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Archive for February, 2011

The ULTIMATE Fresh Start

“I’ve never prayed aloud before,” Mr. Huang admitted with embarrassment.  “I will not pray in front of my wife.”  The timid man was sharing with the Fresh Start team about his marriage relationship.  His wife, dominant and controlling, was very involved in their East Asian church.  She was often up front, enthusiastically leading the singing or prayer times, while her husband stayed in the background.  Mr. Huang’s response to his wife’s dominance was to disengage.  He became passive, letting her take center stage at church, and the role of spiritual leader at home.  But his heart was affected.

Using the Fresh Start booklet Processing the Issues of Your Heart, the team walked Mr. Huang through the steps toward forgiving and releasing his wife.  But when they got to step four, pouring out your heart to the Lord, Mr. Huang confessed that he had never prayed before.

At this point, the team had to pause and change strategy.  It occurred to them that Mr. Huang might never have given his heart to Jesus.  Until he had received God’s forgiveness for his sins, he couldn’t truly forgive his wife, with a free and full heart.

“Have you ever received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” one team member asked.  Mr. Huang shook his head. “No, I have not.”  For years this man had been leaning on his wife’s strong faith, not seeing a need to have a relationship with God himself.  Clearly explaining Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the team asked Mr. Huang if he wanted to receive this free gift of eternal life.  Mr. Huang affirmed that he did, and prayed to commit his life to the Lord.

Weeping openly, Mr. Huang then continued through the six-part process of forgiving his wife.  But now his heart was changed.  No longer bitter or resentful, he was able to forgive out of a grateful heart, realizing how much He had been forgiven!  That day, Mr. Huang received the “Ultimate Fresh Start” for his heart – and it made all the difference!

I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Going vertical!

MJ

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ABANDONED

Walter was excited.  The thirteen-year-old boy was looking forward to a holiday with his family in the United Kingdom, far from his home in East Asia.  As soon as they dropped off his sister at her boarding school, the fun would begin.  Or so he thought.

Instead of going to see Big Ben or the Tower of London, however, Walter’s father took him instead to a set of imposing brick buildings – another boarding school.  Confused and distressed, he realized that this had been the plan all along.  As his parents left to return home to East Asia, a deep sense of abandonment settled over the young boy.

Rejected.  Unprotected.  Helpless.  Abandoned.  Walter was devastated.  “I’ll never be out of control again,” he vowed to himself.  The pain festered into anger and rebellion.  He started getting into trouble in class, even pretending to be Muslim so he wouldn’t have to go to chapel, eventually getting  kicked out of school.  The anger towards his parents, particularly his father, lasted for years.

When Walter attended our Fresh Start seminar in East Asia this January, he recognized right away that he needed to forgive his father.  Thoughtfully and deliberately, he went through the steps of “Processing the Issues of Your Heart” over two days.  After asking the Lord to forgive him for his anger and rebellion, and renouncing the vow of trying to be in control of his life, Walter was finally able to forgive his father for abandoning him at that boarding school so many years ago.

Though Walter said this was the first time he had shared these feelings with anyone, his heart was ready for a change, and the process was quick and effective.  Not only did he receive healing for himself, but he also took a booklet home to help his wife go through the process, as well as the children’s version, “Is My Heart a Happy Heart?” for his four-year-old daughter.

“Yesterday I prayed for compassion,” Walter wrote in a note to one of our team members on the first day of the Fresh Start seminar, “and you are the answer to my prayer.”

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

Going vertical!

MJ

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EMBRACE THE PAIN

“How long ago did you injure your foot?”  Ken, the tall volleyball player, was talking with me after one of our Fresh Start East Asia seminars.  It had been a long day, and I was exhausted.  I was weary of limping through the snow-covered streets.  I was tired of lagging behind everyone else.  My whole body ached from trying to protect my sprained foot, wrapped in ace bandages and encased in my special walking boot.

When Ken heard that it had been over a month since my injury, he shook his head in disbelief.  “You know, when I play volleyball, I often twist my ankle or sprain my foot.  But I’m usually playing again in just two weeks.”

I was amazed.  “How do you do it?”

“First of all, you need to get rid of that boot,” he instructed.  “You can’t protect your foot forever, or the muscles will get weak from lack of use.  It’s time to put some pressure on it.”

Ken then showed me how to stretch until I get to a point where it hurts, and then push even more.  He demonstrated how I should massage the foot, concentrating on the tender spots.  “It will be painful, but you have to be willing to press into the pain if you really want to get better.”

It was counter-intuitive.  Stretch until it hurts?  Press into the pain?  Every instinct told me to avoid pain at all costs.  Reluctantly, I followed Ken’s advice.  And slowly, my foot started to get stronger.  By the end of the 17-day East Asia trip, I was walking quickly, keeping pace with my teammates, and even jogging up the stairs!

Sometimes I treat my heart the way I treated my sprained foot.  When I’ve experienced pain or loss, I want to wrap up and protect my heart so that no one can hurt me again. Everything in me resists dragging up those stinging memories and ugly emotions.  But if I’ll allow Him, the Holy Spirit goes in deep to reveal what needs to be healed.  And the Father gently massages those tender areas where I’ve been wounded.  He helps me to stand and walk again, getting stronger as I step into forgiveness and freedom.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12 NIV

Going vertical!

MJ

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A BLANKET OF SHAME

Lisa couldn’t sleep.  It was the middle of the night, but she kept thinking about the hurtful comments she heard earlier that day at a Fresh Start seminar in East Asia.  Several people criticized her for being so transparent when she shared her testimony about how God was working in her marriage relationship.

“You’re not honoring your husband!”

“A wife shouldn’t talk about her marriage like that!”

“That’s not how we do things in our culture.”  “You’re bringing shame to your family!”

She tossed and turned, the condemning words echoing in her head.  Lisa felt as if she had a blanket covering her head, with the word “SHAME” written over her forehead.  The verbal attacks seemed to grow louder and stronger.  She felt condemned to be stoned, as in biblical times.

Suddenly, Lisa saw a picture of Jesus coming to her, in the midst of the angry, accusing voices.  Gently, lovingly, He removed the blanket of shame from her head.  She recalled Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery who was going to be stoned.  “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? …Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:10-11)

The next morning there was radiant joy on Lisa’s face as she shared her experience with the Fresh Start team.  “I realized I was giving too much power to others to judge me,” she explained.  “There is only one Judge – Jesus!  I don’t need to defend myself or fight back against others’ accusations.  Jesus is my Advocate!  And He’s taken my shame away!”

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (Psalm 34:4-5)

Going vertical!

MJ

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