Merry Christmas! Download “Learning to Walk in Freedom” For Free on Christmas Day!

Tomorrow, for Christmas Day only, I am offering Learning to Walk in Freedom for free!

LTWIFreedom Christmas

If you or a friend receive a Kindle for Christmas, download away! If you have an iPhone or iPad, there is an app that lets you read books for Kindle. That’s what I use.

If you already downloaded Learning to Walk in Freedom, why not grab some other resources to help you start the year strong? Here are some of the resources I reference in Learning to Walk in Freedom.

 Relational Masks by friend and mentor Russell Willingham talks about more about the concept of core beliefs and how these false beliefs impact our relationship with God and with each other. He wrote another great book entitled Breaking Free: Understanding Sexual Addiction & the Healing Power of Jesus.

 Think Differently, Live Differently by friend Bob Hamp addresses how the way we think impacts our choices and the truth we live out of.

The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg is an easy but challenging read with a new take on spiritual disciplines. Learn how to work spiritual disciplines into your everyday life.

And then some personal favorites, also referenced in Learning to Walk in Freedom:
Healing Is a Choice: 10 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and 10 Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them by Steve Arterburn. There is an accompanying workbook.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives with Bonus Content by Richard Swenson.

Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God by Gary Thomas – finding your spiritual temperament with its traits, strengths, and pitfalls.

Enjoy! And spread the word 🙂

Freedom Friday: Resources for the Journey

I’ll need your patience today.

I’m having trouble concentrating. Lack of sleep, illness, end of a long week: lots of reasons. So bear with me 🙂

As I was pondering today’s post as well as the next few posts that will end the year, I began to reflect on my journey toward today. I reflected in writing for quite some time before I determined that needed a post of its own 🙂

Suffice it to say if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you have heard me write a lot about learning to walk in freedom, as well as the process of becoming (or reconnecting with) who God created you to be by reconnecting with our power source, the giver of life, our Heavenly Father.

I’m so thankful for the people and resources that shaped me into who I am today. I decided I’d talk about some of those resources here. Also, if you get a gift card for Christmas, or are still looking for a book to give us a gift, I thought I could offer some suggestions, resources that have been helpful to me along the way. I’m linking to the actual book, but if you have a Kindle or something similar, there is a link to the other options on the page. Almost all of these books have a Kindle option.

The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner and M. Basil Pennington

I’m actually not quite done reading this book, but I’m so impressed I will go ahead and mention it now. Plus, it came to my attention through the recommendation of someone I deeply respect. I’m just so taken by the title! The concept fits exactly with what I often speak concerning: true freedom is found when we live in the fullness of who God created us to be.

Think Differently, Live Differently
by Bob Hamp

Bob Hamp is someone I’ve mentioned frequently in my speaking & writing. I’ve been familiar with his work for a while, but I finally had the privilege of meeting him this summer and now, through multiple correspondence, consider him a friend. This is a fantastic resource for completely reframing the way you approach your struggles. It is so impactful that leaders with decades of ministry under their belts have told me how this book, and Bob Hamp’s teaching in general, have caused them to completely revamp the way they do ministry. You can actually download quite a few podcasts of Bob’s teachings for free, as well as watch videos of his classes, here.

Boundaries and Safe People by Cloud & Townsend

Boundaries is a well-known book with many variations: Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries with Kids, etc. It really is a must-read if you haven’t picked it up before. While it’s certainly valuable to own a copy, I found Boundaries and Safe People at my local library.

I pair these 2 books together because they have an even more powerful impact when read side-by-side. I read Safe People first and found that to be invaluable. If you struggle with knowing who to trust, where or how to find help & support, or you find that you don’t always make the best choices in friends, this book addresses that clearly. I then read Boundaries, which helps the reader to implement some healthy limits in our personal lives and relationships with others.

Breaking Free and Relational Masks by Russell Willingham
Of course, I have to also recommend these 2 books by one of my favorite authors. I especially recommend Relational Masks as a good way to dive into the core beliefs behind your actions, as well as a way to unearth the masks that keep you from discovering who God created you to be.

Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole
I highlighted one of her resources last week in my post on disillusionment. I’m finishing up this book Anonymous now. I’ll let the author’s description of the book speak for itself. “We all experience times of hiddenness, when our potential is unseen and our abilities unapplauded. This book redeems those times by reminding us that though we often want to rush through these anonymous seasons of the soul, they hold enormous power to cultivate character traits that cannot be developed any other way!”

And some leadership resources:
Preventing Ministry Failure by Brad Hoffmann & Michael Todd Wilson
Every time I mention this resource to a pastor or ministry leader I respect, I am shocked they haven’t heard of it! This is a truly phenomenal book concerning an issue close to my heart. I have always asked the question, “Why do leaders fall?” I mean, I know the literal answer to that question – because they made destructive choices. But how did they get to the point of making those choices? Have we set up such an unattainable standard in our churches and ministries that leaders are not allowed to be vulnerable with their struggles?

Years ago, I read this article, 5 Lies That Lead to an Affair by Julie Ferwerda. The main thing I took away from the article was this: it’s the tiny compromises that become the huge compromises. This woman didn’t wake up one day and decide to have an affair. It was a slow progression of little, only slightly destructive choices that may have appeared harmless from the outside. I also believe part of the issue was that she felt she didn’t have the freedom to be honest about her real-life struggles with those around her.

Back to this book: it’s written in workbook style and explores a myriad of issues, including having a life purpose statement, creating an adequate support system, understanding our calling, and setting up adequate safeguards. A must-have for ministry leaders today.

And last, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
This book was given to me by my spiritual mentor. The minute I started reading it, I barely put it down unless I absolutely had to (feeding the kids, changing diapers, you know!). I read it in one day. Lencioni is a powerful storyteller who creates a fictional tale about an organization that needs a major overhaul. He concludes the book with practical help for creating a unified and constructive team.

I hope you are able to pick up one of these resources for yourself or someone else. And no, I don’t know most of these people and I’m not getting paid to endorse these products!

Freedom Friday: How Did We Get Here?

Lots of exciting things going on over here at Living Unveiled 🙂

I’m not sure if I shared that I’m turning my “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series into a booklet that we will hand out at the ministry I direct. I hope after that to convert it to an eBook for sale.

I did the “final” edits about a month ago and was quite excited to be done. Then I got into some discussions with two of my unofficial mentors/really cool guys who have eye-opening things to say about recovery, addiction, and how to become free. Those 2 guys are Bob Hamp and Russell Willingham. Yes, I talk about them a lot. Yes, you should really, really go check them out if you haven’t already. Like, right now. I even provided links for you.

I decided after those discussions I should do one more read-through.

Something (or some “things”) was missing. Something big.

After hearing Bob Hamp speak at the Exodus Freedom Conference, I felt I needed some clarification of my freedom step #4: Think like a free person. Bob’s take on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 intrigues me (he uses the NASB translation, whereas I’ve always used the NIV), so I asked him to further discuss this with me.

Herein lies the moment where I crack myself up.

So….my short 21-page document has now become 24 pages. I still have 3 more sections to re-read. And I haven’t even rewritten the original section that spurred many of these questions!

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I want you to read the information I added to the intro of my booklet.

For those who have read the “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series, the following excerpt now comes after “What is Freedom? Part 2“.

How Did We Get Here?

It’s important if we want to walk in freedom that we understand why we don’t walk in freedom now. In order to understand how to get free, we need to know how we got bound.

I don’t mean we need to dig deep into our past and find out the root causes of our struggles. That can help, of course.

What I mean is we need to have a foundational understanding of how we all got to be the way we are, and how to get back to how God created us to be.

As believers, we can get hyper-focused on the “eternal life” aspect of our faith. Before you dismiss me as a heretic, hear me out.

Jesus did in fact come so that we may have eternal life. Most of us know the oft-quoted verse, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I believe this is only half of the equation. Too often we see in the church people who have eternal life but are not walking in freedom. I was one of these people.

There is another very important reason Jesus came. He states it clearly in John 10:10 (NASB): “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The Amplified Bible states it this way: “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

Is that the current state of your life?

Jesus was not talking about eternity there; He was talking about our life here on earth.

Let me explain this more fully by going back to the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 1:26-27, the Bible talks about the creation of mankind: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

God created Adam & Eve in His image and likeness. His characteristics, His attributes, His image were within Adam & Eve. As if this wasn’t amazing enough, we read this in Genesis 2:7: “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

God not only gave them life through shaping and creating them and giving them His image and likeness; He went a step further and breathed His very breath into them.

He was, quite literally, their source of life.

In the Garden, God walked with man. He spent time with man. But that all changed when Adam & Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they ate from this tree, not only did they pass down the bondage of sin to generations to come, even more significantly is the fact that they became disconnected with their source of life.

Remember John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” This is exactly what the serpent did in the Garden. He stole their freedom from sin, he killed them in the sense that they would now age & die, and he destroyed the deep connection they had with their source of life.

Jesus certainly came to give us eternal life. This is important. But I believe we don’t fully understand the ramifications of what Jesus accomplished on that cross.

He came rectify the problem of slavery to sin in our lives, by becoming the perfect sacrifice on the cross, and by being resurrected – brought back to life. He does this, rectifies the killing, stealing and destroying of Satan, by reconciling us to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19) – in other words, reconnecting us with the ultimate source of life.

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV1984)

Eternal life is one piece of the puzzle. It’s the first piece, and it’s an important piece. But so is learning to live an abundant life here on earth.

God is thus our source of life and ultimately the source and the giver of our freedom through Jesus Christ.

If you want to hear more about the more practical side of learning to walk in the fullness of the freedom that is available to all of us as adopted children of God, start here.

Freedom Friday: The Freedom Found in Brokenness

Today the temperature is going to be 98 degrees, with a heat index of 105! I’ve already gone for a 4 mile run at 6 aM, 80 degrees and 80% humidity. Wow! My hottest run of the season so far.

We are hoping to leave the city early to beat the heat, but I wanted to leave you with a few thoughts.

Last week, I wrote about Is Brokenness a Blessing? I received quite a few comments, both here & on Facebook, about the truth of that post. Thanks to all who commented.

I came across some more truths in my study this week that directly relate to this question.

First, I was reading “Breaking Free” by Russell Willingham. The 10th chapter is on grace.

Willingham says this: “Embracing God’s grace will give you the freedom to fail.” He also says, “Whether you extend grace to yourself or hold yourself to a ruthless standard of legalism, you will still fail.”

Willingham explains later that he’s not talking about the freedom to continue making destructive choices. Rather, he clarifies, “In what area, then, are you free to fail? You are free – now don’t miss this – to be imperfect.”

As I read that, I thought, “That’s what I mean by being comfortable with my brokenness!” It’s not about accepting and embracing my faults or the unhealthy ways my brokenness may manifest itself. It’s about saying I’m imperfect, and that’s OK.

Before I share more on this, I want to write about another experience that relates.

I was listening to a podcast, and the speaker referenced a book she was reading. She said, “The times when we are the most vulnerable are not when we are weak; it’s when we are strong.” The author of the book (she did not mention his name) spoke of how his ministry had humble beginnings, with a heavy reliance on God’s strength, provision, and direction. As the ministry grew, he began to do things without asking his leadership, his wife, or even God. He got to the point where he felt his strength was the only thing he needed to carry him.

Upon hearing this, my mind immediately went to 2 Corinthians 12. Was that the danger Paul was falling into? After all, he shares that the thorn was given to him to keep him from becoming conceited. Was he trying to overcome the thorn with his own strength? Had he forgotten his humble beginnings, his own brokenness?

When Paul asked God to take his thorn away, hear how God responded: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I can almost see the lightbulb go on in Paul’s head as he thought, “Oh, yeah! It’s OK to be imperfect! God views weakness as a good thing!”

Now see how Paul then responds to God: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Are you well content with your weakness?

Paul came face to face with his own brokenness, his imperfection. In that place is where God can really work – if we will let him.

A woman I know, when she comes face to face with an issue in her life, is often sent plummeting. Instead of turning that area of weakness or need for growth over to God and asking for His help to work on it, her default setting is to be sent spiraling into despair, as if the issue at hand somehow proves the worthlessness she already wrestles with.

I understand being in that place. I used to be there.

Every failure or perceived weakness, large or small, was proof of my inherent inadequacy. Well, that’s sort of true! But I was using that truth as a battering ram to my soul, not as a realization that I am imperfect – just like everyone else.

Russell Willingham uses the analogy of how a baby learns to walk. If the baby tries and falls, and the parents respond by clapping and saying, “Good job! Try again!”, then the baby feels safe to try again. If the parents instead respond, “What is wrong with you? Can’t you do anything right?”, the baby may very well give up trying.

Willingham concludes, “In order to learn a new behavior, an atmosphere must exist that allows for failure.”

With which voice do you speak to yourself? The accepting, loving, gracious voice? Or the condemning, belittling, shaming voice?

If I begin to rely on my own strength and accomplishments, my failures can become an indicator of my worth. If I am, instead, continually aware of and comfortable with my brokenness, this gives me the freedom and the confidence to fail. It keeps me mindful of the fact that apart from Christ, I can do nothing. It’s that simple.

It also causes me to remember that my struggles and my trials are not as unique as I think they are. Often we can use our specific issues to isolate ourselves. We drown in them because we are convinced not only that no one will understand, but even if they did, nothing will ever change.

Paul implores us to rather be well content with our weaknesses. Why? Because that’s where God’s power can come to rest.

The freedom found in brokenness is the freedom to not have to do it in your own strength. In our admission of brokenness and weakness, and in our declaration that grace allows room for failure, that’s where Christ is able to be strong.

Freedom Friday: Is Brokenness a Blessing?

Soon after I began following Jesus, I read the book, “The Blessings of Brokenness” by Charles Stanley. Honestly, I can’t remember a ton about what specifically the book said, but I just remember it really clicking with me.

In my past, I felt as if I needed to put on a show for people. To demonstrate that I had it all together, I had it all figured out. I would openly discuss parts of my life that I felt I had some handle on. The parts of my life where I felt overwhelmed, confused, and just plain broken – those parts I would hide from almost everyone.

I carried this method of concealing what was really going on into my Christian walk.

I think the bottom line, my core belief (you can read a thorough discussion of core beliefs in Russell Willingham’s book, “Relational Masks”) seemed to be: I can only share honestly about a struggle if I have that struggle figured out.

Core beliefs associated with that would be:

I will appear weak if I am honest.

I show I am strong if I share what I’ve overcome.

If I share my current struggles, everyone will know I’m broken.

Wow. What heavy burdens to carry. Burdens Jesus wanted to carry all along.

I’ve been mulling over this a lot after I recently shared with a group that I’m very comfortable with the fact that I am broken. Some people responded by laughing; some just looked at me strangely. Others nodded in agreement. Since then, I’ve been doing some pondering, some reading and wondering, what do I mean by brokenness?

In her book, “Brokenness, The Heart God Revives“, Nancy Leigh DeMoss says this: “Brokenness is the stripping of self-reliance and independence from God. The broken person has no confidence in his own righteousness or his own works, but he is cast in total dependence upon the grace of God working in and through him.”

Russell Willingham, in a book I’ve mentioned previously called ““Breaking Free”“, has an entire chapter devoted to this topic called “The Courage to be Broken”. He defines brokenness simply as “spiritual poverty” or being “poor in spirit” and asserts “we must grasp our fundamental brokenness and stop pretending we are something else.” He distinguishes between brokenness and sinfulness:

The main reason we struggle with the idea of brokenness is that we see it as a sign of sin. Though the two are related and often overlap, they are not the same thing.

Willingham talks about David’s statement in Psalm 109:22: “For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” He writes that brokenness comes from being wounded. “This wounding can come from being born into a fallen world, being sinned against by others, or committing sins of our own.” Here’s why the distinction is so important to understand:

The man who understand this [that we are broken/wounded] doesn’t condemn himself when the old system fires up again. He expects such occurrences but quickly defaults to the new settings as soon as he realizes what is happening. However, the man who doesn’t understand his fundamental brokenness berates himself when the old machinery kicks into gear. He then falls into self-loathing or says, “What’s the use?” and gives in.

Brokenness is spiritual poverty.

Acknowledging my brokenness allows God to breath life into me, embracing the humility to permit Him to shape me into whom He created me to be.

Brokenness means that Jesus’ salvation didn’t transform me into something other than a human being. Accepting my brokenness is simply stating that I’m imperfect and that’s OK; I don’t have to pretend to be something I am not. It means that salvation began the process of transforming me into a new person, but that process is not complete.

I do not coddle my brokenness, or use it as an excuse for sin or bad decisions. It’s just a simple declaration that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.

One of the ways I define brokenness today (a saying borrowed from 12-step groups) is:

I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let God.

“True brokenness is a lifestyle – a moment-by-moment lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and life – not as everyone else thinks it is but as He knows it to be.” Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Freedom Friday: Do You Really Know God?

I am a Judges slacker.

I have lots of good reasons, as we are leaving tomorrow (I’m writing this Thursday) for a road trip that will end at the national conference (at which I will speak). I’ve been preparing my workshop, along with packing all the stuff we will need for all those hours in the car & all those meals out (kids with food sensitivities, after all).

So, I’m going to briefly share about something else that’s been on my heart. More Judges later.

At the conference, I’ll be giving my “Learning to Walk in Freedom” teaching to just the women attendees. Though when I was initially asked to tailor my talk for women, I was excited by the possibility! And I still am.

As I began to re-work my talk for this specific audience, I just happened to be reading chapter 7 in “Breaking Free“, a book I mentioned in my hopelessness post. The chapter is entitled “The Divine Caricature”.

It asks the question, “Do you really know God?” Do you really know His attributes, His character?

Step 1 of learning to walk in freedom is to spend time with the freedom giver. As I re-read what I’ve said on this topic, the following excerpt from “Divine or Distorted? God As We Understand God” by Jerry Seiden came to mind:

One day as I walked through my favorite park, I recited the 12 Steps as was my custom. This day I stopped at Step Three: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Something inside me asked, “Who do you understand God to be?” I responded by reciting all the wonderful characteristics of God, but the voice within me said, “No! That’s what you’ve been told about God in school and in books. Tell me what you really believe God to be.”

Just as if a dam broke in my heart and mind, I began to cry, grit my teeth, and curse. I was angry. I believed deep inside that God was unconcerned with my life, unforgiving of my sin, impatient with my weaknesses, intolerant of my failures, very angry with me, and more. I believed I deserved all of God’s wrath and nothing of his grace. Nothing good could or should happen to me. I wept until I was ashamed.

Then came silence followed by that voice in my heart again. It was God’s voice. It said, “You have described yourself and the way you treat yourself. And I am not like you. I am none of those things.”

“You thought I was altogether like you!” These are God’s words, found in Psalm 50:21.

When you envision your Heavenly Father, do you imagine an angry man with furrowed brow, wagging His finger from up in heaven, waiting to punish you at any mistake? Or do you imagine a caring Father, who is slow to anger, quick to run to you with love, even in your pain & brokenness?

Do you know who God is? Who He really is?

The prodigal son, when he was close to his father, living near him & spending his days with him, knew his father’s character. He knew that if he went to his father & asked for his inheritance, it would be given to him. As he walked further and further away from his home, through distance and action, he slowly lost sight of the nature of his father’s character, to the point where when he decided to go back, he thought the best that could happen would be to become a hired man.

Have you lost sight of God’s true nature? Or maybe you never really knew it & are only learning who God really is now?

For some of us, it might be more accurate to say we think God is like our parents or other authority figures who were imperfect (just as I am) or maybe even mistreated us. The New Living Translation says in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

Do you know who God is? Who He really is? Do you know the nature of His character? If not, will you allow yourself to absorb the truth of Scripture & what it says about His relationship with you and His heart for you?

I will likely next be posting from the Exodus conference. Hope to see you there!

Freedom Friday: Hopelessness


1 a : having no expectation of good or success : despairing
b : not susceptible to remedy or cure
c : incapable of redemption or improvement
2 a : giving no ground for hope : desperate
b : incapable of solution, management, or accomplishment : impossible
— hope·less·ness noun


That dark place we resort to when things are not turning out the way we thought & hoped they would. The place we go when we had dared to hope and those hopes were dashed.

Despair. Fear. Isolation.

I’m reading Breaking Free by Russell Willingham (highly recommend this book, and even more so recommend Relational Masks). Breaking Free is geared more toward heterosexual male sex addicts, but don’t let that deter you from reading it or continuing on in this blog post. I am neither male nor have I dealt with sex addiction, but Russell Willingham is such a powerful speaker & writer that I am getting a ton out of it.

The chapter I’m on, “The Myth of No-Fault Victimization,” discusses the following verse: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

Russell Willingham talks about how in many ways, the sex addict is stuck in childish ways of relating. I think many of us, addicts or not, can relate to this. I heard someone recently refer to it as “Arrested Development” – a part of us or an aspect of our personality can get stuck at a certain age & never mature past that point.

Russell breaks each aspect of the sex addicts arrested development: talking, thinking and reasoning.

I’m going to quote from the book now.

“I thought like a child.” Many of us can’t use the past tense as Paul did, because we are still stuck in childish beliefs, perceptions and notions that protect us from having to take responsibility for our choices. In another place Paul calls these strongholds (see 2 Cor 10:4-5).

He goes on to outline the various ways of thinking that children exhibit, such as egocentrism, centrism, animism, and hopelessness.
Hopelessness? That seems somewhat out of place. Listen to how he explains it (bolded emphasis mine, italics are the authors).

Hopelessness is not only a response to traumatic losses; it can also become a habit-forming coping mechanism. Children may lapse into hopelessness because they don’t have all the information. My daughter once cried uncontrollably because her balloon popped. To her, all was lost. Because of her sobs she was unable to hear me telling her I would get her another one out of the bag. It wasn’t until it was blown up and placed in her clenched fists that she opened her eyes and chose to hope again.

For many of us a popped balloon was the least of our worries in childhood. Some of us had childhood years that were filled with parental abuse, rejection or just plain indifference. In order to keep our sanity, many of us had to let go of the dream of ever having our needs met in these relationships.

Is hopelessness your default setting? Think about it. Are you, like Russell’s daughter, holding on to that hopelessness with clenched fists? He goes on to say:

Two things can be said about the sexually broken. First, their hopes for love & protection were often shattered in childhood. And, second, they refuse to hope even now even though the Son of God is pleading with them. They cling to the familiar feeling of abandonment and rarely venture outside into the open spaces of God’s love & grace. Why? Because they don’t really believe it exists, or, if it exists, they believe they are not eligible for it. This is a repudiation of what they claim to believe.

I don’t have much more to say about the above. There is a reason He is called the God of Hope. It’s because hopelessness is not from God. Look at what it says in Hebrews 6:

Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

If God is real, if He is who the Bible says He is, then hopelessness is not an option. If His promises are true, if He doesn’t change, and never lies, then we have to reverse the pattern in our lives of getting sucked into hopelessness.

If you see a pattern in your life of hopelessness, if that is your default setting, start to choose to trust today by beginning to tell yourself the truth. Ask God to show you how to see your situation with His eyes. Read about hope in the Bible. Memorize those verse and meditate on them when you find yourself sinking into hopelessness.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19

“This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.” 1 Timothy 4:10

“Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.” 1 Peter 1:21

Freedom Friday: Face Your Default Setting

It’s happened to all of us.

We are walking down the street, out of a class, into the board room, and something happens.

Someone makes a comment that feels like a slight.

We share our excitement with someone, and they minimize.

We open up about a struggle, and it is dismissed.

We are reminded of a shortcoming.

We feel weak. Exposed. Undervalued. Ignored.

We retreat to our default setting.

What is a “default setting”?

A “default setting” is the place you retreat to when triggered. It could be an action (like reaching for pornography) or an emotion (like falling into complacency, depression or suicidality).

A “default setting” could be a ritual, the places you go and the patterns you fall into when self-medicating.

We all have a default setting. You may have one or many. It may change over time, depending on various contributors.

The concept of a “default setting” is something I recently started thinking about while talking to a friend. She has a very clear default setting that she goes to when something triggers her or the outside stressors feel like too much.

My default setting is currently mild depression, lethargy and lack of motivation. I was sent to my default setting on Monday by some challenges that came my way over the weekend. I woke up, feeling down, and spent most of the day, sitting and staring at my computer. At around 4 PM, I finally was able to snap myself out of it long enough to do some stuff around the house.

I’ll ask you to think for a minute: what is your default setting?

Sometimes, the pattern of going to our default setting is so ingrained in us that it’s like going from 0-60 in a split second. Other times, we can see ourselves slowly descending to that place. Either way, we need an action plan to either usurp the process or pick us up out of it, as is clear from my personal example above.

Here are a few things I thought of.

1. Reach Out.
Create a list of people that you can call when you are headed to or arriving at your default setting. If calling is too hard, email or preferably text, so someone can call you back right away. Have a code word, if asking for help is too hard, that your friends know ahead of time means you’re at your default setting.

Speaking with a group of people about this topic recently, many of their default settings involved withdrawal and isolation, as well as acting out in whatever way they typically self-medicate. Russell Willingham says that relational problems require relational solutions. That’s why the first step is to reach out and try to connect with someone. It is also an example of practicing James 5:16.

But if you reach out, and are unable to connect…

2. Check HALT.
We talked in a past post about HALT.

Are you:

If so, remedy that.

3. Do something.
This may seem kind of obvious, but remove yourself from the situation. If pornography is your struggle, go to a public place. If you find yourself headed to a location where you usually act out, turn around. If you identify that your emotions are spiraling and descending into despair or self-loathing, do something that makes you happy. Read an encouraging note that you received (I have an encouragement file for just this purpose). Write a list of things ahead of time of “happy activities”, like go for a run, read a comic strip, listen to uplifting music, or read today’s “Stuff Christians Like” guest post (seriously, you will laugh if you know the song he’s talking about, and I love that song, as you know if you read my blog regularly). Do something that takes you out of your situation.

4. Pray and speak truth to yourself.
Ask God for help. “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” James 5:13a

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Pray. Remind yourself whatever you are facing is not unique. Tell yourself the truth, that God loves you (a million Scriptures, John 3:16 to start with), you are written on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), that His arm is not too short to deliver you, nor does He lack the strength to rescue you (Isaiah 52:2), and He is an ever-present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1). And then pray again.

And if you are still at your default setting….

5. Reach Out Again.
Start with step 1 and do it all again.

It is most helpful to have a plan written out somewhere. You can add things to your own list. The problem with our default setting is usually we go there so quickly, it’s hard to be proactive in pulling ourselves out. That’s why connecting with someone is the best way to deal with our default setting. That person can speak truth to our situation and pray for us when we are unable to speak truth to and pray for ourselves. And if we are unable to connect, having a plan written up ahead of time gives us some other ideas about how to constructively address our default setting.

Freedom Fridays: Embrace Grace, Part 2

Hope you all survived last week’s Freedom Friday break! I actually meant to post something brief, but the cold I had been fighting for 5 days worsened – and I’m still sick! But I’m going to push through and post anyway 🙂

So brief recap from 2 weeks ago:
Understanding grace is key to learning to walk in freedom.

A few years into my Christian walk, I realized that while I believed in my heart that I was saved by grace alone, I was demonstrated a different core belief through my actions: Through rules and my own effort, I could overcome my life-controlling issues.

Let me tell you from experience that trying to be free through rules and human effort doesn’t and won’t work. In fact, it injects you into a cycle that makes YOU responsible for your own healing. I’ve found it only heaped shame and condemnation on my head when I messed up.

So how do we overcome the cycle of sin? And what does God want us to do when we struggle? Does He want us to walk around like a dog, with our tail between our legs? Or should we beat ourselves up for a certain amount of time, the amount of time being in direct proportion with the seriousness of our sin?

Of course it sounds ridiculous when I put it that way, but you know you’ve done it!

As I realized the futility of what I was doing in response to my struggles, that not only does it not work, but it’s actually not Biblical, a friend gently suggested I begin to more thoroughly explore what grace is.

I go to a charismatic type of church in a denomination with a holiness background. The denomination as a whole has a history of really liking rules 🙂 My church is quite grace-based and doesn’t have any weird rules, but I’ve heard of churches where in order to serve in any capacity, you have to sign agreements that you won’t drink alcohol, watch R-rated movies and other extra-Biblical rules. Some of the rules may be a good idea (I don’t drink, for instance, since I have alcoholism in my family), but they are not matters of Biblical mandate, but rather personal conviction.

In any event, I remember when I first heard someone share a thorough teaching on grace at a conference in 2004 (he followed it up with another teaching on the law). Honestly, as I sat there, I didn’t believe what he was saying. I mean, he was quoting the Bible, and using the verses in context. It seemed to line up with what I knew about God and what His Word says about grace. But I couldn’t see past all the rules I had set up in my life.

Grace just sounded too good to be true.

“When you preach grace, unless your conscience accuses you of license, you haven’t preached grace.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Grace really is too good to be true. Maybe that’s why we try to accomplish through rules & own own effort. Yet God is very clear in how He expects us to react when we mess up:
Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God doesn’t react to our struggles and sin in the “angry fire darts from heaven” way that we think He does. Sin says something about the condition of our hearts, and ultimately, God just wants our hearts.

Look at the Pharisees. Isaiah 29:13:

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.

Externally, they seemed to do everything right. They followed all the rules, but they wouldn’t give God their hearts.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

I’m not teaching some sort of loosey-goosey sloppy grace message where sin doesn’t matter because it’s all covered by the blood anyways. That’s not what I’m saying at all.

The Bible is clear: rules have no power to restrain. Human effort will fail us.

Clark Whitten says “The greatest constraining power on earth against sin in your life is love.” The only thing that has the power to restrain us from sin is truly knowing, understanding and experiencing His love and grace. When we have a full grasp of His love and His grace and just who He is and what He’s done, we don’t want to hurt Him. We are less and less tempted to sin because we love Him, because we have experienced His grace and know His tender heart for us.

God wants to connect with our hearts! He wants us to know and believe that He really is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, and He really can meet our needs. That through His grace, we really can learn to experience freedom from our life-controlling issues.

There may be a part 3 to this post. I guess you’ll find out next week 🙂

Freedom Fridays: Embrace Grace, Part 1

We know the bottom line: that God is the freedom giver. But how exactly do we find freedom, and how/who does it come from?

The answer is grace.

It is for freedom that Christ set us free, right? How did He set us free?

Through salvation by grace alone.

From the Gospel according to John, chapter 1:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:24

All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 8:9

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 12:9

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

We need to understand what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished, in order to learn to walk in freedom. Jesus’ death on the cross took care of all our sins – those we committed before we were saved AND those we committed since then.

This really was one of the keys in helping me to overcome my struggle with habitual sin. I used to try to achieve obedience, freedom and mastery over my sin by my own strength. I would pray and ask for God’s help, of course; but then when I’d fall, I’d beat myself up for a good amount of time because of my fall. This behavior fit right in line with how I treated myself before I became a Christian, especially as it pertained to my eating disorder. If I ate too much (in my opinion) or didn’t exercise enough, or if I woke up one day and my weight was too high, I’d belittle myself and make resolutions about how to change
whatever it was that I didn’t like.

Galatians 3 says “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

This way of thinking made me pretty legalistic. I made all sorts of rules for myself (and others) in an attempt to measure my faith as well as theirs. If I had boiled down my thinking, my core belief seemed to be that it was easier to follow rules than to try to live in the reality of grace.

It reminds me of Paul’s warning to the Colossians:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Let me tell you from experience that rules alone will get your nowhere fast.

I just read this today: “Self-striving nurtures self-hatred.” Yes and Amen.

I cannot, cannot do this myself. I never could. That’s precisely why Jesus died on the cross.

More in Part 2, which may or may not be next week. I’m going out of town and will have to see if I have time to post!