Category Archives: death

Escape From The Box Life (Part 5)

All of us drag or carry around invisible boxes stuffed full with memories. For some it might look like a backpack or a carry-on bag, but for others it’s a Pullman suitcase or a steamer trunk. Our stuff is stored in these emotional boxes. There are good things there—our accomplishments, successes, victories, and achievements. There are memories of the perfect day when everything went right and the decisions we made were spot on.

 But deep down inside that same baggage, crammed into the hidden pockets or jammed as deep as we can push are some things that are not so good. We all have a past. We’ve all failed, sinned, made terrible choices, been hurt, wounded, abused, shamed and/or ridiculed.

All those moments, experiences, and events (both good and bad) are imprinted on our souls, whether we can call up the details or not. If it happens to be an emotional wound or hurt and it has not been healed, it is as raw and real as the day it happened even if it occurred years ago. Time does not heal all hurts—that’s a lie the devil perpetrated to keep us wounded and bleeding. It’s what we do with the time that matters.

These unhealed pockets from the past break hearts, imprison us in the enemy’s jail, and create countless types of bondage. They affect us at many different levels, especially on the spiritual level in our ability to respond to God’s unconditional love. The very thing we need to heal is the thing that frightens us the most due to our bad experiences from the past. It becomes junk in our trunk that slows us down and leaves us emotionally stranded and shipwrecked on our journey through life.

This is the unnecessary baggage we drag around everywhere we go and into everything we do. It creates all kinds of boxes with stuff that most would rather not deal with. Just the thought of facing some of those ghosts from the past feels us with terror. So we paint a smiley face on our box of pain and stuff it farther down. But—behind the smiley face is a hurting person…a helpless person—perhaps even a hopeless person.

These are the boxes Jesus came to destroy. Has your bag become too heavy to drag around? Perhaps the latches and zippers find it hard to keep all the stuff in and the pain is spilling over the sides? Are you willing to unpack your bag, clean out those hidden pockets, and offer Jesus your pain in return for his peace and love? God the Father has already placed the junk in your trunk on the shoulders of Jesus as he hung on the cross. Perhaps the time has come for you to leave that invisible baggage where it belongs—with Jesus.


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Escape from the Box Life (Part 4)

Religion is a deadly and deceptive box. It promises everything but provides nothing It promises that if we know enough about God it is the same as knowing God. I believed this lie for a long, long time. Please allow me to share a personal testimony from my own experience of just how deadly religion is.

In 1998, I had just gone on staff at a large church. I was in my second year of pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree, having completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Pastoral Theology at a well-respected Bible college. I was forty-two years old and had been a believer for thirty-two years. I had been saved as a child of eight in a little Methodist church near my home. I had grown up in church, baptized as a believer in a neighbor’s lake, and re-baptized when my family joined the local Baptist church (in those days if you joined from a different denomination they re-baptized you to make sure it was done correctly—that’s religion at its finest!).

I was involved in Sunday School, a youth group, mission trips, retreats, conferences, and evangelistic outreaches. We went to church every time the doors were open. Later as an adult, I sensed God’s calling and eventually at the age of thirty entered the gospel ministry. I was licensed and ordained to preach by the Baptist church.

Over time, the doors opened for me to get some theological training. I studied systematic theology, Greek, Hebrew, church history, hermeneutics, and homiletics. I read the early church fathers like Irenaeus, Athanaius, Chrysotom, and Augustine.  I studied the reformers like Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli. I dug into the writings of Wesley, Whitefield, and the sermons of Spurgeon I was constantly reading books written by conservative writers and scholars.

I had memorized verses from the Bible and read it through several times. I had outlined many of the biblical books and had a folder bulging at the seams with exegetical sermons and lesson series developed over long hours of intense Bible study. I had done countless word studies tracing biblical words and concepts back into their original languages for their meaning.  I knew all kinds of biblical facts, figures, and dates. I had a head full of knowledge.

Through my years of study, I had become an arrogant, biblical conservative with a cessationist theology. I could and would argue my prideful position and belief system at the drop of a hat. My theology could explain what God could and would do and what he could or would not do. It was a neatly package system I had developed.

I thought I knew all kind of things about God, but I realized I didn’t really know God. I was a dry as a mouthful of desert dust. I was spiritually empty—hungry and thirsty for something (really it was someone) I could not find no matter how hard I worked or how much I did. I was saturated in religion with a head full of knowledge, but an empty heart.

I knew a lot about God, but I began to wonder if I really knew God. Religion, at this point, just pushed me to do more—to be better. But I began to question everything—except my salvation because I knew at eight years of age I had experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ. So I began to cry out to God in desperation for more than I was finding in my tiny religious box.

One Sunday night as we (the pastors) were praying for the sick and for those who had needs, I heard the Holy Spirit speak in my spirit. He said very clearly, “You have a spirit of religion, but I want to give you a relationship with me. If you will surrender, I will lead you out of religion and into the freedom of relationship in the Father’s heart.” Here I was, a pastor, praying over people to be healed and I was sicker than they were.

That night I confessed it to my pastor and the staff, and one of them prayed for me. As he prayed, God opened the lid on my religious box and lifted me out and he has been leading me on a relational journey for the past fifteen years.  He set me free. He has blown my safe little theological box of religion into bits. God has shown me over and over how narrow-minded and ignorant I was about his limitless character and nature. He is constantly expanding my belief system and purging my mind and heart of the garbage, lies, misinterpretations, bad theology, lack of faith, and unbelief I was drowning it. The more I learn about God—the more I realize how little I really know.

The more of God I taste, the more of God I want. He has given me an insatiable appetite for his presence and power. I want God—nothing more and nothing less. I want all God has for me—nothing more and nothing less. God is far bigger than I ever imagined and getting bigger each day.

Religion provided me with a system to construct a tiny god of my own making, who could only do what I believed he could do. Relationship has given me an ongoing experience with the living God who loves me for who he created me to be. I no longer have to fit into a religious system—to look like that system demands—to preach and teach what that particular system deems acceptable—to act like that system dictates—to strive and strive and hope what I do or say is good enough. No, Jesus made it good enough at the cross and in faith I am walking that out.

I no longer fit in a religious box and the box does not fit me—not because I’m a rebel or a non-conformist. No, I don’t fit in the box because God did not create me for a box life.

…And neither were you!

Escape from the Box Life (Part 3)

Revelation destroys the box of religion. God’s original plan was and still is a revelation of both a corporate and personal relationship. God’s desire was to build a people for himself one person at a time. God has revealed himself through the revelation of the Scripture. Genesis 1:1 opens with this mind-blowing revelation—“In the beginning, God. . . .” There is no explanation of God, just a revelation of God. He is! He exists! How? He is pre-existent—meaning he was here before time, or space or the world began. We can only know this by a revelation from God because religion has no credible eye witness avaible.

Revelation is God’s communication of truth to man so that we can be properly related to God. Religion, on the other hand, is man’s attempt to invent a god in our own image. Revelation is God declaring to us exactly who he is, but religion is us telling God who we are and who we want him to be.

Religion is a box, and a box by its very nature is limited. God’s revelation is limitless, meaning it will not fit in the nice neat confines of any box. Since the beginning when man and woman were created, God has not ceased to reveal his desire for relationship with each of us. He created them in his image and likeness so they might respond to his love and express the same kind of love back to him. You were created in the same image and likeness. He is not interested in how much you can do for him, but rather how much he can do for, in, and through you—if you will allow him.

That’s why God sent his Son Jesus. Jesus is the revelation of who God is, how he thinks, how he acts, and what he looks like in flesh and blood. Jesus came to destroy all the hideous caricatures religion had painted and labeled as God. With his coming, he gave us an accurate representation of God to worship and love.

But, this revelation must be received through faith by grace. Revelation tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him (God), for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Just knowing about God is not enough we must know—must intimately experience—must purposely seek after him.

Religion is built on rituals and rules, but relationship is birthed in an experience with God. Once you experience God’s touch your tiny religious box will no longer be able to hold you. It will disintegrate—blown to bits by the power of God.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 18)

Be the Victor not the Victim! It’s your choice.

Now that the lies of the enemy have been exposed, we can return to the process of forgiveness. It is a process and it begins with a choice of the will to forgive the specific offender for a specific offense. “God, I choose to forgive ________ for _________ in Jesus name. I release and forgive this person. Please forgive me for my sin of unforgiveness, in Jesus name.”

Once you do this, you take control of the offense and responsibility for its results and you are no longer a victim. A victor refuses to be a victim. Victims give control over to the offender and become prisoners of the offense. Victims allow what was done to define who or what they are—to determine their future. Forgiveness allows you to shake off the victim mentality and reclaim responsibility for your life (past, present, and future) and ultimately, surrender all of it to God. Areas of unforgiveness are ruled by the offender’s offense not God’s grace.

Earlier in this series we described the prison cell of unforgiveness. The person who refuses to forgive shuts the door and locks it from the inside. But when forgiveness is offered the door swings open and God steps in to heal the hurt or wound in your soul and spirit. Invite him to restore your heart. Ask for what you need. Cry out for him to restore what the devil has stolen. Jesus is the one who binds up the brokenhearted, meaning he comes to heal those who are shattered in pieces. He will gather all the pieces and heal the memory, and in doing this, he heals the soul. He is Jehovah Rapha (the God who is our healer).

As he does this, he will also reveal the ground the enemy has taken in our lives. Unforgiveness opens the door, but once forgiveness is offered, his legal right to be there ends. Jesus will expose his handiwork, but we must repent and renounce each stronghold (things such as bitterness, hate, rage, anger, fear, insecurity, jealousy, envy, revenge, etc). Each time we repent, God brings a new level of freedom. This is an ongoing process. As long as we are willing God will work and complete healing will come.

Once the initial step of forgiveness is taken, God starts the process rolling that will eventually bring about total forgiveness. Once we take the first step, he empowers us to take the final few steps. It’s a partnership—his power and grace coupled with our obedience. The end result is total forgiveness and healing.

Hang in there! We are almost there. It’s all downhill from here.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 13)

Is there a fifty gallon drum of unforgiveness deteriorating inside the little shed on the back-side of your soul? If so, the rest of these blogs will help you deal with it God’s way. The result will be revolutionary and result in a life-changing experience.

Jesus said something in Matthew 6:14-15 that we tend to gloss over, explain away, or other-wise ignore completely. He said, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men, then your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions (underlined for emphasis). That verse is fairly self-explanatory. You don’t need a degree in biblical Greek to catch the gist of what Jesus way saying. If you forgive others—God forgives yours. If you don’t—God won’t!

When you or I refuse to forgive, we insert ourselves in God’s place as the judge, jury, and executioner, and that’s a place none of us have the authority to usurp. Do you truly believe God is a God of righteousness and justice? Are you afraid God will allow even the tiniest smidgen of wickedness to slide by undetected? Do you really think he needs your help? Abraham summed it up this way in Genesis 18:25: “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what it right?”

In other words, God does not treat the wicked like the righteous. Wickedness (disobedience) brings justice. Justice is a part of God’s character—He will do what is right. He will bring justice to bear where there is injustice. Make no mistake about it—that which a person sows, he or she will indeed reap. You can take that to the bank with you! So, isn’t it about time you trusted God?

True forgiveness is an act of the will—a choice you must make. Will you allow God to be the judge, the jury, and the executioner, or do not trust him after all? Unforgiveness does not empower you, but forgiveness does. In forgiving, you take a step back and allow God to do what God intends to do. This willing act allows you to accept the hurt or wound, without demanding that the offender pay you back. No longer is getting even or taking revenge an option. But—this kind of forgiveness must be given freely without any strings attached, or it is not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is truly a process that requires a partnership with God. We are simply unable to grant another person biblical forgiveness apart from God’s power and love being exercised through us. We need help to do what we are supposed to do.

Let me say this again—loud and clear. Total forgiveness is a process and you will need God’s help to complete this process.

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 12)

Over the last few weeks we have been on a journey to reach a destination where each of us can willingly offer true forgiveness to anyone for absolutely anything that has been done to us. That’s what God expects, as well as demands. Unforgiveness slowly destroys our soul from the inside out like an insidious cancer. It slowly poisons us and everything around us over time if we refuse to face it and deal with it.

I find that an illustration now and then communicates the point far better than a myriad of words. Unforgiveness is like finding a fifty gallon drum of radioactive waste from the local nuclear reactor sitting in your driveway. The metal drum is clearly marked with a hazardous waste symbol, as well as a skull and cross bones for good measure. It is labeled radioactive waste in big red letters. There is no wondering about what is in this deadly container, and it is sitting smack-dab in the middle of your property.

What would you do? Most of people would call the local police and the hazardous waste material clean-up team immediately and allow them to deal with it. In a real sense, that’s what happens when we choose to forgive someone for offending or hurting us. We deal with it quickly.

But—there is another option. We could act like that barrel of toxin is not there and promptly get out the hand-trucks and move it out back into the little barn on the back-side of our property. After carefully hiding it an out-of-the-way corner, we shut the door, nail it shut, put a chain and lock on the door, and for good measure hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign above the door. For a short period of time we check it every day to make sure no one has disturbed it, but over time we forget about it. Over time the moisture in the soil reacts with the metal drum and rust slowly eats away at the drum until a tiny hole appears. Systematically, the radioactive material slowly seeps into the soil and kills everything in the barn. This fatal contamination cannot be contained by locks, chains, and signs—so it soon kills everything our yard. Ultimately, it kills everyone in our house, including us. The same thing is happening right now in your soul if unforgiveness is present.

The venom of unforgiveness must be dealt with. It cannot be ignored if you desire to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. You cannot hide it—it will eventually seep out and show up in everything. It will destroy you by destroying everything that means anything to you first.

Call G-O-D-9-1-1 and get help now!

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 11)

The key to forgiveness is Jesus. If you remember, we said that forgiveness always costs the one who does the forgiving. It is given freely, but it costs the one who offers it everything. For you and me to comprehend God’s forgiveness of us, we must truly grasp the price he paid.

Like the servant who owed an incalculable debt, we must first own our debt. We did not just mess up—we sinned. And sin demands retribution. The problem is we can’t make the payment. Jesus paid the debt we owed for the offenses we have committed.

Our dilemma is we often forget the price Jesus paid and the pain he endured to purchase our forgiveness. He was beaten unmercifully before he was crucified. He was punched in the face. His beard was pulled out. He was spit on. He was kicked with boots and punched unmercifully with the butt of a spear when he fell. He was dropped twenty feet through a hole onto the stone floor of a prison cell under the high priest’s house. He was slapped unmercifully in the face over and over. Then, Jesus was flogged with a rawhide whip tipped with shards of glass, bone, and lead that literally ripped his flesh away. By the way, you can forget that forty lash less-one stuff—he was condemned to die and that rule was suspended for those doomed to die on a cross.

Isaiah 52:14 tells us that “his appearance was marred more than any man and his form more than the sons of men…” Jesus was beaten so badly that he was unrecognizable to those who knew him the best. In fact, he was beaten so severely you couldn’t tell if he was male or female. The flogging was brutal—far, far beyond inhumane. It’s cruelty was demonically inspired.

Then Jesus was forced to carry his own cross from the Fortress Antonio up to Skull Hill (Golgotha) outside Jerusalem’s gates. There the soldiers stretched his arms and legs out and nailed him to a cross and stood it up and let it fall into a hole. And there he hung in unspeakable pain. The victim of crucifixion slowly suffocated as his lungs filled with fluid. To get a breath, he was forced to push up on the nail driven through his feet. The pain was excruciating and that position could only be held for a few seconds. Over and over for six long hours Jesus did this for you and me until he took his last breath, gave up his spirit, and died.

Why? So you and I could enjoy forgiveness for our sins. Forgiveness is freely given and freely received, but it cost Jesus everything. Remember—the one who offers forgiveness assumes the loss and endures the cost, while the guilty one—the perpetrator of the offense—is released and forgiven.

This is what Jesus did for you and for me. This is the forgiveness that erased your sin debt off the books and granted you freedom from an eternity in hell. This is the level of forgiveness all of us have received because God—like the master of the servant—felt compassion for us. In his great love, he substituted his Son for us.

So here’s the deal. Let me get this straight…”and you can’t forgive another person because….what”?

The issue is not that you can’t forgive. No, it is that you refuse to give another what has been freely given to you. If you will not forgive—it means you really don’t have a clue what Jesus did on the cross for you!