Don’t be Decieved

Half-Hearted Christianity

For years I lived in half-hearted Christianity believing I was, “On fire for the Lord.”  I had gone to Bible college.  I was in the Word daily and was the pastor of a small church.  On occasion I would even preach a powerful, Spirit filled message.  All the while I secretly struggled with old wounds of rejection, resentments, and sin.  It is not that I wasn’t, “Saved,” or, “Born again,” I just wasn’t living the abundant life God wanted for me.  I had marginal success at living a Spirit empowered life because I was deceived.  How often do we as believers fail to live the abundant life because we have normalized sin?  We have normalized our resentments, and pride.  We have normalized our negativity.  We have normalized being judgmental of others, especially in the family of God.  We have normalized our secret sin and have deceived ourselves saying, “It is okay, God knows my heart.”  The truth is, God does know our hearts and they are full of rebellion and wickedness. 

It is time as Pastor Vlad (Vladimir Savchuk) says, to stop normalizing what needs to be neutralized, and stop trying to domesticate that which needs to be dispossessed! 

I believe in these last days there is a call from God back to Him.  It is a call to experience His love deeper than we have ever experienced.  It is a call to holiness.  It is a call to live in radical obedience to Him that we may experience the power of God like we have never known. 

Over and over in the Word of God we are encouraged not to be deceived. 

Galatians 6:7

Do not be deceived God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

Ephesians 5:6

 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

James 1:16-17

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception

Jeremiah 29:8

For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.

2 Thessalonians 2:3a

Let no one in any way deceive you

Over and over we are told not to be deceived because it is entirely possible for us to become deceived!  One of the biggest ways we can be deceived is in the area of sin.  Sin can live quietly among us.  We can become so comfortable with our sin that we are literally deceived into believing we are holy when we are walking in sin.  We can believe we are pure when we are tainted. 

Some of the most common quiet sins are things like pride and arrogance, laziness, bitterness, and envy.  Other quiet sins are being negative, critical, and judgmental.  We could be quietly deceived into being religious.  Strife, control, retaliation, and accusation can all be lurking just below the surface.  We can be deceived into believing our lust, addictions, and even occult practices are normal or even good. 

  It is so easy to be deceived in theses areas.  How do I know if I’m prideful?  Where do you draw the line between being aware of someone’s weakness, shortcomings, and downfalls and the sin of pride or being judgmental?  Where do you draw the line between being genuinely hurt by someone and the sin of bitterness and resentment?  Sin doesn’t always look like sin on the surface.  This is why we need to be humble enough to consider we may be deceived.   

2 Chronicles 16:9

9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

I need the strong support of the Lord!  Because of this I desperately want to know if I have sinned against His holiness.  I truly want my heart to be blameless toward Him.  The good news is this, God knows our sin.  God knows the very moment when our conversation about someone out of genuine concern turns into gossip.  God knows exactly when our consciousness of someone’s shortcomings turns into negativity, being critical, and judgmental.  God knows when our efforts to be blameless before Him turn into arrogance and pride as we begin to believe that we are superior to others. 

The Bible makes it clear that we can be deceived.  We don’t always realize when we have sinned and offended God’s holiness, that is why there was an offering made in the Old Testament for unknow sins (Leviticus 5:17-19).  Know this, what may be hidden from our eyes is engraved on our hearts and readable by God. 

Jeremiah 17:1

The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars,

I love the heart of the Psalmist.  He doesn’t try to hide his sin.  He doesn’t try to minimize it.  He prays to God asking Him to reveal any wicked way in him. 

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

The book of Jeremiah tells of God’s dealing with his children who had lived in disobedience.  He sent them to exile in Babylon.  Although God’s people suffered His discipline for their sin, they stopped sinning and were truly remorseful for what they have done before the Lord.  The Lord had compassion on and showed mercy to them as His beloved children. 

Jeremiah 31:17-20

 There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.  18 I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God.  19 For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ 20 Is Ephraim my dear son?  Is he my darling child?  For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.

God passionately loved His people, and yearned for them when they turned away.  He loves you and me the same. 

1 John 3:1a

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

The Lord God promised the profit Jeremiah that after God’s children repent of their sin He would restore them!  In fact He said that God’s mercy and grace would be so overwhelming to the people they would fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity God would bless them with!

Jeremiah 33:1-9

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: 2 “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: 3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. 4 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: 5 They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. 6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. 7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. 8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. 9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

Pray:

Father in heaven, holy, holy, holy is Your Name.  You are great and worthy of all praise.  God, we know and understand how easily it is to become deceived about our own sin.  God, we know that You strongly support those whose hearts are completely Yours.   Search me oh God and see if there be any wicked way in me.  Reveal to me any unconfessed sin I have against You.  Reveal to me any patterns of thought or behavior in my life that offends Your holiness.  Reveal to me anything in my thoughts, words, or actions that is keeping me from fellowship with and blessings from You I pray in Jesus Name.  Amen. 

The Shelter of the Most High

Night Terrors, Spiritualism, Demons, and the Occult

Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 

So often we want the blessings of God’s power and protection, but we don’t want to live in His holy presence.  We are happy to run to Him for shelter when troubles come but we don’t dwell in His shadow.  We are happy to make the Lord God a quick fueling station, a place for a quick bite to eat, but we are not content to make Him our dwelling place. 

We have become so comfortable with immorality with and compromise we would rather justify our sin than confess it.   We gladly conform to the patters of the world and wonder at the lack of power in our prayers.  We present our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness and wonder at the spiritual attack we are under. 

We open doors to spiritual attack by the movies we watch, books we read, and things we participate in.  Our culture dresses up witchcraft, spiritualism, and Satanism in cute seemingly harmless packages and we gladly participate.  We tell ourselves, I just read my horoscope for fun.  We tell ourselves we can watch horror, and or magic movies and it not affect us because we are Christians.  We tell ourselves that there is a place for healing crystals, charms, and dream catchers in the lives of Christians.  We reason that they are simply different ways of connecting with the same God.  All the while we are giving the devil and evil spirits massive footholds and legal rights into our lives. 

I’ve ministered to countless Christians and non-Christians who were plagued by demonic nightmares from horror movies.  One young lady was tormented by re-occurring demonic attacks in her dreams after watching just the preview of a horror movie.  Even as I write this, brothers and sisters I can hear the excuses come.  “I pray before I watch those kinds of movies.  I just watch them because I think they are funny.  I know what kind of horror movies I can and can’t watch.”  Friends you are, what the Bible calls, having fellowship with demons!  The Apostle Paul said, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons,” (1 Cor. 10:21).  The word, partake, means to share or participate in or with.  When we willingly watch or listen to demonic things we are sharing in and participating with demons. 

Years ago when I was a truck drive I used to listen to a late night talk show called Coast to Coast AM.  It was a show about the supernatural.  They told ghost stories and often talked about aliens and even demons.  I was a Christian but enjoyed and even looked forward to the show.  I began having demonic dreams.  They wouldn’t go away even when I prayed before bed.  It got so bad my wife would have to wake me up in the middle of the night as I trashed in my sleep and cried out.  It wasn’t until I stopped participating with the demonic that the dreams stopped. 

The other day a client had two new age spiritualism books sent into the jail where I work.  One was on manifesting the power of the law of attraction.  The other one was about the flower of life.  Before I closed the door on the cabinet I had placed them in I stated out loud, “I break, destroy, and dismantle every demonic Spirit attached to these books in Jesus Name.”  Immediately the demons manifest in cold electric feeling all over.  I continued, “I renounce my participation with these books in the Name of Jesus.  I break every demonic tie and right on these books in Jesus Name.  I claim the blood of Jesus on this office and on me in Jesus Name.”  I continued calling Holy Spirit fire on the demons attached to the books and commanding them to leave until they left.  While sitting in my office at the computer a few minutes later I felt the demonic presence return.  I stated aloud, “I break, uproot, and destroy by Holy Spirit fire, every witchcraft operation that has been released on those books in Jesus Name. I destroy by fire, every witchcraft operation that has been released against me in Jesus name.  I destroy by fire, every attempt of the devil and his demons that is trying to attack me through those books in Jesus Name.  I destroy and dismantle every curse that is attached to those books in Jesus name.”  After the spiritual warfare the demons stopped manifesting.  Not wanting to participate with or give legal rights to the enemy on my life, I removed the books from my office. 

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.  4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  5 You will not fear the terror of the night,  nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.  7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.  8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.  9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.  11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. 14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

I need God to be my refuge.  I need God to be my deliverer from the snares of the enemy and of this world.  I need God to cover me with His mighty pinions and cover me with His protective wings as I navigate this evil world.  I need God’s faithfulness to shield me from every natural and supernatural attack.  I need God’s protection in the morning.  I need God’s protection at noon day.  I needs God’s protection at night.  When others are struck down and destroyed I want to be found standing in the Lord.  I need the Lord to protect me from evil and plague.  I need God to send His mighty angels  to guard me in all my ways, to bear me up.  I want to tread on the attacking lions and snakes, both natural and supernatural.  When I call on the Lord I want Him to answer.  I need Him to be with me in trouble and to rescue me.  I want the Lord God to honor me and satisfy me with long life as He shows me His salvation! 

These promises are for those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High.  These are for those who have made the Lord their dwelling place.  These promises are for those who hold fast to God in love and who know His Name! 

All of this is to say that these seemingly innocent things are the very tool the devil uses to gain legal rights in our lives.  They give the devil a foothold from which to operate in our lives. 

Pray: Father in heaven, I pray You reveal to us sin that is in our lives.  I pray you show us where we have not been dwelling with You.  Help us make You our dwelling place.  Help us abide in safety of Your shadow in holiness.  Forgive us for our sin both known and unknown.  We pray in the perfect Name of Jesus.  God, we renounce our participation with demons.  Reveal to us any unknow occult or spiritualism we have or are participating in in Jesus Name.  God here and now I remove all unholy, demonic items from my home and my life.  I repent from these sins and will not return to them.  Thank you for your forgiveness and grace and mercy in Jesus Name.  Amen. 

We renounce our participation with this in the Name of Jesus!  We break dismantle and uproot any demonic stronghold we have allowed in our lives in the mighty Name of Jesus!  You devils I have allowed into my life, I renounce you in Jesus Name.  I break my contract with you in the Name of Jesus.  I break and uproot all legal rights I have given you in the Name of Jesus.  I announce no weapon formed against me shall prosper.  I will refute every tongue that rises against me in judgement according to the Word of God (Is. 54:17).  I was dead in my sin but God made me alive together with Christ.  By grace I have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Eph. 2:6 and Eph. 1:20).  The Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in me (Romans 8:110, and I have the victory through the Lord Jesus Chris (1 Corinthians 15:57).  Now in the Mighty Name of Jesus I command you to leave!  Go! 

When you are praying and participating in this kind of spiritual warfare it is not uncommon for demons to manifest in some way.  It could be a cold or tingly feeling.  It could be you start coughing or even gaging.  It could be evil, strange, or bizarre thoughts.   I encourage you to push through.  Keep praying and announcing in the spirit realm all of these things until you feel the peace return. 

Greater is He who is in us than he who is in this world.  Its true, but as believers we need to walk in holiness before God if we want the blessings and promises of Psalm 91.  God bless you!

The way of the world

America and her idols

If we use the ocean as an illustration of the spiritual life, I can say there have times in my life I have gone deep.  There have been times I was out so far, I couldn’t touch bottom, and I could barley see the land.  I was swimming deep with the Lord my God.  If I’m honest I have to say I am coming out of a time where I feel as though I have been ankle deep in my walk with Jesus.  I read my Bible every morning as usual and went to church on Sundays, but I was not living in passionate fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit.  I was not living by the power of God. 

I have seen every Star Wars movie there is.  I got Disney Pluss just so I could watch the Mandalorian when it came out.  I was so in love with the show I couldn’t wait to see the next episode.  I would come home from work and couldn’t turn on the TV fast enough.  I began collecting model Star Wars ships.  I began collecting Star Wars figures of all kinds; some of them were rare, others were still in the package.  I had drawings and paintings I’ve done of Star Wars characters.  My office at work was a shrine to Star Wars complete with posters.  The Lord began to speak to me about my idol.  Star Wars had become more important to me than God.  The Lord said through the profit Jeremiah that the customs of the people are vanity.  Our idols don’t bring us closer to the living God.  They only distract us.  As for my Star Wars collection.  Every drawing and painting, every poster, every figure, the new in the box, the rare ones, every scrap was thrown out.  Why?  Because I’m tired of living ankle deep in my relationship with Christ. 

See the video of this message Here!

The other day we looked at 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

This passage of Paul warns Timothy to avoid this kind of person.  My encouragement for us today is this: Avoid becoming this person.  And, if you have become this person repent of your sins that you might experience the power of God in your life again! 

Paul said in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  The power of God comes from the Spirit of God at work in us.  Jesus said in John 15:1-6, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  According to Scripture, the power of God comes from the Holy Spirit working in us.  The secret to consistently bearing fruit for God through the Spirit is abiding in Christ. 

So why is it that some of us are walking ankle deep in our relationship with God?  Why do some of us have an appearance of Godliness but deny it’s power? 

The Lord spoke through the profit Isaiah in Isaiah 59:2 saying, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”  If that is not scary enough, the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

Many of us are living powerless lives separated from fellowship with God because of our sin and unforgiveness!  Without holiness we will not see the power of God!  If we hope to go deep with God today, we must get serious about sin and forgiveness. 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what the person did was okay.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that things can necessarily go back to the way they were.  Forgiveness is giving up your right to stay angry with the person or situation, giving up your right to get even in any way, and giving the matter over to the Lord God.  By so doing you are taking back the power that person or situation has over your life!  This is a profound truth.  Some of you may need to read that again.

Holiness doesn’t just happen.  Going deep requires taking action!

Pray: “God in heaven reveal to me I pray, any sin or patterns of living in me that are unholy.  Reveal to me any wicked way in me.  Reveal to me I pray, any person I am harboring resentment and unforgiveness with.  Forgive me of the sins You reminded me of I pray in Jesus Name.  Hear and now I forgive those who have sinned against me.  Wash me I pray that I may be pure before You.  Father I pray that nothing separates me from You.  I pray nothing will be in the way of Your power at work within me.  Help me I pray, to abide in Christ.  Help me stay close in fellowship with You and Your Word.  In Jesus Name I pray.  Amen”

I love the saying, “If you do God’s will, God’s way, you will see God sized results!”  The Lord said it this way through Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 7:23, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.”

Take Note:

Walk in the way of the Lord and it will go well with you.

What keeps us from obeying the voice of God?

 What keeps us from walking in His commands? 

Jeremiah 5:30-31

30 An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: 31 the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?

Still today we surround ourselves with pastors and teachers who tell us what we want to hear.  They minimize and normalize sin.  By so doing they keep us from receiving God’s blessings.  We have become the ones Paul warned Timothy about.  We have a form of Godliness but deny its power because our sins have kept us from experiencing His blessings and power. 

Pastors today: Reason that if I don’t speak in tongues, it must not be real, or it must be demonic.  So, they deny this aspect of the power of God in their own lies and prevent others from ever seeking this gift, that the Apostle Paul said, “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself.” (1 Cor. 14:4). 

Pastors today: Minimize sin and don’t want to talk about the blood of Jesus shed for a sinful people because they don’t want to offend. 

Pastors today: Teach that a Christian can’t have demons.  Although Jesus ran money changers out of the temple of God they don’t believe a Christian temple can be inhabited by evil spirits.  I’m not saying a demon can dwell in the Holy of Holies.  I am saying that too many Children of God have spirits of pornography, adultery, fornication, addiction, control, depression, and Jealousy.  And the list goes on and on.  And we never get deliverance because we believe deliverance is not for believers.  Listen to me all my pastor friends on Facebook.  I don’t even care who I offend.  I was a believer moving in the gifts until I became demonized.  Through deliverance the demons came out with great manifestation and wrenching.  Don’t tell me Christians can’t have demons.  Humble yourself before almighty God, bring your demons to the alter, and get the freedom Christ bought for you!

What else keeps us from obeying the voice of God?

 What else keeps us from walking in His commands? 

Our own stubborn and rebellious hearts.

Jeremiah 5:23-25

But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away.  24 They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ 25 Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.

Take Note:

Our sin keeps us from the blessings of God. 

Jeremiah 6:7-8

7 As a well keeps its water fresh, so she keeps fresh her evil; violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me.  8 Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust,lest I make you a desolation,an uninhabited land.”

This passage brings up an important question.  What do we keep fresh?  Do we keep our evil deeds fresh?  Do we keep our anger, bitterness, hate, and resentment fresh?  Do we keep our pride and arrogance fresh?  Do we keep our lust for more and more possessions, power, or pleasure fresh?  Do we keep our humility before God fresh?  Do we keep repentance fresh?  When we sin, do we quickly turn back toward God’s will, ask forgiveness, and continue to live for Him?  Do we keep the love, joy, and peace of God fresh through the Spirit of God living in and through us?  Do we keep His Word fresh in our hearts and mind? 

1 Peter 1:15-16

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Here Peter calls us to be holy or set apart in all of our conduct.  The reason so many Christians are not living in the power of God today is because we are compromised.  We are not holy in our conduct.  Our sin separates us from God and we end up with a form of Godliness but deny its power. 

Question to consider: How do we conduct our thoughts, words, actions, and attitude? 

What else keeps us from obeying the voice of God?

 What else keeps us from walking in His commands? 

Our Culture

Jeremiah 10:1-3

Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, 3 for the customs of the peoples are vanity. 

This message was born out of God’s conviction on me.  What I’m about to say isn’t to guilt or shame anyone.  It is to bring the truth to light. 

The customs of the nations are to make idols out of celebrities.  The customs of the nations are to make idols out of sports teams.  The customs of the nations are to make idols out of TV shows and movies that we wouldn’t miss for the world.  If we are being truly honest, we wouldn’t miss it for the Lord either.  The customs of the nations are to make idols out of sexuality.  The customs of the nations are to worship self and deny self of no unholy pleasure

Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The Apostle Paul says, I appeal to you, I plead with you, I implore you as God has been so merciful to you, not giving you what your sins deserve, present yourself holy to Him!  He has offered you life in place of death.  He has given you hope in place of despair.  He has brought you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. 

The way of the nations, the customs of the people are darkness.  They are wicked.  But as we see in Proverbs 4:18, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”  In the will of God there is no guilt, no shame, no disgrace, and no dishonor.  In the will of God, we find love, joy, peace, and power! 

The Lord God speaking through the Profit Jeremiah said of our idols:

Jeremiah 10:5a

Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried for they cannot walk. 

The idols we worship, the celebrities, the sports teams, the movies, the TV show, and our own fame on social media are like scarecrows in a garden.  They have an illusion of being something of benefit but are nothing.  They profit us nothing.  They can’t save us.  They can’t help us.  They don’t comfort us.  They don’t give us power to navigate this life.  They are empty lifeless gods, and I am so tired of worshiping them. 

If I am more excited for the next episode of my favorite show to come out than I am to spend time in the presence of the living God I have a problem.  If I call myself a Christian and give God ten minutes a day reading His word and an hour and a half in church on Sundays and wonder at the lack of power in my life I have a problem.  The Apostle Paul boldly said:

Galatians 6:7

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

I have come to realize I reap the benefits of offering my life at the alter of my TV.  I have come to realize that the empty powerless life I have led is a direct result of the hours I’ve spent worshiping the worthless.  As a result, I have reaped the harvest of my gods.  As the scarecrow is weak and powerless so has my life become. 

Psalm 27:4

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

    all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

Action Point:

Pray, “Father in heaven, holy is Your Name.  How I pray Your kingdom come and Your perfect holy will be done in my life.  Father God, I confess I have conformed to the patterns and customs of this world.  I have worshiped that which was not God.  I have given you a token part of my life, my mind, my will.  I have not loved You as you desire.  I have not surrendered to You as You desire and deserve.  Father in heaven, in Jesus Name I pray, forgive me of this sin.  Confirm, restore, strengthen, and establish me in You.  As you brought life back to the dry bones in Ezekiel, bring life to me.  Help me honor You with my thoughts, words, and actions.  Help me God, to live Christlike by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of Father.  In Jesus Nam I pray amen. 

What else keeps us from obeying the voice of God?

 What else keeps us from walking in His commands? 

Busyness

The other day I was mowing my lawn and keeping my eye on the storm clouds moving in.  I felt a drop of rain and said to God, “Please hold off the rain.”  My first thought was this.  Isn’t that exactly how we as Christians treat God.  If rain represents the blessings of God, and the movement of God we say to Him, “I’m busy right now.  Could you hold off the rain?”  We are often so busy with the things of this life that we don’t make time to experience the wonder of the blessings God has for us! 

Jeremiah 14:1-7

The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought: 2 “Judah mourns, and her gates languish; her people lament on the ground, and the cry of Jerusalem goes up. 3 Her nobles send their servants for water; they come to the cisterns; they find no water; they return with their vessels empty; they are ashamed and confounded and cover their heads. 4 Because of the ground that is dismayed, since there is no rain on the land, the farmers are ashamed; they cover their heads. 5 Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn because there is no grass. 6 The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights; they pant for air like jackals; their eyes fail because there is no vegetation.  7 “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you.

We are so busy with what we want to get done we metaphorically speaking ask God to hold off on the rain.  You know what I say today?  Let it rain.  Let it rain.  Let it rain.  Anne and I went to a Christian worship service in the part last Thursday.  I looked up to heaven and said, “Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!” 

Luke 14:16-20

But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’  He went on to say in Verse 24, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

How many of us as followers of Jesus don’t really live like warriors?  How many of us make our excuses as to why we don’t live holy lives by the power of God?  Notice in the passage no one was opting out of the banquet because of sin.  They were just too busy with the thing of the world to focus on the things of God.  Things are busy at work.  Things are busy at home.  All the while there is a feast going on in the presence of God and most of us are missing it! 

Action Step:

Pray, “Father in heaven, holy is Your Name.  You are great and worthy of praise, so I will praise You.  God, I confessed I sinned against You.  I have not been holy in my thoughts, words, and actions.  I pray in Jesus Name You forgive my sin.  Restore me to perfect fellowship with You.  God, I want to live for Your kingdom, by Your power, to Your glory.  I confess I’ve been too busy sometimes to hear from You; to allow You to have Your way in my life. 

We declare we will no longer allow Christian teachers to influence us toward unholiness.  We want every gift You have for us today God!  Let us move in the ministry of deliverance like never before.  Let us see brothers and sisters living in the freedom of Christ.   

God we confess we have made idols out the TV, idols out of sports teams, and idols out of self.  And by so doing we have I have not lived the life of power You desire for us.   We have reaped the harvest of our gods.  As the scarecrow is weak and powerless so have our lives become to some degree.  Forgive us we pray.  Renew us we pray.  Confirm, restore, strengthen, and establish us we pray. 

In Jesus Name.  Amen!

Holiness and the power of GOD

2 Timothy 3:1-5

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

This passage of Paul’s letter to Timothy describes a time when people would have an appearance of godliness on the outside but do not have power.  In fact, by their conduct, they deny the power of God available to them. 

Take Note:

It is a terrible thing to call yourself a follower of God and not live by the power of God. 

The Power of God

Philippians 2:13

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

John 15:1-6

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Take Note:

According to Scripture, the power of God comes from the Holy Spirit working in us.  The secret to consistently bearing fruit for God through the Spirit is abiding in Christ. 

Isaiah 59:2

2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Take Note:

How often do we live powerless lives separated from fellowship with God because of our sin and unforgiveness? 

Action Step:

Pray: “God in heaven reveal to me I pray, any sin or patterns of living in me that are unholy.  Reveal to me any wicked way in me.  Reveal to me I pray, any person I am harboring resentment and unforgiveness with.  Forgive me of the sins You reminded me of I pray in Jesus Name.  Hear and now I forgive those who have sinned against me.  Wash me I pray that I may be pure before You.  Father I pray that nothing separates me from You.  I pray nothing will be in the way of Your power at work within me.  Help me I pray, to abide in Christ.  Help me stay close in fellowship with You and Your Word.  In Jesus Name I pray.  Amen”

Like a loving parent who withholds blessings from a disobedient child so God withholds blessings from His children when they disobey.  He simply cannot bless continues rebellious behavior. 

Let’s looks at several passages from the book of Jeremiah.  Here we see the people of God worshiping Him on the outside, making sacrifices and offerings, and celebrating the appointed holy days.  Yet, they continue to worship foreign Gods and live unholy lives.  In short, they have a form of godliness but deny its power.  Therefor God turned them over to Babylonian captivity.  They became literally in bondage to the culture which had already spiritually enslaved them. 

Jeremiah 7:23

“‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’

Take Note:

Walk in the way of the Lord and it will go well with you.

Jeremiah 5:23-25

But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away.  24 They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ 25 Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.

Take Note:

Our sin keeps us from the blessings of God. 

Jeremiah 5:30-31

30 An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: 31 the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?

Still today we surround ourselves with pastors and teachers who tell us what we want to hear.  They minimize and normalize sin.  By so doing they keep us from receiving God’s blessings.  We have become the ones Paul warned Timothy about.  We have a form of Godliness but deny its power because our sins have kept us from experiencing His blessings and power. 

Jeremiah 6:6-8

6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: “Cut down her trees; cast up a siege mound against Jerusalem.

This is the city that must be punished; there is nothing but oppression within her.

7 As a well keeps its water fresh, so she keeps fresh her evil; violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me.  8 Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust,lest I make you a desolation,an uninhabited land.”

This passage brings up an important question.  What do we keep fresh?  Do we keep our evil deeds fresh?  Do we keep our anger, bitterness, hate, and resentment fresh?  Do we keep our pride and arrogance fresh?  Do we keep our lust for more and more possessions, power, or pleasure fresh?  Do we keep our humility before God fresh?  Do we keep repentance fresh?  When we sin, do we quickly turn back toward God’s will, ask forgiveness, and continue to live for Him?  Do we keep the love, joy, and peace of God fresh through the Spirit of God living in and through us?  Do we keep His Word fresh in our hearts and mind? 

1 Peter 1:15-16

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Here Peter calls us to be holy or set apart in all of our conduct.  The reason so many Christians are not living in the power of God today is because we are compromised.  We are not holy in our conduct.  Our sin separates us from God and we end up with a form of Godliness but deny its power. 

This passage calls us to be holy in our conduct.  The questions for us to consider are these.  Do I conduct my thoughts in holiness?  How do I conduct myself at school, at work, or when no one else is around?  How do I conduct myself in my attitude?  Do I have secret sin?  Do I have secret sinful thoughts I indulge in?  Have the words that I speak been unholy?  Have I used my words to hurt others or to talk cruelly about them? 

Action Step:

Pray, “Father in heaven, holy is Your Name.  You are great and worthy of praise, so I will praise You.  God, I confessed I sinned against You.  I have not been holy in my thoughts, words, and actions.  I pray in Jesus Name You forgive my sin.  Restore me to perfect fellowship with You.  God, I want to live for Your kingdom, by Your power, to Your glory.  In Jesus Name amen.

7 Steps to FREEDOM!

Seven Steps to Freedom

(Taking back power and control over your life)

I was recently counseling a young man in jail who was dealing with unwanted anger and anxiety.   He told me he didn’t understand why he got so upset when overhearing an argument between peers.  This argument affected him to the point that he got verbally aggressive although the incident didn’t involve him or any of his friends.  After talking with this young man, and applying these seven steps to freedom, he was able to uncover and heal some wounds from his past thus taking back power and control of his emotions. 

 To help understand the root cause of his anger and anxiety I asked the client how he felt when these two people were fighting.  He explained he felt threatened.  He was thinking, “If people are going to act this way, maybe I need to make a weapon to protect myself.”  I then asked the client, “The fact that one person was threatening another person made you feel what about yourself? Or, what was that person who was threatening saying about you through his actions?”  He told me that he felt like the threatening person was basically saying that he was week. 

I then asked the client if he could think of another time in his life when he felt that exact same way.  The client stated that while in prison he was threatened with knives and his family was extorted for money.  After he described the events in detail to me, I asked him, “How did that situation make you feel about yourself, or what was the person basically saying about you?”  The client stated that he felt like the people threatening and extorting him made him feel week, taken advantage of, and completely out of control.  (Although he used much more colorful language). 

I asked this client if he could recall another time, perhaps even earlier in life, where he felt the exact same way.  The client began to tell me how his father used to beat his mother and himself.  It started around the age of 5 and went on for 5 years of his life.  I asked how the situation made him feel about himself and what his father’s actions were saying about him.  He stated he felt like a coward for not standing up to his father.  He said he felt like a nobody and worthless. 

We identified the wound he suffered in childhood.  We also identified the lie-based belief of invalidation, believing one is worthless, which grew out of his wound.  Next, I helped him replace the lie with the truth, give up his right to be angry or get even with his father, and by so doing take back the control this wound has on his life.    

This chapter will help you identify your own wounds from the past and give you tools to bring healing and lasting freedom.

Seven Steps to Freedom

(Taking back power and control over your life)

If a person were to pick a leaf off a tree, over time it would grow back.  Even if a branch was broken off, given time the branch would grow back or a new branch would spring up somewhere else.  If you want to permanently remove a tree it must be cut down at the roots.  The same is true for removing unhealthy or unwanted behaviors from our lives.  If we want to do away with a behavior, we must cut it off at the root.  If you do gain success at quitting one unhealthy or unwanted behavior another one will replace it.  This is because these behaviors are fed by a deep root system.  The root of actions are beliefs.  Out of beliefs come emotions and actions.  Negative core beliefs or lie based beliefs fuel unhealthy behaviors.  These beliefs are often born out of wounds. 

Wounds come in many shapes and sizes.  One thing they all have in common is, they hurt.  Frequently we find that unhealed wounds, often occurring in childhood or early adolescence, can cause lasting emotional scars, and lead to unhealthy or unwanted behaviors.  This seven-step process will help you identify unhealed wounds, lie based beliefs surrounding those wounds, and the unhealthy or unwanted behaviors they may have caused as well as concreate steps towards healing.  When these wounds are healed the emotional pain associated with them will heal.  In turn the unhealthy or unwanted behaviors employed to cope with or compensated for the wound will no longer be necessary. 

The seven steps to freedom explore the answer to seven questions.  The questions ask, what unwanted emotion am I feeling?  What painful memory is tied to that emotion?  What lie or lies am I believing surrounding that incident?  What wound did I endure?  What tool or tools did I use to cope with or compensate for the wound?  What do I do now?  What do I do next time?  By exploring the answer to these seven questions you will begin to find freedom from past hurts and the unwanted emotions, and actions born out of those hurts. 

Understanding emotions

Before we go any further let’s make sure we understand emotions. 

Anger is caused when a goal is blocked.  Having to wait in a long line in a grocery store may cause anger.  You may be angry because your goal of getting on with your day just got blocked.  A person yells at you to get moving at an intersection.  This may cause anger because your goal of being respected is blocked.  When experiencing anger ask yourself what goal may be blocked. 

Anxiety is caused when a goal seems uncertain.   Waiting nervously for a test result to come back is due to the goal of passing being uncertain.  Feeling anxious before an interview is due to your goal of landing the job being uncertain.  Next time you feel worry or anxiety try to figure out what goal is uncertain. 

Depression is caused when a goal seems unattainable.  An older man feels depressed because his goal of ever finishing school seems unattainable.  A lonely woman feels depressed when she believes that she will never find true love.  Her goal of being in a romantic love relationship seems unattainable.  If you feel depressed ask yourself what goal or goals seem unattainable. 

Seven Steps to Freedom

These seven steps will help you identify wounds that may have occurred in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood, lie based beliefs, and unwanted behavior you may have employed to cope with or compensated for the wound.  They will also help you take back power and control over your life. 

Step 1. WHAT EMOTION?

Think of a recent example of when you experienced an intense anger, anxiety, or depression.  Write down (or recall) the memory as vividly as possible.  Try to include as much of the following information as possible:

Example: The Car

  • What day was it? 

I remember it was a weekday because I was working that day.

  • What time of day did it occur? 
  • It was in the afternoon I think, I don’t really remember.
  • Where were you, and who were you with? 
  • I was alone in my car in Valparaiso IN.
  • What happened?

I was driving up to the brand-new round about in town and when I approached, I saw a car was coming so I was going to wait until they passed. The car behind me honked his horn at me. 

  • How did you feel?   (Describe the feelings with as much detail as possible). 

I got very angry.  My heart raced.  I was so mad. 

  • What were you thinking?

Don’t tell me how to drive my car.  Screw you!  I have to wait, there is a car coming you idiot!

  • If someone else was involved, by their actions the other person was basically saying what about you? 

He basically didn’t respect me.  He was saying that he thinks I’m stupid. 

  • How did this situation make you feel about yourself?

I felt like a looser.  Like a piece of garbage. 

Step 2. WHAT TIE?

Recall a time in your early years when you remember feeling the exact same way.  This time also try to identify any lie-based beliefs you have had surrounding that situation.  See step 3 for help identifying lie-based beliefs. 

Example1: The Teacher

  • What day was it? 

It must have been a weekday because I was in school. 

  • What time of day did it occur? 
  • Right before recess.  I have no idea; it was a long time ago. 
  • Where were you, and who were you with? 
  • I was in school around 3rd grade I’m guessing.  I was in class with my teacher and classmates. 
  • What happened?

The teacher told us to line up to go out for recess.  Before we went outside, we had to answer a multiplication flash card.  If we got it right, we went outside.  If we got it wrong, we had to go to the back of the line.  When it was my turn, I got the answer wrong, so I had to go to the back of the line.  When it was my turn again, I missed it the second time.  Finally, I was all alone in line.  The teacher showed me a flashcard and I looked up at her and said, “I don’t know.”  She looked at me and said something like, “You will never get it!  Just go outside.” 

  • How did you feel?   (Describe the feelings with as much detail as possible). 

 I was very sad. 

  • What were you thinking?

I wish I was normal like the other kids.  I thought that I was stupid. 

  • If someone else was involved, by their actions the other person was basically saying what about you? 

She was basically saying that I was hopeless. 

How did this situation make you feel about yourself?

Like a total failure.  Like I was stupid.  Rejected. 

I am worthless.  I am garbage.  I am a looser. 

Example: 2 The Fight

  • What day was it? 

I don’t remember, I was a young child, 5 years old. 

  • What time of day did it occur? 

It was in the middle of the night.

  • Where were you, and who were you with? 

I was home in my bed.  My parents were in the living room.

  • What happened?

I woke up to hear my parents arguing.  I think my dad had come home drunk.  I heard them screaming terrible things to each other.  I heard my dad hitting my mom and my mom screaming. 

  • How did you feel?   (Describe the feelings with as much detail as possible). 

I was terrified.  I remember wishing I could disappear, so I didn’t have to be there. 

  • What were you thinking?

I thought that my mom might die.  I was afraid that he would come in and kill me too.  I thought we will never have peace in our hose.  I thought things will always be crazy in my life. 

  • If someone else was involved, by their actions the other person was basically saying what about you? 

Dad’s actions were basically saying he didn’t love us.  He was acting crazy.

  • How did this situation make you feel about yourself?

I felt frightened.  I felt chaotic.  I felt insecure. 

  • What lie did you begin to believe.  (Lie based, or negative core belief)

I can’t handle it when life is chaotic.  I can’t have happiness or peace. 

Example 3: The Bicycle

  • What day was it? 

I don’t remember. 

  • What time of day did it occur?

It was in the afternoon.   

  • Where were you, and who were you with? 

I was in the front yard with a couple of friends.

  • What happened?

Some of my friends we over and we were playing a game of pickle between the two trees out in front of my house.  Suddenly, we heard a loud screeching and a crash.  We looked up and a car had run over our neighbor’s daughter who was on her bike.  Apparently, she had come out of her driveway on to the road and the car didn’t have time to move out of the way.  She was killed instantly.  I remember standing right there seeing her dead body all mangled and blood coming out of her ear.  People gathered around and her mom was screaming and crying. 

  • How did you feel?   (Describe the feelings with as much detail as possible). 

I was in shock.  I didn’t know what to feel. 

  • What were you thinking?

This is not right!  Hou could this happen?  How could a kid die?  This isn’t happening.  It just wasn’t right.  Kids are not supposed to die. 

  • If someone else was involved, by their actions the other person was basically saying what about you? 

Does not apply. 

  • How did this situation make you feel about yourself?

I question my understanding of the world.  Confused.

  • What lie did you begin to believe.  (Lie based, or negative core belief)

I’m not ok when the world is not right.  There must be justice. 

Example 4: The Divorce

  • What day was it? 

I am not sure.  I was 12 years old. 

  • What time of day did it occur?

I don’t know.  

  • Where were you, and who were you with? 

I was playing in my room when my mom came in to talk to me.

  • What happened?

My mom and dad were fighting a lot.  They would sometimes yell.  I would burry my head in my pillow so I couldn’t hear them.  One day my mom came into my room to tell me that her and dad were getting a divorce and I was going to have to live with my dad in another State. 

  • How did you feel?   (Describe the feelings with as much detail as possible). 

I was hurt, and mad.  I felt betrayed by my parents. 

  • What were you thinking?

I felt like I didn’t have a say in my life.  I felt totally out of control.  I wanted to run away. 

  • If someone else was involved, by their actions the other person was basically saying what about you? 

They get to make all the rules for my life, and I don’t get a say in what happens to me. 

  • How did this situation make you feel about yourself?

I felt totally powerless and out of control of my life. 

  • What lie did you begin to believe.  (Lie based, or negative core belief)

I can’t be happy unless I’m in control. 

Step 3. WHAT LIE?

Identify the lies that you believed associated with this situation and replace it with the truth.  Common lies include: (Circle all that apply). 

Love and Respect

  • I am worthless, garbage, nothing.
  • I am tainted.
  • I don’t deserve love.
  • I am a bad person.
  • I am terrible.
  • I am unlovable.
  • I am permanently damaged.
  • I am stupid.
  • I don’t belong anywhere.
  • I need the attention, approval, or acceptance of this person or these people. 
  • I need to be respected. 
  • If this person doesn’t love me, approve of me, or respect me I must be worthless. 
  • Because I was rejected by this person, I am worthless.
  •  I don’t deserve to be loved.
  •  I don’t deserve to get better.
  • I don’t deserve _____________.

Joy and Peace

  • I need this to have joy in my life.
  • I need this to have peace in my life.
  • I can’t recover from this.
  • Things will never get better. 
  • This will keep happening to me.
  • I will never be safe again.
  • I need to understand why this happened. 
  • I am helpless. 
  • I can’t handle it when life is not fun.
  • I can’t handle it when there is no joy.
  • I can’t handle it when there is no peace.
  • I can’t trust anyone.
  • I can’t protect myself.
  • I can’t stand up for myself.

Perfection and Control

  • I need to be in control of everything so I can keep myself safe.
  • I need to be in control so things will be peaceful.
  • They don’t love me, or they would let me do it my way.
  • Things must go according to my plans, or I can’t be happy or at peace. 
  • I’m a failure if I don’t measure up to my personal standards.
  • I can’t handle it when things don’t go as planned.
  • I can’t handle it when my expectations are not met. 
  • I can’t handle it when I am not in control, or things don’t go my way. 
  • I should have done something.
  • I should have known better.
  • I can’t be successful.

Example: I believed I was worthless, stupid, and that I needed my teacher’s approval.  The truth is I am loved by God as I understand him, and by my family and friends.  The truth is I wasn’t the smartest kid in school and to this day I am not the smartest man, but I am making it in this world.  My value is not tied to my level of smarts or education.  I have immeasurable worth, inner greatness, and have unlimited potential. 

Step 4 WHAT WOUND?

Identify which statement are true and circle all that apply.

Love and Respect

Identify which statement are true and circle all that apply.

Joy

Peace

Identify which statement are true and circle all that apply.

Perfection

Identify which statement are true and circle all that apply.

Control

Step 5.  WHAT TOOL?

Identify how wounds can sometimes lead to unhealthy or unwanted behaviors

Have you ever had sunburn, and someone came up and gave you a hearty slap on the back?  If so, you know firsthand the hurt that is caused when a wound is touched.  When people experience wounds in their past, circumstances in the present can touch those wounds and cause new pain.  Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Example1: The Teacher

In the example above a student was wounded when a teacher told him that he would never understand.  He began to think he was stupid.  This led to feeling of worthlessness.  He began to believe the lie-based belief, or negative core belief that he was worthless.  Out of beliefs come emotions and actions.  His belief that he was worthless led him to feelings of depression.  This eventually led him to the fantasy of pornography.  In this fantasy the student can imagine himself feeling very valued by the beautiful woman portrayed in the video or images.  His addiction to pornography as an adult becomes and unhealthy and unwanted behavior.  This behavior can be linked back to the wound of rejection from his teacher when he was a child. 

Example: 2 The Fight

In the example above the child overheard his parents arguing and his father abusing his mother.  He felt frightened, and insecure.  He began to believe the lie-based, or negative core belief that he can’t handle it when life is chaotic and that he can’t have happiness or peace.  This eventually led to anger problems.  He became a bully who threated and extorted others.  He began to rob people and break into homes and businesses.  This unhealthy or unwanted behavior can be linked back to the wounds of his childhood.  He wanted to control others to help him compensate with the wounds of feeling out of control as an adult. 

Unhealthy or unwanted behaviors find their roots in lie-based or negative core beliefs.  Each belief can manifest in many ways. 

Outward Actions

Rejection and or not feeling loved or respected, not having joy or peace, control or perfection can manifest outwardly in the following ways.  This occurs when person acts out of hurt.  Like a wounded animal we sometimes bite anyone who gets too close to us.  When operating out of hut we tend to hurt others.  They can also be ways to ease the pain of the wound. 

Wounds caused you to ack out in the following ways (Circle all that apply):

Strife  

Aggression

Rebellion

Bitterness

Retaliation

Harsh

Impatient

Bully

You sought comfort from you wounds by:

Sexual Obsessions

Greed

Addiction

Inward Actions

Rejection and or not feeling loved or respected, not having joy or peace, control or perfection can also manifest as inward actions.  These are often an attempt to ease the pain of, or otherwise compensate for, or react to not feeling loved or the pain of rejection.  They ease the pain of, or otherwise compensate for, or react to not feeling joy, or peace, control, or perfection. 

Worry

Persecution

Inferiority

Withdrawal

Hopelessness

Sensitive

Paranoia

Overwhelming Sorrow

Perfectionist

Self Actions

A third category of actions can be identifed as self.  It is both inward and outward acting.  These unhealthy or unwanted actions are employed to help the person feel better about themselves. 

Self Accusation

Pride

Delusional

Delusions often occur when a person suffers from wounds of not feeling loved.  Having experienced rejection, we sometimes exaggerate our past experiences or accomplishments to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.  In some cases, we may even start to believe the lie ourselves.  Some will talk about places they have never really been to, jobs, or degrees they never really had, or people they never really met.  All of this is an attempt to help themselves deal with the wounds they have incurred in the past. 

Religious Compensation

The Prison of Self

Step 6.  WHAT NOW?

Reframe, Give up, Take back

First, we must reframe the lies identified in step 3, so that the statement is true.  Next, we must give up our right to stay angry or get even in any way.  Finally, take back the power the situation had over our lives. 

Reframe

List the lies you identified in step 3 followed by the corresponding truth.

Example:

Lies: When my teacher said I would never get math I believed I was worthless, garbage, nothing.  I believed I needed the approval of my teacher.  I believed if an adult in authority said it, then it must be true. 

Truth:

My worth does not come from how smart I am.  I am worthy to God as I understand Him.  I am deeply loved by my family and friends, and that is all I need.  I didn’t have the approval of my teacher which is unfortunate but that’s ok.  Just because a teacher said I would never understand doesn’t make it true.  Her opinion of me doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.  I spent way too much time allowing others opinion to shape my own self-image.  Looking back, I think it is sad that a teacher would say that to a young impressionable kid, but I’ve moved on. 

Give up

When we are wounded, we often fall into a trap of bitterness and resentment.  We hold on to the hurt in the form of resentment and unforgiveness.  Often, we believe this gives us power or at least some control in the difficult situation.  By giving up our right to stay angry or get even we are releasing ourselves from the burden of resentment and begin to find freedom from the past wounds.  This can be a very difficult step.  The hurt may be deep.  It may have affected a great deal of our lives.  Because of our sense of justice, we desire the guilty party to be punished.  They have an obligation to us.  Until that obligation is fulfilled and or punishment is received, we continue in our hurt.  Closure comes when we finally see the guilty party pay for the wrongs they commit, or somehow the wrong is made right.  Then the healing really begins.  The challenge is most of the time there is no closure.  The guilty party doesn’t always pay.  Even when they do, it doesn’t always satisfy.  In some cases, the wrong simply can’t be made right.  Freedom from the hurts, and inner peace comes to us when we give up our rights to say angry or get even in any way.  This is called forgiveness. 

Barriers you must overcome to free yourself from the trap of resentment and unforgiveness:

  1. Believing if you forgive the person, you are basically saying what they did was ok.  You are not saying that the person is not guilty, or what they did was right.  You are simply choosing to let go of your resentment and hurt so you can be free from its power over you. 
  2. Believing that forgiving means things must back to, “Normal.”  You are not saying that things will ever go back to the way they were.  You will not necessarily ever be reconciled with them.  Forgiveness brings peace and healing to the person forgiving.  He or she is giving up the right to stay angry or get even in any way.  By so doing, they are taking back the power they once had over you.  Forgiveness does not require things to go back the way they were.  It just frees you to live in peace going forward. 
  3. Believing forgiveness will change them or the current circumstances.  If you are forgiving a person because you hope that by so doing the person or circumstance might change or work out for the better, you will likely be disappointed.  Forgiveness is not likely going to change the person of circumstance.  It will however release you from the heavy weight of bitterness and resentment and allow you to take back the power the person or circumstance had over you. 
  4. Wanting to be a victim.  To be free from bitterness and unforgiveness you must let go of the victim mentality.  When we allow to see ourselves as a victim, we excuse our negative, critical, and judgmental behavior.  Victims feel as though they are not responsible for their emotions or actions.  “After all,” they will say, “I am the victim here.”  By overcoming the victim mentality, you are taking back control over your life.  This is not to minimize the terrible things you may have gone through.  It is to say you are choosing to not let this have control over your life any longer. 

You may have every right to be angry at them for what was said and done.  By forgiving them you are giving up the right to stay angry at them or get even with them in any way.  This is a big step to freedom from hurts that lead to unhealthy or unwanted behaviors. 

Example:  I was very hurt by my teacher’s words when she said that I would never amount to anything.  It affected me deeply.  I know that she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.  Here and now, I am giving up my right to stay angry with her.  I am giving up my right to get even in any way.

Take back

When we are wounded, we carry those hurts with us into the future.  Those wounds continue to take power over us.  Now it is time to take back the power we have given to those past hurts. 

Example: I am taking back the power and control this situation had over my life.  It was unfortunate that it happened, but I will no longer be a victim of this.  I will no longer allow this to control or have power over me.   

Below is an example of reframing, giving up, and taking back in step 6. 

Reframe: My worth does not come from how smart I am.  I am worthy to God as I understand Him.  I am deeply loved by my family and friends, and that is all I need.  I didn’t have the approval of my teacher which is unfortunate but that’s ok.  Just because a teacher said I would never understand doesn’t make it true.  Her opinion of me doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.  I spent way too much time allowing others opinion to shape my own self-image.  Looking back, I think it is sad that a teacher would say that to a young impressionable kid, but I’ve moved on. 

Give up: I was very hurt by my teacher’s words when she said that I would never amount to anything.  It affected me deeply.  I know that she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.  Here and now, I am giving up my right to stay angry with her.  I am giving up my right to get even in any way.

Take back: By so doing, I am taking back the power and control this situation had over my life.  It was unfortunate that it happened, but I will no longer be a victim of this.  I will no longer allow this to control or have power over me. 

Step 7.  What Next?

Step 7 answers the following questions. 

  1. What will we do next time we feel negative emotions identified in step 1?
  2. What will we do when we are reminded of the painful memory identified in step 2?
  3. What will we do next time we are reminded of our past hurts identified in step 4?
  4. What will we do next time we find ourselves returning to unhealthy or unwanted behaviors identified in step 5? 

The next time any of the above occur it is important to go back to step 3 and ask yourself if there are any lies you are believing.  Once any lies are discovered repeat step 6 and reframe the lie, so the statement is true, give up your right to stay angry or get even, and take back the power you gave the situation over your life.  

Step 1. Worksheet

 WHAT EMOTION?

Think of a recent example of when you experienced an intense anger, anxiety, or depression.  Write down (or recall) the memory as vividly as possible.  Try to include as much of the following information as possible:

  • What day was it? 
  • What time of day did it occur? 
  • Where were you, and who were you with? 
  • What happened?
  • How did you feel?   (Describe the feelings with as much detail as possible). 
  • What were you thinking?
  • If someone else was involved, by their actions the other person was basically saying what about you? 
  • How did this situation make you feel about yourself?

Step 2. Worksheet

WHAT TIE?

Recall a time in your early years when you remember feeling the exact same way.  This time also try to identify any lie-based beliefs you have had surrounding that situation.  See step 3 for help identifying lie-based beliefs. 

Example1: The Teacher

  • What day was it? 
  • What time of day did it occur? 
  • Where were you, and who were you with? 
  • What happened?
  • How did you feel?   (Describe the feelings with as much detail as possible). 
  • What were you thinking?
  • If someone else was involved, by their actions the other person was basically saying what about you? 
  • How did this situation make you feel about yourself?
  • What lie did you begin to believe.  (Lie based, or negative core belief)

Step 3. Worksheet WHAT LIE?

Identify the lies that you believed associated with this situation and replace it with the truth.  Common lies include: (Circle all that apply). 

Love and Respect

  • I am worthless, garbage, nothing.
  • I am tainted.
  • I don’t deserve love.
  • I am a bad person.
  • I am terrible.
  • I am unlovable.
  • I am permanently damaged.
  • I am stupid.
  • I don’t belong anywhere.
  • I need the attention, approval, or acceptance of this person or these people. 
  • I need to be respected. 
  • If this person doesn’t love me, approve of me, or respect me I must be worthless. 
  • Because I was rejected by this person, I am worthless.
  •  I don’t deserve to be loved.
  •  I don’t deserve to get better.
  • I don’t deserve _____________.

Joy and Peace

  • I need this to have joy in my life.
  • I need this to have peace in my life.
  • I can’t recover from this.
  • Things will never get better. 
  • This will keep happening to me.
  • I will never be safe again.
  • I need to understand why this happened. 
  • I am helpless. 
  • I can’t handle it when life is not fun.
  • I can’t handle it when there is no joy.
  • I can’t handle it when there is no peace.
  • I can’t trust anyone.
  • I can’t protect myself.
  • I can’t stand up for myself.

Perfection and Control

  • I need to be in control of everything so I can keep myself safe.
  • I need to be in control so things will be peaceful.
  • They don’t love me, or they would let me do it my way.
  • Things must go according to my plans, or I can’t be happy or at peace. 
  • I’m a failure if I don’t measure up to my personal standards.
  • I can’t handle it when things don’t go as planned.
  • I can’t handle it when my expectations are not met. 
  • I can’t handle it when I am not in control, or things don’t go my way. 
  • I should have done something.
  • I should have known better.
  • I can’t be successful.

Step 4 Worksheet

WHAT WOUND?

Identify which statement are true and circle all that apply.

Love and Respect

  • I was wounded by a lack of attention, approval, or acceptance. 
  • I was wounded by a lack of respect. 
  • I was wounded by a lack of love.
  • I was wounded by rejection. 

Identify which statement are true and circle all that apply.

Joy

  • I was wounded by having my joy taken away.

Peace

Identify which statement are true and circle all that apply.

  • I was wounded by having my peace taken away.
  • I was wounded when this situation frightened me.
  • I was wounded when I couldn’t understand what was happening. 
  • I was wounded when I felt helpless in that situation.
  • I was wounded when I felt tainted because of what I did.
  • I was wounded when I felt tainted because of what was done to me.
  • I was wounded by the guilt and shame of what I did.
  • I was wounded by the guilt and shame of what was done to me. 

Perfection

Identify which statement are true and circle all that apply.

  • I was wounded when things didn’t go according to plans.
  • I was wounded when I didn’t measure up to my own standards.
  • I was wounded when others didn’t measure up to my standards. 
  • I was wounded when I my expectations were not met. 

Control

  • I was wounded when what happened was totally out of my control.
  • I was wounded when I was not obeyed.
  • I was wounded when things didn’t go my way.

Step 5.  WHAT TOOL?

Identify how wounds can sometimes lead to unhealthy or unwanted behaviors (Circle all that apply). 

Strife  

  • Arguing
  • Contention
  • Argumenitive thoughts

Aggression

  • Hurtful words
  • Violence
  • Murder
  • Destroying things
  • Passive aggression
  • Thoughts of all of these things

Rebellion

  • Parental
  • Religious
  • Civil
  • School, work
  • In neighborhood
  • In Community

Bitterness

  • Resentment
  • Resentment of God
  • Hate
  • Unforgiveness
  • Temper
  • Negitivity
  • Criticism
  • Accusing
  • Rude
  • Disruptive
  • Obnoxious
  • Cold
  • Thoughts of all of these things

Retaliation

  • Crulty
  • Aggression
  • Passive aggression
  • Thoughts of all of these things

Harsh

  • Excessive swearing
  • Harsh joking
  • Scoffing
  • Mocking
  • Gossiping

Impatient

  • Agitated
  • Frustrated
  • Intolerant

Bully

  • Belittling
  • Extortion
  • Threating
  • Use anger to control

Sexual Obsessions

  • Pornogrophy
  • Lust
  • Fantisy/ Daydreaming
  • Fedishes
  • Masterbation
  • Adultery
  • Multipal partners
  • Incest
  • Beastiality
  • Prostitution
  • Exposure
  • Rape

Greed

  • Stealing
  • Hording
  • Materalism
  • Discontent

Addiction

  • Work
  • Sex, Pornography
  • Gambling
  • Eating
  • Self-harm
  • Gaming
  • TV, Internet
  • Alcohol
  • Legal or illegal drugs, medication

Worry

  • Anxiety
  • Dread
  • Doubt

Persecution

  • That’s not fair
  • The world is out to get me
  • Fear of judgment
  • Fear of condemnation
  • Fear of rebuke

Inferiority

  • Insecure
  • Timid
  • Stuff/ hide hurts
  • Passive

Withdrawal

  • Fantasizing
  • Daydreaming
  • Make believe

Hopelessness

  • Despair
  • Misery
  • Morbidity
  • Suicide

Sensitive

  • Self-loathing
  • Self-conscious
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of disapproval
  • Fear of people

Paranoia

  • Untrusting
  • Suspicious

Overwhelming Sorrow

  • Sadness
  • Crying
  • Not eating
  • Over sleeping
  • Not sleeping
  • Withdrawn

Perfectionist

  • Impossible standards
  • Intollerance
  • Anger, frustration
  • Pride

Self Accusation

  • Self-Rejection
  • Guilt Beating

Pride

  • Superiority
  • Self-Rightious
  • Self-Importance
  • Arrogance
  • Vanity
  • Sophisticated
  • Theatrics, attention seaking
  • Pretensious

Delusional

  • Job or past jobs
  • Relationships or past relationships
  • Accomplishments
  • Events
  • Thoughts of all of these things

Religious Compensation

  • Religious superiority
  • Ritualistic

The Prison of Self

  • Self-Pity
  • Self-Reward
  • Self-Condemnation
  • Self-Hate
  • Self-Indulgent
  • Self-Exaltation
  • Self-Rule
  • Self-Deception

Step 6.  Worksheet

WHAT NOW?

Reframe:

Give up:

Take back:

Identifying the Lies

Chapter 3 Deception

In this step we will discover how critical our thinking is to our emotional wellbeing.  We will also see how our compulsive behaviors actually flow out of our own beliefs. 

This simple principal is true for all of us.  We feel and act based on what we believe.  If we believe we are worthless, powerless, or tainted by the things we have done or have been done to us we may feel depressed or angry.  Our actions will follow our beliefs and emotions.  We may act out in anger; lie around in bed all day, or turn to our compulsive behaviors. 

Understanding this principal helps us appreciate how important to our emotional wellness our beliefs are.  It is often our Negative Core Beliefs, or Lie Based Beliefs that send us to or keep us in our compulsive, addictive behaviors. 

An ancient proverb states, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23:7a KJV).  It is the age old truth, if you put garbage in you get garbage out.

                 If we think about our thoughts as seeds that we plant, each one eventually bearing fruit in our lives, we begin to see the importance of healthy thinking. 

To illustrate how this plays out lets work through a few examples. 

If a person believes he is worthless, what might his emotions be? 

(Happy, Sad, Angry, Anxious, Fearful, Other)

If a person believes he is worthless, how might he act?

(Hateful, Like he doesn’t care, Forget it I’m getting high, Other)

If a person believes he is a well-balanced and fulfilled individual how might he feel?

(Happy, Sad, Angry, Anxious, Fearful, Other)

If a person believes he is a well-balanced and fulfilled individual how might he act?

(With confidence, Loving, Other) 

Deception: What are the Lies I believe? 

The lies we believe can have an absolutely devastating effect on our emotions and can lead us to or keep us in our addictions.  It is so important we discover and combat the lies we believe.  Earlier we discussed the fact that out of our beliefs come our emotions and out of our emotions come our actions.  When we look at the equation in reverse we can follow our emotions back to the beliefs that caused them.  By discovering our negative, or lie based beliefs we can begin work on healthier thinking leading to healthier emotions and actions.  The following three steps will help us discover some of the lies we may believe. 

Perception, Emotion, Internalization

                When negative things are said, or done to us, and when we go through a negative experience, we have certain perceptions; we respond emotionally, and internalize the event in some way.

Perception is the way you, “Read,” the situation.  It is how you perceive the thoughts and feelings of others as they interact with you.  For example: If you are slouched in your chair, not making eye contact, and are looking off in a different direction when a person is talking to you, that person might have the perception that you are not interested in what you have to say.  They might also have the perception that you don’t like them.  It is important to note that your perception may or may not be true. 

Some of our perceptions may be as follows:

  • They think I’m an idiot.  They think I’m not good enough.  They think I’m worthless.  They think I’m garbage. 
  • They don’t respect me.  They don’t obey me.  They don’t listen to me.  They don’t understand that my way is best.  They are trying to control me. 
  • I deserved that.  I had it coming to me.  I should be better so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. 
  • I will never be safe, I’m going to die, he or she is going to leave me.

We Respond with Emotion:

Anger: Raise my voice, Punch something, Throw something, Swear, Put the person down, Flee the situation in rage. 

Anxiety ( Fear or Worry):  Fear the worst, What if this is the end?  What if I can’t make it through this?  What if I die?  What if they never come back?  What if they think less of me?  What if I fail?  What if they don’t respect me?  What if they laugh at me? 

Depressed: Things are never going to change.  It will never end.  It will always be this way.  It is absolutely hopeless.

Internalize: This is the way we feel about ourselves.  For example: If someone calls you an idiot, you might feel like garbage.  You internalized what they said and felt bad about yourself. 

We then internalize the belief by thinking:

  • I’m worthless.  I have no value.  I’m a piece of garbage. 
  • I’m out of control.  If I’m not in control I can’t have peace. 
  • I’m tainted.  I’m too polluted to be any good.  I’m so dirty after what I have done or what has been done to me that I don’t deserve anything good.  I’m ruined, stained, and defiled.
  • Other. 

Read the following situations and answer the questions using the emotions, perceptions, and internalizations listed above.  (Or use a recent time when you felt anger, anxiety, or depression and try to identify your perception and how you internalized it.)

A loved one raises his or her voice with you in an argument over something petty.   

What would be your perception? 

What would be your emotion?

How might you internalize it? 

A stranger honks his horn at you as soon as the light turned green. 

What would be your perception? 

What would be your emotion?

How might you internalize it? 

A co-worker or classmate stole from you. 

What would be your perception? 

What would be your emotion?

How might you internalize it? 

A loved one demands you drop everything to focus on their problem. 

What would be your perception? 

What would be your emotion?

How might you internalize it? 

You find out your closest friends have been telling lies about you. 

What would be your perception? 

What would be your emotion?

How might you internalize it? 

How did you answer the questions about internalizing the hurts?  The way we internalize hurts indicates the lies we believe about ourselves.  Three common Negative Core or lie Based Beliefs are:

  1. Invalidation (I’m worthless) 
    1. Powerlessness (I can’t be happy if life is out of my control) 
    1. Tainted (I’m so dirty because of what I have done or what has been done to me) 

Did this exercise indicate you may struggle with similar lies?  If so which ones? 

Learning from those who have been there

Life is hard. Addiction and compulsive behaviors can be overwhelming. It can feel like a life sentence. It doesn’t have to be! Many have found freedom, peace, and a successfull life beyond addiction! The good news is this, You can too!

Let’s learn from one another! Want to learn more about low cost remote treatment? CLICK HERE!

Freedom Recovery Program Overview

A new approach to Substance Abuse Treatment

bfontaine74@gmail.com

The Freedom Recovery Program integrates evidenced based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, and components of the 12 steps for a holistic approach to addiction and recovery.  Unique to the Freedom Recovery Program (FRP) is a new way of looking at the addiction cycle and 5 concreate steps toward freedom. 

The cycle of addiction can be seen in this alliteration: Deception, distraction, discouragement, domination, and destruction.   FRP follows addiction from its origin as a small deception, a belief that there is a greater sense of love, joy, and peace to be found in an addictive or compulsive behavior.  The seed begins to grow into what is at first a welcomed distraction.  This soon develops into a pattern which distracts the user from his or her stated values and from healthy pursuits of love, joy, and peace.  FRP follows the addiction process from distraction to discouragement as the user begins to suffer emotionally due to their addiction or compulsive behaviors.  Here the individual uses more and more trying in vain to meet their basic human needs through their addiction or compulsive behavior.  From here the addiction grows so large it begins to dominate one’s life.  At this point the alcohol, drug, or compulsive behavior has directly or indirectly affected nearly every aspect of life.  The cycle ends in destruction.  Left untreated addiction begins to destroy one physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  In many cases addiction requires the highest price and takes one’s very life. 

The road to freedom can be mapped out through this alliteration: Replace, redirect, relationships, renewal, and restoration.  Wholeness, hope, and healing begin when one struggling with addiction begins to identify and replace the lies that led him or her to or kept them in their addiction.  Healing continues and the user discovers ways to redirect their actions toward healthier pursuits of love, joy, and peace.  Recovery continues as the individual finds encouragement and strength through healthy relationships.  Renewal begins as one discovers a new purpose in life.  Finally a life can be restored through healing cracked and broken relationships with self, others, and with God.

Big picture

what leads us to and keeps us in our addictions has everything to do with the basic human need for three things love, joy, and peace.  From a global point of view addictions develop from our attempts to find or to dull the pain of not finding love, joy, and peace.  This truth is worth repeating.  Perhaps it should be read slowly.  From a global point of view addictions develop from our attempts to find or dull the pain of not finding love, joy, and peace. 

In Its simplest form addiction is caused by the repetition of poor problem solving skills.  The problem is that we are in need of love, joy, and peace.  In an effort to find acceptance or love, joy, and peace some turn to drugs, alcohol, or some other anti-social or compulsive behavior.  Others turn to the same things to anesthetize or deal with the pain of not feeling love, joy, or peace. 

Freedom Recovery Program’s three-prong approach:

  1. Individualized treatment plan
  2. Weekly one on one counseling
  3. Psychoeducational substance abuse and recover training

This 5-week program includes:

  • Comprehensive substance abuse assessment
  • Personality profile assessment
  • Individualized treatment plan
  • 116 Page self-guided recovery book ($25.00 value)
  • Weekly one on one counseling via phone or video
  • Weekly psycoeducational video training
  • Email access to counselor throughout treatment
  • Complete Treatment Summary available for parole, probation, or sentencing judge. 

Program cost is low at just $50.00 a week for a total of $250.00. 

Call today to start your path to Freedom!

Brian H. Fontaine MA. CADACII

(219)608-4926

Promise Mountian

A Parable

Promise Mountain

Beneath Promise Mountain, far below the hills of hope, lies the valley of despair.  The valley spans three counties, the counties of Destruction, Disaster, and Loss.  There is a grand highway from the top of Promise Mountain, through the hills of hope, down into the tri-counties.  Good times Highway is a multiple lane, one-way road with no speed limits.  Every form of entertainment can be found on Good times Highway.  There are casinos, restaurants, and bars, night clubs, strip clubs, and party halls for all occasions.  Every form of gambling, gluttony, and illicit sex can be found on Good times Highway.  There are bars at each stop to serve up alcohol of every kind.   The Good times Highway offers drugs of all variety. 

Most people don’t start out from the top of Promise Mountain, or from the hills of hope, with the intention of taking the highway all the way to the end.  Sadly, so many find themselves swept away by the fast life and free spirit of Good times Highway. They forget that they are rushing headlong to the counties of Destruction, Disaster, and Loss. 

Those who through the help of God and others have made there way out of the tri-county area back up to the hills of hop and beyond can tell you of the dangers of Destruction, Disaster, and Loss Counties.  Urgently they warn of the pain below.  Those who listen and learn begin to find hope and healing. 

Still the alure of Good times Highway is strong, so very strong.  Many who have been rescued find themselves back on the road to the tri-counties. 

If you have never been to the Counties of Destruction, Disaster, and Loss by way of Good times Highway, God bless you.  I hope you never go.  If you have been so many times that you know the way well, God bless you.  If you are on the road now, God bless you.   There are good times to be had on that ancient highway, no doubt.  But the end is always, always, always the same.  The end of the road is destruction, disaster, and loss. 

You may feel powerless over the alure of the Good times Highway but there is hope for a brighter future beyond your current pain.  If you are willing, God and others who have been where you have gone are willing and able to show you the way back to the hills of hope and beyond. 

God bless you.

Brian H. Fontaine

Trauma, Emotional Regulation, and Grounding Techniques

Trauma and substance abuse often go hand in hand. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, and violence are a common thread in lives of many of the men I serve. The good news is that there is hope and healing from trauma.

Defining Trauma

Trauma can be any event or series of events which causes overwhelming stress, fear, horror, confusion, or helplessness to the point of causing physical or emotional harm.  This harm, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is described as having, “lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”1 In short, trauma is a physical and or mental disturbance which causes physical, emotional, and or spiritual harm.  It is important to note that what may be traumatic to some may not be to others.  A situation or event becomes traumatic to an individual when it overwhelms their personal capacity to cope. 

Based on what you have learned so far how would you define trauma?

Types of Trauma

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Divorce
  • Violence in family
  • Poverty, homelessness, lack of food or basic needs
  • Substance abuse in family
  • Family member in prison
  • Family member with a mental health disorder
  • Major medical condition
  • Victim or witness of a violent crime
  • Victim or witness of a violent accident
  • Combat in war
  • Refugee/ Displacement from home due to war or disaster
  • Victim of torture

What types of trauma have you suffered?

Damage from Trauma

Trauma can cause a host of both mental and physical problems.  Substance abuse, smoking, obesity, repertory health issues, heart disease, sexual promiscuity, relational problems, and suicide attempts are all possible results of trauma.2 Trauma in children can actually cause unhealthy brain development in both cognitive function and emotional regulation.3 

When a person is experiencing something traumatic his or her brain goes into its fight or flight mode.  At that moment they are hypervigilant.  This is the bodies’ way of staying alive.  When in this hyper state of alertness the ability think rationally is decreased.4  Although this fight or flight mechanism in the brain is for the protection of the body prolonged exposure to trauma may have deleterious effects.  According to traumainformedproject.org, “Prolonged exposure to trauma and/or repetitive traumatic events may cause an individual’s natural alarm system to no longer function as it should and or Result in emotional numbing.” 

Other symptoms of trauma include:

  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame 5

Trauma can also lead to:

  • Distressing memories
  • Distressing dreams
  • Flashbacks
  • Mental/emotional stress when reminded of the trauma
  • Physical reaction when reminded of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma (Dissociative amnesia)
  • Cognitive distortions such as believing, “I’m bad, I can’t trust anyone, or the whole world is dangerous. 
  • Persistent guilt or shame
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Feeling detached from others
  • Inability to experience happiness, love, or satisfaction. 6

Describe in detail your personal symptoms from trauma.

Healing from Trauma

Phase One Safety and Stability

Safety

Some traumatic situations are a onetime occurrence while others can last months or even years.  In the beginning stage of healing you must remove yourself from the trauma.  If you are currently in a situation where you are being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused you must get to a safe place. 

What does (or did) removing yourself from the traumatic situation look like for you? 

Why is it sometimes hard to remove yourself from an abusive situation?

Stability

Emotional Regulation

A person with high emotional regulation skills is better equipped to avoid extremes when it comes to unwanted negative emotions.  Conversely a person who has not learned these skills is likely to experience more extreme anger, anxiety, and depression and is continually at the mercy of his emotions.  Positivepsycology.com writes, “When we confront a provoking stimulus, the natural reaction of the brain is to activate the amygdala, a brain site that regulates the fight-or-flight responses (Lee, 2018). Emotional regulation processes allow us to buy time before we act on the fight or flight triggers.”  Here we will explore some concrete steps we can take to grow in the area of emotional regulation. 

  1. Pause.  In this step we take a moment between the activating event, that is whatever it is that is causing us negative or unwanted emotion, and acting on that feeling.  Getting into the habit of pausing before we act may be the single most powerful tool we have in emotional regulation.  If we can learn to pause when we are triggered by memories of past trauma before we react we have the chance to regain control and can insure what actions or reactions we choose were decided upon rationally and not simply out of emotion.  In the first step of emotional regulation we are making the choice to not immediately react.  The pause gives us time to work through some of the other steps in emotional regulation.

Give an example of a time that you did not pause when you were emotionally triggered and you suffered unwanted consequences. 

Give an example of a time you did pause when you were emotionally triggered and were able to think through your reactions in a rational way. 

  • Observation.  In this step we identify what unwanted emotion we are feeling.  Observation or mindfulness is a powerful tool of emotional regulation.  Stating your observations helps you process what you are going through and the corresponding emotions.   According to DBTselfhelp.com, “The ability to step back from what is happening in the moment creates psychological space. This separation allows you to not get caught in or react to your experience. Without the psychological space, your reactions are automatic.”  Some examples include the following: 
  • I’m so upset.  I just saw a man yelling at his child.  It reminded me of how my dad used to hit me.  I can hardly breathe right now.  I am really feeling out of control.
  • My counselor asked me how I am doing today after seeing my dad get killed.  I feel so shaken up I feel like my vision is blurred. 
  • All I have been thinking about is how I want to get high.  I am so tired of hurting and I desperately want to make this feeling go away. 
  • Identify Cognitive Distortions.  In order to regulate our emotions we need to make sure we are not adding fuel to the fire.  Out of our beliefs come our emotions and out of our emotions come our actions. In other words what we think directs how we feel and how we feel guides our actions.  This is why we need to practice metacognition (thinking about what we are thinking about).  For example, if a man is triggered by seeing an uncle at a family party who had sexually abused him as a child he may be thinking, “My uncle was very wrong to take advantage of child the way he did.”  He may also think, “I am so hurt by what he did.”  Those two thoughts are true.  It was wrong for his uncle to take advantage of him and he was very hurt by what had happened to him.  Although this belief may cause negative or unwanted emotions it is not a cognitive distortion.  He may also think, “I am not safe anywhere, I can’t trust anyone,” or, “The whole world is out of control.”  Here he begins to use cognitive distortions.  In this scenario the man had experienced trauma as a child and began to relive some of the pain from his past when he saw his uncle again.  By using cognitive distortions he is actually causing himself more mental distress.  Cognitive distortions make an already bad situation worse.  According to goodtherapy.org, “Cognitive distortions can take a serious toll on one’s mental health, leading to increased stress, depression, and anxiety. If left unchecked, these automatic thought patterns can become entrenched and may negatively influence the rational, logical way you make decisions.” 

Some common cognitive distortions taken from Freedom Recovery Program Book I:

Guilt Beating

One form of negative self-talk is called guilt beating.  This is when we beat ourselves down with words like, “Should,” and, “Ought.”  We say things like, I should be a better dad, I should have known that, I should have seen that coming, and I should not have let that happen.  Other examples of this include, I ought to have paid better attention, and I ought to know better by now.  

Always and Never Thinking

Another example of harmful self-talk is using the thinking error called always and never or dichotomous thinking.  This happens when we say things like, “She always wants to fight,” or, “He never wants to talk.”  Things are rarely always or never one way

Focusing on the Negative

This occurs when you focus your thoughts only on the negative aspects of life.  This happens when we say things like, “My life sucks, nothing good ever happens, or I’m not surprised things always go wrong.” 

Fortune Telling

Fortune telling occurs when we attempt to predict the future.  Often when we use fortune telling we will predict the worse possible outcome.  You may say things like, “He is going to kill me, this is going to permanently damage me, or I will never get over this. 

Mind Reading

Mind reading occurs when we presume to know what someone is thinking even when they have not told us.  A student is quit and appears uninterested in what the teacher has to say.  Although the teacher tries to engage the student he mostly just stairs out the window.  The teacher might think, “He thinks he is too smart for this class, He doesn’t like the way I teach, He doesn’t like me, He is trying to rebel by being passive aggressive.”

 Personalizing

This kind of automatic negative thought or self-talk occurs when we personalize the things that are said or occur around us.  A teenager crashes his dad’s car and the dad thinks, “I should have spent more time with the boy teaching him to drive.” 

What are some cognitive distortions you sometimes use? 

  • Take yourself out of it.  This is a helpful tool to use when you find yourself getting stuck in any situation where you need some counsel.  It can also be used as an emotional regulation tool as you seek to move out of your emotional mind.  Here is how it works.  Ask yourself this question.  If a friend of yours came to you with the same problem that you are having right now how would you council them?  You might be surprised how quickly and easily solutions come when you look at it from a different perspective.  In the 1940’s Carl Rodgers came up with Person Centered Therapy, or Rogeriean Therapy.  Rodgers believed, “Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self-understanding and for altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes, and self-directed behavior; these resources can be tapped if a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.”7
  • Set your resting thoughts. If you have ever had a song stuck in your head you have experienced the power of what I call, “Resting thoughts.”  Resting thoughts are what you are thinking between direct thoughts related to your activities.  You might find that a song is stuck in your head.  You sing a few lines of the song and then get busy at work. When you pause for the shortest moment the song comes rushing back in.  This is the, “Resting thought.”  Sometimes our resting thoughts are about how angry we are over an injustice, or how excited we are about an upcoming vacation.  As easily as our minds can get stuck on a song we can make something more useful our resting thought.  Some people have learned to program there resting thought by meditating on a spiritual truth or positive affirmation for the day.  This can be a powerful tool for emotional regulation.  You might consciously tell yourself over and over, “I am safe, I am in control, I am safe, and I am choosing to make this a great day.”  By telling yourself something over and over you are programming your mind.  According to braintracy.com, “Your subconscious mind makes everything you say and do fit a pattern consistent with your self-concept, your “master program.” This is why repeating positive affirmations are so effective — you can actually reprogram your own thought patterns by slipping in positive and success-oriented sound bites.”8
  • Breathing exercises.  Breathing exercises are a great way to regulate your emotions.  Several examples of breathing exercises can be found online.  Try the following exercise whenever you need to regulate your emotions. 

In a moment I’m going to ask you to take a very deep breath in.  When you do I’d like you to be aware of the cool air entering your nose and filling your lungs.  Also notice how your chest and belly rise with the breath.  Go ahead and take a deep breath and let it out slowly then allow your breathing to return to normal.

Next I’m going to ask you to take another deep breath.  This time as you breath in the cool air I’d like to encourage you to imagine the cool fresh air coming into your body and bringing healthy oxygen all over your body.  If you are feeling any discomfort you might imagine the cool fresh oxygen bringing healing to that area.  For example if you have a headache you might imagine the cool air going to your head and easing the pain.  This time when you exhale I encourage you to imagine breathing out all of the stress and discomfort you are feeling.  Breath in… and breath out… feeling yourself becoming much more relaxed.  You can use this technique of breathing in peace and breathing out pain anytime you are feeling uncomfortable. 

Next I am going to ask you to take three more deep breaths.  For each of these breaths I like you to breathe in very deeply.  When you can’t breathe in any more try to take in just a little more.  Feel your chest and your gut expand.  Hold it.  Then breathe out just as deeply.  When you feel like you can’t push out any more air try to release just a little more.  With your first breath as you exhale I’d like to encourage you to think about releasing all of the stress and concerns from your past.  With the second breath I encourage you to release all of the stress and concerns you are dealing with presently.  With your final breath release all of the stress and concern you have for the future.  This exercise will help you regulate your emotions and live in the moment. 

  • Grounding Techniques.  Grounding, according to healthline.com, “Is a practice that can help you pull away from flashbacks, unwanted memories, and negative or challenging emotions.”9  When recalling stressful events or experiencing a flashback a person will often experience negative emotions associated with the trauma.   Grounding techniques help individuals refocus their thoughts to the here and now.  They are reminded that they are present and safe.  There are two types of grounding techniques, physical and mental. 
  • Get physical.  With this technique you might stand up and stretch.  Reach your arms to the sky.  Bend over and let your head hang low.  Reach your fingers down as low as you can.  Try to touch your toes.  Stand back up.  Look up at the ceiling, raise your hands above your head, and arch your back as you stretch your arms back behind your head and look as far back as possible.  Doing this and other stretching as you tell yourself that I am here and I am safe, as well as other positive affirmations can be a great way to ground yourself and help alleviate unwanted emotions. 
  • Mindfulness.  Being aware of your senses is another type of grounding technique.  Feeling the smooth surface of your desk, savoring the smell of your coffee, and noticing all of the various sounds around you are all examples of grounding.  Other mindful techniques include listening to your heart beat, and scanning your body and noticing how you feel.  Again, you might tell yourself that you are here and you are safe and repeat other positive affirmations. 
  • Sensation.  Other grounding techniques have to do with creating sensation.  You might put your hand in cold, or warm water.  Notice how it feels.  Stay with the experience for a while.  You may also hold an ice cube or ice pack.  Or sit down outside and feel the grass.  Here too you tell yourself that you are here and you are safe and repeat other positive affirmations.
  • Use a grounding phrase.  There are several great mental tools we can use to help ground us as well.  By repeating a rote fact you are redirecting your mind away from unwanted thoughts.  A grounding phrase might be as simple as stating your name address and phone number.  Another example is to say, “I am here, I am safe, and I am going to be just fine.” 
  • Memories.  Another mental grounding technique is to recall a happy memory.  Try to describe it as best you can.  Recall what you were wearing as well as the sights, sounds, smell, and tastes associated with the event.   
  • Mental games.  Mental games is another example of grounding techniques.  Try to think of as many types of fruit as possible.  Name a place that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  Recite a poem or spiritual verse you have memorized.  These mental games are a great way to redirect unwanted thoughts and help with grounding. 
  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-Health Resources and Services Administration Center for Integrated Health Solutions. “Trauma.” Available at: http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma.
  2. A First Look Into Integrated Care for Primary Care Staff Relias Learning (2016).
  3. 7 Child Welfare Information Gateway (2015). Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development.” Available at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/brain_development.pdf.
  4. http://www.traumainformedcareproject.org/
  5. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967
  6. Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services.  The Impact of Trauma P. 271-272
  7. goodtherapy.org
  8. https://www.briantracy.com/blog/general/understanding-your-conscious-mind/
  9. https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques