God and ‘Pharaoh Fear’

But Moses said to God, “Who am I?”

God had a plan to deliver his chosen people from the Egyptian political machine that held them captive.

God is the same today as he was then, he observes our misery, hears our cries, knows our suffering and comes down to deliver us, bringing us to a good place, a broad place; a place of freedom.

Moses is the man God assigned to implement this deliverance plan. Moses, though, was a man who lived in bondage. Although not enslaved by the Egyptian taskmasters, as was his Jewish brothers and sisters, an even worse oppressor, one that lived within him held him captive. Fear.

Like Moses, “Pharaoh Fear” and his taskmasters hold you and me hostage. Our personal prisons, created by fear, look different in each of our experience. But what is the same for all of us, Moses included, is that God’s promise, realized in Jesus Christ, releases us from every captivity. This includes the prisons that fear and its various taskmasters create.

God had a plan to set his people free and it required Moses to return to the place he’d fled, challenge the most powerful man in the world, and go back to an environment where he felt insecure and inadequate. No wonder he resisted God’s request. “Who am I…?” was his gut reaction. He had come to know himself as his fears had defined him and speaks from this sense of identity. “I’m not enough for this task.”

In setting us free, God begins with the basics. We’ve come to believe lies about our true identity. Our past may have taught us that we are powerless, without a voice, unnecessary and perhaps even the reason for trouble. Such beliefs keep us from experiencing the liberty that God intends. These statements are not what God says about us.

Pause for a moment and consider the beliefs you hold about yourself that keep you captive and living in fear…

The interesting way God has of correcting these wrong beliefs is not through words or cognition. “I will be with you” is the antidote offered for Moses’ fears. The presence of God is the healing and restorative means of addressing our inaccurate self-assessments.

Words or arguments will not convince you of the truth. You do not need to know more correct and proper information. When these lies bully you, and you cringe in fear because of them, it is only in clinging to the presence of the God who promises to be there that will give you the power to act in freedom.

It is not a mind game, it is not positive self-talk that empowers you to operate from a sense of freedom. “I am capable, I am enough…” It is bringing these imprisoning lies before the God of love that causes them to melt away and be replaced with God’s truth spoken over you.

Your heart must be convinced, not just your mind.

This is when freedom is experienced.

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Facing Truth

truth road sign arrowReorientation toward truth 

God made you you on purpose, and God needs you to be you. In order to live from the freedom of your God given identity, you will need to replace the lies that you have come to believe about yourself with God’s truth concerning you. As Jesus said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

So how does this happen?

  1.  Identify the lies that hold us in hiding. See herehere  and here for help in identifying these lies. 
  2. Replace with lies with God’s truth. For more help read this post  A Return to Trust.

In my last entry I shared some of the lies that have held me captive. “I am powerless, there is no hope.” Here is how these lies can be replaced with truth. It’s not an easy process, sometimes it helps to have a trusted spiritual director who can walk through this with you. I’d be honored to walk with you through this exercise. Contact me if you like.

Identify an inciting incident – Prayerfully recall a specific incident from childhood that typifies how you began to believe the lie. My lie was a sense of powerlessness, yours will most likely be something different. On a family camping trip, when I was around seven years old, I was holding my mom’s hand as we walked on a small dam across a tiny creek. It was a hot day and the pond the dam created looked so inviting and cool. My mom kept saying, “Don’t go in the water” as she would push me toward the pond with a smile on her face. It was very confusing for me. I kept trying to not go in the water because that is what she told me to do. Her words said one thing, and her actions said another. I didn’t know which to obey.

Experience the feelings related to that incident – Revisit the scene in your imagination, let it come alive and get in touch with what you felt at the time.  I felt confused. I wanted to do what was asked of me, but I couldn’t determine which demand I should obey: to stay out of the water or to let my mom push me into it.

Messages/tapes that play – As a result of such incidents what messages does your subconscious hear and live by? Any decision I make will be the wrong one. I’ll get in trouble whatever I do. 

Vows I make (beliefs I hold) – What is your response to these messages? How have you determined to act in response to their demands?  I will not make any decision on my own. I will keep still and let others decide for me. 

Impact of vows – How has keeping this vow, holding these beliefs impacted your life? – I’m indecisive, passive, untrusting. I don’t know myself, I blame others for my failures. 

Relive incident with Jesus – Prayerfully re-imagine the inciting incident but this time Jesus is there with you. What does he say/do? How does he act? Notice your feelings as you re-experience the event. How does what you learned of him in your scripture study impact the outcome of this scene? Jesus walks behind us on the dam as I cross it with my mom. I know he’s there. When my mom begins to tease me by issuing conflicting messages, I hear Jesus behind me saying, “You are not crazy for being confused. Your mom is teasing you, she’s trying to be playful. She’s not trying to harm you. Relax, you can trust your instincts.” Jesus then comes between us, puts his arms around our shoulders and we all jump into the pond with surprise and laughter.

Ensuring acceptance and approval

We continue with our exploration of the important question, “Who am I?” The series begins here.

koolaid

We’ve drank the Kool-aid.

Our families, the feedback we receive from people, the culture and media all conspire to mis-shape us, to convince us, either innocently or intentionally, that who we are is not enough. Sadly, we have come to believe this. Most of us live with a deep-seated, core belief that we are not okay, there is something fundamentally wrong with us.

HOW WE HANDLE THIS

When I was in college there was a popular book written by John Powell, “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?” Powell answered the question for his readers, “because if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am and I’m all I got.”

We have learned to hide the parts of our self that we fear will be rejected and instead we offer the parts of our self that will most likely buy us acceptance and approval (or at least protect us from the pain of rejection.) Why do we do this? Like Powell did before me, I will answer the question for you, “because we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”

You believe untruths about yourself. You’ve drank the kool-aid, you are convinced you need to be something more or someone different than who you are. Being unacceptable or undesirable is a pain that must be avoided at all costs. Vows are made that will protect you from relationships and situations that will arouse the pain of feeling unacceptable or undesirable. (Look here for sampling of such vows.) Without intervention, we live by these vows; they falsely promise protection from pain, but they don’t eliminate it, they only postpone it.

Yet God does not let the God-spark within you go dark; a slight and wavering ember of hope remains, announcing truth – you are valuable. Listen to this whisper, it is God’s voice calling you.

With you on the journey,

Debby

This post continues to answer the question Who Am I? which begins here, and is part of a series The New Old which explores six old familiar topics God wants to make new. Join me each Monday for a new installment. I pray our God, the ancient of days, will make a new day for you to enjoy in God’s presence through this series.

Passing through this foreign country called life

Thoughts from a long term tourist (1)

photo by Wes Loh

At the Musee Carnavelet in Paris, 2007

Jack and I had just finished our third week in Paris. We’d unpacked, settled into our apartment, walked, worked, rested and made fools of ourselves attempting to speak the language. Generally speaking, it was going well. But being a sort of long-term tourist in Paris raised some thoughts in my mind.

I hate looking like a tourist. You can spot them a mile away, guidebook in hand, a dazed or an awed look on their face, standing on the corner consulting a map of the city. Living in a tourist city like San Francisco has heightened my awareness of how touristy tourists look. And how annoying they are, with their slow driving and their gawking at sights familiar to us locals. I hate looking like a tourist so much so that I’ve even sort of lied. Not really, but sort of. Jack and I walk around Paris with our dog, Molly. (Only locals would have a dog out for a walk, right?) And when people stop to pet her or comment on her looks, I quietly smile and nod. I don’t say a word, because if I do, they’ll know I’m not a Parisienne. I let them believe I’m French. On purpose. See what I mean about hating to look like a tourist. It causes me to almost lie.

That’s what got me thinking. At church we speak of living in the reality of the Kingdom of God, that our citizenship is in heaven and this world is not our home. So in effect, we are all tourists. Passing through this foreign country called life and taking in as many sights and experiences as we can.

So is there something we can learn about living this exiled life of the Kingdom from these “annoying” tourists? I believe so.

One thing is that tourists, even long-term ones, are just that – tourists. They are only visiting; they do not intend to stay. They know their home is elsewhere and that when the vacation is over; they will head home, richer in experience and often with a greater appreciation for their homeland.

Oh, for the ability to keep that perspective as we walk through our daily life. We are here on earth for just a little time, and soon, we will be going home. Until then, we are tourists. The scriptures are our guidebook, Jesus is our tour guide, (he knows the best places to go and the places we should definitely avoid), and hopefully, we will stand out in a crowd of “locals” as different, foreign and other.

With you on the journey,

Debby

Written while living as an expat in Paris, 2005

Lies are useful…

Lies are sometimes preferred over the truth.

Dear Elle,

In my last few letters, we’ve been talking about the death dealing lies that keep us from the life God created us to experience. These lies have been cast as truth by our culture and our family upbringing. It will be your ministry to uproot these insidious and life-threatening lies. In Jesus-talk this is what he called “Casting out demons!” This is difficult work and only the Spirit can provide the power to accomplish the task. Love must be the tool you use to dig out the false and plant the real.

One reason this is not an easy assignment is because lies are sometimes preferred over truth. Lies maintain the status quo. Lies provide a guaranteed pleasure. Lies deny pain. Who wants to rock the boat? or relinquish the high? or feel the loss? On some level we know that to let go of the lies would ultimately be a good thing. But even though we know that hanging on to these thoughts and habits moves us toward death, we let them linger; they are so comforting, familiar, and momentarily enjoyable.

Think about your own life. A message that informed your self knowledge as you were growing up was that you were too much – too verbal, too curvy, too active, too emotional. “God loves quiet, submissive and demure girls. Boys aren’t attracted to girls who talk too much and have strong opinions.” Lies! Yet believed as true since they were lovingly communicated to you by the parents you trusted. The falsehood that became your governing truth was that you must not be you in order to be accepted and loved.

This lie determined how you felt about yourself, how you related to others, how you experienced God. You became comfortable hating yourself. Hating yourself gave you energy and explained why life wasn’t good. You deserved bad grades because you couldn’t sit still in class. You were attracted to “bad boys” because you were a “bad girl.”  You needed to change so God would be pleased with you.

To trust the Biblical truth that God created you according to his plan for you, complete with your temperament, your inquisitive mind and your exotic looks would cause you to go against your family’s standards and values. For the sake of peace and to fit in with the ones you loved, it was better to live according to the lie.

You get the picture, lies often are preferred over truth.

Elle, your job is to enter relationships armed with truth and with love. Through you, Love’s persistent presence will weed out the lies that choke the garden’s life. Through you, Love’s unremitting whispers of truth will eventually drown out the voice of the demons. Jesus needs you to proclaim the good news – the kingdom of heaven is near. It brings life and truth. We can begin to take God at God’s word. We are the beloved children of God and with us God is well pleased.

With you on the journey,

Debby

prayer + choice = life

We must choose to remember that God is trustworthy

Dear Elle,

Following the example of Jesus’ life requires you to cast out demons! (Mark 3) This means you will replace lies that lead to death with truth that creates life. Although this seems like a hugely complicated ambition, it may be more simple than you imagine. Notice I said simple, not easy.

The most important thing you can do to ready yourself for this assignment is to be with Jesus. The first disciples had trouble casting out demons because they had not invested in the work of prayer. (Mark 9:28,29) Every step of your work must be steeped in prayer. You must be with Jesus in order for him to share his authority with you, ask this of him; you must be with Jesus in order for your own heart to be purified so that you seek God’s best for the people you love, ask this of him. Jesus is already praying for the ones you love, you are just partnering with his heart for them. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your interactions, to give you spiritual discernment, to guard your heart and your mouth. You’ll be better equipped to love wisely and well by being with Jesus.

Casting out demons is casting light on the lies of the enemy. Although we live under the rule of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, the evil one still has influence over our lives, lying to us, attempting to trick us into distrust of God. The nature of this influence always takes the form of a choice.

From humankind’s beginnings in the Garden of Eden, there has always been a choice. We can choose God and God’s ways or we can choose to turn away from God. The enemy of our soul is constantly trying to convince us that God isn’t trustworthy and we need to take matters into our own hands. This is the ground from which all the lies of the evil one grow.

Uncovering the hidden lie is the work of casting out demons. We begin with our own demons. We must come face to face with our choice to either follow God or to believe the lie that God is not trustworthy and turn away. Living according to the truth rather than the lie means we choose to trust God alone.

Choice, the pivotal action. How do we unmask the subtle (and always inviting) lie of the enemy so that we can make the choice to follow our Lord?  We’ll talk about that in my next letter!

With you in the journey,

Debby

Good vs. Evil

Dear Elle,

We’ve been talking about your God-given assignment of going out into the world, announcing the good news and casting out demons. We’ve established that casting out demons today means to confront and dispel the lies that the evil one uses to hold us captive to death. We’ve discussed how it is sometimes difficult to identify lies, so let’s talk now about the nature of these lies.

Basically there are two forces operating in our world and in our lives, the force of God – all things loving and good, and the force of evil – all things anti-God. Make a list of the character and nature of God. For example, God is:

Loving

Generous

Faithful

Kind

Trustworthy

Now, next to the attribute of God, write its opposite, this is the nature of evil.

LovingHateful

GenerousSelfish

FaithfulDisloyal

KindCruel

TrustworthyUndependable

Evil is the opposite of God. God is loving and desires our best, evil hates us and wants our demise; God is generous, giving us all we need for life, evil robs us of life’s necessities. You get the picture.

Job teaches us the tactics of the evil one. Satan (evil in form) constantly roams about the earth looking for opportunities to cause people to doubt God and turn away from trusting God. In effect, to curse God. These attempts are usually subtle and insidious. In our case, they are rarely blatant, as good “Christians” we would never outright curse God, would we? But how often do we question God’s ability or desire to provide?

Even though God’s love and blessing surrounds us, we are still under the influence of the evil one. We need to recognize the nature of this influence in order to identify the lies. I’ll talk more about this in my next letter.

With you in the journey,

Debby