The Upside Of Loneliness

Loneliness is like a healing stream it hurts until you hear the music sing, and it reveals all your inward things. It stings in the silence of the night when you find out that your heart’s not right. And you hold on tight to the broken puzzle pieces that just won’t fit into your preconceived ideas about life. But pray until you see the light of a dawning sky, like acid it burns at first until your sorrows melt like butter, only then will you discover the meanings hidden beneath your tears.

Loneliness reveals the secret things that we all hold dear. It strips your conscience bare. Down to the bone, it digs until all your fears come up for air. Capture those fears and hold them tight until they die underneath the weight of faith. Faith is the substance of things unseen just know that it’s difficult to breathe when faith is fighting strange foes from below. But this is the measure of your strength; will you fight or lose sight of who you were meant to be?

Like a wordsmith, Satan shapes your thoughts until loneliness forces his manipulation into an open battlefield with your soul. Muster your last ounce of courage and careen into that confrontation with desperate anticipation knowing that you will not fight alone. The great God of heaven and earth will move like lightening, fighting, conquering when you fail, strengthening when you’re weak.

That’s the upside of loneliness, it reveals our hidden strengths; it unveils our deepest needs and pushes us to our knees. It brings us to dependency on a higher power that we all so desperately need. Why does it take such extremes for us to finally see that we’re all just candles in the wind in need of a flame that only God can bring? His fire fills and consumes. It heals and destroys at the same time. It thaws against the icy tendrils that grip a lonely heart until you feel alive and free.

Loneliness is like a healing stream, it hurts until you hear the music sing. And when you finally hear the song, don’t forget to sing along.

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Royal veins flow through my blood. It pumps and drips and falls and floods. Like a saga, it journeys on never stopping to hear the song. And if I could quiet the noise in my ears the melody could take me far away from here, and every mistake, every twisted trace. But for now this throbbing pain is all through my brain, it fills my thoughts like a sinful stain, it melts my heart without a trace.

The ache is real but the hurt is fake, and it’s all I can do to stay awake. But I have resolved to pray and pray until these demons have gone away.

Would you do more if you could see your fears like tangible things springing into your atmosphere? Or would you cower into the shadows like an overgrown child running from faith like it was out of style? These are the questions we ask when we have too much time, too much space, and too much at stake.

The ache is real but the fear is fake, and it’s all I can do to stay awake. But I have resolved to pray and pray until these demons have gone away

Twisting grace has become the norm for some and now everyone’s soul is on the run. Every turn brings a brand new pain and every valley leads into a deeper place. Until mountains are dimly lit memories from another space, and time that won’t return, until we learn to turn back to the Son that saved us all with blood, and nails, and wood, and grace. We forgot that place as we travelled along never stopping to sing the song.

The ache is real but the fear is fake, and it’s all I can do to stay awake. But I have resolved to pray and pray until these demons have gone away.

And away they’ll go if I can keep the faith, walk in the light and not the gray. But strange voices pull and they tug, nameless faces call my name from dimly lit places on every lane. The strain is strong as I pull away back into the light of day.

The ache is real but the fear is fake, and it’s all I can do to stay awake. But I have resolved to pray and pray until these demons have gone away.

Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome

Officer Jason was excited to be a part of the task force commissioned with retrieving Suzie who had been kidnapped out of a Supermarket when she was only 8 years old.  Now five years later they believed they knew exactly where she was being held captive; a small house on the edge of a sleepy California town.  They watched the house and waited until her captor stepped out onto the front porch for a smoke.  He was on the ground and handcuffed without incident within a matter of seconds.  Officer Jason’s heart pounded with pride as he stepped into the house anticipating emancipating Suzie.  His thoughts raced to the inevitable tear-filled reunion between Suzie and her loving parents, who had been inconsolable these past five years without their little girl.  The house was filthy and filled with an odor so pungent that his eyes began to water; as Jason crossed the living room he suddenly found himself staring down the muzzle of a revolver; Suzie was holding the gun and her eyes were full of worry with a tinge of rage as well.  “Where’s my Edward?” she screamed!  “What have you done?” she sobbed!  And then she pulled the trigger.

Thankfully Officer Jason was wearing his vest that day.  He recovered quickly from the bruised rib, but Suzie is still struggling to recover from a terrible condition known as Stockholm Syndrome.

STOCKHOLM SYNDROME (sometimes referred to as Capture Bonding) is a psychological phenomenon where hostages identify with, become emotionally attached to, and sometimes even fall in love with their captors.  They often defend, protect and develop strong emotional connections with their abusers.  Victims of abuse such as battered wives, battered girlfriends, children, concentration camp survivors, and prisoners of war often suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.  Sadly, people like Officer Jason have learned the hard way that victims of Stockholm Syndrome will resist rescue, they will fight against salvation, and they will protect their abusers.  It’s tragic!  It’s heartbreaking!  And many never fully recover from the psychological damage that lingers in their lives even long after the physical captivity is over.  They are physically free but emotionally bound.

I see evidence of SPIRITUAL STOCKHOLM SYNDROME all around me.  We know that Satan has come to kill, to steal and to destroy (John 10:19).  His mission is total domination of your soul.  He wants your soul as a trophy for Hell’s mantle place.  He knows what his fate will be, but he also knows that every tortured soul breaks God’s heart. So he roams like a silent assassin, a quiet killer; looking to bring you into captivity (1 Peter 5:8).  He knows better than to present himself as your enemy.  No one would willingly open up their front door to a thug or a kidnapper.  Instead, he presents himself as a friend, a protector, a savior, a helper, or even an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) if needed.  He morphs into whatever it takes to bring your guard down.  He’ll tell you whatever you need to hear in order to manipulate your actions and dominate your thinking.  He’ll separate you from everything that can truly help you, and everyone who truly loves you.  He’ll twist your mind until you’re not sure what’s wrong & what’s right, what’s up & what’s down, what’s real & what’s not.  Until you call right, wrong and you call wrong, right (Isaiah 5:20).

We’ve all witnessed victims of SPIRITUAL STOCKHOLM SYNDROME who were so confused, they actually believed the thing holding them captive and destroying their life was their dearest friend.  In dramatic cases, we see the drug addict who thinks they can’t live without another hit.  The alcoholic who can’t make it without “just” another sip.  The gambler who can’t resist playing away his kid’s college fund.  The promiscuous person who lives for another cheap thrill.  But those are only the obvious cases.  Many others suffer silently from Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome; they’re held captive by false doctrines, fooled by faulty teachers, drained by evil philosophies, and clinging to false promises made by wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Satan is a master of deception and subtlety.  When he approached Eve in the Garden he seemed friendly, familiar and caring.  He disguised himself as a leader who cared more about her well-being than God did.  He just wanted her to have a good time.  He just wanted her to meet her full potential.  He just wanted her to be free.  In reality, he was setting the world up for pain, and death, and sin, and evil beyond Eve’s ability to comprehend.

Satan is not your drinking buddy, your partner in crime, your small time pot dealer, or your local pimp; Satan is the incarnation of evil.  He’s worse than your worst nightmare, and the only thing that he hates more than you is the God that made you.  His only goal is total dominion of your soul.  Hell is not a party boat, a late night club, or an afterlife playground.  Hell is not a curse word or a descriptive term for your bad day.  It’s a real place of eternal judgment.  Captivity there will be final.  There is no escaping Hell once Satan gets you there.  Hell will make your worst day on earth seem like a lazy summer afternoon.  In Hell, God’s mercy will no longer restrict Satan’s evil.  In Hell, the blood of Jesus will no longer set the captive free.  In Hell, salvation will not be available.  But if you’re still breathing that means you still have access to freedom.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 8, Jesus had a fascinating exchange with the crowd that he was teaching that day. He had just made an impassioned statement of hope and deliverance by declaring, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).” Their response was an indication of full blown Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.  They said, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free (John 8:33)?” First of all, they had been and still were in a form of physical bondage (they were under Rome’s thumb). They were hostages in their own land.  But beyond that, they were certainly in spiritual captivity. The religious leaders of the day had distorted the law into something that it was never intended to be, and sin was running rampant amongst God’s elect. Their response was as arrogant as it was ignorant. But Jesus was undeterred by their blatant Stockholm Syndrome. He ignored their denial and responded, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house forever: but the Son abideth forever (John 8:34-35). Sin is a cruel taskmaster who often masquerades as a friend.  We fall in love with the hostage taker and attack our savior.  Isn’t that exactly what they did to Jesus when they screamed crucify him and hung him on a tree? Thankfully, the jubilant words of Jesus are just as true today as they were when he first said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:36).




6 Descriptors of Genuine Worship

Worship is an attitude of the heart. A person can go through the outward motions of praise and not be worshiping. God knows our hearts, and He desires and deserves sincere, heartfelt praise & worship (check out my previous article outlining the difference between praise & worship). The following is a list of six descriptors of genuine heartfelt worship.

Genuine worship is vertical (Psalm 95:1). It is always directed upwards to God; never horizontally towards man. It’s important for a genuine worshipper to carefully make the distinction between being ushered into praise via talent and worshipping talent (musical or otherwise) rather than the Creator.  Genuine worship is not about personal preferences, entertainment, emotionalism, or sensationalism alone (although there are times when one or more of those elements may be involved); rather it is about total surrender to God.

Genuine worship is joyful (Psalm 95:2). On numerous occasions, God commands us via Scripture that we must worship joyfully. In reality, worship erupts from a heart that is full of the joy of the Lord. Godly joy is not predicated upon our conditions, our surroundings, or even our circumstances. That’s why Paul and Silas could worship and sing praises to God while confined unjustly in prison (Acts 16:25).

Genuine worship is participatory (Psalm 95:2). God calls us to worship Him, not to watch someone else worship Him. It is not until we truly participate that we become woven into the tapestry of godly worship. When we participate we bless God and He blesses us in return.

Genuine worship is thankful (Psalm 95:2). It is not possible to really worship with a heart filled with ingratitude.

Genuine worship is humble (Psalm 95:3). Humility is the opposite of pride. Pride is a praise killer. Pride renders a heart incapable of sincerity. Pride breeds sins of all types. Pride squeezes worship out of the hearts of men and women. Pride kept Michal in the tower (2 Samuel 6:16) but humility caused King David to worship anyway (2 Samuel 6:14).

Genuine worship is reverent (Psalm 95:4-5). God is the sovereign Lord of all the earth, the King of glory; the Rock of our Salvation. We should not suppress our joy in our expressions of reverence. Neither should we compromise our reverence in our expressions of joy.

The Difference Between Praise & Worship

Understanding the difference between praise & worship brings a new depth to the way we honor the Lord.  All throughout the Bible, we are commanded to praise the Lord.  Angels and the heavenly hosts are commanded to praise the Lord (Psalms 103:20, Psalm 19:1).  All inhabitants of the earth are instructed to praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6).  We can praise Him with singing, and with shouting, and with the dance, and with musical instruments of all types, we are even instructed to simply make a joyful noise (Psalm 98:4).  The Bible seems to imply that sometimes singing just isn’t enough, sometimes shouting just isn’t adequate, sometimes dancing is out of the question, sometimes words fail, and in those moments you should simply make a joyful noise.

Praise: from the Hebrew verb HALAL (where we get the word hallelujah); means to praise, celebrate, glory, sing, or to boast.  Praise is in fact, the joyful recounting of all that God has done for us.  It is closely intertwined with thanksgiving as we offer back to God appreciation for His mighty works on our behalf.  Praise is universal and can be applied to other relationships as well.  We can praise our family, our friends, our boss, and on and on.  Worship, however, comes from a different place within our spirits.  Worship should be reserved for God alone (Luke 4:8).  Praise can be a part of worship, but worship goes beyond praise.  Praise is easy; worship is not. Worship gets to the heart of who we are. To truly worship God, we must let go of our self-worship.  Worshipers humble themselves before God, surrender every part of their lives to His control, and adore Him for who He is, not just what He has done.  Worship is a lifestyle; not an occasional activity.  Jesus said, “…the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

In Scripture, praise is usually presented as boisterous, joyful, and uninhibited. God invites praise of all kinds from His creation.  Jesus said that if people don’t praise God, even the “stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). But when the Bible mentions worship the tone changes.  We read verses like, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96:9).  And, “Come let us worship and bow down” (Psalm 95:6).  Often, worship is coupled with the act of bowing or kneeling, which shows humility and contrition.  It is through true worship that we invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us, convict us, and comfort us. Through worship, we realign our priorities with God’s and acknowledge Him once more as the rightful Lord of our lives.Praise is intertwined with thanksgiving.  Worship is intertwined with surrender.  It is impossible to worship God and anything else at the same time (Luke 4:8). The physical acts often associated with worship—bowing, kneeling, lifting hands—help to create the necessary attitude of humility required for real worship.

Often the differences between praise & worship are described in this way, “Praise is about God, and worship is to God.  Praise is opening up, worship is entering in.  Praise is boldly declaring, worship is humbly bowing in the presence of a Holy God.  Praise applauds what God has done, worship is honoring God for who He is.”

Worship is an attitude of the heart.  A person can go through the outward motions of praise and not be worshiping.  God sees the heart, and He desires and deserves sincere, heartfelt praise & worship.