Monday, December 9, 2019

"Fleshy" Fruit Inspection

We all love the list of the fruits of the Spirit that is listed in Galatians, chapter 5.  But we breeze over the preceding verses where Paul lists the “fruits” of the flesh.  Let’s go over this list first:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

Now, we will apply the list to CoDeWo’s (Codependent Women).  But wait!  I can hear you saying: Wow, Rhonda, this is a harsh list to apply to someone who is just trying to help someone else.

Perhaps, but unhealthy people’s fear begets our fear.  If we operate from a fearful self, Satan can step in, and wreck havoc in our lives.  Fear is an open door to Satan influencing our lives.  He gladly walks in and starts harassing our fearful heart. 

I will break the list down.  I will generalize the list.  Not all of these applied to me, nor to you, but each one can be a trap camouflaged under the guise of rescuing someone. 

The flesh, the sinful nature, is operating in both you and the unhealthy people you are trying to rescue.  You love the Lord, and perhaps so do the other people, but the flesh is dominating these co-dependent relationships.  These fleshy “fruits” apply to both parties. 

How does the Spirit talk to us about our lives, shining light into the darkest corners?  It is part of the armor of God we wear every day.  Paul outlines this armor in Ephesians 6.  In verse 17, he says, 

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

How does the Spirit of God use the Word of God?

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Heb. 4:12)

Allow the Spirit to speak to you about these fleshly fruits.  But remember:  The Spirit wants to illuminate our sin to free us, not to condemn us:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:14)

Jesus has set us free.  But until we face and are healed of our brokenness that demands we act in a co-dependent way with others, we are in bondage to our past.  Our salvation is secure in Christ, if we have asked Him into our heart and confessed Him as Lord, but we can still operate from a driving fear.  We love the Lord, but our hearts don’t understand what His freedom truly means.
We are new in Christ, to be sure:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Cor. 5:17 NLT)

Our old nature, however, tries to reassert itself time and time again.  This is why we move from an awareness of our sins to our sin nature itself and how it needs to be crucified with Christ: 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

Let’s look at these “fruits”:  
  
Sexual immorality:  How many affairs started when someone sought to help someone else?  A woman or man in a teetering marriage confides in you, and soon affections between the both of you develop.  You may not feel affection but perhaps the other person feels it for you.  This can lead to…

Impurity & lustful pleasures:  An affair doesn’t have to involve the act of sex.  It can be an emotional affair where you seek out the other person over talking to your spouse.  Texts, emails, social media may all contribute to an involvement that is not of God as you and the other person are enjoying this distant and “safe” involvement with another. Or, you are acting as a friend, but you sense this person is seeking more than just help, and has romantic feelings for you.  You feel you should break the relationship off, but you don’t want to offend or hurt the other person.  So you continue the friendship, even though you feel uneasy about it.  A part of you, deep inside, is flattered by this attention.

Idolatry:  Your need to rescue others begins to take precedence over your love for God.  Why?  You receive immediate gratification when you are in others’ lives and you have lots to do to make their pain go away.  You worry, contemplate, stress over and in general spend so much time worrying about this person that your walk with God gets sidelined.  To keep your guilt at bay, you tell God, “But I am helping them in Your Name!” Or, the people you are rescuing may view you as a substitute for God.  They don’t have to pray, read their Bible or spend time listening to Him.  They have you. 

Sorcery:  Let’s call this “spiritual warfare.”  Some people have sadly given Satan a stronghold in their lives by their addictions, pride, hatred, compromised mental health or brokenness.  If Satan is a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour, (1 Peter 5:8) then sin gives him access.  You enter in with good intentions to rescue others and you run into a darkness, a kind of spiritual force that stymies your efforts.  You are not sure why, but you sense something is deeply wrong with these people, yet you keep on rescuing, not knowing what to do.  Or, as you attempt to rescue others, you continue to enable their sin.  Not intentionally, of course, but because you do not want to offend them, you do not speak truth into their lives.  You continue to step in, willing to clean up the consequences of their actions.  The worst part of this is by rescuing them all the time, you feed their pride.  They don’t feel the need to change for to them, all is well, and they are never at fault.  Pride is the ultimate stronghold of Satan in our lives.  In your effort to rescue such people, you are helping to deepen their pride, which deepens Satan’s stronghold.  They are still the responsible party for this, but we are not to contribute to pride, whether in ourselves or in others.

Hostility:  You, your family and those who advise you may tell you these people are more damaged than you know, and that helping them will be way over your head.  You insist only you understand them and thus are able to help them.  You have conflict with those who really do care for you.  You side with the very people who will use you and really don’t care deeply for you. Or, you face this anger from the very ones you are trying to help, and in your need for approval, you continue to help them, allowing them to continue with this sinful emotion.  They have you to blame for their choices and they know you will not argue with them on this. 

Quarreling:  As you rescue others, and you bask in their friendship and kind words, you will run into healthy people who disagree with your method of rescue.  You will argue with them, and avoid them after awhile.  You are confused:  why can’t everyone understand the people you help like you do?  You are then isolated with the people you are rescuing.  Objectivity will go out the window, and all you are left with is their skewed view of the world. Or, the people you are rescuing will quarrel with any and all suggestions that would actually help their situation.  Why?  These people identify with their victimhood.  They are not really seeking a solution; they want to be the center of your attention.

Jealousy:  The people that you are rescuing insinuate that you have it all; because your life is so good, they trigger your guilt and you want to spread your blessings around.  It has nothing to do with your wise choices and their poor choices; they are jealous of you and they can’t resist making comments.  You pour a balm over their hurting hearts with your resources, time and money.   Sadly, your “enough” is never enough for them.  

Outbursts of anger:  You have to ignore your healthy emotions in order to rescue others.  You see the consequences of their actions, their pride and their unwillingness to change even the smallest part of their lives.  They constantly lament their woe.  You can’t hold it in all the time, and sadly, you tend to take your frustration on those closest to you. Or, you are downrange of these people’s anger, and you personalize it.  You then work all the harder to rescue them.  They end up controlling you with their negative emotions.

Selfish ambition:  We CoDeWo’s would never admit to our spiritual pride.  We dig having the world upon our shoulders, for it means we are special.   We are head and shoulders above the average Christian, for we sacrifice time, effort and money to help anyone who asks.  Although the burden of carrying everyone’s problems is overwhelming, our one consolation is how much we suffer for God.
Or, simply put, we enable others’ selfish ambition by doing everything for them that they could do for themselves.  We feed their need to control others.  If we question or go against their demands, we are discarded.  Because, in the end, it is all about them and their lives.  We are not special to them; we are disposable, for there is always another CoDeMo (Codependent Mode) to tap into and control.

Dissension & division:  When you enable others, by excusing their sinful behavior and arguing with healthy people that you are not wrong about these people, you can divide families, friendships and churches.  You try to minimize these people’s behavior and excuse the consequences with all kinds of reasons.  While all of this is going on, the unhealthy people sit like a king or queen upon a throne, watching their little kingdom carry on about them.  They don’t have to even think about changing while all this chaos swirls about them.  They are never responsible for anything that goes on and will never admit to being the cause of the chaos.  They have you to clean up the mess.  So guess what?  The messes never stop coming.

Envy:  You envy those who can say, without guilt, “No, I will not help that person.  They have a so-and-so problem, and until they admit that and seek professional help, I will not be a part of their problem.”  You envy their freedom and the boundaries they set on others.  Your guilt will not allow you to do the same thing and you feel powerless.  Or, unhealthy people envy healthy people.  Deep down inside, they want what healthy people have, but they will not plan wisely, put off instant gratification and manage their resources well.  If they do not know how to do this, they do not seek professional help.  Instead, they latch onto you, telling you that they should be like you, but life has dealt them a terrible blow.  They revel in their special circumstances, but cast an envious eye towards your status.  They either manipulate to get a piece of your pie or scorn you for having a pie. Either way, your CoDeMo is triggered and off you go to rescue them.

Drunkenness:  Let’s broaden this to all addictions.  Porn, food, drugs, video games, gambling—anything that puts people in bondage is detrimental to the human soul.  You are rescuing those who want you to lessen the consequences of their actions.  They do not want to really get help from someone who is trained to help deeply broken people. Unhealthy people would rather just sit around and talk to you about how bad their life is and how no one understands them but you.  You may not understand the magnitude of their addiction; addicts are very good at hiding their true selves.  They project the kind of person that they’d like to be, and it’s easy to believe that what you see is really them.  But when no one is looking, they engage in their addiction.  This will undermine any help you may be giving them.  Because you are not a trained professional, you will not see their deception.

Or, you get involved with people who are involved with addicts.  Addicts need enablers to assist them.  You may be rescuing the spouse, who is in turn enabling her addicted husband.  He comes to her and she comes to you.  You become a surrogate spouse; you do all the things he should be doing, but he is too immersed in himself and his addiction to really take care of his spouse and family.  Despite your good intentions, you are enabling this dysfunctional relationship between them to continue.  Why should he change?  You take care of the everyday life of his family; he can continue to live his way of life without a crisis forcing him to seek change.   

Wild parties:  When you are not around, what are the people you are trying to rescue doing?  Who are their friends?  How are they spending their money, time and effort?  You may walk away thinking you had a good talk, with wonderful ideas on how these people can move ahead and improve their lives.  You may have no idea how they really live.  Despite all of your good talks, ideas and loving assistance, these people never seem to climb out of their holes.  Why?  They like their holes.  They are also very deceptive about their holes.

Paul finishes up this list by saying, “and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”  Why? Because people who seek out this kind of life without any desire to relinquish control and surrender to Christ really don’t know Him.  A life without Christ is a life lived in the dark.  Your small candle of co-dependence will not truly reach into their soul and help them to desire freedom from bondage. 

So, what’s a CoDeWo to do?   

Let’s go over the more comforting verses in Galatians 5 and see them as describing a healthy approach to others and their problems.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Fear Makes Us Grasshoppers

Unhealthy people who are in survival mode will say and do anything to draw you in and keep you in their version of the world.  With their fears, bottomless needs and chaotic lives, your fear will be triggered. 

Your reaction will be to step in and rescue them. 

This is co-dependence in nutshell.

We have no idea about why the spies told the lies they did to Moses and the people.  My guess is they were in survival mode. Can’t you just hear them thinking: 

We are slaves, here, not warriors.  All we got is a bunch of people who knew nothing but taking orders and building monuments.  No one took a class on warfare.  We should just go back to Egypt.  There at least we knew who the problem was, and if we kept our heads down and made those bricks, he would leave us alone.  We are not warriors!  We are going to get slaughtered! 

At any point did Moses, speaking for God, say that conquering the land would be done in their own strength?  God promised to go before the children and drive the people out:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. (Deut. 7:1-2)

God upholds His people because of the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Deut. 7:7-9)

Here is God’s promise to His people: 

You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished. Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. (Deut. 7:17-24)

Why did the spies lie?  Fear, pure and simple. Fear will scour your brain, and you forget every single promise God makes to you.  Look what happened when the spies’ fear permeated the camp:

That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!  Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Num. 14:1-4)

Fear has gripped the people to the point of irrationality. They need rescuing, right?  That’s why we go into CoDeMo!  We hate to see others suffer.  We want to fix their problems so they will be happy.  Once we sense all is well, we can go back to that uneasy peace that ALL co-dependents all have.  We know another chaotic moment is in the near future, but we gladly take the calm before the storm. 
Somewhere, long ago, we took it upon ourselves to make others happy.  We basked in their approval when things were going well and grew anxious when things started to deteriorate.  We wanted to stop the person’s suffering now, ignoring any contribution the person had made to their own woe.  We may not have connected the dysfunctional dots at first; we see such people as victims of circumstance.  

Right now, that’s exactly how the children of Israel see themselves:  victims.  Victims of what?  Can’t you just hear the whining in their voices? Here we go:

·         It’s Moses’ and Aaron’s fault we are in this mess!
·         Those nasty people in the Promised Land are so terrifying that we would have rather died than have to face what’s coming!
·         It’s God’s fault!  We gonna die by all those nasty warriors and all because God brought us here!
·         Our wives and kids….oh shudder!  Thinking about what will happen to them is awful! !
·         Can we make a right-turn?  Gather our stuff and our families and hoof it back to Egypt?  Yeah, we were slaves, beaten, abused and our boy babies met a watery end, but that’s a whole lot better than facing amped-up warriors with a thirst for blood! Our blood!
·         Who pick Moses and Aaron anyway?  We didn’t!  It’s about time we stood up and got ourselves a kind of leader we like!  One that takes danger seriously!
·         God said this land is ours!  Why are there people in it?

Let’s look at the people’s response to the spies’ lies, and see how this applies to those people who trigger our desire to step in and rescue them:    
 
It’s all about them:  The people with Moses and Aaron are focusing only on themselves.  Their woe, their pain, their victimhood is the only topic of conversation.  They shut out anything that may remove them from the center of the situation.  They want to take control away from Moses, despite his excellent leadership in God’s power so far.
Unhealthy people will want your life, friends, family, and God shunted to the side so they will occupy center stage.  They want to be in control, no matter what, and you better get on board.  They want your eyes to be only on them.  They want their focus to be your focus.  They present their pain and suffering as being so overwhelming that you will step in and help.  And help.  And help.  And help.    

Their belief system is very skewed:  The people with Moses and Aaron are emphasizing their victimhood, with all of its pain and suffering.   
If you offer unhealthy people a balanced view of their situation, with the good and the bad, they will hand-select only what appeals to their self-centered attitude and will reject everything else.  You will feel thwarted by their refusal to see the situation in a balanced way; but you will go along with it, because you want to help them.  If that means ignoring your own evaluation of the situation, so be it.

Their emotional reaction is extreme: These people with Moses and Aaron are going off the rails and want everyone to join them, even to the point of wanting new leaders who will agree with them.
Unhealthy people are always in some form of chaos, and want everyone around them to be as well.  If you are calm and offering rational responses to their irrational fears, you will feel their wrath, because you are being disloyal to their view of their lives.  So you ignore your own emotions and focus only on theirs.

The situation must be fixed right now:  Notice the people offer all sorts of ideas and regrets and are unwilling to contemplate a solution.  They want to fix the problem now! 
For unhealthy people, the emphasis is on right now, and if you are not forthcoming with a solution, then you are deemed useless by them. Because their approval matters to you, you jump in and buy the idea of Now! Now! Now!  Even if all that means is Talk! Talk! Talk!  At least, you are showing these people you care, even if nothing changes in their lives.

Whew.  People like this, whether with Moses and Aaron or with us, are exhausting.  Look how Moses and Aaron respond:

Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Num. 14:5-9)

Joshua put the focus back on the Lord, where our focus needs to be.  People that trigger our CoDeMo derail our focus on God and direct it to them and their problems.  They will listen to you for a short time, waiting for you to take a breath so they can continue talking only about their problems. 
With us, fear is rampant on both sides:  the people that you are talking to are immersed in it, and you, with your desire to rescue them, are driven by it.  But is fear a gift of God?  A funny question, and a question that everyone in church would give a holy “No way!”  But, in our quiet moments, our fear speaks to us. 

As CoDeWo’s, fear says:

·         Unhealthy, hurting people are your responsibility—get on this
·         You are not doing enough—you must help the hurting sheep
·         These people are still struggling—it is your responsibility to change them
·         These people think in a way that is confused, deluded or misguided—you must go along with them and try to work in their world to help them
·         You see red flags in these people’s lives—in order to help them, you must suppress any misgivings you may have about what they say or do
·         You know the Bible wants you to speak the truth in love, but you don’t want to make these people angry and risk their disapproval
·         These people are not changing nor are their circumstances—work harder!  
·         Jesus doesn’t like it when we are not helping people

Others’ fear begets our fear.  What does God’s Word say?  Quite the opposite!  2 Timothy 1:7 says:

·         [F]or God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (ESV)
·         “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”  (HCSB)
·         “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (NIV)

The context here is Paul reminding a young pastor, Timothy, of his spiritual heritage and how he is to go forth in boldness, without fear and relying on God for guidance:

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Tim. 1:5-7)

Let’s apply these loving words to us.  Our faith is precious to God.  We are precious to God.   God has bestowed spiritual gifts on each one of His children, to equip them to serve His people and the lost.  God wants us to be bold in Him, serving with His power, steeped in His love, and having the spiritual fruit of self-control.

Look at the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Gal. 5:22-23)

Why would God want us to have the fruit of self-control?  Because what we bring to serve Him—our brokenness, our sinful nature and our willful desire--will contradict the ways of the Holy Spirit:

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. (Gal. 5:16-18)

I can hear you saying, “Under the Law of Moses?  How does that apply to me?”  CoDeMo is a kind of law in our lives.  However we were primed to be co-dependent, it is a kind of law that drives our thoughts and our actions.  I can remember thinking that I could do life no other way; every need in others required my attention.  Every broken person needed my help and I did it all in the name of Jesus.  Or so I thought. I wasn’t doing evil.  But my sinful nature trumped the self-control that the Spirit was trying to create in me.  So, I was following my sinful nature.  How so?  I was in bondage all those years, because in trying to save others, I was trying to save myself: 

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. (Gal. 5:13-15 NLT)

“Wait a minute!  But you loved others as you loved yourself!  How could that be wrong?”  Hold on.  I didn’t love myself.  I hated myself.  I felt like everyone’s endless parade of needs required my attention, and when people did not change, I tried even harder to help them, because I was responsible to do so. I gave of my time, my resources, and my heart.  I refused to listen to my husband when he warned me that these people were manipulating me.  I grew angry if I couldn’t just run off and help someone, even if it meant leaving my kids and husband to carry on.  I was emotionally a wreck from all the rescuing I was doing.  I couldn’t give my best to my kids and family. I wish I had really sat down and studied His Word.  But I was driven to help others, make excuses for them and take on their lives, because I listened only to my own fear.

Next up, we are going to look at the verses that describe people who are walking according to the flesh and those who are walking after the Spirit.  This will help us evaluate unhealthy people before we just jump in and assume they are victims.    

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Spies and Their Lies


Let’s examine the spies’ report to Moses about those scary inhabitants of the Promised Land: 

But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!” So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall. We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.” (Numbers 13:31-33)

The spies’ report says three key things that scare the people as they listen.  (I wonder if Moses was doing an eye-roll while all of this was being said.)  The first one is:

·         FACT:  We can’t attack those people, because they are “too strong.”

Fair enough.  Warriors in all their gear can be very intimidating.  Put tall people in armor, and everyone starts shaking. Let’s take a quick trip into the future and watch the Israelites as they encounter a giant whose name we know: Goliath.  He’s tall, all armored-up and intimidates everyone.  But, David who knows what kind of God he serves, is not afraid.  Let’s watch as a tall bully made the Israelite warriors afraid.  Think how Moses’ bunch feels:  they are not warriors! 

Here we go:   

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. [over 9 feet—NIV Study) ] He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels [about 125 pounds] on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. [about 15 pounds] His shield bearer went ahead of him. (1 Sam. 17:4-7)


Big, bad and heavily geared up.  And a big-mouthed braggart at that:

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. (1 Sam. 17:8-11)

You’ve got King Saul, his army and everyone else all shaking in their sandals.  Saul’s men are trained professionals, and yet the enormity of Goliath’s ego and armor puts them to shame.  The weight of it all bears down on their spirits.

Enter the shepherd boy David.  He is ordered by his father to take food to his brothers who are in Saul’s army.  This puts the young David smack dab in the middle of the action. For forty days, Mr. Big Mouth has come out every morning and evening to taunt the Israelites.  King Saul has had enough and offers a bounty for Mr. Big Mouth.  No one in the ranks has responded.  Fear has gripped them, just like Moses’ bunch.  

We are no different: Fear in the face of overwhelming circumstances can paralyze us. 

David overhears the men talking and asks:

“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam. 17:26)

Go David!  He is focused on God and His chosen ones.  This Goliath is not under God’s covenant protection; he stands only in his own power.  King Saul and his men are standing with the mighty God of Israel.  In their fear, they forget this, until a mere shepherd boy reminds them. 
David offers to fight Goliath, and King Saul advises against it; he’s too young and inexperienced.  David then recounts his killing of a lion and a bear as he guarded his sheep.  He gently reminds the King that Goliath’s shouted daily defiance at God’s covenant people is aimed at God Himself:

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”  (1 Sa. 17:36-7) 

David knows who he is in God’s eyes; he has seen God’s mightiness before and utterly trusts God for it happening again. God is his champion.  David’s focus is on God’s qualities of unfailing love and mercy.  David could have ran out and met Goliath in his own power. But he did not.  He also refused to wear Saul’s armor; he took his sling and stones and went out to meet Goliath.  David fearlessly said,

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Sam. 17:45-47)  [emphasis mine]

Boom!  There it is: “The battle is the Lord’s”!  As codependent folks, we feel the battle is ours, and the Lord is there to simply rubber-stamp all the good we are doing.  We use other people’s armor, or use the armor we have been dragging around since childhood.  It fits no better than Saul’s did on David, but that doesn’t stop us from rushing into battle.  We have fear in our hearts, and like a scared dog running into a road with cars coming, we see only the need in front of us.  The consequences are not important to us as we try to fix the situation.
    
Let’s return to our spies giving their report to a non-warrior group of people about the strong people inhabiting the Promised Land.  First up, they say,
 
·         Fact:  The people in the land are “too strong”

OK.  Now, instead of remembering how God judged the strongest man (in terms pf power) in Egypt and his mighty army, with the Red Sea sealing the deal, these spies then embellish the situation.  They do what unhealthy people do all the time in their fear:  they go into survival mode and lie.  Their fear becomes the people’s fear.  Let’s see what they said and how inaccurate it is:

·      Lie:  The people are unable to attack the inhabitants.  (What?  The people didn’t attack Pharaoh’s army either, but they carried the day because of God!)
·      Lie:  The land “devours” people.  (What?  How does this happen?  The people have been in some of the harshest conditions around, so how could this land be any worse than a barren desert?)
·      Lie:  The people are “very tall.”  Well maybe.  But so what?  (The Pharaoh’s army wasn’t populated by bored hobbits.)
·      Lie:  “We saw Nephilim there.”  The Nephilim are “men of renown.” (  ) Big bad dudes, in other words.  (Maybe.  But like any good fish story, the fish that were caught are getting bigger and bigger.)
·      Lie:  “We felt as small as grasshoppers.”  (What?  Small, maybe, but not squish-on-the-kitchen-floor small. Size, ability and fighting prowess of these Hebrew slaves was never factored in God’s victory over the Egyptians.  God alone will fight and conquer the Hebrews’ enemies; He did it then and He will do it now.) 
·      Lie:  We feel small, so we MUST look small to our enemies.  (What?  What your enemies think is of no value. God’s opinion of you matters.  Only His.  Period.)

So, yup, we have a crisis here.  But who created the crisis?  The spies and their lies. (Good movie title…)  The people are sucked in to the lies and react as if the spies are speaking the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

Let’s see how we can apply this to our need to rescue.  The lies of our spies (our reactions to others and situations) have triggered our co-dependent reaction. Let me stop for a moment, and comment here.  Unhealthy people, in their fear or manipulation, will shade the truth, outright lie or engage in delusional thinking.  People who are not codependent will ask questions, wait awhile and be somewhat skeptical about the situation until they gather more evidence that either supports what they are told or calls it into question. 

Being codependent, you and I will act immediately upon what we hear; we do not ask questions, reflect or wonder if the person is in touch with reality. We will be triggered by the story the person is telling and wanting nothing more than to help the person to overcome the adversity. 

The spies knew that the people listening were former slaves, with no real knowledge of the world.  The spies knew it wouldn’t take much to get the people to agree with them, and sit out this whole Promised Land thing. 

Unhealthy people know you and I are codependent.  How? The unhealthy person is so desperate that he or she will zero in on anyone who is capable of helping without any limitations or questions.  

Healthy people sense that this person’s report of the Promised Land is questionable. 

You and I end up alone with this person, listening and absorbing the fear of it all, because of our deep need. 

In the next post, we will continue to examine the spies’ report and how unhealthy people derail us. 





Friday, November 8, 2019

Are There G.I.A.N.T.S. in Your Promised Land?


The book of Exodus is a wonderful demonstration of God’s power and mercy.  He releases His people from slavery and also shows how powerless the gods and the Pharaoh are. The children of Israel ended up as slaves in Egypt because Joseph, one of Israel’s (Jacob’s) sons was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  Joseph, despite his rough start, ended up becoming a high-ranking leader in the Egyptian government.  He forgave his brothers. Joseph’s life shows us how God can use our circumstances to bless others. 

Joseph’s descendants did very well in Egypt.  So well in fact that when a new Pharaoh arose, he was afraid of the Israelites, because of their numbers.  He enslaved them, worked them without mercy and ordered that all baby boys born to them were to be killed. 

Enter Moses.  Pharaoh’s own daughter saved Moses as a baby, after he was sent adrift on the Nile.  Moses was raised a prince.  Eventually he was called by God to deliver His children from bondage.
God passed sentence on the Egyptian gods and the Pharaoh himself with the Ten Plagues.  God wanted to show His covenant people that He was the one true God.  They had been in Egypt for over 400 years, and needed a powerful demonstration of the God who had called their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and had covenanted with them to be their One and Only.

After the final plague, where Pharaoh’s own son perished, he relented and let the people go.  Pharaoh, once Moses and the people left, he changed his mind.  No one was going to get the better of him!
Moses and the children of Israel had one last epic encounter at the Red Sea, when Pharaoh’s army attempted to follow the people across the Red Sea, which had parted.  It closed over his army.  Moses and the people moved safely into the desert. 

The people grumbled and disobeyed every chance they could.  But God’s mercy never ceased; He provided for all their needs.  Even Moses defied God’s orders.  He could not enter the Promised Land.  That privilege fell upon Joshua.  The disobedient desert generation passed away.  Their children would be the ones to enter the land, conquer the tribes living there and possess it.  The Lord had promised this land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and His covenant to His people is forever:  

"After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you—from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1-9 NLT)


Not only to honor the covenant made with the founding fathers of the Hebrew faith, God also tells Joshua another reason why the land is given to him and the people:  “Remember what Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.’”  (Joshua 1:13) [emphasis mine]

Isn’t that lovely?  The Promised Land was a place of rest.  No more slavery; no more babies killed and no more endless toil in the hot sun.  The children of Israel now have the freedom to worship the one true God of Israel.  He Himself is shalom—peace itself.

A place of rest…wow.  Does your Promised Land—the place where you dwell in Jesus because of the forgiveness of sin—full of peace and promise?  Sadly, when you are in “CoDeMo,” (Co-Dependent Mode) you are never restful or peaceful.  There is always something either happening, going to happen, or you are trying to recover before the next episode hits you. Why?  Because when we constantly engage with unhealthy people, and completely immersed our lives and energies into theirs, we are never at rest.  They are slaves to fear and they identify so much with chaos that they create it wherever they go. When you are in CoDeMo, their chaos becomes yours. 

You are now in bondage to your own fear—fear that they won’t like you or that you are not Christian enough if you don’t rescue them. 

Fear begets fear.    

But, you must realize that Jesus Himself is our rest: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30 NIV)

The writer of the Book of Hebrews phrases this way:

"For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience." (Heb. 4:8-11)
Our Sabbath-rest is in Jesus.  He saves us from our sinful selves and sets our feet on a path of peace.  But when you are CoDeMo, you are far from rest.  So what happened here?  God’s message to our hearts seems so far removed from our reality.  Because there are G.I.A.N.T.S. in our Promised Land, that’s why!

What kind of G.I.A.N.T.S.? Let’s go back to Word.  Moses sent out spies to search out the land, and bring back information about it and its inhabitants:  

"Forty days later, they came back from exploring the land. They came back to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. They gave their report and showed them the fruit from the land.  This is what they reported to Moses: 'We went to the land where you sent us. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s some of its fruit. But the people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev. The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountain region. And the Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and all along the Jordan River.'  Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, 'Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.'

But the men who had gone with him said, 'We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!' So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, 'The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall. We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.” (Numbers 13:25-32)

The men sent out to see what the Promised Land was all about come back with a dire report.  They are upbeat about the fruit, but then their fear bursts through and all they can focus on are the inhabitants.  The big and scary ones.  Only two men, Caleb and Joshua, have the confidence to go and take the land, because they know what kind of God they serve.  They saw abundance and a good land.  The people in it were fearsome, but Caleb and Joshua remembered God’s mighty hand against the Egyptians; a few Canaanite tribes were no match for their God.

The giants in the land did not cause Joshua and Caleb to fear.  They saw this as a chance for God to be glorified. 

What are the G.I.A.N.T.S. in our Promised Land?    

I would like to think we are more akin to Caleb and Joshua, and see God’s abundance and power rather than the “inhabitants” that cause us to fear.  But as CoDeWo’s (Co-Dependent Women), these G. I.A.N.T.S. inhabit our promised land—the one where we should be at rest in Jesus.  But faced with the overwhelming need to rescue others, here’s what we really experience:  

·         Guilt:  I must rescue this person/situation, because no one else will.  I will then feel a sense of bondage.  Because I see only myself as capable of helping others, I start to feel a kind of spiritual pride.  So my guilt that it is my responsibility to rescue someone and my pride that says only I can do it, puts me in bondage every time.

·         Identity:  I feel empty and I only know myself as I serve others.  I will then feel     confusion and disbelief of who I am in Christ.  I will resent the freedom other Christians show.  I don’t know who I am unless I am deeply involved in others’ lives.

·         Anxiety:  I must step in, but I am not sure if the person will listen and follow through with my help.  I see their poor choices and failures as my fault.  I will then step in again (and again), feeling a false sense of control over others and their choices; the consequences will be mine again to fix.  This cycle of rescue and worry causes me great anxiety. 

·         Needy:  All I see is need everywhere and in everyone one, including myself.  I will then feel I am not able to rest.  I put off my own healing due to all my frenetic activity.  I will always have a sense of impending doom:  Who’s next to be helped?  I want to hide away, put I don’t want to disappoint Jesus, so I am burdened all the time by the need of others.

·         Tolerance:  Despite my need to rescue, I never hold anyone accountable for what they do.  I am afraid to be truthful with them.  I fear their reaction.  I will then always be in unhealthy relationships.  My need to be needed defines any friendship I have.  I put up with a great deal in others, but allow no mistakes on my part.  I ignore the sin in others, their inconstancy and their dysfunctional reality in order to rescue them.  I want to speak truth and freedom, but fear their disapproval.  So, I tolerate a great deal all the time.

·         Sorrow:  I just can’t help everyone and I am utterly burdened.  People come to me with the same problems over and over, seemingly to never move forward.  I am constantly burdened.  I will then feel sad and depressed each day when I rise.  I want better for people than they want for themselves. 

Let’s summarize this up: 

G.I.A.N.T.S in your promised  land
Guilt
Identity
Anxiety
Needy
Tolerance
Sorrow

OK, admit it:  you know what I am talking about as a CoDeWo.  It’s a kind of club we are in, and although we may feel special that we alone know what is best for people, it’s a lonely and fearful club, too. We think we are the only ones facing such mighty inhabitants, but listen to Joshua and Caleb:  These G.I.A.N.T.S can be defeated!




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