Apr 02, 2010
Ready, Set, LIVE
Last year I caught a flu bug that lasted about 7 days. It was one of the worst bouts with the flu that I ever remember having. I spent 5 solid days dry-heaving. Mybody was so sore I couldn’t even sit up in bed. At one point I almost had to be taken to the hospital because I couldn’t hold any liquids down and my body was dehydrated. I remember feeling so terrible I was praying that God would just take me in my sleep. This was like food poisoning and the flu getting married and having babies all over me. I was a weak, blubbering mess of skin and bones by the time it was finished with me.
About a day after I finally beat this terrible virus I remember driving down the road by myself with the radio playing. I hadn’t seen the light of day or been outside for almost a week, and now I was cruising on the open road with the windows rolled down and the fresh air blowing across my face and body. It was a crystal clear day and the sun was shining. I stopped at a traffic light and just started talking out loud to God.
I was thanking Him for life. I felt so good at that very moment it brought tears to my eyes. I don’t think there’s ever been a time from my childhood on, where I felt as spectacular and refreshed as I did this very day. I could see clearly. I could smell and hear and taste and touch and feel with such amazing clarity and sensitivity that I just kept saying to myself over and over, “Man I feel good - MAN I feel good. I feel awesome!!!” I was literally blown away at how incredible I felt. I wanted to keep that feeling going as long as I could. I remember even contemplating what I needed to do to capture and box that delightful freshness and take it with me every day.
It hit me by the time I got home. The reason I was feeling so good was because I had been so incredibly sick for the last week. I was actually feeling normal for the first time in awhile. "Normal" had become the new “exquisite”, compared to how sick I had been. It amazed me that normal could feel so terrific. I found myself strangely grateful for the sickness because it had blown up my normal into something spectacular. Then the question hit me as to whether my normal had changed at all. It was just my perspective of normal that had changed because of the level in which it contradicted the sick feeling I had endured for the last 5 days. Then I realized that I had been fooled into thinking that normal was wonderful when in reality it wasn’t. It was only wonderful when it was on the heels of pain and suffering. Bummer.
Many of us have experienced spiritual abuse in our past that literally sucked the life out of us. We’ve been lied to, exploited, attacked, manipulated, used, pawned, threatened, embarrassed, belittled, put under fear, and worked to death like spiritual slaves. Some of us can’t bear to even look back on that time in our lives because It was so dreadful and dark. Even thinking about it makes us quiver with anxiety.
Then something spectacular happened to each of us. We were given information that literally changed everything in an instant. The information was simple and sweet, and it came at just the right time for each of us. Our God revealed to us that the world of religious slavery that we had lived under for so long was entirely man made. It was all a terrible lie. It was like growing up with an abusive, angry father only to find out later in life that we were stolen at birth, and our real father is this loving, kind, compassionate, patient, and generous man who’s been looking for us for the last twenty years.
This deliverance happened differently for every single one of us, but when it did happen, it was like recovering from severe food poisoning or a deadly flu virus. When God sent the antidote to this poison, each of us experienced a rush of freshness that blew across our spirits and filled our lungs with the first dose of pure oxygen we’d had in years. The experience of grace brought such an instant relief from years of religious strangulation that we honestly thought we had died and gone to heaven. The simple message that God is love, has within it the power to dissolve years of upside-down thinking and restore decades of lost time that each of us spent grinding at the mill.
This freedom I felt after coming to the knowledge of God’s love was the obvious answer to everything in my life. My entire understanding of Christianity suddenly sprang to life and made perfect sense for the first time ever. I could not escape how good I felt after coming to this knowledge. It was truly amazing. I remember talking to God out loud during that time and feeling so refreshed and free that I could barely find the words to express myself. I had NEVER felt such contentment and exhilaration. I wanted to capture and box this feeling so I could have it forever in my life.
I knew that I had to spend the rest of my life preaching this message to people all over the world. I had to. It was just a given. Kind of like pulling children from a burning building. You don’t sit around and contemplate whether or not it’s the right thing to do. You don’t pray about it and wait for God to “call you” into the saving children from a burning building ministry. You just do it. That’s how I felt and still feel about preaching the message of God’s love to the world.
Several years after coming to this revelation, I began seeing a pattern in my behavior. When I felt spiritually under the weather or a bit depressed, I found myself purposefully going over the past bondage and comparing it to the present freedom in an effort to reignite the excitement of the message. It worked for awhile, but once another year had passed I found myself wondering if something was wrong with me. It wasn’t as though I had lost my enthusiasm for God, and I certainly wasn’t drifting back into any areas of religious slavery. It was that I began to realize that perhaps the freedom I felt after leaving the oppressive world of religion and entering the world of grace and love, was a little like how I felt the day after I conquered the flu.
My “normal” had been escalated to spectacular because of the massive contradiction between the bondage I came from and the freedom I eventually encountered. I wasn’t questioning the authenticity of God’s love and grace, and I certainly wasn’t assuming that what I had experienced was just an emotional moment that would inevitably pass in time. What I WAS questioning was whether or not freedom from religious bondage WAS the end of the road or the final destination of Christianity. Was this feeling of absolute freedom and contentment really what Christ came to bring us, or was it just the beginning of something much bigger? Rather than go over the bondage of the past in an effort to elicit excitement for the present, I began to ponder the idea that this freedom was really only the starting line to Christianity.
I notice a pattern of thinking that I’ve found in certain circles that I believe plays into a mindset that creates stagnancy in our lives. We seem to get caught up in niches really easily. We’re almost incapable of moving forward from any revelation we receive. Rather than get something and then move on with life, we tend to camp out by our last revelation and even define ourselves and our calling by it. I have noticed that in many circles there is even a constant encouragement to NOT move on. People are labeled and pressured to stay put in whatever revelation they last received.
About twelve years ago I wrote a book on relationships. It was a book about marriage written for single people. I just got sick and tired of watching women in the dating world getting swindled, fooled, and used by men who were only after one thing. The book was a passionate perspective on relationships and love between a man and a woman. (We no longer sell it on the website so don’t ask for it:)
Anyway, after I published this book I had a pastor ask me to preach a series on the book in his Sunday school class. I ended up doing a 12 week teaching series and by the time I was finished, his class attendance went from about 30 to nearly 250. He asked me to take the class over. I accepted and immediately started writing a new sermon for the following week. The title was “Potential Problems for Pentecostals.” I wanted to point out different areas where Pentecostal Christians might struggle in their walk with God. Halfway through me writing this sermon, the pastor who gave me his class walked in and saw the title of what I was preaching next Sunday and he freaked out.
He explained to me that my “anointing” was in the area of relationships and that I needed to stick with what was working and not veer from it. If I were to start on another subject it would surely be out of God’s will. It wasn't just him who thought this way. Several years later when I began teaching on the Heart of God, many of my colleges and close friends were extremely let down and leery because “I wasn’t sticking with what God had called me to do.”
I see this mentality all over the Christian world. It seems that people seek out niches and barricade themselves inside them. Authors do this all the time. If a guy writes a book on grace, you can be sure that his next five books will be on grace, but covered from 5 different angles. His entire ministry is expected to be about grace until he retires or dies. Very rarely do we ever see someone write on several different unrelated subjects. It’s gotten to the point where we automatically associate a particular subject with an author's name. I believe there’s a hesitancy to “move on” because the present day Christian understanding isn’t set up for ANYONE to move on. When people are expected to listen to the same gospel message over and over, week in and week out for the rest of their lives, it’s very unlikely that you'll find anyone with a “moving on” mentality.
How tempting it would be to make the rest of my life about finding freedom from religious bondage. It’s such a powerful subject that touches so many people. What about after we are freed? Then what? That’s the problem I was facing in my own life on about year 3 of my exodus from organized religion. I was free from religious oppression, and immediately my mind went straight to the niche mentality and I thought “I’ll preach about this for the rest of my life.” So I started preaching and amazingly thousands of people heard the truth and were set free. Like me, they were all able to ride the wave of contradiction for a few years; but also like me, they came to a point where it was time to actually START living life freely.
The problem is that so many of us have been so far back behind the starting line of life that when we finally heard the truth and were set free, we thought we had jumped over the finish line. We were wrong.
Sometimes when I watch Free Believers in different chat rooms and forums around the internet I am amazed at how long they can continue milking the conversation of how they were once in bondage to wrong teachings about the Heart of God and now they know the truth. I wonder sometimes if anyone is planning on moving forward from this place of retrospect. I’ll be honest with you; I’m sick of the conversation. I’m tired of going over it and over it. I’m ready to cross the starting line of life and move on. YES, I’m glad we have the new “freedom toy,” but I’m more interested in how it works and what I can do with it.
I watched this show on the Discovery Channel the other day where they were following the life of different animals from birth to death. I can’t remember which one it was but one of these animals actually eats their own placenta as their first meal on earth. It supposedly sustains them while their body continues to develop, and it gives them more time before they have to go out and actually hunt for food.
In the same way I think many of us have fed on our past experience as a way to ignite energy and excitement in our lives, but the time will soon come when that spiritual placenta will be all gone and we’ll have to actually go out into the wild and start hunting. The great thing now is that we have wings!! We have an entirely new life ahead of us that’s attached to this freedom we found. Let’s cross that starting line and live life to the fullest! Ready - Set - LIVE!
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