Friday, July 30, 2010

The will of God is not a mystery

I just read an excellent article by Frank Viola entitled “Rethinking the Will of God.” For many years, I agonized over trying to figure out what God’s will was before making a decision and then, when the decision was made, I worried that I might have made the wrong decision. I finally received peace when I came to understand that God is able to lead me even when I can’t follow. He knows what I’ll decide in every situation before I make my decision and he’s already taken all of that into consideration. So, I can just make a decision knowing that if I’m heading in the wrong direction, he will correct me. Since then, making decisions have become easier and definitely less stressful.

For most of the decisions we make on a regular basis, there really is no right or wrong. Most of our decisions can best be described as wise or unwise. It’s up to us to simply decide what’s the best decision for our particular situation after weighing all of the possibilities. Decisions like where to live, what job to take or even who to marry are up to us to decide. God speaks to us through our hearts and he puts desires in our hearts so now I can be confident that as I follow those desires, I’ll be okay. If I do happen to make an unwise choice, God doesn’t abandon me. Instead, like any loving parent, he’s there to help me work through the consequences of my poor choice.

In the “The Purpose Driven Life” podcast with Darin Hufford and Robert Ramos, Darin says that when he’s asked how he knew he was called into ministry, he answers that he just wanted to do it. I believe that’s the way we’re supposed to make the decisions of our lives. What is it we want to do? That’s basically what I’ve done when faced with a decision. I started blogging because I wanted to. I moderate the Free Believers Network forum because I want to. I started doing volunteer work at a hospital because I wanted to. There are other things that I want to do and I’ve begun making plans to put them into action at a future date. I’ve never prayed about any of it. I just weighed the possibilities, looked into my heart and then decided.

Darin also said that when he didn’t want to do something anymore, he stopped doing it. He said that he had at one time started a ministry to men because he wanted to and, when he didn’t want to do it any longer, he stopped. That’s pretty much the way I’ve been doing things. I believe our lives go in seasons and we need to look at everything we do as a season in our life that is subject to change. At one time, I was very heavily involved in the church that meets in a building and I served in several different capacities but, a number of years ago, the season changed. Since I recognized when the season changed, I made the decision to move into the new season. Now, what I do is primarily online.

In the past, I found it difficult to recognize the changing seasons and I tended to stay in the old season longer than I should have. Timing is very important and it’s easier now for me to pick up on the signs that the season may be changing. I recently began to sense that a season of my life may be on the verge of changing but now doesn’t seem to be the right time to make the change so I’ll just wait and see what happens.

I really have come to believe that knowing God’s will isn’t difficult as we’ve all been taught. How much sense does it make for God to hide his will and then get angry with us when we can’t figure it out? That really is ridiculous in my opinion. He’s not an unreasonable tyrant who wants to keep us off balance. He wants us to know his will so he’s made it simple for us to figure out.

I believe there are basically two questions that we need to consider before making decisions. The first question is what do we want to do? God is not an abusive Father. He doesn’t get pleasure in making us do what we don’t want to do. If he wants us to do something, then he’ll give us a desire to do it or our desires will change and we’ll start hating what we’re currently doing and that’s our cue to know that it may be time to make a change.

We also need to ask ourselves if the decision we’re about to make expresses love. If it’s hurtful to others or unloving, then we need to seriously think if it’s something that we should be doing. After all, the flesh is also involved and it wants to do things that we shouldn’t do. The flesh sound so much like us that it’s hard to tell the difference. However, the flesh isn’t us, it’s a foreign entity that’s in us that uses our thoughts to deceive us. That’s why we need to consider love before making a decision. For example, I like to sleep a little late on weekends but when my three year old grandson is staying with us and decides to get up at 7:00 in the morning. The flesh says stay in bed but love says get up and make sure he’s okay.

God is calling us to be mature and mature people make decisions. They don’t need anyone to always be telling them what to do. When my three year old grandson stays with us, I have to tell him when to eat and when to brush his teeth or else those important things wouldn’t always get done. However, I allow his father to make those decisions for himself. When he was a young child and still at home, my husband and I made decisions for him but now he’s a man with a family of his own and he has to make his own decisions. Sure, there are times that we cringe at the decisions that he makes but it’s still his responsibility to make the decision. We can make suggestions and help in the processing but it’s still his responsibility to make the decision and we would be considered controlling parents if we tried to make those decisions for him. However, if he ends up making an unwise decision, we’ll still love him and help him work through the process of correction.

God is a wise loving Father. He’s given us all we need to make wise decisions. He’s given us a new heart which is filled with his life and wisdom and he’s also given us the freedom to explore new avenues of life but he’s promised to never leave us or forsake us so he’ll always be there no matter what we decide. Religion has kept us in an infantile stage where we’re afraid to make decisions but the day will come when God will no longer make our decisions for us. So, it’s time for the church to grow up, start trusting our new hearts and start deciding for ourselves.

To read Frank Viola’s article, follow this link and to hear Darin Hufford’s podcast, follow this link.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

This Side of the Cross

I was recently invited to become a contributing author on the "This Side of the Cross" website. I'm excited that this door has opened for me to share my writings on a more widespread basis and I hope you'll visit me there as I continue to share about God's love and grace on "This Side of the Cross."

There are a number of contributing authors with a wide diversity of thoughts and beliefs who post on this site. I'm sure you'll find something posted there that will encourage you on your journey to grow in God's love and grace.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Understanding leadership

"When you're no longer trying NOT to become something, you will be on the road to TRUE freedom."

Darin Hufford said this during his podcast, “A Whole Other Animal.” I think we can so easily fall into the trap of wanting to be free, that we even throw out those things that are legitimate. For example, he and Aimee Dassele discussed leadership. Once we leave the institutional world with its over emphasis on leadership, we tend to want to throw out the whole concept and do away with leaders. Well, the book of Judges in the Bible is filled with examples of what happens when there are no leaders. As the author of that book of the Bible said, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes” and the result was chaos and lawlessness.

Because leadership has been misused in the institutional church, it’s become a dirty word for those who have moved away from the institutional forms of church. This is understandable, however, the truth is that God has established leaders in the church but, as was stated in the podcast, leadership is meant to be organic. Leaders were never meant to be the ones who lord it over the regular members because they’ve gone to seminary or have been ordained. In the church, I believe the purpose of leaders is to draw out the life of God that has been deposited in the hearts of those they lead. I was glad to hear Darin admit that he’s a leader because I believe he fits this picture.

When the early church appointed leaders, I believe they were simply recognizing those among them who were already functioning as leaders. Leadership isn’t a job with a job description. It’s a function and leaders are leaders even when they don’t have a job title. Leaders are easily recognized because … they lead! It’s a natural function of who they are and, in a casual setting, they may not even know they’re leading yet people are being influenced.

My husband, who is a leader, has served on several juries and each time, the other jury members have recognized his leadership abilities and he’s always been chosen to be the foreman of the jury. I’ve only been on one jury but, when it came time to pick our foreman, we knew exactly who to pick. He hadn’t done anything spectacular to attract attention to himself but, through the course of normal conversation, his leadership abilities were obvious.

Leadership was never meant to be static as it is in institutional groups. In any group, it should change from person to person depending on the circumstances and the needs of the group at that time. Any time there’s a group, leadership will naturally evolve. I think the TV program “Lost” is a good example of that. When the flight crew was killed in the crash, leadership arose among the passengers and it would often change depending on the need at the time. In my family, leadership often changes too. There are some areas of life where I’m totally clueless and I depend on my husband to make the decisions for us but there are other areas that are mine to decide and he pretty much goes along with my decision.

Recently, my husband and I had a fascinating conversation about leadership and he explained to me what makes a leader a leader. As he explained it, a leader is a visionary who inspires others with his vision. Darin Hufford in my opinion definitely is a visionary. He had a vision for the Free Believers Network long before it came to pass and he held onto it even when it looked like it would never become a reality. Another good example of a visionary is William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart.” He had a vision of freedom for his people and he so inspired his fellow tribesmen with that vision that they were willing to go to war against England, a super power of that day. His vision was so powerful that even his death couldn’t keep it from coming to pass and another leader arose who took that vision and led the people to freedom.

My husband also explained that, although a leader may have a vision, they usually lack the skills needed to bring that vision to pass so even the most compelling vision will die if there’s no one to take it beyond the visionary stage. Therefore, managers are needed. Managers have the ability and skills needed to take a leader’s vision, administrate it and bring it to pass. Leaders and managers are meant to function hand in hand, however, insecure leaders will often refuse to give authority to managers thereby effectively sabotaging and destroying their own vision.

My husband’s insight into the heart of a leader gave me another piece of the puzzle which helped me to understand how God has uniquely created me. I’ve known for some time now that I have administrative abilities. The confusion for me was due to the fact that leadership books tend to lump everything together and label it all leadership. However, by separating the managerial aspects from the visionary aspects of leadership, the role of leadership became more clear to me and I understood my place in the big picture.

In the institutional church, leadership training has become a big issue and is widely promoted. The result being that everyone wants to be a leader. While it’s true that we all have a unique set of gifts that will benefit the other members of the church, few are gifted as leaders or even managers for that matter. The truth is neither leaders nor managers are more important in the church, however, both are needed if the church is to move forward. We need leaders who are functioning as leaders and managers who are functioning as managers.

A true leader inspires hope where there is no hope and, despite all odds, the impossible becomes possible and the unattainable becomes attainable. In the Bible, it’s said that without a vision, the people perish. Although there seems to be a lack of leadership in the church as well as in the world, in my opinion, we desperately need the inspiration that only a leader can bring. So, as we learn to live free in Christ, let’s also recognize those leaders among us and allow them to inspire us with the vision that God has planted in their hearts.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"My Journey Out of Oz"- Freedom From A Spiritually Abusive Church

My friend, Windblown1, has agreed to let me share her story of God’s amazing grace as he set her free after spending almost 30 years in a spiritually abusive church. Here’s her story in her own words.


~~~FREE~~~
My STORY



Six years ago, May 2004:
I had made my decision to leave, through MUCH turmoil and fear.
I was alone in the house, trying to get my mind to focus on the practical issues of my decision.
In an overwhelming rush of emotion, an explosion of pent up anger, frustration, fear and disillusionment burst forth from me and I began to SCREAM, SCREAM, SCREEEEEEEEEEEEAM--on and on for a very long time. If someone had been in the house at the time, they would have taken me to the emergency room for treatment.
But I was alone~~~~
I fell to the floor by my bed and from deep in my spirit I began to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He restores my soul.”
Peace began to come~~
When I got up from the floor, I was ready to take the step that would lead me to life “outside the walls.”
MY JOURNEY OUT OF OZ
I call it “My Journey Out of OZ” because after I was out, and the curtain began to be pulled back, I was to realize that the “Power” that I so feared and submitted to, was only in my mind. A false illusion taught and nurtured by a system that thrives on power, manipulation and control.
But at that time, I only saw the works of one person, our pastor.
It would be a long time before I would realize that the whole system was rotten.
The journey began some 31 years ago.
A farm wife with 3 children who loved to garden, can food, and take care of her home.
A woman who married right out of high school.
A woman who had a DEEP hunger for God in her soul.
A woman searching for the missing piece to herself, for wholeness.
I had gotten involved in New Age, filled myself with the teachings in my search for Truth. I was not raised in a Christian home, but in those days I think we all thought we were Christians because we were Americans.
One day my friend, who was on this spiritual quest with me, told me she had met someone who taught Bible studies and this woman was willing to teach us.
We were so excited, finally we were going to find Truth!
We started the Bible study with 4 ladies in a kitchen. The woman teaching us was an excellent teacher and filled with the power of God. I never had known anyone who knew the Bible like she did and taught with such authority. ( I question this now, but then, to a “babe” in Christ, so hungry, like a baby bird, I hung on her every word.) Plus, she would pray for us and there was such “power” that we were just astonished!
People began to hear about what was happening, such excitement. Before long we outgrew the home Bible studies and started meeting in a church.
The Bible study group grew larger than the congregation of the church where we were meeting.
Our teacher said that God told her to start a church--- so we started meeting in a home on Sunday mornings. Over 80 people gathered together as a charismatic church. Very quickly we outgrew the home and rented a building.
When we outgrew the rented building, we were finally able to buy a building, which everyone worked together to remodel and make into our home church.
Eventually we grew to around 450 people (in a very small community) had a Bible school, a pre-school through high school academic school, plus a daycare.
We believed we were the exemplary model of a New Testament church!
I GAVE IT ALL~~~~FOR THE SAKE OF THE “CALL.”
About eight years after the church began, my husband of 28 years, who was opposed to my involvement with the group, divorced me to marry another woman.
We had three children, one of them a son, who was married and the other two lived with me at home. My daughter was about 22 and my other son was a young teenager.
I had never held a job outside our home, having married directly out of high school.
Life as I had known it was over.
I began to do the only thing I knew how to do, which was clean houses. The pastor hired me to clean the church and I struggled to find myself in this new life that I had been thrown into.
The thing that helped me the most at this scary, but in some ways, exhilarating time of my life, was the Lord and being a part of such a strong and supportive church family. I felt surrounded, loved and cushioned from the problems of adjustment that I faced.
The pastor began to take an interest in me and began to ask me to go with her on trips and gave me a job as secretary of the academic school. I had no former experience, was allowed to learn “on the job.”
God was truly taking care of me.
Little did I know that I was a “prime” candidate for the message that was in the charismatic/Pentecostal. Prophetic words were a part of our lives~~we believed God still speaks today and we “lived” for the “word of the Lord” to flow through people to us~~especially the “prophets” who spoke to our church on a regular basis.
Our pastor was a prophetess, everyone hung on her every word and believed she truly heard from God for her “flock.” Of course we were encouraged to “hear” for ourselves, but all revelations and directions we might receive from the Lord had to be given to her to be “judged” before acted upon.
Many time she would say, “I don’t witness to that” and that would settle it. There was a fear that if we went against her council, we were in great danger of being “out of God’s will.”
It was in this climate that I began to build my new life. It was filled with hope and destiny. God had brought one chapter of my life to fruition to begin a life that was to equip me to fulfill my “DESTINY.”
I was told through a prophetic word from the pastor that I had fulfilled my role as “mother” and God wanted to take me to the next stage of my “DESTINY.”
She said I was not to “abandon” my children, but my focus was to be what God wanted to do in my life NOW.
Not too long after this was spoken, she had a “dream” and she saw a puzzle (the puzzle was her) and there was a hole and God put a piece in that hole and it was me.
Because of that “vision”, the prophetic words and because I agreed with it, I moved into her house, leaving my young teenage son with my daughter.
Destiny was calling me~~~~~
She said that I was to be her “intercessor” and traveling companion/personal assistant. (In reality I was more like a servant, doing any and all jobs that needed to be done around the ministry. I never knew what I would be doing from day to day, which kept me in a state of vulnerability, because if I didn’t “do” something I should have “known” to do, I was chastised by a tongue lashing or by being totally ignored and dismissed.)
In later years, I did become more of an assistant/traveling companion to her, and she trusted me.
This was “heady” stuff for me---I believed I was her “Elisha” and when I had been trained, drained and perfected, I would “receive” the “double portion” of her anointing.
This is where the story gets bizarre and very difficult to write. The reason is that there are so many layers of circumstance, and some VERY weird “spiritual” factors that made up my life for the next 15 years.
My daughter has chronicled many of the things that we experienced in great detail.
She joined the church about two years after I did. She was in her early 20’s and never been exposed to any kind of spiritual training. She felt the drawing of the Lord, though, and gave her heart to Him. She did and still does love Him with all her heart.
The pastor took an immediate interest in her and made her the church administrator. My daughter experienced some troubling situations almost from the beginning, which included control and belittling, and she quit in less than a week. We all experienced an almost suffocating heaviness and anxiety, so my daughter, fearing she had stepped out of God’s will went back.
She was there about thirteen years and became the pastor’s “right hand” man, the assistant pastor, being groomed to become pastor when the pastor left to fulfill her “apostolic” call. (Of course, she could never release any authority to anyone. All people on staff had LOTS of responsibility without any authority. Everything had to go through her. Even when she was traveling out of state or out of the country, the phone and email were ALWAYS the first things that were set up or gained access to.
In about her eleventh year my daughter met a man that the pastor approved of and they got married. Thus began a war of loyalty for my daughter between the pastor and her husband. Crisis after crisis. Crazy, bizarre situations that were impossible for my daughter to deal with. She had been taught “total” obedience to pastor, now her husband saw the control and was not putting up with it. Long story short, he took my daughter and they left town and never came back.
For over seven years I did not speak to my daughter or see her. She had two miscarriages, and I did not call or send her a card. I said to the pastor, “ I would like to send L. some yellow roses to let her know that I am thinking of her” and she said, “Do it and you are “OUT OF HERE.”
I didn’t do it!
Fear is a strong motivator, the need for security and a place of ministry, proved to be even stronger than my love for my daughter.
Of course, I had been told that she was “the enemy” married to the son of “satan.” I grieved that she had “broken covenant” and was now an “infidel” to us.
The years after my daughter left were in many ways “the best of times and the worst of times.” In some ways for me, because I had proven my loyalty to her, we became more like friends and sisters at times. She confided in me all her anxiety with “spiritual warfare,” trying to “grow” the church and keep people in their “places.”
We all had a “spiritual place” that we had to occupy or she would know “by the spirit” and we would be railed upon for sometimes hours at a time or “put outside the camp” until we became cleansed and were back in our “place.”
One of the greatest fears was not being in our “place.” Of course, one could never know what that meant, only SHE could discern it. It was usually better to stay close to her, then you could monitor her moods and “spiritual” insights. When I was allowed to visit my younger son or other family members, I would always be sent out of the house to get” that spirit” off of me and get back into my place before I could be in her good graces again. I couldn’t even bring gifts that my son gave me into the house because of the “family” spirit attached to them. Many times I threw his gifts away or carried them around in the trunk of my car.
Because of that “curse,” my daughter and I had to get rid of everything from our past. Furniture, jewelry, anything and everything from my mother and life. I even threw away diamond rings because of the “warfare” that surrounded them.
When my daughter went on her honeymoon, after 3 days all hell broke loose because “she (my daughter) should have “known” by the “spirit” that she was needed at the church. When she did return, she was not spoken to and the ushers sat her in a pew with the other members, like she wasn’t even recognized. CRAZY, CRAZY stuff. All designed to manipulate people into submission.
I ran away three times in the beginning, and the last time, I thought the “heavy hand “ of God was on me so strong that I couldn’t breathe for a week. I thought I had “left” God’s perfect will and that life for me was over.
At the end of the week, after my lying on the floor and repenting and confessing my rebellion to God, she said God had opened the “place” back up, so I could come back.
This is just a thumbnail sketch of some of the things we experienced in the name of God, under the mantle of the charismatic/Pentecostal “covering.”
She was our ”apostle.” She was exalted by prophets and apostles that we were in fellowship with. She was given an honorary doctorate. So she became Dr. not just pastor/ apostle.
One prophetess told us that we were to honor her by bringing gifts to the altar, because the prophetess heard the Lord say that our pastor was going to marry.
So for a couple of weeks, people came with lavish, beautifully wrapped gifts of lingerie, perfumes, clothing and jewelry and put them on the altar.
Of course, she has never married, and still nobody wants to question the prophetic abuse that is so prevalent in the apostolic/prophetic camp.
I believe it is no better than spiritual “witchcraft” and fortunetelling.
We had prophets come and have us line up and declare our loyalty and allegiance to her. I am talking of over 400 people~~ good, honest, God believing people.
After the church imploded, many of these same leaders said they knew there was control but knew it wouldn’t do any good to confront it.
So for almost 30 years, I lived and breathed these teachings and ways.
Towards the end, I was beginning to be separated by being sent to Poland for several months at a time. etc. She seemed to know that things were shifting with me because she got very insecure and the last 3 years with her were “hell on earth.”
Things began to unravel at the church. The leadership actually started talking (something that is absolutely forbidden--”touch not mine anointed”)
And we all began to whisper, the “emperor has no clothes!”
Truth began to replace the lies, speaking our hearts began to replace the silence that protected the corruption.
A shaking began to take place that ended up removing almost all the leadership and most of the people. All that remained was the money given in good faith to build our “new, bigger and better building” for our Regional ministry. Plus, all the land and buildings owned by the church, purchased by a loyal, trusting congregation.
The people who are still there, have all that remains. They just went through the 2nd split recently and I believe there are only about 25 people left to carry out the “amazing destiny” that was prophesied over the place. But some diehards still think that if you have enough “faith” you cannot fail.
But the foundation is rotten and it is only a matter of time until it all disappears back into the earth (man) from which it was formed.

 
~~~ON EAGLES WINGS~~
Back to where I began this history of my journey.
I am ready to walk out the door. I even had a “vision” of a door opened for me to walk through.
I read these words in a devotional the night before I was to leave:
“So go forth today in great faith, My child. There are rivers which you must cross. As you dip your foot in the waters that would hinder you from obeying my will, behold, the waters will part and you shall cross over on dry ground to safety, to new land, to new experiences.
Begin to move NOW! And you shall rejoice at the great and might victory which shall surely be thine.”
I wrote in my journal:
“Today I step through a new door. The chapter is finished, the book has been completed.
Today, a fresh page, a new beginning.
Volume two of the “Saga of the Servant of the Most High God.”
I stepped out of the door, locked it behind me. I left in a borrowed car, with only my clothes and books. No home, no family, no future (that I could see.)
But as I stepped out, it was as if I was lifted by “eagles wings” and taken forth into my new life.
I felt as if I had been “flung” into the air and the very Hand of God caught me and has never let go of me.
I have abundance in all things. My relationship with my daughter and family has been restored. My daughter opened her home and arms to me and treats me with such honor and love. God is healing us all~~ Little by little.
I have much more to write about the process of the renewing of my mind from the “religion” and much more to say about His “Amazing Grace.”
I will probably spend the rest of my years digesting and dissecting all that happened in our lives.
But for now, all I can say is ~~Thank You~~ To My Faithful God!!

Written in my journal May 15, 2004:
“Let the rejoicing begin~~
The birds are singing,
The leaves of the trees are waving,
The brooks are bubbling.
The whole earth is filled with the Glory,
Filling the atmosphere with praise.
To the Creator,
To the One who is over all~~
Oh, how I worship You,
Your majesty!!
Open my eyes to see more of You,
May my life be a mirror of Your Life.

June 16, 2004
The prison doors have been flung open~~WIDE
Run, Run to the place of refuge
Provided by the Lord.
Feel the wind in your face
The warmth of the sun on your head.
The weight of the shackles are gone
The restrictions of the freedom of my feet are released.
FREE, FREE
The most beautiful word
FREE, FREE
Jesus set us free!
I will run and not be weary
I will leap and rejoice!
Like the calves let out of their stalls
This is the hour that the Sun of Righteousness arises
With healing in his wings
Because I fear His name~~~


windblown1

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thoughts on freedom

“Freedom isn't free... It always costs us something”

Mike Myers posted this comment on the FBN Facebook page. What a great thought!

Freedom is costly. Our freedom cost God his son and, if we've chosen to live free in God's grace, we’ve paid a price too. It’s cost all of us some friendships as well as some family relationships and, it’s cost some of us, careers and jobs. As I thought about freedom, it occurred to me that if we’re not careful, freedom can also be taken from us. There’s a world out there that’s bent on stealing our freedom if we let it.

That reminds me of one of Darin Hufford’s stories about Brownie, a pet hamster that he had as a child. One day, Brownie got loose and was missing for a couple of weeks. When they finally found him and tried to pick him up, Brownie stood on his hind legs, snarled and tried to bite them. He had experienced freedom and wasn’t going to let anyone cage him again. Darin ended the story by saying that if anyone tried to put his listeners back in bondage, he wanted them to stand up and be the meanest, nastiest hamster anyone had ever seen.

That’s my hope too, that we'll never let anyone take our freedom away. Those of us who have come to understand the freedom that we have in Christ must be diligent to protect that freedom so that it’s not lost. Whatever it takes, it's worth the cost.

America

Freedom is costly. May we hold onto it as the precious gift that it is.

Happy 4th of July, America.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Recover Your Good Heart online webcasts

Jim Robbins has written an excellent book entitled, “Recover Your Good Heart.” In it, he explains the truth about the good heart we’ve been given in Christ. He is now making available a live online webcast of the material from his book. Jim says, "I'll go deep into the material in my book - "Recover Your Good Heart - Living free from religious guilt and the shame of not good-enough." Jim is an wonderful teacher and I think this will be a great series which will bring freedom to many. For information, follow this link.

Registration is now open -- and ends Wednesday, July 7th.