“WHAT IF CHRISTMAS, THE GRINCH THOUGHT, DOESN’T COME FROM A STORE. WHAT IF CHRISTMAS, PERHAPS, MEANS A LITTLE BIT MORE?”

Many cartoon characters are created to represent real-life attitudes and personalities. I just had a fresh revelation that the Grinch who stole Christmas is not an evil-eyed, green goblin living in a cave above the town of Whoville.  Why, he could live anywhere. Any ol’ Who will do.

The Grinch could live in me.  He could live in you. He lives in any-who who adopts the spirit of Grinch-ness, and he thereby steals Christmas from that Who and Who’s family.

                  In many families there is an undercurrent of something that disturbs the peace at Christmas time. We gather for dinner, in “Christmas-snazzy” outfits, boots and sweaters, to share appetizers, seasonal spiced hot drinks, and an elegant meal. We hand out family gifts, with best choices for nieces and nephews, but there can be a tinge of sadness in some hearts. There can be a subtext to this joyful context. The unhappy subtext is written in the language of unforgiveness. One family member, say, has been offended by another at some point in this past year or years earlier, and there is resentment. Resentment has grown into contempt, and that bitterness now defiles other family members (Heb 12:15).

         Wouldn’t it be miraculous if one person reached out to the other and broke the silent stand-off? Wouldn’t it be a blessed Christmas if the offender owned his/her own offensive action from the past, and approached the other to ask for forgiveness? Wouldn’t it be a most-wonderful time of the year if the offended person went ahead and, without the other person’s apology, offered up the gifts of forgiveness and peace, to move the relationship toward healing?

         It would be miraculous!

         Forgiveness is a miracle-work of God in a person’s heart. Deep forgiveness from deep pain usually only comes after the miraculous grace-work of God has healed the heart of the wounded person.

         This is possible because of Emmanuel. Remember a couple of week’s back my blog was about Emmanuel; that God-with-Us for a moment on the cross became God-Forsaken? On the cross the Lord Jesus cried out as The Father had to turn His face away from the sight of His Son hanging on the cross bearing our sins. But just before this, Emmanuel said from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lu 23:34) Who would’ve expected that?

         The God-With-Us is the same God who said, “Father, forgive them.” Emmanuel forgave His murderers without their apology. Their sin —killing an innocent man— was at that moment being borne by Him Whom they were murdering!

         Emmanuel is The Forgiver of the Universe. God-With-Us is the amazing, miracle Forgiver who is now our life (Col 3:4a). He lives in us, in our spirit. God-With-Us has risen from the dead to now be God-In-Us.

         Since we are spirit-beings, spirit is our nature. His Life is our new nature. We, too, are forgivers then, by nature. It is now our nature to forgive others. We have the Life of The Forgiver as our life, so that we can even forgive without our offender’s apology.  Imagine that!

         The Eternal Forgiver of the Universe now lives in you.  Wouldn’t it be a most wonderful time of the year if you forgave people who weren’t expecting it?

         The Great Gift Giver lives in you, so BE YOUR TRUE SELF and give His gift to others this Christmas.

         Then you will experience and express the power of having been changed in your spirit, changed at the level of your nature, the level of Identity.

        

-Carter

ANOTHER CLUE THAT YOU HAVE QUIT ON YOURSELF

I enjoyed a Hill Country Thanksgiving.

            Outside of Fredericksburg, TX at Tim and Carol Bolton’s 100-year old restored German farm home, we ate a free-range (what else?) turkey dinner with trimmings. My son Parker drove out to join us. He lives in Austin and works at Uchiko, the most exciting restaurant in Austin. My oldest daughter, Theresa[1], was there with our grandkids, Asher (9) and Parker Ruth (7 in three days).  Yes, we have two Parkers in the family. Theresa liked her brother’s name so much that she named her daughter, Parker. So, we have Uncle Parker and little Parker Ruth.

            Tim and Carol were responsible for bringing my wife to Christ years ago (before she was my wife, of course!). I have enjoyed many fine meals and bonding conversations with Tim and Carol (and Mac & Gussie!). With coffee (and my chai latte) we have had some wonderful discussions of God’s grace, our righteous identity, and the ministry of our spiritual gifts. On this last trip Tim and I talked about his valuable ministry at a jail in San Antonio. He drives an hour into the city twice a week to teach the inmates about “Our Identity in Christ.”

            Tim isn’t the only one to minister to prisoners. We all minister to prisoners. In fact, I’m a prisoner, still.  You might be one, too.

            All of us, in some way, live with self-imposed limitations . . . like a prison.

Because of the WOUNDS in our past, we have bought into LIES about ourselves. These LIES become the internal argument for our limitations. (I’m not smart enough; I’m not rich enough; God won’t bless me; I can’t get a break; I’m not worthy of success; others keep me down; if I’d only had different parents . . .).

            When I argue for my limitations, I’m like Otis in the old Andy Griffith Show, who would stumble into the jail on Saturday nights and lock himself in a cell. I too send myself to jail, a jail defined by the limitations that I have agreed with. Most of the time I do not even know what these limitations are, and I need a gifted friend to talk through my thoughts (read: LIES) with me.         

            Here is an example from the book of a man I once met.[2] He illustrates this with an ordinary conversation where a person argues,

 

“I know I am late all the time, but I can’t help it. It’s just the way I am.”

 

Notice what we can see beneath the surface of such a statement.

  • First, this is a survival-strategy-statement used for covering up, and it is the Flesh.
  • The Subtext is covered up, which is: “Don’t expect from me what I don’t expect from myself, even if I promise it.”
  • By saying, “I can’t help it,” what she mean is that “It’s impossible for me to be on time; I am a victim to my nature; and thus, I am unable to do anything about the hurt I am causing you.
  • “So, since I can’t help it, you would be cruel to require of me to change. In fact, you would look like a Meanie, so don’t do that to yourself.
  • “In fact, a good Christian would never criticize me for being so crippled.”

 

 This kind of survival-strategy statement reveals clues that I am hiding something. I am protecting myself by hiding from the helplessness I feel in trying to change. I found it too difficult to change. It reveals that I have given up on ever changing. I once longed for maturity, but I found it too hard due to my past circumstances.

 

            When I give up on maturity, then I am accepting an “I” that I have created. This “I” has become my prison:  I can’t . . . I’ll never . . . I need . . . I will someday . . .

            Now, when life is going some way that I don’t like, feeling out of control, I start resisting everyone else’s behavior which I interpret as controlling me (“I know I’m late all the time”). When I think I won’t survive someone’s feedback to me, then I throw up my fleshly defense to not feel so bad (“I can’t help it”). Or when I become afraid that I’ll be criticized for my misstep, I play a game with you to not look so bad (“It’s just the way I am”).

            This is my hurtful way (Psalm 139:24), and it telegraphs that something is being hidden and covered up.  When I intentionally choose to argue for my hurtful way, I am arguing for my limitations, and I am confessing that I have given up on growing into maturity.

            “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (KJV). So is he . . . in prison.

 

-Carter

 

[1] Theresa paints decorative antlers for her store in Fredericksburg, that you women will want to check out.  https://www.etsy.com/shop/PivotHandmade

[2] Dan Tocchini, The Twinkle of an “I”

SOMETHING WAS MISSING; Here’s Why I Created PURE HEART WEEKEND

I spoke to a fine gathering of folks last Friday night in Fredericksburg, TX. Tim and Carol Bolton invited all their friends to come to their store to share an evening of Worship and the Word. Just off main street (www.carolhicksbolton.com), we opened up a space in the middle of their store, “Room No. 5,” and set up fifty chairs.   I spoke on the themes of Pure Heart Weekend, of course. Afterwards, Jeff came up and asked if the message could be found in print anywhere. so I found this article that I had written a couple of years ago. So, Jeff, if you look up my blog . . . here you go.

 

What is PURE HEART WEEKEND About?

I remember back in 2005, I had an epiphany on which I built the ministry grid for Pure Heart Weekend.  I was talking to a woman who had been struggling with her marriage for many years. Here’s what she did to heal it.

First, she participated in a rather unique ministry that had helped her with Healing Hurtful Memories from her childhood, what we also call healing the Wounds of the Heart. This ministry helped her find a deeper love and acceptance of herself from God. But her marriage did not get better.

Second, she went to her pastor for counseling. He helped her with Truth. He talked to her about the Biblical roles of a godly wife, so she could replace Lies with Truth. But her marriage did not get better.

Her marriage was still troubled until she went to a Third ministry, which contained the element of feedback. She was given feedback on her own destructive behavior in the marriage and in relationships in general. Even though her mind and her heart were better with truth and healing, she NEVER CHANGED HER BEHAVIOR!   When she saw her flesh for all it’s worth, she was broken. Finally, her marriage changed.

All THREE elements are important: WOUNDS, LIES & BEHAVIOR.   That was my epiphany!

So, I developed Pure Heart Weekend, wanting the Holy Spirit to reveal to believers that they have a need to address all three elements, too. Here’s why.

One, you picked up a Wound in the heart from earlier painful events.

Second, you agreed to a Lie, a shame-based message from Satan. Due to this wound, you are now in some way unloved, unwanted, never good enough, or unworthy of the love and acceptance of God and others.

Third, you then adopted Behavior to protect yourself, provide for yourself, pleasure yourself, or promote yourself. These ways of behaving were fine-tuned over the years as coping strategies, to make sure that love, fame, power and money were never scarce!

WOUNDS . . . LIES . . . BEHAVIOR

The history of the church is a history of teaching, correcting and training us in right, Christian behavior. We have always known what behaviors to do. It’s just that, well, we have always struggled to correct some of these behaviors. We have never understood what was driving that behavior.

The beginning of our destructive ways starts with our Wounds. God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone;” however, Aloneness is more prevalent in our lives than Love and Intimacy. We get wounded, betrayed, abandoned or neglected in life, and our minds try to get a handle around the meaning of this pain. That meaning often ends up in a progression of identities that allow Satan to feed us a lie of Shame.

For instance, I might be abandoned by my dad if he and mom get a divorce. Over time Abandoned grows to feel more like Unloved. Unloved, after a few broken promises from dad, grows to feel more like Unwanted. Then Unwanted, after some other losses and rejections in life, grows to feel like Unworthy. All of these “identities” are Lies from the enemy. 

Most of what we call disciple-making in the church is merely the sharing of Scripture verses and biblical principles —all good and godly information, for sure!  Collectively, what we are failing to attend to is the source of our problems, the shame-based identity that grows from not addressing the Wounds in life. We are neglecting a deeper dimension of transformational change, a change at the level of identity.

Our present models of Christian discipleship appear to no longer be as adequate or effective as they once were because, simply, they are incomplete.  What is missing is our lack of attention to all three elements of our shame-based identity. We give attention to all three –Wounds, Lies & Behavior— at Pure Heart Weekend.

 

“Any change that is going to be lasting and significant

must be made at the level of Identity.”

 

 

-Carter