Saturday, June 30, 2007

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Over the years the Lord has used many different books to speak to my heart besides His most precious word --The Bible. Recently, our pastor and the staff members of my church in various discussions would often mention a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality written by Peter Scazzero. Of course I'm always on the look out for good books to read and so whenever my pastor mentions books, I usually take note and head to Amazon online to get it. Such was the case as I heard both my pastor and his wife give examples from this book. And so over a month ago I bought the book and started to read. This is not a book to just read through quickly although I confess it was so rich in insight and so powerful that I could not put it down. Within one week I had read the entire book and had underlined and highlighted many sections. There is much to chew on and so I am now in the process of re-reading each chapter. The premise of this book is simple: it is impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.

Peter Scazzero notes that emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable, yet the reality is that very few people emerge out of their families of origin emotionally whole or mature. Coupled with that is the fact that our current discipleship models often only add an additional protective layer against people growing up emotionally. Scazzero notes that while people are having real and helpful spiritual experiences in certain areas of their lives---such as worship, prayer, bible studies and fellowship---they mistakenly believe they are doing fine, even if their relational life and interior world is not in oder. This apparent 'progress' then provides a spiritual reason for not doing the hard work of maturing.

If most of us are honest we will admit there are deep layers beneath our day to day awareness. Scazzero calls this the iceberg model. Only about 10% of the iceberg is visible to the eye---this represents the visible changes we make that others can see ie: we attend church, we 'clean up our lives' somewhat, we refrain from foul language, we are involved in bible study etc, but the roots of who we are, continue unaffected and umoved. As Scazzero states, contemporary spiritual models address some of the 90% below the surface but the problem is that a large portion remains untouched by Jesus Christ until there is a serious engagement with what Scazzero calls 'Emotionally Healthy Spiritually.' He highlights the top 10 symptoms of emotionally 'UNHEALTHY spirituality:

1. Using God to Run from God --using Christian activities as an unconscious attempt to escape from pain.
2. Ignoring the emotion of anger, sadness and fear --- to the degree we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others and ourselves well.
3. Dying to the wrong things --we are called to die to the sinful parts of who we are such as defensiveness, deatchment from others, arrogance, stubborness, hypocrisy, judgmentalism, a lack of vulnerablity but we are NOT called to die to the 'good' parts of who we are. God never asks us to die to the healthy desires and pleasures of lie such as friendship, joy, art, music, laughter etc.
4. Denying the past's impact on the present---the work of growing in Christ demands we go back in order to break free from unhealthy and desstructive patterns that prevent us from loving ourselves and others as God designed.
5. Dividing our lives into 'secular' and 'sacred' compartments--- it is easy to compartmentalize our lives that we do not see all of our work and our lives as worship and as sacred.
6. Doing for God instead of being with God--- work for God that is not nourished by a deep interior life with God will eventually be contaminated by other things such as ego, power, needing approval of and from others. We become human 'doings' and not human 'beings.'
7. Spiritualizing away conflict - sweeping disagreements under the rug and not dealing with the issues. Jesus shows us that healthy Christians do not avoid conflict. He was in regular conflict with the religious leaders, the crowds, the disciples, even with His own family. Out of a desire to bring true peace, Jesus disrupted the false peace all around him.
8. Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure ---the pressure to present an image of ourselves as strong and spiritually 'together' hovers over most of us. This is all about impression management.
9. Living without limits ---we are not God and we cannot serve everyone in need. We are human. Self care is never a selfish act.
10. Judging other people's spiritual journey---we turn our differences into moral superiority.

As I reflect on each of these emotionally unhealthy spiritual symptoms, I realize that much of it has to do with impression management. Our unhealthy emotions are driven so much by the impressions that we want to give others. Jesus was never into impression management. He calls us to live out of our true selves by transforming us from our false perceptions and patterns of behavior that we have developed through our nurturing environments so that we can be free to live the way He intended us to be and be emotionally healthy and authentic both in His presence and in the presence of others. For more information on this book and resources that are available check out this link:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You Raised Me Up

A dear intercessor friend at church sent me this earlier today which I couldn't resist posting.

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord." Romans 8:38,39

You Raise Me Up
Words and Music by: Brendon Joseph Graham, Rolf U. Loevland

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.

There is no life - no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.

© 2002 Universal - PolyGram International Publishing

Dear friends,

I greet you in the strong and perfect name of Jesus Christ, Rescuer, Lord, King and Rock of Ages. I have to tell you a little story about myself. On Wednesday evening I attended a function at my church, and got a ride with one of the pastors who lived out my way. We had a pleasant conversation home, and when I got to my gate I hopped out after a pleasant goodnight and thanks, started climbing the 4 steps to my front porch and - went flying!!! I fell with a great big splatt!!! right on my face, spread- eagled on my porch!! This poor man who had just been driving away must have jumped out of his vehicle while it was still running, inquiring if I was o.k. I had by now jumped up, and waving at him convinced him I was fine. He drove away(relieved, I think) and I sauntered into my house, where I couldn't stop groaning at the pain in my left kneecap and my scraped shins. My stubbed toes hurt too. And my pride will never recover!

I was thinking about this on Sunday morning while I was getting ready for church, promising that I'd avoid this particular pastor if I can. But you know what- it came to me that we all f all. My pastor came to help me here, but in the spiritual world where we are all on our faces down in the mud, only Jesus Christ can help us. So He jumped out of heaven, wearing a body like ours, to rescue us. Now most people, do what I did. "Oh I'm fine. I don't need rescuing" and they turn away from the Hand that seeks to save them and limp away, feeling the pains of their brokenness, and go hide in the dark. When we say "yes" to Him He lifts us up out of the mud and set us on our feet, firmly planted on the Rock which He is. His loving arms sustain us, and He mends our broken lives, washing the mud from us, giving us new, clean robes of righteousness and wraps us in His grace. More than that He makes us His very own, never to be ripped out of His love, giving us every security, and assurance when we learn to love and trust Him that He is our own. Amazing!

My sisters and brother, if you are not leaning on His everlasting arms you are still lyng in the mud, and need to be rescued, whether or not you know it or want it. He knows it too, and His arms are graciously proferred to help you up. Today, will you acknowledge that the mud is no place for you and reach for those arms of the only one who can save you? Today, will you say, "Yes, Lord Jesus, help me up. Raise me up. I'm broken and hurting and I need You only. Save me". He doesn't have to come from afar to do it. He's waiting right beside you for your call. Today, don't just walk away.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sokreaksa Himm - Preserved by God

It never ceases to amaze me how God has a way of orchestrating our lives to meet with people who inspire us to higher heights on our Christian journey. One such person is Reaksa Himm. It was about 2 or 3 years ago when one of my friends mentioned to a lady at my church about my interest in Cambodia. This precious lady Marg gave me a book to read called ‘Tears of My Soul’ written by a young Cambodian man called Sokreaksa Himm. I would later discover that Reaksa was partnering with OMF, a Christian Missionary organization that I have ties to. What was even more inspiring was to meet this man in person and here his story. His life reminds me that when God has chosen you it does not matter what the enemy may do to try to destroy or crush your soul, God will never forsake you and He will protect you in ways that are unimaginable. Today, Reaksa is one of our partners at The Ratanak Foundation. Below is an excerpt or Reaksa’s journey written by someone at ChristianWeek

A Cambodian refugee who returned to his war-torn country and forgave his family's killers received a standing ovation as he accepted an honorary doctorate at the Providence College and Seminary graduation exercises, April 22, 2007. Sokreaska Himm's search for forgiveness and his prescription for Cambodian societal renewal has featured on CBC and caught the attention of more than just evangelical enclaves. Yet Providence College and Seminary president Gus Konkel describes the story of Himm's search for forgiveness After the Heavy Rain as "required reading" which "reveals the essence of the gospel." "Cambodians have suffered so much pain," says Himm. "Nothing will ever make them whole again, except the healing message of hope, love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ."

After two years of near starvation and forced labour at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Himm's eleven siblings and their parents were taken by soldiers to an open grave. As his family members were clubbed and beaten to death one by one, 13- year-old Sokreaska watched the killers in silence as he lay on his dying father in the grave. At nightfall, Himm regained consciousness and struggled to pull himself out from underneath his family. Left with deep emotional trauma, Himm faced a life of bitterness and anger. Thirteen years later, his conversion to Christianity set him on a pursuit for the meaning of forgiveness. "Depression pursued me like a shadow," says Himm. "Hopelessness was the greatest enemy of my life. Why had I survived?"

Cultural confusion
In Canada, Himm attended Tyndale University College and then Providence Seminary. As he juggled East and West worldviews during his time in North America, he remembers hearing whole sermons on forgiveness but asking the pastor how it was possible. "Didn't you listen to my sermon?" came the reply. Himm hopes that survivors of any kind will find his story an encouragement to face the greatest decision of their life: whether or not to forgive. After the Heavy Rain follows an earlier memoir, Tears of My Soul, both published by Monarch books in England. The book is not only a personal story of the triumph of love over hatred, but also a missiological document with a far-reaching message for the Cambodian people. In Cambodia, says Himm, Buddhist survivors are told to suppress their emotions for the com mon good. At the same time, revenge is considered honorable and just among men.
Himm gives a brief history of Cambodia's trials in the vacuum of French colonial power leading up to the gripping silence of today's regime. Years of communist "street justice" and retribution further scarred the population. Himm describes the country as morally exhausted. No Khmer Rouge leaders have publicly apologized in 32 years. The only solution, he says, is the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Few Cambodians who suffered during the Khmer Rouge regime have ever discussed forgiveness," says Himm in his memoir. In a CBC interview in 1998 at the death of Pol Pot, Himm was asked how he felt. He said he wished Pol Pot would have asked forgiveness of the Cambodian people. His admission led to the much more difficult journey of forgiving his family's killers—in person. It was only much later that Himm returned to their village and gave them scarves and Bibles as a sign of his own forgiveness. The killers, who continued to live under changing and repressive regimes themselves, could not understand his motive. But after years of suffering, Himm says he is finally at peace. "Now I cry with tears of joy," he concludes in his memoir, After the Heavy Rain. For three years, Sokreaska Himm taught at Phnom Penh Bible College and is now planting churches around his hometown in Cambodia.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Armor of God

by Jon Walker

“Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephes. 6:14-17, NLT)

I know some people who won’t get out of bed in the morning without praying a prayer based on Ephesians 6. Here’s one version you can use today:

Father, today, in Jesus’ name, I put on the girdle of truth. I thank you for I know who I am and that I have the power of the Holy Spirit within me. God is in control of my life.

Thank you that I can put on the breastplate of righteousness. In all situations, help me to respond from the truth and not from my emotions. I can refuse to receive lies from the enemy.

Today I strap on the sandals of the gospel of peace. Wherever I go, I can be a peacemaker, helping others make peace with you. Help me to remember that there’s a difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker and that mercy triumphs over judgment.

You, my shield of faith, are sufficient to protect me from any arrows and slings the enemy throws my way; and I recognize that my faith comes by hearing the Word of God.

Thank you that you are giving me the mind of Christ. Because I wear the helmet of salvation, I can receive the truth; and I don’t have to think in old, fleshly patterns. My mind is being renewed by the power of God. I can take thoughts captive for Christ.

The sword of the Spirit is your Word, the Bible. I can use your Word to deflate any slings and arrows from the enemy, knowing I do not battle flesh and blood; rather the fight is against the father of all lies. Help me also to use your Word to spread your gospel across the world.

Lord, I set my mind and heart on you today. I dedicate this whole day to you. I only want your will for my life. Through the name and blood of Jesus, I ask you to bind the enemy in my home, at my children’s school and at my job.

Point to ponder: God has provided all the armor you need to face today’s battles.

Verse: “Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephes. 6:14-17, NLT)

What will you do about it: Write Ephesians 6:14-17 on an index card and keep it close by today. When you feel a battle brewing, whether that be a temptation or a conflict, remind yourself again of the armor God has given you.

Prayer: Tell God you need him to be your shield today. Thank him for his protection

Reflection on Isaiah 41:8-10

Isaiah 41:8 - 10
"But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Dear Lord as I read this passage it is a reminder again of who you are in my life. The One who has chosen me, called me, took me from the ends of the earth. The One who does not reject me as others do, the One who says, ‘I am with you’, the One who is my God and who will strengthen and help me and uphold me. Thank you Father, that you are all these things to me. Because you have chosen and called me, I need not fear the unknown or the uncertainty that surrounds me because you are fully committed to me and you have all the resources available at Your hand to provide for every single one of my needs. Thank you God for being with me, that I need not be dismayed, that I need not lose hope in times of difficulty or crisis because you are indeed my God. The One who is my high tower, my shield, my fortress and foundation. The One who stands with me, walks with me and talks with me, The One who is my refuge. The One who enables me to stand on solid ground and to not be shaken. Jesus thank you that you are my all in all. Thank you for your ever present help and desire to strengthen me on a continual basis so that I can live in this world but not be of it. Thank you, that I can do all things through You who strengthens me.

Lord what does it mean for you to uphold me with your righteous right hand?

When the path is not clear, I am your Shepherd, I will lead you through the narrow gate and show you the way you should go. I will give you all the resources you need to accomplish that which I have purposed for your life. I will guide you through the fog so that you will be led to the clear path. I will be that gentle whisper that touches your heart and lays impressions on your mind. I will give you peace at night when chaos surrounds you. I will guard your heart when there is emotional turmoil surrounding you. I am for you not against you. I will not leave you alone for you are my child, the one whom I love and whom I created. You are significant to me because I created and shaped you so my desire is always to uphold you when you stumble. I will give you firm ground to stand on and to make the rocky places smooth and the ground level so that you can stand with confidence. When I uphold you with my righteous right hand, I am lifting you above the miry pit of disllusionment and I am giving you hope to press on and the courage to take risks for my sake. Life with me is always an adventure but it is an adventure with meaning and purpose. It is not one that is aimless with no conclusion because I am the Alpha and Omega…the beginning and the end and with Me, you will know what to do and when to do it for I will instruct you in the way you should go. When I uphold you with my righteous right hand, fatigue, exhaustion and weariness will lift, for you will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. You will encounter a peace that cannot be explained in the wordly sense and you will know that that peace is something that transcends your emotions and your understanding of the visible reality around you.