law that a man can be declared free from guilt, but only through FAITH in Jesus Christ. We have therefore believed in Christ Jesus, for the purpose of being declared FREE from guilt, through FAITH in Christ and NOT through obedience to Law. For through obedience to Law NO human being shall be declared free from guilt.” Gal 2:16 (WEY)

It is an understatement to say how lucky we are that the price has been paid for all the sins we have committed, and the ones we continue in as long as we are in the flesh of our human bodies. It is an understatement to say how truly blessed we are that God chose to give us grace and forgiveness through His Son, and free us from the laws, and from the penalty of death for our sins. For none of us, not one of us, are blameless.

If we look at another and say to ourselves “Their sins are worse than mine” then we are missing the point entirely!

We haven’t been forgiven because we aren’t ‘that bad’, we are the pits! We all are, because we are all separated from God while here on earth, because we all have flesh that our inner enemy can use against us!

We are forgiven because the Messiah suffered and shed His innocent blood to pay the price, to stand before God and say “They can come in. They are saved because I have paid the debt against them.”

Thank you, Thank you Lord! To You be the Glory Forever!!

02/07/2012

The Two Voices of Guilt**

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by The Water Bearer

When I posted ‘When will we feel good enough?’ recently, I received a comment which sparked an outpouring of my spirit. One of my readers mentioned the guilty feelings of self-condemnation which still linger in her mind even after many years of learning to “lay off” and stop criticising and punishing herself for not being perfect. As I attempted to reply underneath I found the keyboard took on a life of its own and after a few minutes I had written this blog post (I thought it a bit too important to hide in the comment box and not share openly with you all). It has more ‘Theological talk’ than I usually like to put into my blog, as my aim is also to reach those outside the church. I am sorry if this is too ‘heavy’ for anyone and I am happy to try to answer any questions about the things I’ve explained here.

Dear Reader,

I understand how this feels, it took a car accident and nervous breakdown for me to address viewing myself through the judgmental eyes of others, or even the condemning eyes I had been viewing myself with for so long. It is a hard habit to break indeed, a lot of therapy and a long faith walk, yet it still hovers in the back of my mind. That is up until I address it, I now know that I need to go back and read my prayer journal and remember all the things I have learned about myself, about God, about my inner enemies and my army of inner angels.

I have come to find there are two ‘voices of guilt’.

One is the Holy Spirit convicting our hearts when we are in fact guilty of something which is causing a blockage between us and God. I have found usually pride is the one hardest to see for ourselves, and its easy to also avoid recognising more obvious ones, such as sinful anger, lying, idolatry, bitterness, and self-indulgence just to name a few. When we are guilty of anything, the Holy Spirit is sent to help us feel it accordingly. Through repentance of sin, explained in my previously mentioned post, we can be absolved of these sins and set free by God’s love, mercy and grace, to feel ‘Good Enough’.

When the Spirit of God is being nurtured inside us, we desire to be perfect. This is because the Spirit of God is perfect but is housed within our imperfect human hearts. The spirit is desiring to be perfect rather than actually feeling it’s pure perfection, due to being covered by our flesh (sin). Flesh became the access point of our inner enemies when Adam and Eve ate the ‘fruit’. This is why the saying “The flesh is weak” is so common.

So therefore the other ‘voice of guilt’, is the false guilt of our inner enemy, whose purpose is to gain access to us and deter our hearts from being open to God’s all powerful, healing Love.

Our inner enemy does not want us to feel God’s Love because it will weaken both the enemy within, and strengthen our flesh, time and time again. The enemy can’t allow that to happen without a fight because he will increasingly lose access to us, so we are fed lies of guilt and thoughts of not being ‘perfect enough’ in an attempt to dilute our faith and trust in God’s love.

So while I still hear the voice of guilt as many others do, I understand that I must discern which voice is talking to my heart and take the appropriate action. If it is the enemy trying to falsely condemn me then I need to use my inner angels to fight him off, and focus hard on God’s love for me. I recommend we all try this method when dealing with false guilt.

Prayers & Blessing to you.

This post is another one super hard for me to publish, while I have been brought into an understanding of these things, I have spent many years avoiding sharing these insights with anyone, except for some family members and 1 or 2 faithful friends. This is because it is usually too heavy and complex for those outside the church, and I come across too young and secular when discussing within the church. I often feel I have no audience for this type of talk and therefore just try to keep it to myself. I pray my reader  is helped a little by it.

27/06/2012

When will we feel ‘Good Enough’?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:06 am by The Water Bearer

So often many of us want to crawl into a hole when faced with the reality that we aren’t perfect. There are so many more complex points I could write on this topic, but in this post I will just try to touch on a few basics. There is a cloudy grey area between being perfect and being good enough, and many of us feel if we fall short of perfection we must not be good enough.  Sure we tell ourselves over and over again the cliche that “Nobody’s Perfect”, we try to convince ourselves that we are ok with that, but it only seems to distract us for a moment and before long we are back wondering how we can feel good enough for longer?

Self-indulgence seems the most common way to distract ourselves for longer, things like overeating, retail therapy, casual sex, drinking, drugs, gambling, any form of a good time that helps us enjoy ourselves and takes our minds away from the disappointment of feeling like a failure. Only problem is all these can leave us with feelings of regret when we either drink too much, spend too much, eat too much, or sleep with someone we wish we hadn’t, making worse the feeling inside that we were trying to deal with in the first place. Other non-destructive ways are also attempted, like being overly ‘good’, perhaps we go on health kicks, take up a new hobby or volunteer for the school P&C, church craft stalls, food vans, fundraising etc. Obviously these are fabulous gestures when coming from the heart for the right reasons, but when they are to distract us from that feeling of still not being good enough we often find the feeling is still there not long after we hang up the Good Samaritan shoes.

I can relate to this in so many ways, in my own private thoughts I always knew what was expected of me, and that it was out of my reach. I had all these desires which I knew I wasn’t meant to have, I too dealt with my emotional thoughts in ways I knew were bad for me. I craved a brief moment of relief, where I could feel good enough already. I believed I knew what was ‘right’, but no matter how hard I tried, I still managed to find myself doing the wrong thing.

Strangely enough, I felt the exact opposite when I compared myself to those around me. If my ‘goodness’ was challenged by anyone, I could quickly dispute their claims by defending and justifying my actions, and pointing out how much worse they were than me. If I ever saw someone do anything ‘wrong’ I stored it in my memory bank, ready to remind them if ever my virtue was challenged.

I teetered between these two states for a number of years, unaware of what I was actually doing. I believe this battle is going on inside many people, and I feel the urge to tell you all that it is a sneaky, deceptive trap.

I was discussing this topic with my dear Sister recently; we were deep in the thick of analysing the elements of right and wrong, guilt and innocence, sin and forgiveness, among other things. I was recalling what our Dad had said to me in my early twenties; those words of his which had helped me see the truth about myself.

He helped me identify the lies I had believed all my life. Do these sound familiar to anyone?

*Good intentions are good excuses for undesirable behaviour;  –

Dad showed me that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is still the wrong thing (doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is just as bad) Focusing on all the good things we do often, (good deeds, favours, gift giving, praying, loving gestures, hard work, fortitude through suffering etc) must make up for our impatience, our self-importance, bad temper, self-indulgence and emotional tantrums. Dad helped me accept that focusing on the good I saw in me distracted me from owning up to my true flaws, while focusing on the bad in others reinforced the belief that I was good and didn’t need to change.

*If we can convince those around us that we are good enough, and convince ourselves that we are good enough, then that must mean God thinks we are good enough too, right?

Dad showed me that God would in fact rather us be low in reputation, humble and even persecuted by man for His names sake. (He can certainly make us thought of highly by others, but only when it means nothing to us anymore.) In my understanding He does not encourage self-importance. Ordinary Man – Extraordinary God!

*We also fall for that age old trick of building our knowledge, and relying on our own understanding of right and wrong, to help us be more on to it.

Dad reminded me of the tree which Eve ate the fruit from, the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’. Isn’t that the same thing we are doing in this instance? Trying to know what God knows, rather than simply depending on Him?

If we look closely we can see that all these lies aim to convince us to lift ourselves up, in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, as apposed to lifting up God with honour. If we lift ourselves up, trying to meet God in His righteousness, we only get self-righteousness and we make God smaller in our minds.

Obadiah 1:3 says The pride of our hearts deceives us.”

I was so deceived! I thought I deserved forgiveness for my sins because they weren’t ‘that bad’, and I was making up for it in other ways (Saved by works!), yet I came to see that I could only receive forgiveness when my heart became ashamed and was met with Grace. My repentance came by admitting that my heart is prideful, selfish and conceited. I acknowledged my sinful nature and begged for God to understand that I could now see how wrong I was. I came to see that we are all capable of good deeds and bad, and it struck me that if I still found myself doing things I swore I never would, even though I thought I knew what was right, so others must do also. God allowed me to stumble over my own sin so that I would learn to depend on Him for His strength and His righteousness.

By showing Him my willingness to suffer the pain of being unworthy of forgiveness, I began to earn that very forgiveness.

Let me ask you this….

If someone does wrong by us and comes to us demanding we forgive them because they have a good explanation and because they can list a number of ways we were at fault as well. Don’t we feel that they aren’t truly sorry, and will probably just go ahead and do the same thing again in the future? We would be unwilling to forgive and trust them completely, wouldn’t we?

Yet if someone comes to us admitting how wrong they were, bowing their head in shame and saying they understand if we don’t forgive them, stating that they don’t even deserve forgiveness, they just want us to know how very sorry they are for hurting us. Then wouldn’t we feel more inclined to forgive them and allow them to earn back our trust?

Perhaps we could keep these obvious differences in mind when considering how we approach God when looking to receive forgiveness?

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)

If someone hurts us or does us wrong and is truly remorseful we need to show forgiveness, because no matter what they have done, we need to remember that it is possible for us to do that very same thing if similar circumstances and weakness occurs in us. By no means am I suggesting we should put ourselves into situations where we allow them to continue to hurt us!  (True change must be evident and trust rebuilt when sharing our vulnerabilities. Another post for another day!) I am suggesting accepting their apology and letting go of the bitterness we feel toward them for their action. If they don’t apologise or acknowledge their faults, then we can assume that they can’t see it or admit it to themselves, just like we couldn’t in our own lack of self-awareness. Even though it is difficult, we can then offer an element of forgiveness and let go of any grudges, because as Jesus said on the cross “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

We are able to be forgiven because of God’s mercy and grace, and because of what Jesus did at Calvary. By acknowledging this we make ourselves tiny in our own eyes and God becomes HUGE! As a fellow blogger The Peaceful Wife put it, ‘My picture of God before was so wimpy and small. I had to see He was big and I was tiny’.  So very true, and I like having a BIG GOD!

Here I was trying to prove how good I was, yet as soon as I admitted how truly wrong I was, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It invited God into my situation and I found Him keeping me from doing things, one by one, that I had been trying not to for so long on my own. I found that many of the things I thought mattered actually didn’t matter at all, I could be released from self-condemnation because of feeling God’s love, and I came to experience genuine moments of inner peace. I still have to keep my heart guarded to discern the pride which tries to creep back in each day, trying to deceive me into covering my sin. Yet I now find it much easier to see myself clearly, by keeping my heart softened to His voice and truth, and try to confess in the instant of awareness.

When we truly repent and run away from pride, we can rejoice in feeling the freedom it brings. Feeling God’s forgiveness, His help, His love, and finally feeling FREE to be GOOD ENOUGH. AMEN!

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