What is the Kingdom of God?

The Bible says that we should put it first in our lives (Matt. 6:33) and that we should be preaching it to others (Luke 9:2).  We pray for God’s kingdom to come on a regular basis, but if someone were to ask us: “Please, explain to me exactly what the Kingdom of God is”, would we know what to say?

I think that when many people use the expression “Kingdom of God”, they forget what the word “kingdom” means.  Certainly, is not a state of the heart of some kind of “good vibe”.  The definition of the actual word Kingdom is “a country or area ruled by a king or queen” (Macmillan Dictionary).  Thus, when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are asking for Him to rule, not only in our hearts and minds but also over a determined territory: “on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

We are encouraged by Jesus to “seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7).  However, in order to be able to seek regarding what the Kingdom of God is, we perhaps need to set aside pre-conceived ideas and search with open minds, which could lead to questioning things we have been taught all our lives by people we know and trust.  Therefore, let this journey of investigation be a prayerful one. Take some time now to ask for God’s guidance as you seek to understand more about this topic which is one of the most important in the Bible.

To understand the Kingdom of God we must first look into the Old Testament; the deep and extremely relevant prophesies in the book of Daniel speak directly about the topic.  I urge you to take some time now to read the second chapter of the book of Daniel, which describes how the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had had a very strange dream and was trying to find someone to interpret it for him.  Finally, a young Hebrew man called Daniel was able to give him the interpretation that God had revealed to him.

“But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third kingdom, represented by bronze, will rise to rule the world. Following that kingdom, there will be a fourth one, as strong as iron. That kingdom will smash and crush all previous empires, just as iron smashes and crushes everything it strikes. The feet and toes you saw were a combination of iron and baked clay, showing that this kingdom will be divided. Like iron mixed with clay, it will have some of the strength of iron. But while some parts of it will be as strong as iron, other parts will be as weak as clay. This mixture of iron and clay also shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermarriage. But they will not hold together, just as iron and clay do not mix.

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 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.”(Daniel 2:39-45)

As we can see, in verses 44 – 45 of this chapter, we have a very real promise for the future which has not been fulfilled yet: “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever.”  Surely it would be impossible to argue that this text is speaking about a “kingdom in people’s hearts”.

This gives us hope.  If we are to take these words from the book of Daniel seriously, we should know that God will intervene and “will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness”. All other governments will be replaced by His “kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered” (Daniel 2:44)

Every kingdom must have a king or queen; what about the Kingdom of God? The Bible shows that there is only one who is qualified for this task; the same one who took all of humanity’s sins on his shoulders and carried out incredible miracles.  We read in Isaiah 9:7:

“Of the greatness of his government and peace,
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever”.

Also, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary, these were his words:

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

Regarding the coming of God’s Kingdom, Jesus’ disciples were keen to know the time when it would arrive and asked him: “when will this be? And what will happen in order to show that the time has come for it to take place?” Jesus replied: “Be on guard, don’t be deceived.  Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, ‘I am he!’ and ‘The time has come!’ But don’t follow them.  Don’t be afraid when you hear of wars and revolutions; such things must happen first, but they do not mean that the end is near” (Luke 21:7-9)

We know that throughout the history of Christianity there have been extremist groups and sects that have convinced many to drop everything, leave their jobs, sell their houses and cash in their savings because “the end is nigh!”  This kind of manipulation encourages people to serve God out of fear, not love.  Later, the victims of these sects are left to rebuild their lives as best they can, often in very adverse circumstances.

However, Jesus did not want us to remain ignorant about his return and the coming of the Kingdom. In fact, in Luke 21, Matthew 24 and Mark 13 we can read extensively about this topic.  In chapter twenty-four of the gospel of Matthew, we read about the signs of the “end of the age”. After speaking about wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes, famine, hatred, and persecution against Christians, Jesus warns us that: “then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will beAnd if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short. (Matt. 24: 21-22)

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

 Some churches teach that true believers will be swept up into heaven in the rapture before the “great tribulation” even begins, but a careful study of the Scriptures shows that this is not actually what Jesus said.  Why would he say that “for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” if they had already left the earth?

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 we read:

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

I think that many Christians believe that this is where the narrative ends, that we are gathered up with Jesus into heaven and that’s it.  But this still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, questions that the Bible sheds light on.

For example, what happens to the earth after the rapture? What about all those who never had the chance to hear about Jesus?  There has been a lot of speculation and a good number of Hollywood movies that have attempted to answer these very real and relevant questions, but in fact, the Bible does answer them all. Let’s see.

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What about all the people who never had a chance to hear about Jesus?

The answer can be found in Revelation 20 verse 12:

I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done”.

Will the earth be destroyed?

Some Christian groups tend to ignore the fate of this planet.  They offer people a ticket to heaven via Jesus but never mention what will happen to God’s creation after the tribulation.

We know that to date, scientists have not been able to locate another planet in the whole of the known universe that is able to sustain life in the same way as ours.  No one who loves nature or has studied its complexity and beauty could fathom why the same God who created such marvels would consider blowing it all to pieces or allowing humans to do so.

In fact, nowhere in the Bible[1] does it state that this planet will be destroyed.  For example, we can read in Psalm 104:5 “You have set the earth firmly on its foundations and it will never be moved” and in Ecclesiastes 1:4 it states that: “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” 

In Psalm 37:10-11, we read: “In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” These are not merely nice sounding, pretty words.  This is truth!  We see that God is promising that “the wicked will be no more”; meaning no more corruption and injustice.  Then we read that the “meek will inherit the land”.  These words are of course echoed by Jesus in his most famous sermon: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). 

Another question: Why are the meek on the earth and not in heaven?  Are some people in heaven and some on earth?

As always, the Bible has the answers.  However, what I am about to write is not taught by the majority of churches and theologians, whose teachings are still heavily influenced by Catholic doctrine and dogma.  In my opinion, the Reformation did not go nearly far enough; a lot was achieved but sadly most people are now unwilling to analyze or question the teachings of Luther and Calvin and others, meaning that freedom of thought and expression within churches continues to be severely restricted.

The Bible says that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults and giving instruction for right living” (2 Timothy 3:16). With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can investigate these questions without fear, praying that God will illuminate our understanding and help us identify any false teachings we have been persuaded to believe.

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  • Who will be on earth and who will be in heaven?

If we read Revelation 5:9-10 we find this statement to Jesus, the Lamb of God:

“… You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals.                                                      For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race.  You have made them a Kingdom of priests to serve our God and they shall rule on earth.

 In Revelation 20:4 we read about: “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4). 

2 Timothy 2:12 says: if we endure, we will also reign with him.

In 1 Corinthians 6:2, Paul asks the believers: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?”                                           

Faithful Christians who have “fought the good fight… finished the race” and “kept the faith[2] will have the immense privilege and responsibility of reigning with Christ over the earth and judging the world.

But who will they be judging and ruling over?  You can’t have a Kingdom without subjects.  In fact, the Bible mentions two groups of people. The first is formed by this group of “kings and priests” that are to “rule over the earth”, the second one can be found in Revelation 7:9-10, 13-14:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

            … “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. 

Let us read Revelation 21:1-5 carefully: 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What strikes me in this passage is the fact that the holy city comes down from heaven.  After much reflection, prayer, and meditation on the Scriptures I have come to the conclusion that in the end, we will all be together on the earth; those who are reigning with Christ and those who are living under their rule.  We know that, initially, the faithful believers will be “will be caught up … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) in Jesus’ second coming.  It is possible that these faithful Christians are caught up in the rapture to be crowned and to participate in the celebrations of the Weddings of the Lamb (Rev.19:6-9) before descending from heaven in the new Jerusalem.

There is another very key text that supports this explanation: we read in Revelation 20:7-9: “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.  And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.”

How could Satan and his followers surround “the camp of the saints and the beloved city” if they were not on earth?

In order to understand these events in context, it’s absolutely necessary to read the whole of Chapter 20 of Revelation.  Take some time to do it now and then perhaps read this section again; surely it will make a lot more sense afterwards.

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  • “A new heaven and a new earth”:

Regarding life on earth after the Rapture and Armageddon, we read in Isaiah 65:17 that:

“For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.”

In 2 Peter 3:13, we find the same idea, echoed: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”. 

If we continue reading in Isaiah 65:21-25 we find a beautiful description of what life will be like on the “new earth”:

They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain
    or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
    and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
    and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Another very moving passage in the book of Isaiah that refers to life during God’s Kingdom reads: “No one who lives in our land will ever again complain of being ill, and all sins will be forgiven”. (Isaiah 33:24) 

And Revelation 21:4 confirms:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

I would like to finish this study by leaving you with this passage from 1 Corinthians 15:23-28:

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each one will be raised in proper order: Christ, first of all; then, at the time of his coming, those who belong to him.  Then the end will come; Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers, and will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father.   For Christ must rule until God defeats all enemies and puts them under his feet.   The last enemy to be defeated will be death.”

This is our hope.  This is the Kingdom of God. As we can see “Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers”, just as we read in Daniel 2:44. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness and it will stand forever.”

 

[1] There is some controversy regarding a verse in the second book of Peter, chapter three verse ten.  Some older, less exact translations such as the King James version read: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” However, extensive study on the original Greek shows that the more correct rendering is: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (ESV).  If you aren’t convinced and would like to look into this yourself I would really recommend you do so.  I have not studied Biblical Greek but spent some time investigating this verse carefully with the help of a Greek scholar and it was thus that I became convinced in my mind that “the earth and the words that are done on it will be exposed” is the correct translation here.

[2]  2 Timothy 4:7

From “Social Justice Warrior” to Kingdom Hopeful

I just thought I’d share a little more about my background, so you can see where I’ve come from and how God has brought me here through His grace and love 💞💖

I was basically brought up to be a “Social Justice Warrior”, in a rather liberal Christian environment. As a teenager, I campaigned energetically for “Third World Debt” to be dropped, taking part in protests and political action and other charity work… I even travelled to Genoa, Italy for the G8 protest in 2001 and I was also present at another large international protest in Geneva, Switzerland and London, England…

I had been told that I could “change the world” and help bring an end to poverty and injustice, but as the years went on, I started to feel more and more disheartened and discouraged… I saw that our human efforts to bring positive, lasting change were always limited by our own brokenness and inadequacy…

At that time (from around 1999 to 2004) I firmly believed that the church was Christ’s “hands and feet” and that it was our job to bring God’s Kingdom to earth… However, as you can imagine, trying to carry that out was extremely exhausting and frustrating, because I saw that the church itself was riddled with corruption, apathy and general disorganisation…

By around 2005-2006, I was thoroughly disillusioned with my naivé, idealistic ideas about “changing the world”. I was at such a vulnerable, lost stage of my life, with quite a lot of family trauma and baggage that I ended up joining a cult…

But despite this, I am extremely grateful for God’s mercy and grace through all of that, and especially the fact that he showed me the truth of his Kingdom, that He has promised to establish on earth through his Son, our Messiah, Yeshua. I will NEVER let go of my STRONG conviction that this planet will be redeemed, restored, renewed and cleansed of all the toxic injustice, corruption and pollution that it is infested with, when Jesus comes in glory to put everything right.

This is the only thing that brings me real hope when I watch the news and am tempted to despair at the current state of the world.

I know that not everyone here shares my convictions, and that’s okay. I don’t wish to start a debate here or stir up controversy, but simply to “come clean” about who I am and where I’m coming from.

If there are others here who also share in this Kingdom hope, please don’t be afraid to admit it… The fact is that not every single detail of what we were taught in our former cult was lies; now the challenge is to sift through all those teachings with the Scriptures and see which ones we can continue to cling onto, and which ones we can let go of 🌿🌿🌿

Protecting your heart over the holiday season

If you’re having to deal with very difficult people over this holiday period, this is something to keep in mind (for your OWN sanity):

When speaking to very toxic, manipulative people, we could consider the following, well-known words, which do seem to be relevant here:

“You have a right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you…”

If we can’t avoid these kinds of people completely, we do need to be very careful of our words around them, so they can’t twist and manipulate us to their advantage.

At the same time, as Christians we’re called to love and pray for them. However, that doesn’t mean subjecting ourselves willingly to their abusive behaviour, but it can mean distancing ourselves emotionally while remaining kind, firm and polite.

If, through the power of the Holy Spirit in us (because this is EXTREMELY difficult in our own strength) we can calmly rise above their lies and manipulation, they will eventually see that they can’t provoke an emotional response from us and they may lose interest and leave us alone.

We need to realise that some people just seem to be HUNGRY for drama and attention; they want to be the victim in every situation and need to find a villain to point at and shout about. Don’t take the bait; don’t try to reason with them or attempt to change them, just pray for them, walk away and seek healthier people to surround yourself with.

The challenge of communicating with cult members

People can be educated out of ignorance, with much patience, gentleness and tact, but if we use the tools of shame, sarcasm or ridicule, we will just alienate them.

If we’re feeling angry because someone REFUSES to listen to reason, it’s best to simply wipe the dust off our feet and stop trying to throw our pearls to “pigs”. Otherwise, we’ll become exasperated and may resort to the unhealthy methods mentioned above.

This can happen sometimes when people try to communicate with fully indoctrinated cult members. It can be extremely frustrating to see how “brain washed” people are, and tempting to try and “get through to them” with raised emotions or a barrage of information.

Sadly, this very rarely works. Their “flight or fight” mechanism will probably kick in, and they’ll either run from you or aggressively defend their group.

This can end up leading them even deeper into their cult mindset, as they will see you as a “persecutor” who wants to “attack” their group.

So, does that mean that we can do NOTHING to help wake them up or sow some seeds of doubt that could help them to break free from their mental oppression? Not at all. NOT AT ALL.

According to Steven Hassan, internationally renowned cult expert, the first thing to do is to try and build up a friendly rapport with the cult member. Start with a smile, a warm greeting or some neutral small talk. If you’re dealing with a friend or loved one, you’ll need to work hard to establish TRUST with them, otherwise they will always see you as the “enemy” in some way. Tread carefully and be patient, showing great respect and compassion towards them as human beings.

When you feel like you’ve gained their trust or broken the ice (if you’re speaking with a stranger), it’s generally much better to ask intelligent, searching questions, rather than bombarding them with facts in an overwhelming way. If you’re speaking to a Jehovah’s Witness, the following link has some great questions that you could use to initiate a discussion:

https://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/questions-to-ask-a-jehovahs-witness.php

Finding joy after guilt

“Every time we violate our values or faith, we suffer from inner tension and guilt feelings. This principle is true, regardless of our religious commitment or ideological orientation. It is a function of conscience that God has designed, as part of His image within us. Each time we intentionally commit a sin or consciously fall into a temptation, we endure serious consequences. Some element dies inside of us, as if sin has a destructive power to kill healthy spiritual cells in our organism. To recover from that impact is, at times, like recovering from a major surgical operation.

On the other hand, our conscience will stop bothering us if we repeatedly violate the same value or standard. Gradually, we lose the intensity of the guilt, not because our conscience has become crippled but because our norms have been modified, softened, and therefore, compromised.

Mercifully, God affirms us in that when failure occurs, restoration is needed and forgiveness is available. We are called to be a people of principle, to cultivate righteousness and to have clear moral and ethical values based on sound biblical standards. May the Lord grant us that virtue.”

By Naji Abi-Hashem from Lebanon

“Welcome those who are weak in faith”

I simply adore this message in Romans 14. I find it SO DIFFERENT to the highly controlling sermons I used to hear in my former cult

Instead of spelling out every little detail of what people could and couldn’t do (regarding day-to-day issues like eating meat or vegetables etc), Paul gave instructions for mutual tolerance, respect and compassion. He told them to follow their own consciences and not to judge one another:

“Welcome those who are weak in faith, but do not argue with them about their personal opinions. Some people’s faith allows them to eat anything, but the person who is weak in the faith eats only vegetables.

The person who will eat anything is not to despise the one who doesn’t; while the one who eats only vegetables is not to pass judgment on the one who will eat anything; for God has accepted that person.

Who are you to judge the servants of someone else? It is their own Master who will decide whether they succeed or fail. And they will succeed, because the Lord is able to make them succeed. Some people think that a certain day is more important than other days, while others think that all days are the same. We each should firmly make up our own minds.”

Romans 14:1‭-‬5

Experiencing God’s grace while sick with the ‘flu

For the last five days, I’ve been stuck in bed with the ‘flu. I’d love to say that it’s been a great opportunity to rest and catch up on worthwhile spiritual activities, but the reality is that I’ve been feeling so lousy, all I can manage is to binge-watch silly comedies on Netflix and toss and turn at night, feeling feverish and miserable…

This experience of coming face-to-face with my broken human weakness has been VERY humbling.

Although I have been trying to learn to develop a more self-compassionate attitude, I actually seemed to be stuck on a loop of self-pity, complaining, and regret…

I kept trying to give myself little pep talks, to count my blessings and remember those less fortunate than myself…

But the truth is that it hasn’t been working. Earlier on today, I sat on the floor in the hallway and complained bitterly to my poor, long-suffering husband, about all my woes and my terrible frustration at not being well… 😩😩😩

Then, I felt ashamed of myself and apologised for my childishness…

And so, I’ve been ping-ponging between feeling sorry for myself and then becoming embarrassed for not coping better with a simple bout of the ‘flu.

I realise that I am trying to regulate my emotions in a very human way: either by expressing them openly and unrestrainedly like a child, or attempting to control them with an iron fist.

The fact is that neither strategy has brought me peace.

Before starting to write this, I lay down on my bed and cried out in anguish to God, asking for help and relief. I apologised for my immature behaviour, and then began to feel that I don’t really deserve pity or help, because there are many more people in the world who are suffering much more than me… I mean, I have a warm bed, nutritious food to eat, a husband who cares for me… I thought: do I even have the right to feel bad???

Then I sensed a still, small voice of grace in my heart, telling me: it’s not a competition, Emily. I love you. Rest in my love”.

And then I began to cry, as I felt so moved and humbled again.

Jesus knew that I didn’t need a motivational pep talk about my emotional “failures”… During my moments of pure weakness and brokenness, he knew I just needed to feel loved and appreciated.

If you have been feeling unwell, undeserving or alone, please do let me know so I can pray for you. I’ve been so grateful today for some lovely, supportive friends in the Faith after Deception Fellowship who have been sending me prayers and encouragement during my illness. I almost thought I didn’t deserve to ask for prayer as it’s only the ‘flu, but I’m so glad I did. We often need to reach out of our comfort zones to receive support and that can be hard and scary, but it’s definitely worth it. Big hugs to everyone, and have a great week

Finding our true identity after spiritual abuse

I personally find that when you’ve been around toxic people long enough, either in a family environment or as part of a cult or a highly controlling church, (or worse, BOTH!), you tend to get a very twisted view of your own identity and also human nature in general.

In a religious context, you may end up feeling that you are a “lowly worm” and that in general, people can’t be trusted. Since all you’ve known of relationships has been painful, complex and tiresome, it can give you the impression that this is the norm and that’s all you can expect 😫😫

Neuroscience has proven that when we’re chronically tired, stressed and/or emotionally depleted, our ability to make wise decisions is severely impaired. We’ll generally just resort to what feels comfortable, familiar or safe. The problem is: if we aren’t used to being in a truly safe environment, we may find ourselves surrounded by yet more toxic people, because that’s what feels normal to us.

On the other hand, if we meet people who are genuinely kind, sincere and loving, we may get scared and run away, because they just feel so unfamiliar and foreign to us. Or, we may be terrified of opening up and being vulnerable, because we’ve been hurt so many times in the past and fear we just can’t risk it again…

Maybe we don’t believe we actually “deserve” love or are worthy of someone else’s affection, so we distance ourselves from them…

This is also the reason why toxic churches and cults can be so damaging to our ability to form healthy friendships and relationships. There is a constant environment of criticism, blame, and gossip, and they don’t teach that we are beloved or saved by grace, but that we must strive after perfection in order to earn God’s love.

However, once we begin to stand in our true identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Most High, we can move towards healthy relationships that are not dictated by fear, manipulation or selfishness.

I truly believe that once we can accept that God is good and that he loved us enough to send His Son to die for us, we can really flourish and start to form healthy relationships. When we receive His love in our hearts and it starts to irradiate through our being to others because it will be Christ’s love that is flowing through our veins, not our own. Our whole self will be founded on the rock of Christ’s love for us, rather than on the slippery sinking sands of fear, self-loathing or insecurity.

This transition to self-compassion and the deep knowledge of our belovedness can take time and isn’t usually immediate. We have acquired many toxic thought patterns in our brains that tell us that we “aren’t enough” and can constantly slip back into anxiety, self-doubt, and envy… Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to make a conscious effort to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:12) so we can finally understand with our heart and mind that we are beloved and not cursed. This can be a long process, and we will need the encouragement of others on the way and great patience and grace towards ourselves.  If you’re currently going through this process and are looking for a safe place to share, I invite you to email me at faithafterdeception@gmail.com or to join our Faith after Deception Fellowship group if you’re not a member already. I’d love to hear from you and to pray for you.

Much love in Christ,

Emily

The Prodigal Son

 

Do you struggle with the concept of self-care?

If you’re anything like me, you may struggle to make self-care a priority in your life.

I realised this morning that part of my subconscious mind seems to have the impression that I need to “earn” my times of rest, by doing all my pending chores beforehand. However, by the time I do complete them all (which isn’t always possible anyway), the day is gone and I’m stressed, exhausted and on the verge of burnout.

Because I often suffer from fatigue and frequent colds, I do need to take rest seriously, even though it goes against my perfectionistic desire to “get everything done”.

What do rest and self-care look like for you? I’d love to hear what works for you. Please do share if you’d like to in the comments below.

As for the argument that self-care is “selfish”, I have this to say:

1. I actually see self-care as a sign of humility. It means admitting that we are frail human beings and not robots… We can’t attempt to be superhumans who don’t need self-care without falling into pride, imho.

2. Even Jesus had to escape the clamouring crowds around him to spend time alone with God, in order to recharge his spiritual and emotional batteries. We also know that he took the opportunity to rest and sleep, such as on the boat during the storm, even though it seemed to his disciples that He had chosen an inappropriate time! (Matthew 8:23-27)

3. Taking responsibility for our own need for rest, nutrition and exercise is a vital step on the road to maturity. As we grow up, we can’t expect other people to look after us or take care of us.

4. When we do make our own self-care a priority, by setting appropriate, healthy boundaries and learning to say “no” in a kind but firm way, we will then have the energy to give to others from a refreshed and abundant heart, rather than a stressed or frazzled one.

If you’re reading these words and feel guilty that you’re “not quite there yet”, take heart; neither am I!!! We are all a work in progress.

True humility implies recognising where we need to grow, then praying that God will give us the strength to get there.

It is also important to be aware that any change isn’t easy and we will all find ourselves falling back into bad habits at times. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve “failed” or that we’re “no good”, it just is a gentle reminder that we all need more grace. We can’t get there on our own, and we’re not supposed to.

Leaving shame behind

A friend of mine shared the following reflection recently:

I have noticed that when trying to help a person who has made many bad decisions through their life, even a whisper of correction sounds to them like a yell through a megaphone because they are not living with guilt, but shame.

They don’t have the resolve to change because they don’t think they did something wrong, they think there is something wrong with them.

The difficulty is trying to convince them that they are complete and enough while challenging them on their wrong beliefs and actions that only continue the destructive results they are getting.

There is only a spiritual solution to this. The mediator between God and man, who makes us righteous, calls us complete, shows us our worth, and then helps us change and recover from the mess we have made of our life.

There is no other way than through Jesus. Only he can take the worst of us, give us such incredible worth, then comfort us as we change into the image he has for us.

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