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Real Koinonia Friendships by Dr. Kluane Spake

Real Koinonia Friendships by Dr. Kluane Spake
By Kluane Spake

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“No! I won’t do it!” I insisted while sitting out the outside steps pouting. I still remember how mad I was at her.

My mom told me I had to go outside and play. “All little kids play outside. You’re four years old now and you have to learn to play outside.”

I tried to sneak into my room to play and all of a sudden she grabbed me up and sat me on the steps outside the front door. Then, she shut the door and locked it!

Well… here I sat for a long time reciting, “No, I won’t do it.”

After a while the neighbor boy came over. He told me his name was Joey and asked if I wanted to play? Begrudgingly, I followed him to the play yard next door. We sat on the swing for a while and then went to the little sandbox area.

Joey was funny and made me laugh. Then, he said, “Close your eyes and open your mouth! I have a surprise for you.”

Ohhhhhh! That sounded exciting. So, I closed my eyes and opened my mouth. Joey then stuffed a big handful of dirt in my mouth and ran away laughing.

I ran home totally disillusioned – mud dripping down my face and onto my newest shirt. I banged on the door and screamed. Distressed, my mom let me back in the house and she never made me go outside again.

Continue to Hope in Koinonea

I wonder how many Christians have had friends that have disappointed them. Have you longed to find someone who won’t disillusion your hopes? And when they do, is there a forgiveness and an ability to press toward continuing with them?

How many of us go home and resist venturing out into the place of trusting someone again? How many people have you shut the door on and just quit seeing, saying, “That’s it! I won’t be hurt again.”

Truth is, we will get hurt again and again. Still, we have to remain vulnerable and open. God has a plan for us WITH them…

We MUST allow ourselves to continue to hope in Koinonea.

Scripture says that “Greater love (agape, the God kind of love) has no man (or woman, a demonstrative word without defined gender) than this, that he (or she) lay down his (or her) life for his (or her) friends (philos).” (John 15:13)

My friend, do you know this kind of love? The true lasting mutuality of commitment?

Will you STAND as a friend, even through great disappointment? The test will surely come…

And what is the “Lay down his life for his friends?”

Ask yourself, who will YOU die for? No matter what happens between the two of you?

And then ask, WHO will die for you?

I mean, really?

Loving One Another No Matter What

Everyone has a little dirt. That’s the Adamic nature

Does TRUE Godly agape friendship and Koinonea relationship mean that much to you?

Do you understand that loving one another NO MATTER WHAT — IS THE IRREDUCIBLE MINIMUM of the Gospel?

If we don’t learn this — how can we expect to gain greater mysteries? Lasting miracles?

The bottom line is, if we don’t love each other, we DON’T know God (1 Jn. 4:7-8).

Having Love for one another IS THE GOSPEL.

We have no message to preach if we harbor unresolved conflicts and hold ourselves apart — separate and distant.

This is the hour to address our disappointments, get out of our house, and to go back outside – back to those whom we have shut the door upon – back to the SANDBOX of life – and into the hope of God manifesting His GLORY in US (plural).

The Glory won’t happen by ourselves.

Dr. Kluane Spake

www.kluane.org


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What Love Isn’t by Faith Walters

What Love Isn’t by Faith Walters
By Faith Walters

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I think many times we don’t quite know what love really is. We don’t always recognize it. And we often mistake it for something else….or mistake something else for it. We have 1 Corinthians 13 to guide us in understanding love. But I have found that people interpret that chapter in many different ways, sometimes even contradictory ways. What I have understood love to be has changed and grown over the years and with different experiences. But I don’t think I truly began to understand love, until I experienced the complete opposite.

Growing up in the church, and having minister parents definitely sets you up for a certain standard.  And if you are someone like me, you do everything possible to live up to those standards…to live a life of holiness, obedience, sacrifice, ministry, worship and love.  Things like rebellion, selfishness, deceitfulness, malice and judgment were evils on the other end of the spectrum that had no place in my life and I never thought I would have to deal with personally or be accused of.

I grew up, got married, started a family, worked in ministry, went overseas as a missionary, followed my husband, followed the Lord; everything that a history maker” and world changer, Holy Ghost shaker would do. And somewhere along the way, I unknowingly lost my own way. My path of love became distorted because my understanding of love became distorted.

Experiencing the Opposite of Love

When I came to a place in my life where everything I had striven for was falling down around me, and I ended up in a divorce, I experienced the true polar opposite to love for the first time in my 32 years of life. And it was from the church; or some members of the church I belonged to at the time.

When you go through a traumatic event, that devastates and breaks you, the most important thing you need in that place is love. Real love….not so called hard love or I cannot stand for sin and must show you the right path because I love you (therefore I am belittling you and tearing you down and showing all malice against you) type of love.  And except my for my parents and sister, and a very select few, true love was something that was not shown to me in my time of greatest need, greatest challenge, greatest heartbreak and greatest trauma.

Most people say that hate is the opposite of love. But that’s not entirely correct. Love is more complex than to have only one opposite, but if I were compelled to name one thing, then opposition would be the opposite of love. Because love is FOR a person, not against them. God is for us, not against us, and God is love. All the attributes of God, are love in action. And God’s love is unconditional, immovable, unshakable, and irreplaceable. So that means that God’s (love) is unconditionally, immovable, unshakably and irreplaceably FOR you! And anything less, is not love (and is not God).

 
1 Corinthians 13

I am going to outline some things I learned about love using 1 Corinthians 13 as my reference.

  • Verses 1-3

In chapter 12, Paul talks a great deal about the gifts of the Spirit and how we should seek them, use them, and understand them. But he ends this chapter with an introduction to the best (and most extreme) path.  Love. And no matter the amount of gifts you have, prophecies you give, miracles you see, salvations you collect or character or standard of holiness or righteousness you uphold, if you don’t have love… you have nothing.  So this tells me, that love must be extremely important to God. And therefore we need to make sure we understand what it is and how to walk in it.  And I would say Paul agrees, because he spends the rest of the chapter trying to explain it.

  • Verses 4-7

These verses were used against me when I filed for divorce (key word here is against…. the Word should NEVER be used against anyone. That is not love). I was told that if I truly had love, I would forgive 70 times 7, I would persevere, I would be patient with the other’s shortcomings and it wouldn’t matter that things weren’t changing in the marriage. I would be kind to someone who wasn’t kind to me. I would have hope that things would change and I would trust the untrustworthy. That actually sounds pretty convincing doesn’t it?  Sounds very spiritual and righteous.  And to a certain extent there is truth in this. But it is also righteous and spiritual to love yourself: not selfishly, but honorably.  If my life, or your life, is no longer the life He has for me (or you), then something is dangerously amiss. You must honor yourself and your relationship with the Lord enough to cultivate His calling and desires in you, not play second fiddle to someone else or their calling. (NOTE PLEASE know that I am not condoning divorce because a person is not getting their way, or getting what they want, or bored of a relationship. God hates divorce….He doesn’t hate the people getting a divorce, but He does hate divorce because of the trauma and unsettledness that it creates in those He loves so dearly).

You are a child of the most High King – a precious living stone, a glorious member of the body of Christ filled with His Spirit.  I had to come to terms with being able to love myself – it seemed almost such a blasphemous thing. As Christians, we are taught to put ourselves last, to rid ourselves of selfishness and make ourselves selfless, not thinking about our own wants and desires or even needs. But as alarming to our “Christian nature” as it seems, God doesn’t see it that way. Each of us has a calling, a passion, desires that HE put within us… just because we get married, or serve a ministry, or have children, does not mean that all of that just disappears, or somehow takes a back-seat to someone else’s callings and passions.

Love isn’t a Manipulation

I once heard an acquaintance say, It doesn’t matter that my husband doesn’t honor me, help me or spend time with me, because his ministry is more important  for him to worry about than meeting my needs. I can just trust the Lord to meet those needs.  This is a typical thought process of many Christians who have just learned to live unselfishly”. But in reality, it’s manipulation of Scripture that puts us in an unhealthy place.

Love is not a manipulation that causes you to act a certain way or stay in a certain situation. Let me say that again: Love is not a manipulation that causes you to act a certain way or stay in a certain situation. Love is the manner in which you handle situations and people; the state and frame of mind you live in. It doesn’t keep negative or bad situations from happening, but it allows you to handle them with kindness, forgiveness, hopefulness, and perseverance. And it also allows you to handle those who are going through negative experiences in the same way. You may say, “well why didn’t apply this to your marriage and not get a divorce?”  Let’s go back a few sentences…. Love can’t always prevent bad things from happening…..like divorce, or losing a job, or losing a loved one. Or any other numerous negative things that happen in life, but it does guide the way you take care of these situations.

When I was going through my negative experience of divorce, I was handled by many, with malice, judgment, accusations, harshness…..I was being opposed….all in the name of love –  the “I won’t stand for sin (divorce) so I am going to treat you harshly until you do what I believe is right,”  type of love. Those who I had believed closest to me, and I could count on to be FOR me…turned against me.  Now some of those people would say they were always for me and never against me, just against what I was doing. But like I said before, love is the manner in which you treat a situation or a person. If there is a situation you feel strongly about or against, you make your stand by not pursuing it yourself; not becoming involved in or partaking in the activity or circumstance within your own life.  Not by rejecting the person or people. When you do that, you take a stance of being against them, and that is the opposite of love. When you put terms and conditions on love and support, or make someone jump through hoops to earn it, that is not love.  I received phone calls, emails  and even one or two face to face meetings, full of accusations about my actions, my motives, even my thoughts and feelings. I was completely taken aback that someone could presume to know my motives or my thoughts.  And as far as my actions, they were greatly misconstrued and I was devastated that I was never asked for the truth.  I was given ultimatums and terms which I had to fulfill under their accordance before I could be offered help or support. Hearsay and misrepresentations of my circumstances caused many bad and incorrect judgments over me. Jesus never did that. So I don’t know why some Christians think its ok to do it.

  • Verses 8-13

Love is ever enduring. When everything else fails, when it all turns to dust, when all knowledge and prophecy and even things to come have ceased, there still remains love. When we grow and mature, we no longer deal with things in a limited way.  When we learn to truly love, we gain completeness in Him. And we are no longer limited or have limited or partial view or partial understanding.  We are complete in Him.  And again here Paul reiterates the importance of love, by firmly telling us that love is greater than hope and even greater than faith.  And we know that “without faith it is impossible to please God.  So if love is greater than faith, than how much more important is it to have love than to have faith? As it says in Galatians 5, “It’s faith that works by love that avails.”

Governors of Our Own Heart

With the finished work on the cross, and the New Covenant replacing the Old, we no longer are subject to outward control, but become governors of our own heart. The outward control was done away with when the law was fulfilled by Jesus, because we are no longer under the law.  It then becomes a heart issue. And we are charged to manage our hearts through the Holy Spirit and the outcome results in the Fruits of the Spirit. It is no one else’s responsibility to help manage our hearts….or they will be doing the job of the Holy Spirit. And it is no one else’s job to control you….or they will be working out of the law.  We must manage our own hearts, and allow others to manage theirs. Everyone grows and works out their salvation at different rates and times, and we must allow for people to do just that and not have someone else do it for them.  And to properly manage our hearts, and allow others to do the same, we must have love or we will fall short every time.

Though I have been through hard things, I am grateful. Because I learned what love is, by learning what it isn’t.  I learned it is not love to judge people or their situations – by being on the receiving end of judgments. I learned it is not love to listen to hearsay or gossip, even from a reliable source, or allow it to cause you to draw a conclusion about someone or something – by being talked about in the name of love.  I have learned to be careful how you treat someone, to be sure to treat them with honor and love – by being mistreated and dishonored myself.  If I am unsure at times how to act in love, I always think this:  If something hurts my heart or their heart, it is not love. If something is not for you or them, it is against them and that is not love. If it does not bring healing and help, it is not love. And as I continue my journey in learning what love is and how to walk in it I hope to share love with others, no matter what, not matter when and no matter who.

Read 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 – Message Bible and New King James

 “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy, I am nothing  but the

 creaking of a rusty gate or clanging symbol.  If I speak God’s Word with  power, revealing great mysteries.and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain , “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I am nothing.

 

If I give everything I have to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but don’t have love. I’ve gotten nowhere. So no matter what I say or believe or what I do, I’m totally bankrupt without love.

 

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for yourself.

Love doesn’t keep wanting what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut around with pride.

Love doesn’t have a swelled head.

Love doesn’t force itself on others.

Love isn’t “me first.”

Love doesn’t fly off the handle.

Love doesn’t keep conscious of the sins of others.

Love doesn’t revel when others are low.

Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth. Love is not demanding and trusts God always.

Love looks for the best it doesn’t keep looking back at wrongs. Love looks forward and keeps going.

We don’t understand everything yet……..but one day we will know even as He knows.

Right now we have three things, faith, hope and love but the greatest of all is love.

Faith Walters

faithatgoodnews@gmail.com


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Are relationships a source of blessing or a source of stressing by Jacqueline Erasmus

Are relationships a source of blessing or a source of stressing? by Jacqueline Erasmus

A lot of people talk to me about the issues that they experience in their relationships with other people. Relationship is at the heart of human existence. We want relationships. We need relationships and without real and authentic relationships we feel empty, depressed and isolated. If you listen carefully to people you will quickly establish that  80% of people’s problems are relational issues. People have problems because they have problems with the people in their lives.

But before we seek to blame other people for our problems, perhaps it is also time that we seek to have a closer look at ourselves and the way we behave and act in our relationships.

I have not met one person yet who has not experienced hurt and significant disappointment in their relationships. I want to take some time today to list and briefly discuss some of the obstacles which affect our  relationships and friendships. All of us have to gain insight into how we behave and conduct ourselves in relationships. A failure to look and listen to ourselves  in the way we relate to other people, will sadly continue to leave us feeling dissatisfied with our current relationships or even  our lack of  real and authentic relationships. It is a sad fact that even Christians who regard themselves as “spiritually mature” , often have very poor skills and unhealthy foundations as it relates to having and building healthy and safe  relationships. We can pat ourselves on the shoulder because we have a relationship with Jesus, but how healthy is your  relationships with other people? I believe the reason why even Christians struggle with their relationships is connected with the fact that most people had poor role models when they they were growing up. Most people learn about how to act and behave towards other people from their own parents and their families. You may think that you come from quite a functional and “together” family but I have learned that none of us come from functional and “together” families. All of us have picked hurts up from our own families and parents. All of us have ( to a greater or lesser extent) learned unhealthy people skills and communication skills from our natural families. Ask yourself whether your way of handling conflict is really healthy? Take it a step further and ask a good friend whether he or she thinks that you have good conflict resolving skills?

The combination of hurt and wounds and a lack of Godly role models in our lives  often result in us having poor people skills and poor communication skills. Poor people skills and poor communication skills make relationships hard and difficult and so often results in more devastation and hurt. So many people become so disillusioned that they eventually withdraw from relationships or some settle for superficial relationships.

Some Christians mask  their poor communication and people  skills very well and yet they wonder why other people are not “open” to them or the message that they carry. Perhaps it is time that you and I examine how we relate to other people?

I believe God not only wants to heal the wounds of our past.  God  also wants to teach us how to  have healthy relationships. In order to change, we first have to admit that  we have to change. Most people have to re-learn things that they did not learn in their childhood. I have personally not met one person so far in my life who was born with excellent people skills and excellent comminication skills. The good news is, is that God will help you to change. If you are willing to change, He is more than able to help and heal you and to teach you His ways. Some people feel that they do not have to improve their people skills and their communications skills. This type of attitude will not get you far in life or in relationships.

I want to list a few things today that we need to become aware of in our relationships with other people. It is my hope that these insights will greatly help you to experience more satisfying relationships.

1) Are you a listener or are you a talker?

A lot of the time we wonder why people don’t want to open up to us in a real and authentic way. One of the  reasons why people probably don’t want to open up to you is because you do all the talking! Have you learned the art and the importance of active listening? If you want to have good friends you will have to learn to listen more and talk less. My natural inclination is to want to talk all the time so the Lord directed me into a profession that taught me how to listen more and talk less. God knows what we need and often He will enter you into a training programme if He feels this is necessary or needed! I remain a natural talker and I often have to stop myself to listen more and talk less.

So, take a good and honest look at yourself and ask yourself if you do all the talking in your relationships?  We need to try to balance talking and listening in our lives if we want to have good relationships and good friendships. Young children need a lot of attention all the time and they usually talk about themselves all the time. As we grow older, we go through our developmental stages and we learn to become aware of other people’s needs around us. If you want God to use you , you will have to learn to listen to other people. Nobody wants to be around people who always talk about themselves and who loves the sound of their own voice. We need to grow up and mature and God will help us with this process. Let the following verse encourage you in your journey of becoming an active listener.

1 Corinthians 13:11

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

2) Do you react or do you respond?

A lack of good listening skills will almost always cause us to react to other people in anger. We often react with anger and disgust when we perceive others to  disagree with us or when we perceive other people to show a lack of understanding for our point of view. Before you react to someone, train yourself to listen first before you respond to the person. James, the brother of Jesus was a person who taught others to back their beliefs up with their actions and their behaviour. If you read the book of James you will soon learn that James was not merely interested in the confessions and words of Christians. James basically taught that your actions and your words are both important. Let the following verses be an encouragement to you in your journey to respond to others rather than to react in anger all the time.

James 1:19-20

Amplified Bible (AMP)

19 Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.

20 For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires].

If you continue to feel angry in your relationships and if  you are unable to get to the root of your problem, perhaps it is time that you seek counsel and guidance from your Pastor or a Christian Counsellor.

3) Agree to disagree

I find it quite astounding that we somehow think that people will always agree with us! I think a lot of us will receive instantaneous release and healing if we understand that our closest friends and our  spouses will not always agree with our views. I think it is quite natural to want people to understand our point of view.Please don’t take it personally when people don’t always agree with you  and please don’t allow your differences in opinions to ruin your relationship with a person. I do not want to take this point too far. I do believe that husbands and wives need to agree on fundamental things because it will affect their finances or their marriage if they are not on the same page on the things that are really important. I do however think that people need to respect the fact that just because a friend does not agree with your view on a particular situation, does not mean that your friend does not care about you.  A lot of people feel instantly rejected when  people don’t agree with them. We have to come to a point within our hearts where we can  respect other people’s opinions even if we don’t agree with another person’s opinion.

If you feel easily rejected, perhaps it is time to seek help. There are lots of books and teachings available on how to find healing from rejection. A root of rejection in one’s life can be the cause of a lot of ongoing distress in relationships.

May we all mature in our relationships with each other and may we all try to change our own dysfunctional ways of relating to one another. Let us not merely talk about the freedom of Christ but let our freedom penetrate our relationships and our actions and behaviour  towards one another.

1 John 3:18

Little children, we must stop expressing love merely by our words and manner of speech; we must love also in action and in truth.


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One of You is a Gossip by Francis Frangipane

One of You Is a Gossip by Francis Frangipane
By Francis Frangipane

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A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends. – Proverbs 16:28

Jesus made a remarkable statement concerning Judas: “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?  Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” (John 6:70-71 NASB)

To what was Jesus referring when He identified Judas Iscariot as “a devil”? Was He speaking figuratively or factually? Is Jesus saying that a human being could not only have an evil spirit living in his soul, but that a person could actually become a demon?

Some teach that Judas had become so perfectly possessed by Satan that he actually lost his humanity. Before we accept this interpretation, let us remember that after this fallen apostle delivered Jesus up, he felt such remorse for betraying Christ that he committed suicide. Could a demon feel such remorse for sin? I do not think so.

What I believe Jesus is identifying in Judas Iscariot as a “devil” is something that, today, exists unchecked among many Christians: slander. In the New Testament the Greek word diabolos, which is translated “devil” in this text, is translated impersonally elsewhere as a “false accuser,” “slanderer” or “malicious gossip.” In fact, 1Timothy 3:11 and 2 Timothy 3:3 both translate diabolos (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #1228) as “malicious gossip(s).”

In other words, Jesus is not saying “one of you is a devil” in an organic or theological sense, but that one of you is “a slanderer, a malicious gossip.” So while the disciples were almost bragging about their loyalty to Christ, Jesus corrected them, in effect saying, “Yes, I chose you, but even among you there is one who is a malicious gossip, whose words will eventually betray Me to My enemies.”

Gossip in the Last Days

This problem of gossip in the Church, Paul tells us, will continue right into the end of the age. Listen carefully to what Paul wrote to Timothy about the last days: “Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips” (2 Tim. 3:2-3), and the list goes on. In the midst of this list of great sins of the apostasy, the apostle includes “malicious gossips.” This is the exact same word translated “devil” in John 6:70.

Perhaps you know people who always have something negative to say about others, who always bring negative information about people into their conversations. I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us how “malicious gossip” is kin to the nature of Satan himself!

The Scriptures say that we will be justified or condemned by our words. Yes, our words—even those spoken in secret with a spouse or friend about others—are used by God to measure our obedience to His will. James writes, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.” (James 3:2)

Words have power. Scripture reveals that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). Our words, expressed as a confession of faith, bring us into salvation; but words without faith can lead us and others with us into destruction and heartache.

James 3:8 warns, “The tongue . . . is a restless evil . . . full of deadly poison.” “The tongue,” he says, “is a fire, the very world of iniquity” (v. 6). And James reveals a most profound thought: “The tongue . . . sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (v. 6).

Satan gains access to our world, to destroy all that is good and holy in it, through our tongues. The very course of our life, the direction and quality of our earthly existence, is “set on fire by hell” through the words we speak. If we talk negatively about someone or maliciously gossip, the destructive fire of hell itself is released through our words. Lord, help us to understand the power of our words!

I believe God wants to break the power of gossip and negative speaking from the Church. We may have a perfect analysis of what is wrong and why it is evil, yet if all we do is talk about it, we have yet to disavow our allegiance to hell. God calls us to be a house of prayer for all nations—a spiritual community that is mature, fully capable of seeing what is wrong, but positioning itself to release redemption into the world.

If Paul Visited Your Community

Imagine if the apostle Paul came into a typical American city. Do you know what he might say about our divisions? Probably what he told the Corinthians: “I am afraid that perhaps when I come . . . there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances.” (2 Cor. 12:20)

Does that remind you of any churches anywhere? Strife? Jealousy? Slander and gossip? How can we approach God with these things existing in us? I believe God desires to give the Church a whole new approach. But we cannot lay hold of the future unless we first let go of the past.

Perhaps you are thinking, “So and so should hear this.” Yes, but we must start with ourselves. Pastors must stop talking negatively about people; they need to refrain from “leaking” problems with people into their sermons. Intercessors must stop negative gossip about the people for whom they should be praying. If we discuss what is wrong for ten minutes, let us pray for redemption for twenty.

Judge Not

How do you respond to life’s imperfections? Do you gossip? When you hear of someone’s failure, are you quick to spread the news? If Jesus was looking at the Christians with whom you fellowship, would He say to you what He spoke to His early apostles, that “one of you is a malicious gossip?”

Even if you are not a gossip or slanderer, you must be careful to avoid “fellowship” with gossips. Criticisms incubate. Paul warned that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). If we walk with the wise, we will become wise, but if we open our hearts to the cynical and critical, then we become like them. That is why Jesus said we were to “take heed” to what we hear. For whatever we intently focus upon, we absorb in abundance (see Mark 4:24).

Thus, we must not even listen to gossip. When God shows us what is wrong in life, it is so we can pray for redemption, not spread the bad news all over town. Prayer has a positive focus. People with Christ’s love have a spiritual vision that causes them to see beyond the imperfections and limitations of the present world into the potential awaiting in the future—and they pray until what they see comes to pass.

Remember: None of us stands perfectly upright. Every time we judge someone, we position ourselves to be judged as well. Indeed, we each continually lean in the direction of our weakness. Only by the grace of God are we kept from falling. The moment we begin to self-righteously judge or gossip about another for their failings, we lean a little closer toward our own fall.

Our actions and words should be motivated by mercy. If we must discuss the situation or individual, let us harbor no malice or ill will. Let redemption be our guide, not revenge. Let us keep ourselves from becoming those who betray the working of Christ on earth. Let us keep ourselves from the realm of the malicious gossip.

Lord, purify my lips with fire from Your holy altar. Father, forgive me for my words that have not always been redemptive. Lord, deliver the Church from the realm of spreading gossip to the work of spreading grace. Help us to be a house of prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Francis Frangipane

www.frangipane.org


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Defense Mechanisms: Why and How we block Intimacy by Junior De Souza

Intimacy can be incredibly elusive! Though we all desire and need it, often times we ourselves are the very reason it escapes us. May the Lord illumine our eyes to see and move beyond our defense mechanisms into fulfilling, lifelong intimacy with our loved ones.

Authentic Connection

What is intimacy?

Intimacy is the meaningful and fulfilling connection between two or more authentic selves. Vulnerability and trust are assumed, since the authentic self is essentially and perpetually vulnerable, needing assurance of safety for expression. Intimacy is when the real Me meets the real You in a moment of trusting, soulical intercourse.

Just as intimacy can happen between people, it can also happen with God. We enjoy intimacy with Him when our truest self is presented regularly in His presence—the good, the bad, and everything in between. When the deepest Me approaches Him, the deepest Him can reciprocate and sweep over me (Ps 42:7). I become one with His heart and soul, going deeper than His deeds, gifts, and lordship.

Emotional Fears

Why do we block intimacy?  

Intimacy blocking is when a person employs certain behaviors to fend off potential intruders to their soul. These behaviors are commonly referred to as defense mechanisms, or simply defenses. We’ll get to them in a sec. In general, we block intimacy for four reasons.

Fear of buried pain  Those with buried emotional pain are terrorized at the thought of ever reliving that pain. The greater the trauma, the greater the buried pain, the greater the fear of that pain. Consequently, they block persons, interactions, or scenarios whereby that pain might be triggered and relived.

Fear of judgment  Who likes to be criticized or picked apart? No one. Some personality types and maturity levels can absorb or deflect it better than others, but nonetheless, criticism is not desirable or good (Mt 7:1-5). Some block intimacy when they anticipate judgment.

Fear of ridicule  Affirmation is a basic need. Unfortunately, many grew up in families where validation was scarce and shame was abundant. These wounded souls shut down or lash out if they sniff out potential shame, canceling any and all connections. Who wants to let their true self out only to be laughed at, belittled, or ridiculed? Saul hid himself at his kingly coronation for this exact reason (1Sam 10:21,22), which ended up happening anyway (v27).

Fear of rejection  Just as we need appropriate doses of affirmation, so also we need a social niche, or acceptance. Some block intimacy for fear that their self-expressions would cause them to be disenfranchised (rejected) by the very group they seek identification with.

Defense Mechanisms

How do we block intimacy?

Defense mechanisms are behaviors people employ to fend off potential intruders to their soul. All of us, at one time or another, for one reason or another, have used these barriers. However, as God continues to heal us inwardly, free us from the fear of man, and purify our overall personality, defenses should become less and less important.

Also keep in mind, these defenses are, at times, erected subconsciously. We might not realize when or how much we use them until a moment of clarification dawns. May this be our moment.

Marketing Accomplishments

Some people divert attention away from their soul by marketing their accomplishments. They continually spotlight their successes, victories, and achievements in their interactions with others. They incessantly, sometimes obsessively, put their “best foot forward”. In a job interview this might be okay, but not so with loved ones or the Lord. They need us to be deeper than our successes.

The needy and naïve are often impressed by such self-promotion. The confident are bothered by it and disdain it as bragging. The emotionally whole and spiritually discerning perceive it for what it is—a defense mechanism.

Playing to Strengths

Some people play to personal strengths, such as talent, beauty, heritage, wealth, and so on. This is slightly different from accomplishment-marketing. Playing to strengths spotlights what one has, while the former spotlights what one has done. This is another form of “putting your best foot forward”. Again, this might be okay in a job interview, but not for intimate relationships that require a more complete self-presentation.

Anger

How well does this work? Very. Occasional rage, a violent explosion, an aggressive tone, a seething irritability, a tense face, quick movements…who wants to mess with that? Anger is certainly among the most successful defenses. It begins to crumble though, when one comes along unmoved and unbothered by such childish temper tantrums.

Staying Busy

Martha avoided intimacy with Jesus by staying busy (Lk 10:38-42). Being always on the go, or hyperactivity, are defensive schemes to keep meaningful connections at bay. Who can be close, truly close, to a person who won’t slow down? This is true of both our relationship with people and the Lord (Ps 46:10).

Intellectual Garble

Sometimes the head can be the enemy of the heart. Some, especially the intelligent, barricade themselves from intimacy by being a “talking head”. They use intellectual garble, rhetoric, and diversions to avoid raw emotion, vulnerability, and bonding.

“Parenting”

Parents do not share full intimacy with their underage kids. The mental and social gap is simply too great. Similarly, adults who play the “Parent” role with other adults also create such a safe distance. Those who arbitrarily and continuously seek to parent, pastor, and patronize those around them do so as a defense mechanism. Their conscious and subconscious logic goes something like this: If I’m your parent I don’t have to relate with you heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul…because I’m your parent remember?  The Parent tactic is simply another intimacy blocker.

Superspiritualism

A tricky defense occurring often among Christians is superspiritualism. Christians hide their real person behind excessive Christianese, Scripture quotations, dramatic spiritual stories, “God told me” lines, and so on. These annoying brethren occasionally need to be interrupted in the midst of their performances and asked, “Helloooooo, is the real You in there somewhere?”

I’m not at all doubting the validity of their relationship with God or their experiences, only their spiritual maturity, emotional wholeness, and relational fulfillment.

Hyperindependence

Independence is good and necessary, but hyperindependence is a hiding place from intimacy. Isolation, seclusion, extreme privacy, and lonerism are protective reactions, as is the extrovert who advertises an I-need-no-one persona.

Codependence

Codependence is not intimacy, it is survival. It is not a meaningful connection, it is a desperate lifeline. It is one person sucking life out of another, or two people sucking life out of each other, but not two people floating in the buoyancy of genuine vulnerability and trust.

Precious Lord and Father, we identify our fearful defenses, we repent of them and ask your forgiveness. We ask for more grace to practice better, biblical ways of responding to our emotional needs and crises. In Jesus name, Amen.

Defenses vs Boundaries

Guarding Our Hearts

Proverbs 4:23: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Solomon is not urging us to be defensive or nonintimate, but to have wise personal boundaries that others cannot trespass. The opposite of defensive is permissive. Swinging to a permissive extreme makes us vulnerable to the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong way.

Psalm 48:12,13 tell us the city of God had watchtowers, ramparts, and citadels. John 2:24,25 tell us Jesus Himself had boundaries. How much more we?

Not only do boundaries guard individuals from the harmful, they also guard relationships. When intimacy begins to blossom, such boundaries will protect the vineyard in bloom from intrusive foxes (SS 2:15).

We establish boundaries through selectivity in four areas: talk, time, touch, and tangibles. We are to be selective with our talk, the types of personal information we share with others (Ps 141:3, Pr 13:3, 18:6,7). We are to be selective with our time, carefully predetermining and administrating the time we spend with certain persons and in certain places (Ps 101, Pr 12:26, 22:5). We are to be selective with our touch, monitoring with whom, when, and how we experience physical contact with others (1Sam 20:41, SS 2:7, 1Th 4:3-6, 1Ti 5:2). We are to be selective with our tangibles, screening who, when, and how our belongings are shared with others (Ezr 8:21, Job 5:24, Pr 12:27 NIV).

Lifelong Intimacy

Four “Right” Connections

God desires that we enjoy lifelong intimacy with others. This is done by understanding intimacy as four “right” connections.

Connecting with the Right People  

There is a type of person that is ideal for intimacy (Ps 101). We should all seek to be that person, and we should pray for these persons to be groomed and sent to us.

This type of person is, for the most part, non-defensive. They are willing and wanting to emerge from their fortress to share their soul with someone. This type of person understands boundaries. They are willing to maintain limits around their talk, time, touch, and tangibles so that any blossoming intimacy would be safe.

Most of all, this person is intimate with their First Love (Rev 2:4). Intimacy with Jesus is the foundation and schooling for all human relationships (Mt 7:24-27).

Connecting for the Right Reasons

Intimacy is the equal giving and receiving of authentic selves, giving being the beginning and the basis (Ro 12:10, 1Co 13:5, Php 2:3,4). Those who approach relationships to receive first do not have an intimacy mentality. Connecting for the right reasons means giving first, receiving last. Relationships implode or explode when one or both persons put receiving first.

Connecting at the Right Times

Intimacy is an opportunist—it can be heightened or microwaved at certain times. Victories, crises, and change are flashing-light opportunities to connect deeply (1Sam 20, Ro 12:15). More energy, thought, and prayer should be exerted in these times. Connect at the right times.

Connecting in the Right Ways

People have different love deficits based on past experiences. People have different love preferences based on their personality. Sensitivity and observation will reveal these. Connecting in the right ways means customizing love so that deficits are healed and preferences are satisfied (Eph 4:29, Php 2:4).

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Recovering from Rejection by Junior de Souza

   The Force of Rejection


 
Rejection is one of the most titanic ordeals a person can experience, on par with the death of a loved one or terminal loss of health. Sound exaggerated? Then consider this. Rejection, or the perception of it, contributed to Cain murdering his brother. God even points this out beforehand (Gen 4:7). Rejection from his mother and a music producer harbingered Charles Manson’s masterminded murders of at least nine innocent people.
Rejection, or the perception of it, is one of the main precursors to substance abuse, destructive relationships, sexual addiction, and countless other tragic stories. On a more general level, rejection is the fuel for low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, insecurity, compliance, conformity, loneliness, hypersensitivity, and aggression.
No need to despair, though. There is full recovery from this fatal toxin. Technically, anyone (Christian or not) can recover from it. However, only in Christ and through the Spirit of liberty can a person enjoy the purest and most thorough form of recovery and freedom.

Rejection


Rejection is being refused, excluded, unrequited, or discarded by another person or group. The perception of rejection can be equally injurious, especially in a person’s younger years or in times of greater emotional sensitivity. Rejection can be passive (ignoring, indifference, distance, absence, etc.) or aggressive (ridicule, harassment, bullying, violence, etc.).

Rejection Expectation


 
Rejection expectation is the assumption of rejection. (It is also called rejection sensitivity, rejection complex, rejection root, and spirit of rejection.) In other words, a person who has been rejected severely or repeatedly comes to anxiously expect it. They assume it will happen, and thus, they are hypersensitive to the slightest indicators it might be happening. Overreactions are common. The most minor brush-offs and refusals feel like earth-shattering humiliations. Relationships with this type of hurting person are a stomach-turning roller-coaster.

Why is rejection such a big deal?


Rejection is so meaningful to us because we are emosocial, meaning, our mental condition is somewhat (but not totally) woven into others. This does not necessarily imply inherent codependence or neediness, rather, it implies an inherent need for belonging and good relationships.
God Himself summed it up best when He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18), and, “Two are better than one…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecc 4:9,12), and, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together” (Heb 10:24,25).

Two Signs of a Rejection Root


 A “rejection root” shows itself through two main fruits: low self-esteem and hurried attachment.
This root makes us doubt and second-guess ourselves continually, and in extreme cases, hate ourselves. It makes us feel small, smaller, or smallest (Num 13:33, Jud 6:15, 1Sam 9:21). Bottom-line: unresolved rejection fuels low self-esteem.
This root also pressures us to attach to others too quickly, too easily, and usually indiscriminately (Pr 12:26). I am not referring to those unique instances where phenomenal chemistry and compatibility are present, microwaving the typical bonding process. I am referring to a pattern of attaching to others too quickly, too easily, and too indiscriminately. This hurried bonding is motivated by bleeding wounds for acceptance.

Accurately Interpreting Rejection


 Not all rejection is equal. Not all rejection is vicious. As children we interpreted all rejection as “bad”, and as adults we generally do the same. Few people develop the keenness to discern different categories of rejection and their meaning.

Unjust Rejection


 This brand of rejection is the vicious kind. It happens when someone rejects us simply because they themselves are vexed by their own rejections. It is seen most obviously in children/youth and their propensity to exclude, ridicule, or bully. It is also seen in parents rejecting their children (certain aspects of them), mainly through excessive criticism and withholding basic validations.

Healthy Rejection


 At the opposite extreme is “healthy rejection”, and it tends to happen more among adults. Sometimes people reject us because they perceive destructive tendencies in us or in our life. Thus, in discretion, they distance from us partially or completely. More aggressive individuals might even confront us openly before pulling away.
We need this healthy species of rejection. Why do we assume others should accept us unconditionally, while we possess elements that could harm or devalue their life? If we find ourselves continually rejected by different types of people, across several different settings, over multiple seasons of time, guess what?

Perceived Rejection


 Sometimes it’s all in our imagination or (faulty) perception. Believe it or not, you can feel what is not real.
They are just preoccupied. They are carrying a private burden. They are truly busy. They really are tired. They are not rejecting us or anything about us. They simply cannot give us what we would like at that time.
Adults have the cognitive development to reason through this and undo the feeling (even though many do not and assume their perception is right). Children, however, cannot. They are literalists and one-dimensional. Their perceptions are assumed to be absolute truth. Therefore, parents and caretakers need to do their best to embrace and accept, and avoid behaviors that could be perceived as rejection. When unavoidable, time and effort need to be taken to explain away the perceived rejection and reassure validation.

Recovering from Rejection


Recovering from rejection or eradicating a rejection root is 100% doable. If not, we doom ourselves to puppy-dogging for attention, approval, and acceptance that will continually prove elusive.

(1) Heal those you have rejected.


 When I was 21, the Holy Spirit revealed His hot displeasure towards my character. He prompted me to make a list of every person I had ever rejected or hurt significantly. It was 126 victims long. Then He prompted me to go back to each one and humble myself, state my wrong specifically and without justifications, ask for their forgiveness, and make restitutions where possible.
The next eight months were occupied with in-person visits, phone calls, handwritten letters, and emails. I never knew a human being I thought to be so wonderful (me) could actually be so depraved (me). Each name was a nauseous encounter with the raw, real pain I had caused. I abhorred myself. I couldn’t take enough showers to get Me off of Me.
But glory to the Sanctifier! I saw dozens of emotional healings in these precious ones, and even two feuding families (which I caused) reconciled and resumed friendship. When I marked off #126, I felt as if my being had been in a washer machine over a hundred times. I wish I had the vocabulary to express how this reformed my deepest personhood.
One thing I did not expect was this: the spirit of rejection I had lived with for many years had now become inexplicably dislodged and was almost nonexistent. More steps would need to be taken, though, to complete the miracle.
Matthew 7:2,5: …with the measure you use, it will be measured to you…You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
      
Proverbs 28:13: Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

(2) Repent for owning the rejection of others.


 Rejections will always happen, but we do not have to own them and welcome them into our core personality. We can hold them at a scientific distance, analyze and learn from them, then release them back into nothingness. Whether we owned these rejections as innocent children or as foolish adults, we need to repent specifically and verbally reject them from our identity in the name of the Lord Jesus. Owning rejection is owning an idol.
Ezekiel 14:3: Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces.

(3) Accurately reinterpret your rejections according to what’s really true.


  Remember, feelings do only one thing: feel. They do not reason or calculate. They do not analyze or interpret. They do not consider or reconsider. They feel and that’s all they do—feel.
This means you will have to surpass your emotions to analyze the truer nature of your rejection. Is it unjust rejection, coming from someone(s) simply passing on the ills they have suffered? Is it healthy rejection, coming from others’ perceptions that I could harm or devalue their life in some way? Is it only perceived rejection, and I am overreacting via my own rejection expectation? Figure out and follow what is really true.
John 8:32: You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

(4) Pursue a rejection-free life.


 Pursuing a rejection-free life means two things: (1) consciously reminding yourself to accurately interpret rejection scenarios and never own any rejections, and, (2) generously granting judgment-free (but wise) acceptance of others. Live above receiving or giving inappropriate rejection.

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Five False Identities by Junior De Souza

What is Identity?

      Identity means self-definition. It is who or what we believe we are from the very epicenter of our being. Consequently, it is from this wellspring that we feel, think, choose, and act. 

      Because identity is so primal to our life outcomes, God will devote significant measures and lengthy time periods to its development in us. We can expect Him to put us in odd situations whereby false identities can be illumined and stripped. We can expect Him to put us in encouraging situations whereby true ones can emerge.  

      If we second-guess our identity in Christ, we become what Scripture calls “double-minded”. If we become double-minded, God refuses to be invoked (Jas 1:6-8).

      Jezebel’s desperate last effort to stop Jehu was to assault his identity. She sarcastically labeled him “Zimri”–a betrayer and murderer (2Ki 9:31, 1Ki 16:15-20)–in an effort to make him second-guess himself. Joseph’s brothers likewise barraged his identity (Gen 37). Job’s wife cursed his (Job 2:9,10). Satan went after Jesus’ immediately after He received affirmation of it (Mt 3,4)! We must cling stubbornly to the identity the Lord has conferred on us.

 False Identity #1: The Family-based Identity

      Many people depend on their families to define them. This can be a positive or negative thing.

      During the first fifteen to twenty years of life, we came to define ourselves by what our families reinforced. In general, we assimilated into our personality what they affirmed and rewarded, while discarding what they disparaged or persecuted. We internalized their messages, the direct and indirect, and made them our own. 

      The messages that were helpful, holy, and healthy contributed to a sound identity. The ones that were not, or the ones delivered inappropriately, contributed to false or poor or destructive identities. Such identities would eventually hinder the full enjoyment of our new identity in Christ.
Yahweh, knowing this, told Israel not to dictate themselves by sinful family ways (Eze 18, 20:18,19, Dan 5:18-30). Any self-image rooted in family sin and negativity is a false identity, a competitor to our new identity in Christ.

      Genesis 5:3 sums this one up: …When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image…

 False Identity #2: The Socially-based Identity

      Some depend on their inner and outer social circle to define them—friends, romantic partners, co-workers, teammates, anybody in their para-family social niche. If we are not conscious and intuitive, the attitudes of those around us can conform us to their definitions of reality. As with family, not all of that is bad, and some might even be very helpful. It is the unwholesome and unbiblical definitions that we need to deflect away.

 False Identity #3: The Performance-based Identity

      In 1948, a “Humanist Manifesto” was pronounced to be the philosophy of the age in the western world. It deified the human ability to perform and achieve, a deification that penetrated every cell of Western society, including Christianity. The result? A self-definition along these lines: I am only as good as my performance…If I perform well I am well…My performance determines who I am…I am what I do.

      This performance-orientation (-obsession) inspires workaholism and perfectionism, telltale signs most easily recognized. This identity tends to produce competent and successful people who are wanting and messed up personally. Why? Their obsession is what they do, not who they are.  

      We must be grounded and founded in I am, not I do. Our innermost cornerstone must be Christ-centered (Col 2:7) and self-valuing (Mk 12:31 “as yourself”), apart from what we can do, perform, and achieve.

 False Identity #4: The Money-based Identity

      Just as a person can depend on family, social links, or performance to define themselves, so also money and possessions can be so used. Nebuchadnezzar had a materialistic identity (Dan 4:4,27-30). It was the basis of his pride for which he was judged. Though it is certainly not wrong to have material abundance (Ecc 5:19), it is quicksand to focus our identity on them (1Ti 6:10,17).

 False Identity #5: The Appearance-based Identity

      Finally, some center themselves on physical beauty. This underlies the cosmetic surgery mania. To be clear, I am not arguing for or against cosmetic surgery, but I am definitely speaking against an appearance-based identity. Narcissus, the intriguing mythical personality, lost himself in his own beauty. He drowned himself to be one with it.

      Scripture tells us to be excellent in our physical upkeep and presentation (Pr 27:9 NKJV, Ecc 9:8, Mt 6:17). It even presents examples where God used human beauty for positive purposes (1Sam 16:18, Est 2:1-18). However, Solomon said beauty is deceptive and fleeting as an innermost dependency (Pr 31:30).

 The Need for Love, Blessing, and Purpose

      All counterfeit identities are simply illegitimate ways of experiencing three things: love,blessing, and purpose. The human heart hungers and thirsts for these three things. If not found in and through Jesus, they will be sought in other ways, especially the ways mentioned above. Wonderfully, our identity in Christ provides exactly these three things. 

 True Identity: I am beloved in Christ

      In and through Jesus, we are loved fully and freely. He gave birth to us spiritually (Jn 3:5-8, 1Jn 4:7). He has made us His beloved sons and daughters (Ro 8:14-16, 1Jn 3:1,2). He has lavished His love all over us (1Jn 3:1). He has poured His love into our hearts (Ro 5:5).
Because we are His beloved, we have many amazing privileges: we are complete or “full” (Col 2:10), we are one with Him (1Co 6:17), we have Christ’s new nature (2Co 5:17, Heb 3:14), we have direct access to Him (Eph 2:18, Heb 10:19-22), we are eternally hidden and protected (Jn 10:28,29, Col 3:3), we are royalty/heirs (Ro 8:17, Gal 4:7, 1Pet 2:9, Rev 1:6 NKJV), we are citizens of heaven (Php 3:20).
This, my brothers and sisters, is what we are to define ourselves by and organize ourselves around! If you are born-again, this is your first and foremost identity. Not family, not social connections, not performance, not money and possessions, not appearance. You are the beloved of the Lord.

 True Identity: I am blessed in Christ

      In and through Jesus, we are blessed spiritually and practically. Ephesians 1 opens by saying we have been remarkably blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (v3). Romans 4 speaks of the “blessedness” of the saved (v6-9). 2Corinthians 1:20 says every promise for us in Christ is YES! Many scriptures emphasize our blessed status: Romans 10:12, 1Corinthians 9:23, Galatians 3:8,9.

      This blessed identity means several things. First, it means we are blessed with a new identity upon salvation. As mentioned in the previous section, Ephesians 1:3-14 discusses this magnificently.
Secondly, it means we are blessed with power (Eph 3:20) and anointing (2Co 1:21) by the indwelling Holy Spirit to live out our identity in real life. In other words, we are enabled to experience every last detail of the Christ-life on earth.
Thirdly, it means we are blessed with more than enough practical resources for our earthly needs and spiritual goals. This refers to food, clothing, shelter, transportation, money, physical health and vibrance—anything (Php 4:19, 1Ti 6:17, 3Jn 2).

 True Identity: I am built in Christ

      In and through Jesus, we are built purposefully and strategically. We have been built with a specific design to fulfill a specific calling. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Peter tells us to faithfully use whatever gift(s) God has built into our being (1Peter 4:10).
We have a very practical earthly purpose in God’s kingdom! As we actualize our beloved-identity and blessed-identity, we will see our built-identity emerging naturally and supernaturally.

 Who Am I?

      You are not your family experiences. You are not your social circle’s attitudes. You are not your job, abilities, achievements, or performances. You are not your money. You are not your appearance.

      You ARE beloved of the Lord. You ARE blessed in Him. You ARE built by Him. When you make this self-definition the focus and wellspring of your daily life, then you will find life more abundantly. Then everything else will make more sense and more supernaturally fall into place (Mt 6:33).

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