From Scars to Stars

Physical, mental, and emotional scars are a reality and byproduct of life.  They mean that you have actually lived, that you survived the cut, that you are in the healing process, and that you now have some valuable experience and expertise to help others along in their journey. Daniel 12:13 tells us those who lead many to righteousness will shine “like the stars forever and ever.” Paul, picking up on this truth, stated, “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15). The Lord wants to take his people from scars to stars.

Many Christians have bought in to the lie that they are just too scarred and flawed for God to do anything special with their lives. Too many identify with the scar letting that scar define and limit them. Some pet the scar milking it for all the pity and sympathy they can get from other people. Some attempt to deny or hide the scar living in shame over what they did or what was done to them. Still others unwittingly begin to serve the scar doing what it tells them and controlling their direction and viability in life.

Contemporary society is filled with examples of people who overcame scars in life to triumph and make a significant contribution to the world at large.  Stephen Spielberg was rejected by the USC film school, twice. Steve Jobs was fired from the company he co-founded (Apple) and then after selling Pixar to Disney for billions, he returned to Apple to eventually turn it in to a trillion dollar company. Charlize Theron overcame the horror of witnessing her mother kill her father to become an Academy Award winning actress. Walt Disney, surprisingly, was fired from a Missouri newspaper for lacking creativity.  What do all these examples have in common? They all experienced wounds and scars in life but  refused to be defined or stopped by them.

Even more compelling are the many biblical examples where God took his people from scars to stars. Rahab went from being a prostitute and brothel owner to becoming a key asset in Israel’s defeat of Jericho (and she is listed in the lineage of Jesus). The woman at the well went from multiple failed marriages and illicit living to becoming an evangelist who influenced her village for Jesus. The Egyptian slave went from being oppressed, abused, and abandoned by his Amalekite captor to guiding David and his men in the pursuit, capture, and plundering of the Amalekites who raided Ziklag.

We can learn from the slave at Ziklag that we too can go from scars to stars by letting the Lord nourish and revive us, by coming over to the other side and turning our back on the enemy and the scar he gave us, by dedicating what we have left to the King, and by doing everything he tells us to do.  Don’t let the past scars in life control your future and snuff out your light. Be God’s star.

Spiritual Crack

Addiction specialists tell us that one hit of crack or meth can cause a rewiring of the brain and a lifelong addiction.  One moment the individual is enjoying meaningful relationships and pursuing their goals in life.  The next moment nothing matters but finding that next fix.  Family no longer matters. Friends no longer matter. Dreams no longer matter. Pleasing God no longer matters. Before and after pictures of addicts show the devastation of drugs as users experience accelerated aging, hair loss, sunken cheeks, hollow eyes, and rotted teeth. Addiction is not a pretty picture.

Most Christians will never face the risk of domination that comes with taking that first hit of crack or meth, but they do flirt with a spiritual drug just as dangerous and addictive.  That drug is called strife.  I have witnessed solid Christian people make the decision to take a hit of this spiritual crack to nurse a wound or offense not realizing they will spend perhaps the rest of their lives serving that strife. In many ways, the drug of strife is the worst drug of all because it becomes more potent the longer it is in your system.  As illicit drugs make a person look hideous on the outside over time, the drug of strife makes a person look hideous on the inside.

To be in strife is to be at war with another person in one’s heart characterized by conflict, discord, antagonism, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Paul warned Timothy about the dangers of strife declaring, “The servant of the Lord must not be in strife” (2 Timothy 2:24).  The person in strife is actually taken captive by the devil to do his will. He captivates our lives, our hearts, our time, our thoughts, our energy, our faith, our perception, our relationships, and our destiny. James said, “For where envy and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16). Strife, just like crack or meth, opens our lives to a world of destruction and devastation.

It is, however, possible to protect yourself from spiritual crack.  First, count the cost of potential addiction because no one expects to become a strife addict.  Second, guard your heart so that when the opportunity to get in strife comes, you have the power to just say no. Third, reject your pride because pride, not a pipe, is the delivery system that gets strife into our system. Fourth, practice mercy and forgive quickly because slow forgiveness increases the likelihood of strife. Finally, stay away from strife pushers or those who peddle strife like some peddle drugs.  It is hard to believe that any Christian would want to get another believer addicted to spiritual crack, but it happens all the time.  My college roommate kept a bag of various drugs in his closet to sell to students who knocked on our door all hours of the night.  I couldn’t move out and away from the pusher fast enough.  Believers need to do the same with the peddlers of spiritual crack.

 

 

Contagious by Association

People influence one another for good or bad simply by being around each other.  Every person we come in contact with is both making and receiving a unique positive or negative impartation.  As we connect with people we are bestowing and conferring on others what is operating in our lives in abundance, and they are bestowing and conferring upon us what is operating in their lives in abundance.

Moses, for example, was told to lay his hands on Joshua so that an impartation of wisdom, authority, and honor could be made into his life.  Similarly, Elisha received a double portion of the anointing when Elijah graced him with his cloak.  Paul indicated that his special grace of divine protection and deliverance was available to his partners in ministry who prayed for him and supported his ministry endeavors.  In other words, we catch what people have, not what they simply say or want us to catch.  We don’t catch the mumps from someone who has the measles.

We all have something to impart, and we all have something that can be imparted into our lives from others.  They key is to be careful who we connect with, associate with, and align with because we all will imbibe or absorb, assimilate, and take in the spirit of our connections and associations, good or bad.  The Bible says, “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), and “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  We must be mindful of who we are giving the privilege of speaking into and influencing our lives.

Some people impart love, mercy, graciousness, positivity, and gratitude into our lives.  Others infect us with cynicism, dishonor, negativity, and compromise.  The Scripture plainly teaches we will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16).  Learn to guard your heart from being influenced by people who have little or no good fruit in their lives.  Are they faithful to the local church?  Do they faithfully participate in ministry?  Do they give faithfully?  Do they share their faith and invite people to church?  Do they actively walk in love, practice mercy, and control their tongue?  If not, be careful connecting with them because you will start to manifest what they have been manifesting.  You may just need to quarantine yourself from people like that unless and until they start showing signs of life and positive impartation.

The key is to make sure we are imparting life to others while maintaining diligence over what we are exposed to ourselves.  The reality is that we are all extremely contagious and we infect others with our spirit, our spirituality, our attitude, our thinking, and our behavior.  Let’s make sure our associations result in positive impartation for ourselves and others with the result that we get stronger as believers, grow in maturity, and become more effective as witnesses of Jesus Christ.

How to Be Miserable

ScroogeA friend of mine passed along an interesting list of ways to be miserable in life.  The original note written on old fax paper has all but faded, but the truths mentioned are timeless and life-changing for anyone wanting a fresh start and outlook in life.  Take a moment to read and think about these twenty ways to be miserable in life.  If they challenge you and you want to make a change…make a change.

How to be miserable in life…

      • Use “I” as often as possible.
      • Always be sensitive to slights.
      • Be jealous and envious.
      • Think only about yourself.
      • Talk only about yourself.
      • Trust no one.
      • Never forget a criticism.
      • Always expect to be appreciated.
      • Be suspicious.
      • Listen greedily to what others say about you.
      • Always look for faults in others.
      • Do as little as possible for others.
      • Shirk your duties if you can.
      • Never forget a service you may have rendered.
      • Sulk if people aren’t grateful for favors.
      • Insist on consideration and respect. 
      • Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
      • Always look for a good time.
      • Love yourself first.
      • Be selfish at all times.

This formula is guaranteed to work…

Tomb Dwellers

imagesThere is no question that our culture today is fascinated – no obsessed with death and the symbols of death. Interest and viewership in death-based themed movies and television programs are at an all time high. Shows about witches, vampires, werewolves, and zombies fill the airwaves and theaters all over the nation. This death culture, unbeknownst to most who expose themselves to it, brings with it all kinds of demonic activity and strongholds. You cannot abide in the darkness without being assaulted by those that lurk there. It is striking that millions upon millions would rather hang around the tombs of the dead rather than enjoying the abundant life Jesus offers and promises in his word.

The Bible speaks of a demon possessed man Jesus encountered and then set free from his bondage. Notice the similarities between this man and so many in our culture today. First, he literally lived in the tombs among the dead. When you hang around death, death is going to manifest in your life. Second, he was known for violent fits and then at the same time had periods where he seemed to have it all together. What people today may write off as an explosive temper or life-controlling moodiness is often a manifestation of demonic activity in a person’s life. Third, like some in our society today, he was known to cut himself and mutilate his own flesh. The influence of death all around him egged him on (and the enemy does with so many young people today) towards self-destructive behavior. Fourth, even though he was able to snap chains holding him fast, he still walked around with the cuffs and leggings of a person in bondage. Jesus came to break every chain off of our lives but all you have to do is listen carefully and you will hear the sound of clanking iron all around in you world. Finally, this man moved more and more towards isolation. When you see people withdrawing from family and friends and avoiding human interaction and fellowship, you can know that the enemy is at work in their life trying to isolate them with that death spirit and influence.

Let me encourage you to identify the influences of the death culture in your life so that you can stop dwelling around the tombs and start living the abundant life Jesus desires you to live. First, identify the death communications in your life such as words and thoughts that are negative, destructive, and self-defeating. Your life will go in the direction of your most dominant thoughts and words and if your most dominant thoughts and words are saturated with death, negative and destructive things will manifest in your life. It’s amazing how many of our colloquial phrases are filled with death references. Life and death are literally in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Second, remove all death seductions from your life such as hidden or secret desires, behaviors, practices, or habits that are impure and unholy. The best thing you can do is to expose those in your life and judge them as inappropriate for the believer. You cannot indulge in such conduct without being seduced (gradually drawn away from godly behavior and devotion) by that death influence. Third, be aware of any death attractions in your life such as media, television, movies, books, music that glorify death, spiritism, fear, or the paranormal. You may view this as harmless entertainment but in reality these attractions are an open door for oppression and destruction in your life. Instead of allowing death inputs into your eyes and ears, choose to look and listen to those things that are of life and bring life. Finally, decide to withdraw from any death associations. These are people who are dead spiritually and tend to pull you down (even if you had the noble goal of bringing them up). While you should reach out to the lost, you cannot have close, intimate  friendships with people who are lukewarm or dead spiritually (and for sure should not marry such a person). Don’t assume because someone says they are a Christian or because they go to church that they are sufficiently alive spiritually to have great access in your life (as Corrie ten Boom often said, “just because there’s a mouse in the cookie jar doesn’t mean they are a cookie”).

Just like the demoniac in the Scriptures, the Lord delights in setting his people free from every bondage and every chain. If you have allowed death communications, death seductions, death attractions, or death associations in your life, repent now and ask the Lord for his deliverance, protection, and preservation. You do not have to be possessed to be demonized or oppressed by the enemy. You may have opened the door to oppression by “hanging around the tombs” but you do not have to stay there. Get up and get back into God’s Word and presence. Jesus came that you might have life and that life is found in His Word and in His Spirit.