Want to be used by God in supernatural ways? Then be ready and willing to get your hands dirty.
In 1979, I lived in Weaverville, a mountain town of about 3,000 people in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. My wife, Kathy, and I had moved there and bought a Union 76 service station in town.
One winter day it was snowing like crazy, and our city was about 3 feet deep in snow. The wind was howling, and the snow was falling horizontally. It was so cold that I had closed the bay doors and was running the heater full blast. My crew was working on cars, and I was in the office doing the books.
Without the symbolism it would be difficult for you to know if your dreams were just dreams or a dream from God. Below is a guide to interpreting some of the most common objects and symbols in dreams.
To decipher the meaning of objects and symbols in the Bible, a principle of biblical interpretation called the “law of first mention” can be used. It states that the first mention of an object, number, color or symbol in the Bible sets up a pattern of interpretation for it that holds true throughout the rest of Scripture. Listed below are the verses where the symbolic words first appear. The meaning or meanings provided for each symbol are based on the law of first mention. Please understand—these may not be the only meanings.
If you recognize any of the photos to the right, then your city has likely already been targeted for a takeover—a faith takeover, that is. Since 2009, the I Am Second ministry has launched advertising campaigns nationwide with billboards that feature images of celebrities and a Web address, iamsecond.com. The goal: to intrigue viewers enough that they’ll visit the site, which has videos of celebrities and others telling why they are second and Christ is first in their lives.
Since the ministry launched in Dallas, its website has had millions of visitors. Along with recent launches in Orlando, Fla.; Evansville, Ind.; and Kansas City, Mo., I Am Second hopes to expand into other areas of the country with targeted marketing for Christ. Check out these inspiring snippets from the videos.
Janine Turner, actress
“Nothing can drive you to your knees like show business. Now ... I understand I only saw the threads. But God saw the whole tapestry of my life and wouldn’t let me quit. My name is Janine Turner and I am second.”
Josh Hamilton, MLB player
“I said, ‘[God] I need help. I’ve been trying to do this for so long. I can’t try anymore, because I fail on my own. You do with me what you want to do with me, but I surrender.’ ... [Now] I believe in Christ. I believe He’s first in my life, family’s second and everything else is after that. ... I am Josh Hamilton and I am second.
BailEe Madison, actress
“I don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about God, and that is the most important thing. I just want everyone to know that I’m Bailee and I’m definitely second.“
Bethany Hamilton, pro surfer
“From what seems like such a horrible thing, God has just brought glory to Himself through me. My name is Bethany Hamilton and I am second. “
Mike Huckabee, politician
“The biggest mistake that I think I had to learn was that following Jesus doesn’t mean I’m following Him to the White House or I’m following Him to the governor’s mansion or I’m following Him to do television. No, I’m following Him to be with Him. I am second, and Jesus is first because He has already been everywhere I’ve never been and still want to be.”
Tony Dungy, former NFL head coach
“I didn’t know at the time when I got fired what I was supposed to do. I think one of the hardest things in life is when you have an idea of what you hope for, what you pray for, and it doesn’t come through. [I’ve learned that] every decision I make in life, I’m going to make it through the lens of Jesus Christ. I’m going to put Him out there first, and my own feelings, my own thoughts, my own desires are going to be second.“
As a Christian, when is it legal to break the law? The oft-controversial practice of Bible smuggling has long been the means for which Christians in countries averse to the gospel have received the written Word of God.
In countries such as China, Iran or other places where religious persecution abounds and Bibles are rare, Christians are given one page of Scripture to memorize before they pass it along to another believer. Some pastors don’t have full Bibles to teach with.
Vision Beyond Borders leads teams of people with Bibles hidden in backpacks and luggage into countries closed to the gospel. All the while, they pray that the holy book will not be confiscated and can reach Christians who need them. Many have seen God move in miraculous ways to get Bibles through customs.
Dyann Romeijm, the regional coordinator for Vision Beyond Borders says: “There are lots of stories where God blinds eyes and just makes a way.”
Following are a few stories from Vision Beyond Borders teams who have watched as God miraculously provided a way for the Bible to enter countries where Christianity is persecuted. Because we don’t want to jeopardize those believers traveling to these locations in the future, we’ve chosen not to identify specific nations.
Darkness lit the way ... Shortly after a team with Vision Beyond Borders arrived at the customs office, the electricity went out, causing the X-ray machines to stop working. The team knew they needed a miracle to get the Bibles through because the agents started inspecting bags by hand. As the team began to pray, four large tour buses arrived, and people started flooding the customs office. The overwhelmed agents stopped checking bags and started waving people through. As the team left the building, the power came back on!
Lost in translation ... A Japanese man was attempting to pass through customs in front of the team. Because the customs agent did not know Japanese, this man had a difficult time understanding the agent’s instructions. Instead of putting his bag through the X-ray machine, he thought the agent wanted him to put himself through the X-ray machine. The scene created such a distraction with other agents laughing and talking that the team was able to simply walk through with their Bibles.
The overlooked blessing ... A team was detained and questioned extensively for more than 3-1/2 hours. Team members were asked very personal questions that were repeated over and over. As the agents discussed the team’s answers, the group prayed quietly. When the inspectors finished their discussion, they simply left the room—and the team was able to pick up their bags and walk out! Their luggage was never inspected.
80% of believers tithe every time they’re paid
According to an unscientific poll of tithers who visited charismamag.com
After Tom Watson suffered a stroke seven years ago, he began to question what memories he would leave his three sons. He didn’t want Father’s Day to become for them what it had been for him: just another day without a real dad. He wondered if they even knew his history of being physically and emotionally abused while being shuffled through 13 foster homes by age 5. So Watson resigned to quietly detail his story in a journal and some day give it to his sons.
Little did he know his riveting secret diary would hold lessons not only for his sons, but also for fathers and sons everywhere since the journal became a published book called Man Shoes.
“If I died tomorrow, I know I’ve left a testimony and a witness to my boys about life,” he says. “I know that my sons have my life stories and my journey; they know they are loved.”
Watson has a master’s degree and started two successful businesses, but life has been an uphill battle. Due to his tumultuous upbringing, he says, he was a “little monster.” He’d bite, kick and steal, eating food straight out of packages at grocery stores.
Watson seemingly had little hope until he arrived at his 13th foster home, where he stayed with a retired pastor and a schoolteacher. Though nearing retirement, the couple adopted him and introduced him to his heavenly Father. He says they looked past his reckless actions and loved him into obedience. He says they also taught him a lifelong principle: “Choice plus my action equals my life.”
Through Man Shoes, Watson hopes his sons will do more than aim to fill his shoes; he wants them to understand one of life’s major lessons: “Life will throw things at you, good and bad. But Jesus Christ is there for you every day.”
David and Thelma Ward attracted national media coverage when a one-time adoption credit led to a $54,000 tax refund. Thelma calls the unexpected bonanza an example of God at work in their lives.
“We’re a blessed family,” says the North Carolina homemaker, who quit her job in 2008 to devote all her time to caring for their five adopted children. “You hear about good things happening to other people, but it’s way out yonder.”
Even with the refund, the Wards face challenges. They need a home makeover—windows, carpeting and appliances need replacing, and their washing machine, dryer and stove get a fierce workout.
The Smithville couple, who are members of a Holiness church in Selma, N.C., have raised six of their own children, now ages 21 to 26. They also have provided foster care for more than 100 children over the years.
Now between the ages of 3 and 17, their adopted children—who are black, white and racially mixed—were foster kids with nowhere else to go. Their youngest daughter has a heart condition; others have assorted special needs.
The children’s various situations require occupational and other forms of therapy, counseling and doctor visits, prompting Thelma to remark: “Don’t adopt a child for the money. It’s not there.”
The Wards now manage on an income of just over $40,000 a year after David’s employer reduced his salary last year by more than $7,000.
Instead of complaining, Thelma says they are grateful he still has a job and health insurance.
“It wouldn’t be this easy if we didn’t have Christ in our life,” she says. “Without a Holy Ghost-filled husband and a pastor who prays for you, it wouldn’t be so easy.”
Have you ever stood seaside and quietly watched the elegant waves and the majestic aquatic life? What you see, smell and hear can all be evidence of God as the creator. That’s the philosophy of Christian dive professional Tec Clark, who founded a Christian snorkel and dive ministry in 2008. He uses the ocean’s symbiotic landscape to prove creationism.
Since starting Reef Ministries, he’s led hundreds of amateur and professional snorkel and dive tours on a glass-bottom boat into the deep blue sea. At the beginning of every excursion, he uses Scripture and science to enlighten visitors about the case for creationism. Despite traditional aquatic academics, which espouse evolution, Clark explains that a Creator could be the only source of the synergy found among ocean beings. He then presents charts, graphs and other research to support his bold assertions.
The common assertion in marine biology is that it’s taken millions of years for coral reefs to grow; but Clark says that there are areas of the world, such as Bikini Atoll, where reefs have grown six inches per year. He surmises they might not be growing as fast in other areas due to environmental factors such as global warming and acid rain. He admits no one knows all the answers, including evolutionists, and that it’s a matter of ideology.
The 30-year dive professional has held prominent positions in the industry as the Director of the University of Florida advanced diving program and the head of the National Diving YMCA scuba program. All of his education and experience could never explain the intricacies found among the fish, reefs and sea particles. It wasn’t until he found Christ that the splendor of the ocean made sense to him.
“I realized there’s got to be a difference here; there needs to be a voice championing a Creator,” Clark says.
Clark seeks to show his dive participants what he’s discovered, and people often tell him they’ve never felt closer to God than when they are underwater.
“Seeing the beauty, the diversity, the color, the splendor, the balance, the design—all of that is truly the thumbprint of our Creator,” Clark says.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of Abby Sunderland’s failure. The teenager was unable to travel the world by boat in record time and beat her older brother’s record as the youngest person to do so.
After Sunderland’s dreams were dashed by high winds and 50-foot waves that caused her boat to capsize, she wasn’t sure what the future would hold for her. But looking back at the aftermath of her attempt, Sunderland says she now sees God’s hand at work in her disappointment.
“My trip being wrecked has given me a bigger platform than I would have had had everything gone according to plan,” says Sunderland of her newfound fame. “I hope it makes people think a little about God, and maybe there is something bigger out there.”
Last June Sunderland was stranded by a storm in the Indian Ocean nearly 2,000 miles east of Madagascar. For a while the plucky girl lost contact with her parents and was feared lost. She says many sailors have stories of pushing past their limits and coming to a place where they had to call on God, which happened several times for her: “God came through for me in such an amazing way that my faith is definitely stronger than when I left in February 2010.”
A homeschool student who recently completed high school, Sunderland plans to take a year off for traveling before going to college to study psychology. She’s also likely to do more speaking about her faith and her adventures as told in her book, Unsinkable.
Well, the world as we know it did not end last weekend – much to the chagrin of a few Bible teachers.
I’ve been around long enough to remember the flurry of interest in a book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. When that year passed, the author followed up with predictions that Jesus would come in 1989 . . . then 1993 . . . then 1994.
Now another misguided prognosticator suddenly became famous (or infamous) by assuring us all that Judgment Day would definitely be last Saturday, May 21. What now will be the fallout for his devotees?
Don’t get me wrong. A time of worldwide judgment is indeed coming. Scripture is very clear about that. Paul confidently proclaimed, “God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). But we get into trouble – big trouble – when we become more definitive than the Bible. Jesus said no one knows the day nor hour of His return to Earth (Matt. 24:36).
It’s not often that one walks away from a film literally transformed. But that’s exactly what happened to actor Wes Bentley after starring in There Be Dragons, which releases in theaters May 6.
Derived from true events, There Be Dragons follows two young men who find themselves on opposite sides of the Spanish Civil War. Josemaria Escriva, a Catholic priest (played by Charlie Cox), and Manolo Torres, a bitter soldier (played by Bentley), showcase the extreme positions one can take when faced with dire circumstances.
Escriva was named a saint in the Catholic church in 2002, and the film showcases his life of faith and forgiveness, while Bentley’s character is deceitful and selfish.
Immediately following Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, Samaritan’s Purse, along with many other Christian organizations, were on the ground in freezing temperatures to help those with little food and clean water and no electricity. The humanitarian group has already distributed more than 93 tons of emergency supplies, including 10,000 hygiene kits.
You can help too. Here’s how:
That God would provide supernatural comfort, peace and provision to those suffering.
For wisdom and strength for volunteers and church partners.
Via Charisma’s nonprofit partner, Christian Life Missions, where 100 percent of your donation goes to ministries helping those on the ground. Call 407-333-0600 or visit christianlifemissions.com for more info.
Her words slur when she speaks. She has a hard time opening her hands, and the 23-year-old is only now starting to dress herself without assistance. But Megan Haught is also a model and an aspiring actress who says God is healing her of cerebral palsy, and she is determined not to allow her illness to deter her dreams.
Haught says she’s been visiting a chiropractor, but she attributes her ongoing healing to prayers she and her family have made at her church and the healing rooms she has visited.
“I’m seeing a lot of improvement and my doctors are seeing the improvement,” Haught says. Her mother, Susan Haught, clarified her speech as she continued. “I have always known about God and that He could do miracles, but I’m seeing it more now and I have more of a relationship with Him now.”
Though we know there is a great deal of persecution currently affecting Christians around the world, we also know that historically the church has grown—usually at a rapid rate— as a result of added pressure.
In 1900 only 2.5 percent of the world’s population were practicing Christians. Seventy years later that number doubled to 5 percent. In 2010 the number had more than doubled and reached 12 percent in only 40 years. Talk about off-the-chart growth!
Dick Woodward can’t move anything below his neck. But that hasn’t prevented him from training and mentoring pastors around the world.
Despite a degenerative spinal disorder that slowly robbed him of the use of his arms and legs, the veteran pastor provides audio Bible studies and ministry-training materials through the Mini Bible College (MBC) he founded in 1974. The college offers nearly 800 programs, which have been translated into more than 25 languages and are being used in 50 nations, including India, China, Sudan and Haiti.
Strange as it may seem, Woodward, 80, believes the MBC may never have been more than an idea had he not gradually lost mobility. He was a busy pastor. He founded Virginia Beach Community Chapel—which he led for 23 years before planting Williamsburg Community Chapel—hosted a TV and a radio program, and taught weekly Bible studies. Because of his hectic schedule, he never found time to record the Bible training materials he’d been sensing God wanted him to produce since he was in seminary in the 1950s.
Today many Christians are fed up with the immorally charged films being produced in Hollywood. And some are heeding the old adage, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Numerous churches and Christian organizations are starting to make movies and/or back films more closely aligned with their moral leanings. Check out the flicks coming to a screen near you.
Agape International Missions, dedicated to ending child sexual slavery in Cambodia, helped produce the documentary Not My Life. Releasing next month, the film depicts the disturbing yet inspiring testimonies of survivors of the modern-day global sex-trafficking industry.
T.D. Jakes, the megachurch pastor of The Potter’s House, releases his third film, Jumping the Broom, on May 6. The movie, which stars Hollywood elites such Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine, chronicles two families from different socioeconomic backgrounds who are being joined by marriage.
On DVD, former semi-pro racer Scotty Curlee stars as a veteran cyclist in The Potential Inside.Reeling from grief after a family tragedy, he is given an opportunity he doesn’t want—to train a rookie cycling prodigy. The movie’s message is “about the potential we have inside of us, in Christ, to reach our best.”
Atlanta-based pastor Shaun King has made a promise to speak or consult with any organization of any size, anywhere in the world at no charge. His only requirement: the ministry using his services must sponsor a child at the Miriam Center for disabled orphans in Saint-Louis-du-Nord, Haiti.
The Courageous Church pastor is part of a group helping to rebuild this dilapidated orphanage, which King says is Haiti’s only school and home for orphans with severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, deafness and blindness. Many of the children are unwanted by their parents because some Haitians view handicaps as a curse, while others simply can’t afford the hefty bill that comes with caring for a disabled child.
“Many of the children were simply dropped off at the doorstep of the Miriam Center,” King says. “The director there has picked random birthdays on the calendar for most of the children.”
People-pleasers are everywhere. They can parade as successful pastors or as top-of-the-corporate-ladder executives. The most easily identified are the passive, co-dependent types.
All pleasers are out to prove they are valuable people—trying to quiet the voice within that says they aren’t. People-pleasers play a tape that says, “People will love and accept me if I please them.” Their myth says, “You are somebody when you please others.”
Pleasers believe that a failure to please will result in rejection and the false assumption that they are not valuable. As a result, they go about trying to make everybody but themselves happy.
This frequently requires pleasers to keep their own thoughts, desires and needs locked away in their inner selves. They believe their mission on Earth is to drive themselves into an emotional breakdown, if necessary, to make sure others approve of them. When they fail to please someone, they feel guilty or believe (probably unconsciously) that their world is going to end.
The paradoxical dynamic that takes place is that the very individuals to whom people-pleasers try to prove their worth very often use and abuse them. Instead of gaining respect as a pleaser, you often lose it. So trying to please everyone to feel you are “somebody” is a dead-end street. You will eventually find yourself exhausted, disillusioned and feeling less like somebody than ever.
Instead, resolve with God’s help to redirect your life and energy toward becoming a whole and healthy person who does not require the acceptance and affirmation of others to say, “I am valuable.”
Are You a People-Pleaser?
The first step toward freedom from “people pleasing” is to determine if you are a people-pleaser. You can do this by honestly answering the following questions:
* Do you accept responsibility for the happiness of others?
* Do you believe you can make others happy?
* Do you feel guilty when you think of yourself instead of others?
* Do you feel guilty when you tell someone no?
* Do you believe it is un-Christian to think of yourself and your own health and emotional well-being?
* Do you feel better about yourself when you give in to the desires of others rather than pleasing yourself?
* Are you able to set boundaries when it comes to your own health and emotional well-being?
* Do you understand what it means to set boundaries?
A people-pleaser would answer “yes” to the first six questions and “no” to the last two. If you conclude that you are a people-pleaser, then what are you to do?
If you are a people-pleaser, you need to redirect your need to please. Your focus needs to change from horizontal to vertical. In other words, you need to become more concerned with what pleases God than with what pleases others. They are not the same thing, as many people believe.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that we are to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” (NKJV). But if we are going to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (and people-pleasers literally do this), then it must be to God alone. We are to please Him first, and He is the only one we are to worship.
The flip side of this truth is that when we give our all to please others, we are in fact engaging in a type of worship toward those we want to please. Many pleasers believe this kind of behavior is “virtuous,” but it isn’t—because it is done with the unconscious motive of getting approval and acceptance in return.
Are we to please God hoping to get something from Him? No, we please Him by recognizing what we have already received from Him. When God brings us into relationship with Himself, we become somebody. The full realization of this comes with time as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s efforts to “grow us” into the persons we were meant to be.
Once our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit, we begin to see and understand that it is God’s will for us to seek to “be somebody” in His sight rather than in the eyes of others. We can also find an answer to the question I am asked so often: “What am I supposed to do when I am asked to do this or that?”
For the Christian, the answer is simple: Focus on pleasing God by seeking to know His will for each situation as it arises. It is not necessarily God’s will for us to do everything we are asked to do, even in the church! When our heart’s desire is to please God, we will be able to put others’ needs and desires in a healthy perspective.
Weary people-pleaser, ask God to forgive you for trying to please everyone else besides Him. Begin to believe you are now somebody in the kingdom of God because God says so.
We change our beliefs about our personhood by believing the truths of God’s Word rather than by continuing to believe our myths. This is the first step toward positive change. Next come the behavioral changes.
Changing Pleaser Behavior
People-pleasers need to budget their time and energy as they would financial budgets. This means they must prioritize their lives and determine how much time will be allotted for specific people and activities, including themselves. I suggest the following order (in order of importance): relationship with God; family (marriage, children, parents); employment; personal time (time alone with God, time alone with self); self-care; church; community; other.
God asks for the No. 1 position in our lives. We commit to that when we make the decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ (see Luke 14:25-33). The problem is that some people-pleasers wrongly believe that being “a good Christian” means pleasing others. They believe they are putting God first when they say “yes” to a good cause, especially if it is a church-related activity. They have not confronted this myth with reality.
When God reigns at the top of our list of priorities, we can trust Him to show us where to place other people, ourselves and all other involvements. When our vertical relationship with God is right, then our horizontal relationships will naturally fall into their rightful places. The same is true of the commitments we make.
So how do we divide or budget our time commitments according to our priorities? First, we must recognize that God wants us to make our families our No. 1 priority under Him. When over-commitment begins to rob us of time that should be given to our families, it is time to say “no.”
You may notice that after employment I listed “personal time.” It makes sense to me that if you don’t take some time for yourself, then the time you give to others won’t amount to much! If there ever was a person with a vision, a purpose and a consuming passion, it was Jesus the Son of Man. Yet He was not a people-pleaser. Have you noticed that when He needed time for Himself, He took it?
The Gospel of Luke records, “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place” (Luke 4:42, NIV). Since the Lord had been up all night healing the sick and casting out demons, He was exhausted. Instead of expecting His heavenly Father to give Him supernatural strength to continue, the Lord recognized His need for rest and rejuvenation.
We need to designate time in our busy schedules for us to nurture our relationships with our heavenly Father. We must be fed from the Word of God and energized by the Holy Spirit to be fruit-bearing Christians.
We also need time to minister to ourselves. This means taking time for reflection, time that is used to get in touch with ourselves to find out where we are, where we want to go and (sometimes) where we have been.
These times of reflection should always be under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We must become still and quiet to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit that is so vital to our spiritual health. The Scriptures tell us He knows all about us, and He knows the mind of God (see Rom. 8:27). We need this information to confront our myths with reality.
Quiet times provide the vital opportunities people-pleasers need to get things into perspective. A clear perspective can help pleasers make wise decisions about all the requests and demands put on their time by others. This helps bring order and control to their agitated lives as they sort out their priorities and allocate their time. By spending time with God and with themselves, people-pleasers will be able to put the obligations of home, church, community and other areas in their rightful places in their time budgets.
People-pleasers often experience guilt when it comes to saying “yes” to themselves. But it can prove to be one of the best investments of time you will ever make.
Another vital step needed to break free from people-pleasing is to learn how to set boundaries. Boundaries differentiate us from other people.
People-pleasers have difficulty erecting fences between themselves and others. They lack the ability to set limits that declare what they will or will not do, or what they will or will not tolerate.
People-pleasers can be unaware that certain things belong to them personally, such as the right to say “no” when they want to say no, and “yes” when they want to say yes. They can also be too afraid to build personal fences for fear of hurting others or of somehow displeasing God.
The truth of the matter is that when we allow others to take advantage of us, we are encouraging and assisting them in their disobedience. God is not pleased with anyone who uses and abuses another!
People-pleasers can gain the respect and sense of personhood they are searching for by setting firm boundaries regarding their involvement in the lives of others. When it is necessary to tell others “no” to choose what is best for ourselves (according to our God-ordained priorities), or even to submit to our own valid needs or desires, we should do it graciously but steadfastly.
People-pleasers can effectively change their self-defeating behavior once they begin to view themselves as separate from others, sharing equal standing in the kingdom of God with everyone else. Each individual person bears the image of the Creator Himself.
Everyone enters the kingdom “by grace...through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Grace is “the unmerited favor of God,” and we don’t receive it by our “works” or good deeds (see v. 9).
We all enter God’s kingdom through the same gate: Jesus Christ. None of us is good enough to enter on our own merits. Our real value depends solely on our potential in Christ.
You and I have every reason to accept ourselves once we are convinced that we are children of God and that we are loved, forgiven and accepted by Him. When we are self-accepting, we don’t have to seek the approval and acceptance of others to confirm our personhood.
As pleasers accept the truth of their value in Christ and learn to budget their time according to their priorities and limits, they will soon feel positive new feelings about themselves. Their old behavior of looking to others for affirmation will fall away, and they will find themselves seeking out God rather than people for the satisfaction that only He can provide.
God doesn't want to heal only me. His deliverance is available to all.
"Come here, Joyce. I have to give you a ticket for a free lunch," my teacher said. I approached her desk feeling self-conscious and humiliated.
"Your parents have enrolled you in the Title 21 Lunch Program. That means you get free lunches, and they don't have to pay for it."
I nodded and took the ticket, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me. I started to turn away and go back to my seat, but she continued to talk about me.
"You'll never amount to anything. You'll never get out of the projects. You'll always be one of those people with your hand out, looking for a free ride."
Unfortunately, I had come face to face with the ugly reality many believers struggle with. It's called rejection.
Today, as a confident woman and evangelist, I do not allow people to label me, dictate my future or make me feel unworthy of God's love and acceptance. My relationship with Christ is the foundation of my identity.
Rejection is what I call a "fatal distraction" because it is emotionally debilitating and if left unchecked, it can mentally paralyze you. Scripture reveals that "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. 18:21, NKJV).
Maybe a trusted friend, parent or spouse has rejected you and stripped you of your self-worth. People can be brutal when you don't measure up to their expectations. My teacher rejected me because my family was poor, and in her mind, I was lazy, worthless and a waste of her time.
I believe also that rejection becomes fatal when you take ownership of it. You tend to make life choices based on what you have been told about yourself rather than what God has to say about you.
My teacher told me I would never get out of the projects, and I believed her. I accepted her comments as valid, and from that moment on I began to look at myself through her eyes instead of God's.
What the Bible says is true: "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). It is imperative that you replace rejection with the life-giving, life-changing Word of God. It will assure you of His unconditional love.
Yes, the words and attitudes of other people can deeply wound you, but please don't allow them to destroy you.
I am grateful to God that His grace did not permit me to live under a cloud of rejection. My life began to change when I moved in with "Big Mama," my maternal grandmother.
She didn't have any better sense than to believe that, regardless of our economic and social status, my family and I were the people God said we were.
Big Mama affirmed me, and pumped me full of God's Word. She constantly told me I was a child of the King, had royal blood flowing through my veins and was going to grow up to be "a mighty woman in the Lord!"
Slowly but surely, through her love and by the sheer power of Scripture, she eradicated those feelings of rejection from my life.
I went on to become a cheerleader and the homecoming queen of my high school. I was even voted "most popular" in my senior class! I eventually graduated college and became a teacher.
Today, I travel the world proclaiming the gospel of Jesus at conferences, churches and in other settings. I am enjoying a life enhanced by the blessings, favor and anointing of God.
If you struggle with rejection and want to be restored, run to the Father. He doesn't want to heal only me—His deliverance is available to all who will turn to Him.
Joyce L. Rodgers is an evangelist and sought-after speaker. She is the author of Fatal Distractions (Charisma House), and the founder of Primary Purpose Ministries in Dallas. Rodgers also serves at an international level with the Church of God in Christ.
When was the last time you ran a reality check on your perceptions of God's Word? Too many believers embrace popular misunderstandings of what God has said rather than the truth. According to Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, understanding God's truth means your perceptions become aligned with God's reality of the thing being perceived. One area in which the perceptions of believers do not line up with the truth relates to our understanding of how we are to deal with the devil. Many Christians believe we should order Satan around with great fervor, frequency and volume.
Satan cooperates with this deception, conceding victories whenever necessary to perpetuate the lie that God's people need to battle him for everything God has promised them. This deception keeps earnest Christians too busy with Satan to focus on humbling and surrendering themselves to God.
But God is more concerned about the state of our souls than He is about the devil. He says in His Word, "'If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves [their souls], and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways [of their souls], then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their [souls'] sin and heal their land' " (2 Chr. 7:14, NKJV). The Hebrew word for wicked (ways), ra, includes characteristics of being disagreeable and having an unhappy disposition.
God is telling us that what will bring about the healing of the land is His people's turning away from wrong attitudes and self-centeredness. He does not say anything about warring with Satan to heal the land.
Daniel understood the need for humility and repentance. He prayed and confessed the corporate wrong agreement of God's people when they were in captivity in Babylon: "We have sinned and dealt perversely and done wickedly and have rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances...We have not earnestly begged for forgiveness and entreated the favor of the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and have understanding and become wise in Your truth" (Dan. 9:5,13, The Amplified Bible).
The Israelites had been and still were actively entering into wrong agreements about what God was saying to them through His prophets. These wrong agreements had created "legal" grounds for Satan to establish a territorial dominion over them, controlled by the demonic prince of Persia. Wrong agreement always gives right of access to Satan's workings.
Daniel knew that surrender and obedience were the solutions to the Israelites' bondage. When he sought right agreement with God through confessing the sins of his people and repenting, God swiftly sent the archangels Gabriel and Michael to take out the prince of Persia. Note that God did not say Daniel or the Israelites needed to fight Satan over their bondage.
Plans for Satan's Destruction
It is man's desires for power, status and riches that allow evil spirits to harass human souls. These same desires are cunningly promoted by Satan as requirements for "power-Christian" status.
But is "power Christianity"--constant warring with the enemy--God's plan for Satan's ultimate destruction? I don't think so.
In Ephesians 3:9-10 Paul gives us a clue to God's will for the body of Christ on earth: "To make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (NKJV, emphasis added). The terms "principalities and powers" here mean "demonic forces," as it does in Ephesians 6:12, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Considering 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Daniel 9:5,13 along with Ephesians 3:10, we see an interesting truth emerge. God's manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10) will be made known through the church to principalities, powers and rulers of darkness when the body of Christ comes into alignment with 2 Chronicles 7:14, using Daniel 9:5-13 as a pattern for prayer.
And I believe God's manifold wisdom may be the exact opposite of the charismatic "power-Christianity" being modeled today. Regardless of how contemporary Christian songs portray him as a fool, Satan is quite aware that he will ultimately go down. However, he may not know how he will be brought down.
Perhaps he believes he will be known in eternal history as the only entity with whom God Himself ever had to personally war. But what if God's manifold wisdom is to use His own children, humble lambs with servant-like natures, as conduits of His power to take Satan down? Wouldn't that be the ultimate humiliation--to be defeated by sheeplike believers with no personal strength to match Satan's own destructive powers?
We'd be just God's kids counting on His promises that He would use us to fulfill His great purposes. If Christians could see their lives through the perspective of such a plan, it would help clarify what misunderstandings must be put away in order to be a part.
Surrender and Obey
When we are unaware that our Christian walks are not centered in God's truth, we will often make wrong choices to accommodate our souls' unhealed hurts, unmet needs, fears and doubts. All of us have made wrong choices, as Jonah did when he ran from God, and had to suffer the consequences. But today we're being taught to "rebuke" the consequences of those bad choices.
This is ridiculous. No human being could have rebuked or cast Jonah's whale-sized consequence from him! Yet after Jonah prayed and surrendered his own will, trusting in the mercy of God, God commanded the whale to vomit Jonah onto dry land (see Jon. 2:7-10). What a concept!
There is a catch, however. When God delivers you from a tough consequence He expects you to realize that He is delivering you to put you back on track with His will. Beware of casually walking away from a divine intervention in your circumstances to pursue your life in the manner that led you into the whale's belly in the first place! God has little patience for that.
Many struggling Christians are embracing the wrong idea that they can confess away the consequences of their self-willed choices. They are being taught to rebuke or command Satan's "hindrances" out of their paths, with little understanding that most of the hindrances have been self-created.
Brothers and sisters, you cannot command or rebuke consequences out of your way; you must surrender and obey your way through them. Obedience always brings grace to the one who seeks to avoid getting back into the same circumstances.
If you are stiff-necked and stubborn, God may lift His grace and let consequences ride over you like a herd of elephants. Try confessing, casting or commanding elephants out of your path!
Consequences from choosing to believe wrong teaching will almost always have industrial-strength Velcro all over them, sticking to everything we try to do. If we could just admit, "God, nothing I've tried works!" and ask Him, "Why do I keep doing this to myself, and how can I stop?"
I believe He would answer: "You have wrong ideas and are depending on wrong things. You cannot command your way out of a spiritual mess; you have to obey your way out of it! You're going to have to let your wrong understanding go, and trust Me to teach you the truth that will set you free."
Faith, Fear and Finances
Three areas in which we have embraced misunderstanding rather than the truth of what God has said are faith, fear and finances. Extreme teachings on these topics are setting up many Christians for delusion about the source of their troubles and causing them to doubt in God's faithfulness.
Faith is being taught as a force, a weapon to use against Satan and a means of "spiritual financing" for what the human soul wants. Charismatic teachers often say that faith is a tangible spiritual force with the ability to produce natural substance.
But Paul used the Greek word hypostasis ("substance") in Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for," to mean "a steadfast mind having courage, resolve, confidence and trust in God's goodness" (Thayer's). Nothing in Hebrews 11:1 implies a tangible substance that can be produced by what a human mind conceives and desires.
New Testament Greek almost always defines "faith" as "having trust and confidence in the goodness, wisdom and power of God." God has a most excellent future for each one of us here on Earth--good works to do, good paths to walk in and good lives to live (see Eph. 2:10, The Amplified Bible). Stepping fully into this excellent future requires obedience and surrender to His will.
My best prayers seek the alignment of my will on Earth with His will in heaven. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus said, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10, NKJV). So, the best prayer I can pray is: "I bind my will to your will, God. Your will be done."
When I live in accordance with this prayer, I don't have to figure out how to save the world, my family, my bank account or my reputation--or how to save myself from the devil. I just need to obey what God has said. True faith is a place of rest and peace because it trusts an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God to take care of all of the details. He doesn't need my input to get them right.
Regardless of how much faith we have, disobedience to what God has said allows Satan to get involved in our lives. Let me give you an example. Ephesians 4:26 says we are not to let the sun go down on our anger. If we choose to ignore this command and retire with anger still festering in our hearts, we open the door to bitterness, resentment and other evil works.
And justifying our actions does not absolve us of wrongdoing. How often God must wonder, "What part of Ephesians 4:26 don't they get?" Rationalizing and justifying are the timber and bricks of the strongholds in our souls, and Ephesians 4:27 (The Amplified Bible) tells of their consequence: They give the devil a foothold in us. Satan uses such access to attack believers in spite of their authority, blood covering and righteousness in Christ.
Authority is always hindered, even rendered useless, by the presence of open doors that an enemy can access. Military leaders know their highest levels of authority are useless if they have open doors in their supply sources and communication lines. There isn't a smart enemy alive--including Satan--who won't use such doors to attack, slash and burn.
We have been told exactly what to do to see God heal our land, and we have not done it. We have become too power and authority conscious to humble ourselves as God instructed.
Fear is another subject of extreme teachings today. Many people have been taught that there is a demonic spirit of fear. This teaching is generally based on 2 Timothy 1:7, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (KJV).
The NIV translation is clearer, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Thayer's defines pneuma (spirit) as it is used here to mean "being filled with the same spirit as Christ, and by the bond of that spirit to be intimately united to Christ." In other words, regenerated human spirits are not timid, having no room for fear because they are filled with the Spirit of Christ.
Fear is a symptom of an unresolved issue in the soul that keeps churning out emotional confusion, doubt and lack of trust. As long as any such unresolved issue exists and is fiercely guarded by self-constructed strongholds, the enemy can apply pressure in circumstances that mimic those out of which the fear was birthed in the first place.
Fear is not an evil spirit; it is an emotional response to a lack of trust and confidence in the goodness of God. You cannot be delivered of a lack of trust or have stronghold-protected wrong thinking, damaged emotions and unresolved issues cast out of your soul.
And God won't dismantle your strongholds. That would be a violation of your soul's attempts to guard itself. You have to choose to tear them down (see 2 Cor. 10:3-5) and give God voluntary access to heal you.
Finances is another area of extreme teaching today. I have visited several charismatic ministry Web sites and come away concerned regarding advice about finances. One Web site encouraged financially strapped people to confess: "My debt is gone. I have no debt. My bills are paid!"
There is no scriptural basis for such a confession regarding unpaid bills. If God were to deliver some Christians from their debt without teaching them to have a paradigm shift in thinking about money, these Christians would get in debt again. If we do not learn why we are always living in lack, any reprieve from God will be only a stopgap. God could make millionaires out of all of us, but He wisely chooses not to--at least not until we bring our understanding of finances into alignment with His.
God has never said His kingdom work is dependent on human wealth. Rather, it is "dependent" on the condition of the hearts of those who want His will done, even if it requires that their entire financial wealth be surrendered to Him.
I believe that money in itself means very little to God, that He created it only to teach us about our own motives. God is concerned about what money means to the one who wants it. Money is not the answer to our deepest needs.
When Bethany Hamilton decided to hit the waves on Oct. 31, 2003, she had no idea one ride would forever change her life. Attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark, the then-13-year-old surfer lost her left arm and 60 percent of her blood. But according to Hamilton, she also gained an understanding of her purpose.
Hamilton not only returned to the surfboard but won several championships. She now travels the country telling others how her faith in Christ helped her overcome her challenging circumstance.