Articles

Into the Wilderness

For many years the Lord has used the journey of the Children of Israel as a metaphor to speak to me about the Church. About ten years ago the Lord said “The Church is in Egypt”.

That puzzled me as I had been taught that Egypt represented a Christians life before they came to Christ. The Lord explained, “Egypt is My people in bondage”. As I heard those words, I realised that although we speak and sing of our freedom in Christ, for the majority of believers it is not yet a living reality. There are many, many believers still plagued with sickness, bondages and mental health issues.

The Children of Israel were under the oppression of slavery during their time in Egypt. They were oppressed and suffered under a heavy workload. When God sent Moses to speak to Pharaoh to deliver His people, He gave Moses these words:


Then say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” Exodus 7:16

God wanted to bring them to a place of freedom from oppression and work so they could have the time and space to worship Him. He was seeking connection and intimacy with His chosen people. He intended for them to rest from their labour and meet with Him.

I recently heard the Lord say that the Church is now in the Wilderness. This is why the emphasis in this season is on resting and connecting. God is using this current environment to give His people rest from their labour. The oppression of performance brings us under slavery and we find ourselves with a hard taskmaster who drives us to build structures that don’t even belong in the Promised Land.

Many of us have been driven in our labour believing it is God who is driving us. We have been a part of this system for so long that it has become our “normal”. The Father is calling us out of this system of oppression and labour to come and worship Him. No agenda, no prayer list, no strategy on how to build our ministries and churches, just worship.

In this season there is something that the Father is releasing from Heaven and if we will cease from our works and position ourselves to receive, we will find ourselves being equipped with all we need to face the giants who have been inhabiting our Promised Land.

As I saw the Father releasing over the Earth, I heard a strong “Stop!!”. I could see leaders and ministers still focused on their work, on how to keep building in this hour and how to keep everything going. I knew in my heart that if they didn’t cease and position themselves to receive, they would miss this moment and find themselves not equipped for the next season.

When Moses led the Children of Israel into the wilderness, God’s intention was for each one of them to go up the mountain and meet with the Father. He longed for an intimate connection with each one and in the encounters with Him they would become giant slayers.

but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.Daniel 11:32(b)

The word used for “know” above can also be translated “intimate friends”, “know for certain” or “know by experience”. Unfortunately, the children of Israel feared the presence of the Father and they sent Moses to go in their place. It was never God’s plan to have leaders stand in between the people of God and Himself. His desire is for intimacy with each of His children. The faith they needed to enter the Promised Land was to come from their time in His presence. When we see the bigness of our God, we can laugh in the face of giants.

In this current season the structure of church is unable to function. Is this a disaster or an opportunity? We can now get back to every individual simply coming before the Father as a beloved child. We don’t bring our works to Him, we bring our faith in our righteousness through Christ.

In this season we are to learn how to enter the “rest” of God which is spoken of in Hebrews 3. Faith in the finished work of Christ leads us into rest. Jesus said that He came to give us rest. Many in the church feel like the call of God on them brings a heavy burden and workload. Nothing is ever enough, there’s so much that needs to be done to fulfil the vision and care for the flock. If the burden is heavy and the yoke hard, it is not from Him!

God is taking advantage of this situation to get our attention. He is drawing us into His heart by inviting us to come and worship Him in the desert. He is setting us free from the oppression of slavery and preparing us to walk as sons and daughters of God. It is out of authority as sons and daughters of God that will see the giants fall.

Entrust all to Him and draw aside to receive all that He is releasing in this hour. It requires faith to enter this rest and it is this very faith that will possess the promised land.

Common Misconceptions about Inner Healing

“I don’t need healing because I am a new creation and my past no longer affects me.”

I have heard many people use the above phrase when the topic of inner healing comes up. There is a belief that they are already totally healed and set free because they are “a new creation in Christ”, referring to the scripture below.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

While it is true that as born again believers, we are a new creation, we still require inner healing. The word of God contains many promises pertaining to our inheritance as sons and daughters of God.  Mostly they are acquired through faith and prayer; they are not simply automatic when we become a believer. For example, the bible tells us that we have physical healing as part of our inheritance in Christ, but the reality is that many Christians suffer illness and the healing Jesus provided is realised through the prayer of faith and the ministry of the body. 

Just as physical healing requires faith, prayer and ministry to fully appropriate, healing of our minds and hearts often requires focused prayer and ministry. Although the way has been made through the cross for every believer to walk in wholeness and freedom, it comes through a process of transformation by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2)

Every believer is on a journey toward wholeness and Christlikeness. We all need healing in our hearts so we can grow in freedom and in our relationship with God.

“I don’t need anyone to pray with me, I have a relationship with Jesus and can pray by myself.”

There are two scriptures which help to explain that it’s not God’s way for us to do it all on our own. 

4When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

John 11:43,44

This is a prophetic picture of the born-again experience. Jesus raises us from death to life. Just as Lazarus had graveclothes on that restricted his freedom and experience of his new life, believers have thought patterns, beliefs and wounds that are binding us and hindering our new life experience. In this story, Jesus did not take the grave clothes off Lazarus, and He did not tell Lazarus to take them off – he told the disciples who were standing next to him to remove them.

There are disciples of Jesus today who are anointed and trained to take the grave clothes off believers and help them walk in the freedom of their resurrected life.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

The above scripture links sharing with other believers and receiving prayer with our healing. Humility releases grace and is a hallmark of the Kingdom of God. It takes humility and courage to make ourselves vulnerable and share our struggles and pain with others.

Many years ago I came to a place in my own healing journey where God clearly said “You are not going to progress any further until you talk about this with someone.” It was difficult to do but it was so worth it! I found a person who I trusted to not make any judgements, who would keep confidential what I shared and who knew how to pray with me for healing and breakthrough. Even as I shared my story, I felt the release and breakthrough commencing.

My prayer is that every believer would have access to trusted friends and ministers who can help them toward healing and wholeness.

The Theology of Inner Healing

4Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
(born our sicknesses and carried our pain)
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4,5

The scriptures call Jesus the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) He promised His followers that despite our circumstances, we can have supernatural peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

 

Peace means completeness, welfare, soundness (in body) safety, prosperity, contentment, and friendship.

One of the goals of inner healing is to appropriate the peace that Jesus promised us. It is peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with others and peace with our circumstances.

Regardless of what has happened in our past, what is happening in our present and what our future looks like, peace is possible right now. The peace of God is a fruit of the Spirit, not our circumstances.

Everything that keeps us from peace has a resolution on the cross however it often doesn’t seem like that. The scripture below is the one of the foundational scriptures for inner healing where we learn what Jesus came to give us.  Inner healing is a process which personalises the cross to the specific areas that are troubling our hearts. It exposes beliefs that are keeping us from living in the victory which Jesus purchased 2000 years ago.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3

What a wonderful King we serve! I made a decision many years ago that I would endeavour to receive all that Jesus died to give me. He paid the ultimate price for my healing and peace.  If it’s that important to Him then I need to make it important to me too.

Case Study of the Immanuel Approach

Following is a case study of using the Immanuel approach with a client who had a diagnosis of PTSD. It is an example of the rapid healing which is possible with this approach and interesting because the client was not a believer. The name and details have been changed to protect the client’s identity.

Background

Brigitte is in her mid 40’s and is a single mother of two. She was diagnosed with PTSD eight years earlier following an incident. Brigitte was working at a grocery store during an armed robbery. She was held at knifepoint for a period of time. Brigitte was not harmed physically but the emotional and psychological scars were still very present at the time of our meeting.

Bridgitte has been under the care of a psychiatrist and psychologist for many years. She has experienced many different types of therapy over the years but stated that nothing has helped to alleviate her symptoms.

Initial Interview:

The initial interview with Brigitte was quite brief. She had been referred to me by a friend and was seeking help to cope with the symptoms of PTSD. Brigitte’s descriptions of her symptoms were characteristic of PTSD (Yehuda, 2002). She described things such as experiencing flashbacks, avoidance of watching any television or movies which were in any way violent, nightmares and severe anxiety.

I explained to Brigitte that I was a Christian counsellor and that I used spiritual interventions in my practice. Although Brigitte is not a Christian, she was very happy to proceed with counselling using Christian spiritual interventions.

Session One:

Brigitte told me her story and relayed the events that had taken place at her workplace which had traumatised her. I listened with empathy and she went on to discuss the ways that her condition is affecting her everyday life.

When Brigitte seemed comfortable and I felt we had established a good rapport, I asked Brigitte if she felt comfortable to begin therapy. Once she agreed I asked her to close her eyes and to think about the traumatic event. I then asked her to describe what she was seeing in her imagination and what she was feeling.

She described seeing herself in the situation with her attacker holding her at knifepoint. She described being overwhelmed by fear and she believed she was going to die. I asked her if she would be willing for Jesus to come and be with her in the memory while this was going on. She agreed that she would like that. I directed her to ask Jesus to come and be with her. After a few moments, I noticed a shift in her body language and she appeared to relax a little. At this point I asked her to tell me what was happening.

Brigitte said that she could now see Jesus in the memory and that she felt safer with Him there. I then led Brigitte in a series of questions to ask Jesus. I began by having her ask Him what lie she learned in this situation. After asking the question and pausing for an answer, she responded to me that she had learned that she was going to die. I then prompted her to ask Jesus what the truth was. Again, she paused after asking the question and responded that He told her she was safe. I asked Brigitte if it felt true to her that she was safe. She responded that it did.

I asked Brigitte to describe to me what was still disturbing her in the situation. She reported that her concern now was for her workmate. I asked her to ask Jesus what He wanted her to know about her workmate and she responded that He told her He would take care of her also. I again asked Brigitte to describe her emotional state in the memory. With a smile on her face she communicated that she felt “good” and “peaceful”. Her tone and expression communicated surprise and wonderment.

Brigitte went on to tell me that she had experienced similar therapy in the past where she re-visited the traumatic memory and attempted to remove the false beliefs and thoughts but that it had only increased her level of anxiety. She communicated surprise at the speed and ease that the process had removed the anxiety from the memory. Brigitte left the session describing that she felt a peace that she had not experienced for a very long time.

Follow up session:

Three weeks after our initial session, I had a follow up session with Brigitte.
Brigitte relayed that in the time since her session, her anxiety had drastically reduced. She said that she could now watch the news without experiencing any anxiety and numerous other triggers were no longer affecting her. She reported that in the past three weeks she had not suffered any symptoms of PTSD.

Brigitte also excitedly told me that on several occasions when she was experiencing a level of anxiety, she focused her mind on what was once the traumatic memory, and she felt the same peace flood over her. Not only had the trauma and toxicity been removed from the memory, it had now become a positive memory which stirred up feelings of peace and a sense of safety for her.

The Immanuel Approach and healing trauma

As Christian Counsellors, our goals in practice are two-fold. We aim to facilitate healing in our clients as well as to help them grow in their relationship with God. Dr Karl Lehman has developed a truly integrated approach to counselling; a faith-based psychotherapy which is proving immensely effective in resolving trauma. The approach encompasses elements which strengthen the client’s ability to attach to God and to perceive His presence.

It is not uncommon for those who are sufferers of complex trauma to have difficulty connecting to God. Issues such as dissociation and insecure attachment can render some Christian Counselling approaches ineffective for deeply traumatised individuals. The Immanuel approach addresses these issues and offers the client practical tools that they can utilise outside of the therapy room.

The need for a safety net when dealing with trauma in clients has been widely recognised. Dr Lehman’s innovative approach gives a safety net in the form of an appreciation exercise which strengthens the clients connection with God while building their psychological and emotional capacity.

THE  APPROACH

The Immanuel approach was developed by Dr Karl Lehman and is a truly integrated approach to counselling; a faith-based psychotherapy which is proving immensely effective in resolving trauma. This approach integrates the safe and proven practices of the psychological and medical worlds with the healing power and presence of God.

As a Christian counsellor, it is my strong conviction that Jesus is the answer to the mental health issues facing today’s society. I have observed and worked with a variety of Christian counselling approaches and theologies over the years. Some view the world of professional counselling and psychology as contrary to Christianity and therefore shun anything that does not have its origins in scripture, and then there are those who propose that any mention of faith does not belong in the professional world of counselling and psychotherapy. While I value the help given to clients by those who hold to these views, it is my conviction that an integrated approach which takes the best from psychology and merges it with the power of Christ to heal is optimum. The Immanuel approach appeals to me for those precise reasons.

This approach encompasses elements which strengthen the client’s ability to attach to God and to perceive His presence. Building an interactive connection with God is one of the keys to this approach, as is the appreciation exercise which creates a safe place for clients from which to process their traumatic memories.

Many who are sufferers of complex trauma have difficulty connecting to God. Issues such as dissociation and insecure attachment can render some Christian Counselling approaches ineffective for deeply traumatised individuals. The Immanuel approach addresses these issues and offers the client practical tools that may be utilises outside of the therapy room.

The need for a safety net when dealing with trauma in clients has been widely recognised. (Rothschild, 2000, Kezelman & Stravropoulos, 2012) Dr Lehman’s innovative approach gives a safety net in the form of an appreciation exercise which strengthens the clients’ connection with God while building their psychological and emotional capacity.

When a person becomes overwhelmed by a traumatic event it can do lasting damage to their psychological, emotional and cognitive functioning. Memory is often affected and the person’s belief system is affected in a manner that can leave them with an ongoing expectation of danger. (Herman, 1992) Unresolved and unprocessed traumatic memories inhibit a person’s ability to cope with everyday life in a healthy manner. They may remain on “high alert” and find themselves triggered into high anxiety and overwhelming stress by relatively minor events. (Kezelman & Stravropoulos, 2012)

The way in which people are affected by trauma varies from person to person. Studies have revealed that only around 20% of people who experience traumatic events will develop PTSD. (Rothschild, 2000) Developmental history, belief systems and internal resources are just a few examples of factors which can determine the degree to which a person is affected by traumatic events. (Rothschild, 2000)

Commonly when we think about trauma we focus on the negative experiences which should never happen to people. There is also the trauma of not receiving the good things that we all need. (Wilder, Khouri, Coursey, & Sutton, 2013)

“Complex, interpersonally generated trauma is severely disruptive of the capacity to manage internal states. It is particularly damaging if it occurs in childhood. Research establishes that if we cannot self-regulate (i.e. manage internal states and impulse control) we will seek alternative means of doing so in the form of defences and/or addictions.” (Kezelman & Stravropoulos, 2012, p. xxx)

Many of the mental health issues that plague so many in our communities are the result of unresolved psychological trauma. (Kezelman & Stravropoulos, 2012)

HISTORY OF THE IMMANUEL APPROACH

Karl Lehman is a Christian psychologist who lives and works in the USA. The integration of his Christian faith with his scientific training and medical science has been one of his primary pursuits. (Lehman K. M., 2016) He has paid specific attention to integrating faith-based emotional healing with knowledge gained from psychological and neurological research. (Lehman K. M., 2016)

He began providing outpatient mental health care in 1990. At that time, he used a combination of cognitive therapy, medication, insight oriented therapy and what he terms a “traditional” prayer for emotional healing when treating patients for psychological trauma.
Dr Lehman states that with this approach, only around 5% of his clients could perceive the Lord’s presence and received emotional healing. The majority of the time, clients could connect with the pain and trauma only. Dr Lehman describes his work with the 95% of clients who were not able to perceive God’s presence in the sessions as “frustrating” because the other approaches were merely helping them manage their symptoms without any permanent resolution.

In 1998 Dr Lehman trained in Theophostic Prayer Ministry. (Smith, 2007) The basic principles of the Theophostic approach are that the erroneous beliefs which are held in traumatic memories are the primary source of painful emotions and unhelpful behaviours. The ability of the client to perceive the Lord’s presence inside the memory and receive His truth are critical factors in the healing of trauma. (Smith, 2007)

Dr Lehman says that this approach was the first form of therapy or ministry that brought healing to his own trauma. He is very open about his own pursuit of emotional healing and spiritual growth and the way in which that has impacted his professional approach.

Theophostic Prayer Ministry then became his primary approach when working with trauma. He developed his technique and skills in this approach and saw the percentage of clients who received a dramatic resolution to their trauma peak at around seventy-five percent.

As time went by, Dr Lehmann made further discoveries regarding the importance of capacity in healing trauma and the need for a safety net. These formed the basis for the Immanuel Approach.

KEY COMPONENTS OF THE INTERVENTION:

• Appreciation exercise.

• Access the traumatic memory

• Have the person describe what they are experiencing in their senses, particularly visually and emotionally.

• Help the client make an interactive connection with Jesus while experiencing the memory.

• Clear out toxic content from the memory through replacing false schemas with truth.

As dissociative or traumatic memories surface, the therapist helps the client maintain their connection to Jesus while processing the memory. In this way, they can maintain a relational connection through the event, bring the memory into the realm of their conscious awareness, have their need for understanding and comfort met, remove any false beliefs and replace them with truth and make sense of the event by receiving truth from God.

The client receives comfort, understanding and empathy from the Lord and anything else that was lacking at the time of the event and which caused them to not be able to complete the pain processing pathway. False beliefs and incorrect conclusions drawn about the meaning of the experiences are also resolved through hearing truth from the Lord. (Lehman K. M., 2016)

The presence of painful emotions in the memory is an indication that the pain processing pathway is not yet complete. The presence of peace in the memory tell us that healing has occurred.

I have found that the Immanuel approach is not only very effective in resolving trauma, but also in facilitating a stronger attachment to God. This builds resilience in the client, strengthens their resource base and gives them practical help outside the therapy room.

Don’t listen to the accuser!

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”     Revelation 12:10

Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough? Do you feel like you aren’t the mother, father, Christian, friend etc. that you should be? We often feel this way because there is an accusation against us. This accusation can come from our own minds or from the mouths of others, but ultimately the one who accuses us is Satan.

Many Christians mistakenly believe that it is God who judges them as unworthy or not good enough. However,that is not what the Bible tell us.

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? ”       Romans 8:33,34

God is the One who has come to fulfil the law on our behalf and remove the stain of sin from us, so it doesn’t make sense that He would then also accuse us of our failures. When we receive Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, our sin is not counted against us. Jesus stood before Father God guilty of our sin so that we could stand before Father God innocent of every charge.

If God has declared us innocent, who is it that is condemning us? Well, either we are condemning ourselves or we are listening to the accusations of Satan against us.

John 8:3–11 tells the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders brought this woman to Jesus and reminded Him of the law which stated that she should be stoned for her sin. Jesus reveals the heart of the Father towards sinners when He says, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (verse11).

Even before Jesus had paid the price for this woman’s sin on the cross, He did not condemn her. What are the things that make you feel condemned? Whatever they are, the blood of Jesus is  more powerful in its cleansing power than your sin is in its defiling power.

Holding onto our guilt and shame isn’t what pleases God. We are choosing to not receive His gift, and we are not walking in faith. Hebrews 11:6 states, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him.”

Sometimes we hold onto our guilt because we have an underlying belief that somehow the guilt will help us change and become better people. The truth is that it doesn’t work that way. It is the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of condemnation, that empowers us to be Christlike. When we let go of the guilt and shame, we have a new capacity to receive from God and come close to Him. It is His presence which transforms us, not our guilt.

There was a vast difference between the behaviour of the Children of Israel and Moses. The Children  of Israel kept displeasing God; they didn’t trust Him, complained against Him and built other idols to worship. They continually went astray, whereas Moses had a heart after God. Moses didn’t need to fast and pray to discover that the golden calf was an offence to God; he knew the ways of God and walked in holiness.

One of the main differences between Moses and the Children of Israel, in their relationship with God, was that Moses spent time in the Presence of God. He drew close to God when the Children of Israel drew back. I believe that we are transformed in our hearts through times of intimacy with the Presence of God. The closer we come to Him and the more time we spend in His presence will determine much about how we live our lives.

The Spirit of God imparts knowledge, wisdom and love in our hearts as we spend time with Him. As the intimacy in our relationship with God grows and we are more able to draw close to Him, He reveals the things that hinder us in a gentle and loving way.

The accusations of the enemy leave us feeling unworthy, unlovable and distant from God, whereas the gentle conviction of the Holy Spirit draws us towards an answer. When the Holy Spirit shows you something, you see the answer rather than your sin. He puts the focus on the negative effect of your behaviour and on what needs to change. The accuser will try to make you believe you are a failure and and that you don’t measure up. When God is drawing us to change, we receive the motivation and ability along with the conviction. Although we may feel sorrow for the hurt our behaviour has caused, it will not cause us to feel disconnected from God.

It is possible to be under the accusation of Satan and not realise it. The accusing thoughts in our head can sound something like “you’re an idiot for doing that,” “you’re not a good mother,” “you don’t read your Bible enough,” and “a real Christian wouldn’t do that.” This type of thinking leaves us feeling like we’re just not good enough.The accusations may be factual in the sense that we don’t measure up to the requirements of the law of God, but they are false because we are righteous due to what Jesus has done on our behalf, regardless of our shortcomings.

I once had a counselling client say to me, “But they’re true,” when talking about the ongoing stream of accusations which filled her head each day. My response was “JESUS is THE TRUTH.” What Jesus did overrides whatever truth there may be to the accusations against us.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.–1John 1:9

We do not have to remain under the heavy weight of condemnation and accusation. Once we confess our sins and shortcomings to God, we can walk free from the guilt and shame and know that Father God sees us as holy and righteous. Jesus exchanged records with us–we received His perfect history and He took our “less than perfect” history. He paid an incredibly high price to give us this wonderful gift of righteousness, lets ensure that we receive it fully and walk in the joy of it.

 

 

Struggling to Forgive?

Do you struggle to forgive? If you’re anything like me, you don’t find it easy. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful keys to emotional freedom and yet even when we are aware of this, it can still be one of the most difficult things to do.

There has been much taught about forgiveness. It’s common to hear that it’s a process and that you just say the words and in time your emotions will catch up. Perhaps that’s true sometimes, but often all that happens is that the anger gets pushed down and suppressed so we’re not aware of it anymore. If, when we think about the person or the offence, the feelings of anger and injustice return, then we haven’t yet forgiven.

In Matthew 18 Jesus taught about forgiveness in terms of a monetary debt. When we have a need to forgive, there is a sense within us that we are owed something. Forgiving someone means that we cancel the debt. That is a decision, not a process. The thing that can be a process is getting to the point where we are willing to forgive.

I don’t know about you, but I have had times when I have been frustrated with myself because I really do want to forgive, but I can’t seem to let it go. I can say the words with my head all day long but it’s my heart that is holding on to the anger and resentment. There is a part of us that wants to forgive, but another part of us that doesn’t. Finding the part of us that doesn’t want to forgive and understanding what that part of us believes is one of the quickest ways I know of to resolving unforgiveness.

There are many beliefs that we hold that are subconscious. They are deep in our hearts and we live out of those beliefs, both emotionally and behaviourally. It is not what we know to be true cognitively that has the greatest impact on us, but what we know in our hearts. Taking the time to allow our heart beliefs to come to the surface where we can evaluate them and replace them with truth is a key to spiritual and emotional maturity.

As Christians, we are often in conflict with ourselves. We have attitudes, emotions and behaviours that are unacceptable to us because we believe them to be unacceptable to God and our Christian community. This can lead us to suppressing our emotions rather than acknowledging them.

The problem is that suppressing our emotions doesn’t bring freedom from them. It can also mean that we miss an opportunity to allow God to reveal the false beliefs that are producing that emotion. We feel what we believe, so for every negative emotion there is a belief attached. We can actually accelerate the maturity process by allowing our emotions to lead us to our false beliefs, then our minds can be renewed with truth as we ask God to shine His light on them.

One key to forgiving when we want to but something seems to be blocking us is to discover what it is that we’re believing deep down about what will happen if we forgive. There are some simple steps to help us get to the belief:

  1. Sit quietly and focus on the offence. What emotion comes to the surface when you do that? If there is anger then there is a need to forgive.
  2. Imagine what it would be like without the anger there. Often a part of us thinks that would be appealing but there is another part of us that feels that letting go of the anger is wrong in some way. Some common beliefs are:
  • If I let this anger go, they will hurt me again. This anger is keeping me safe.
  • By letting this anger go, I am letting them “off the hook”. This anger is ensuring that justice is done.
  • If I let this anger go, it means I’m saying that what they did was ok. This anger is holding them to account.
  1. Once you understand why that part of you is holding onto the anger, you can ask God to bring truth to that part of you. Ask Him for the truth that will set you free.

The reality is that for Christians, justice was accomplished on the cross. Whatever debt we are owed from our offenders was already paid for by Jesus when He was on the cross. He not only paid the price for our sin so that we can be forgiven, but He paid the price for the sin of everyone who has ever sinned against us.

When we release our offenders from the debt that we believe is owed to us and acknowledge that Jesus paid it already, we open the door for Him to heal and redeem us from whatever has been done to us.

Anger can give us a false sense of safety but it really doesn’t protect us at all. In fact, anger and resentment prolong our healing process and therefore render us more vulnerable to emotional pain.

Sometimes the lies that we hold are strong and deep and we may need the help of others to find freedom. If this is the case then you may need to seek out a trusted friend, counsellor or healing ministry that can help you appropriate the freedom that Jesus purchased for you.

What’s in your heart?

King David prayed and asked God to show him what was in his heart. That’s interesting isn’t it? David didn’t assume to know. I have learned over the years that I really don’t have much idea what is in my heart until God shows it to me.

Many times I have been surprised to discover what was deep down inside of me. As a Christian counsellor, I teach on the importance of forgiveness on an almost daily basis. A few years back I was in worship at a Christian conference and I heard God whisper to me “If you would get rid of all that offence out of your heart, I might really be able to use you.” What??? Me??? I can’t tell you how shocked I was but I could feel the truth of it as He showed me.

Had anyone tried to tell me that I had a need  to forgive prior to that, I would have laughed at them.  I immediately asked God to deal with it but nothing happened at the time. I wasn’t aware of specifically what the offences were, but I had a general sense that there were things in my heart that needed to be resolved.

Over the next few months it felt like all hell broke loose in my emotional life. One by one little issues from the past started to surface. There were not really any major hurts, just lots of little ones. I came to realise that in my desire to be a “good Christian”, I had begun to suppress my negative emotions. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be angry, so when something happened that hurt me, I would simply push the anger or hurt away and “choose to forgive”. Oh, I thought I was so spiritual and in control of my emotions. Little did I realise that I wasn’t dealing with anything at all. I was just lying to myself and not allowing myself to feel anything.

So the anger, hurt and offences had been building up inside my heart. I’m so grateful that God revealed it to me, and although the next few months were emotionally messy, it was wonderful to learn that it’s ok to take some time to process through pain.

As the different issues surfaced, I would invite God in to the place of pain so He could bring His healing truth. At times I needed to forgive the person who had hurt me, at other times I just needed God to replace the lies that I had learned through the situation with His truth. For example, one painful situation surfaced and I realised that the hurt I felt was because someone’s treatment of me made me feel that I wasn’t important. As I realised that, I heard God whisper that I was important to Him and with that, the pain left my heart.

With all those wounds and lies gone from my heart, my love for my husband, family and God increased dramatically. Also, because the lies about myself have now been replaced with truth, I have  far more confidence and inner peace. I know now that I can do the things that God has called me to do without the fears and doubts which once plagued me.

It can be difficult to allow God to deal with areas of our hearts. It requires courage, trust and humility to surrender our hearts to Him and allow Him to surface what has been hidden inside. Our journey of healing requires the courage to allow painful memories and emotions to come to the surface and the trust to know that God will not abandon us and leave us struggling to cope on our own.

Feeling God’s Presence

Do you find it difficult to connect intimately with God? Do you listen to other people’s stories of encounters with the presence of God and wonder why He doesn’t meet with you in that same way?

Many Christians that I speak with express these sorts of things to me. They desperately want to be able to feel God’s presence and yet it seems elusive. Are there certain people that God wants to draw close to and others that He doesn’t? Certainly not! God loves to come close to His children and He desires that every one of us experience His touch. When we have difficulty in this area, it is NEVER because God is holding back.

My personal experience along with hundreds of ministry sessions tells me that the ability to sense God’s presence is all to do with us. I don’t mean how holy we are, how much we want it, the way we pray or anything like that. It’s to do with what is happening in our heart. We don’t always know what is happening deep in our hearts, I have had many times when I have been surprised to find beliefs and desires in my heart that I hadn’t been consciously aware of.

The currency of the Kingdom is faith, therefore what we believe is crucial to receiving all that God wants for us. Subtle little lies that we believe can cause blockages in our intimate relationship with God.

When I first became a Christian I had no trouble hearing from God. I had childlike faith and simply believed that He wanted to speak to me and answer my questions.  I would ask Him things and usually within a day or two I would clearly hear the answer. However, after being in church for some time and learning about the “Gifts of the Spirit” and somehow falsely picking up that there was a link between spiritual maturity and operating in the gifts, I lost my ability to hear from God. I began to see it as something to be attained to –  something that I had to grow into.

One day while in prayer I sensed Holy Spirit whispering “You know the gifts are just Me talking to you!”. He took me back to the simplicity of a daughter/Father relationship and reminded me that I had been able to hear from Him back when I knew nothing but had expectation. When I bought into the lie that “I’m not mature enough to hear from God” it sadly became my reality.

We can hold false beliefs about God deep in our hearts that cause us to put walls up. Those walls make it very difficult to feel close to God. We may believe that He doesn’t approve of us, that He is angry with us, that He is not trustworthy. Even though we know these things not to be true in our minds, we are still affected by them. God is gentle and kind and He doesn’t force Himself on us. He says in Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Within about a year of becoming a Christian a went through a difficult period and shut down a part of my heart to God. He wanted me to deal with some things that I didn’t want to deal with and I ended up slowly backsliding. When I fully opened my heart up to God and allowed Him to deal with those issues, I deeply regretted what I had done. I was disappointed with myself and I believed that He was disappointed with me also. When I returned to church it was during a time of renewal and Holy Spirit was touching people in unusual ways. All around me people were laughing with “the joy of the Lord’ or falling down under the power of the Spirit. I desperately wanted to experience Him in this way but I felt nothing. My relationship with Him was not what it had been, I felt distant and disconnected.

I went to these renewal meetings and would receive prayer but feel nothing. To me this confirmed that He was angry at me and I felt all the more unworthy. One night while sitting up the back in a church meeting I became aware of something deep in my heart. Although a part of me was wanting closeness with God, there was a part of my heart that felt unworthy and sure that God would reject me and therefore it didn’t want to be close to God. I felt Holy Spirit challenge that part of me to risk the rejection and draw close to Him anyway. I went out for prayer again, but this time with my whole heart drawing close to Him. I was instantly overwhelmed with His acceptance and love. I realized that everything that I had been believing about Him being disappointed and angry was a lie! And again, those lies had robbed me of being able to experience His presence. God hadn’t drawn away from me, I had drawn away from Him.

If you’re feeling frustrated by not being able to feel close and intimate in your relationship with God try praying this prayer:
Father God I thank you that You desire to draw close to me. That’s my desire too! Father I ask You to reveal to me any beliefs that I have that are hindering my connection with You and my capacity to feel Your presence.”

It’s good to just sit quietly after praying this as sometimes the answer comes immediately. You may get a thought, an impression in your mind, a memory or a word. Renounce any false beliefs and ask God to reveal His truth to you to replace the lie.

It can be very helpful to enlist the help of others when looking for breakthrough. Prayer ministry, in particular Bethel Sozo, is very beneficial in helping people deal with false beliefs which are hindering their intimacy with God.

Reconciled to the Father

God’s intention for fatherhood is glorious. (I’ll probably ruffle a few feathers with the generalisations and traditional roles that I’ll be referring to but if you can look past that to the heart of what I’m saying, there may be something in it for you.)

Read more