Category Archives: Healing & Deliverance

Jesus Christ & our fear of abandonment (Psalm 22 Bible study)

Abandonment is one thing that human beings are absolutely terrified of, and that’s because we are made in God’s image, and therefore designed for relationship with Him and one another.  It can occur when a parent leaves home, a death happens, or a divorce.  It can result in work-a-holism, obsessive behaviour, addiction, fearful attachment, and anger.  God understands that, and Jesus does too.

Jesus Christ experienced abandonment on the cross when God the Father put all His wrath for sin on Jesus.  Why?  Because every man, woman, and child has rebelled against God – and therefore deserves His anger for that disobedience.  That consequence is Hell, where people are abandoned by God forever.  Yet Jesus experienced abandonment on the cross 2,000 years ago so that those who trust in Him will not experience Hell, but have friendship with God forever.  It also means that when Christians experience sorrow, betrayal, and abandonment, that Jesus Christ completely sympathises.  Here is a Bible study that I went through with my church today on this subject, based on Psalm 22 and Matthew 27-28: Psalm 22 Bible Study

God bless, Pastor Haydn.

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Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – Overcoming Self-Loathing (25th of February 2018)

Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –

Overcoming Self-Loathing

punchinello Christian author Max Lucardo once wrote a powerful children’s book named You Are Special about these imaginary people called Wemmicks.  These Wemmicks are little wooden people that were crafted by a loving carpenter named Eli, who lives on a hill close by.  One Wemmick named Punchinello (pictured left), however, is going through an enormous struggle: people keep putting stickers on him.  Some are stars which have messages on them like “You are so clever”, while others are ugly round dots which say, “You are boring” and “Nobody loves someone like you”.  Punchinello tries to get stars, but more often than not be gets the round dots.  Worse, some of the stars get ripped off him altogether as people take back their words. 

            For Punchinello, those ugly green stickers erode his resilience.  They cause him so much suffering because deep inside he listens to their hideous voices and starts to undermine and attack himself. I’m sure many of you have had the same thing, where the hurtful, damaging voices of others causes you to hate yourself.  “If others said I am garbage, then they must be right”, you reason.  “Perhaps they see something revolting about myself that I cannot even see, so perhaps I am as bad as they say I am.  I am disgusting, loathsome and unlovable”.  The Australian movie from the 1990s, Muriel’s Wedding, is an excellent example of this, as she tries to get married so that someone will want her and she’ll be special to someone (anyone)!  But it horribly backfires when she realises that the love of no other person will fill the void in her heart. 

            Self-loathing is a terrible thing because you will often sabotage yourself before you attempt anything.  You’re constantly in defeat mode and no matter what others say to you about how valuable and loved you are, you will not believe it.  Many victims of abuse feel like this all the time. The problem is when you and I choose not to believe it because you really do think yourself unworthy of love, blessing, and respect.  It also blocks you from going to God because you think yourself unwanted, and that you “must be good enough” to approach Him.  But you’ll never be good enough, and so you never go.  It leads to sin and addictive, self-destructing behaviour because you think you’re a piece of dirt.  You treat others like dirt because that’s what you think you are.  It’s a vicious cycle.

            King Saul was a selfish narcissist who lost the kingship to David because he thought himself small – or insignificant – in his own eyes (1 Samuel 15:17).  He privately was very self-loathing, but tried to cover it up by controlling others, breaking God’s law, and going off on his own winsome adventures.  There was pride, of course, in his heart but that fed on self-loathing and self-pity.  Judas probably loathed himself so much after betraying Jesus that he ended his life in self-destruction.

            Jesus never self-loathed.  He was strong in Himself because He knew that God loved and approved of Him.  As a consequence, He never sinned and attacked anyone else.  He even helped unworthy, sinful people like us to boldly approach God’s throne (Romans 5:6-8, Hebrews 4:16).  Paul didn’t self-loath because he knew his position as an apostle and refused to let others undermine his sense of self-worth (2 Corinthians 10:12-13).  The Bible speaks to the wound of self-loathing by reminding us that having put us right with God, Jesus now makes us temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  We are so loved by Him that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39)!  Let these words speak to self-loathing in your heart, that God’s love will overwhelm your pain. 

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, please heal me of self-loathing and the scars that I have been carrying.  The people who did that to me, whose names I bring to You now, put these lies in my heart.  Please forgive them, help me to forgive them, and heal them by the blood of Jesus.  Forgive me for the times when I have treated others as insignificant out of my own wounds.  Help them to forgive me. I now surrender to You the lies in my heart that have produced self loathing; I renounce them in Jesus Christ’s name, and speak Your truth over myself that I am loved by You and a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to love myself as You love me.   I pray this in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, Amen.

~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Time for Healing, Tears, and Deliverance

During this last week, I spent two days at a healing retreat at Ellel Ministries just outside Sydney, to get some help and encouragement for healing.  I have struggled for many a year with emotional wounds, anger, bitterness, unmet needs, besetting sins and all manner of things that happened during my years of upbringing.  These roots have brought to me little more than misery, sin, addiction, loneliness, and major blockages to intimacy with God and His blessings.

In many ways I didn’t really need the teaching component that I was exposed to Ellel, as I have been learning about these matters with my Christian therapist.  However, it was great to be around other people who understand my need for healing and wholeness and have others to pray for me, gently goad me where I needed to be pushed, and even give me the opportunity to physically vent my anger and invite God to heal me with His fatherly heart.  I was able to even forgive, in part, those who’ve abused me.  I wept a LOT of tears, and continue to do so even after returning home.  After a day and a half of Ellel, I dearly wanted to stay for longer and benefit more from it.

[There is] a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance ~ Ecclesiastes 3:4.

I have been surprised to see that the Bible says a lot about healing and the place of emotions; surprisingly, even anger is OK when it comes from the right place and is used for godly purposes.  Here are some biblical references to healing to think through:

This is just a sample of what the Bible teaches about healing and it only scratches the surface.  I do not seek here to defend healing because it does happen, and have seen it in my own circumstances, but I have listed those references here so others can learn from them.  With emotional wounding, like what I’ve gone through, it is through heartfelt, honest prayer that allows God to enter in and restore what was broken.  This kind of healing is generally shunned in the church and many are downright fearful of it, because it means that God is in control.  Many, like myself, were told not to feel our emotions (especially anger, because that’s “Not godly”) but actually things are not like that.  In a healing ministry like this, feelings of anger can be safely expressed and lead to healing.  And with God in it all, the truth of His revelation becomes more true for me personally, as I am set free of judgementalism, bitterness, vengefulness, spite, and sin.  No man can presume to be close to God with simmering anger and expect the past to just ‘melt away’ – it must be dealt with.

I would warmly encourage others to consider going on such a healing journey as well.  The following books can really be of help:

  • The Healing Journey, by Thom Gardner;
  • Fathered by God, by John Eldredge;
  • The Papa Prayer, by Larry Crabb;
  • The Father Heart of God, by Floyd McClung;
  • Who I Am in Christ, by Neil T. Anderson;
  • Healing the Wounded Heart, by Thom Gardner;
  • Come to Papa: Encountering the Father That Jesus Knew, by Gary Wiens.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the healing retreat and learned the freedom of weeping tears, and how God honours a weeping, wounded heart that seeks for Him.  We’re told in Psalm 34:18 that “Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit“, and that He comforts those who experience affliction (2 Corinth. 1:3-5).  I actually look forward to weeping out my pain because it means I then get to the other side (and I always do, because God is in it) and watch the blessings flow from it.  And I love more than anything to be around others who have gone through the same! I also get to ‘train up’ my wife, kids, and church to do the same.  It baffles me as to why Bible seminaries don’t train their students on how to do this kind of stuff!  Here are some lovely pictures about tears and Jesus’ love:

tears3 tears1 tears4 tears5 tears7 tears6

 

jesusbaby2 jesusbaby5 jesusbaby4 jesusbaby3 jesusbaby1

Red lizards, addiction, grace, and deliverance

 “I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder … [it] was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear.  As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience.  ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said.  It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile … 

‘Would you like me to make [the lizard] quiet?’, said [a] flaming Spirit- an angel as I now understood. 

‘Of course I would’, said the Ghost.

‘Then I will kill him’, said the Angel, taking a step forward …

‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first.  I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that’.

‘It’s the only way’, said the Angel … ‘shall I kill it?’

‘Well, that’s a further question … I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it…’

‘May I kill it?’

‘Well, there’s time to discuss it later’

‘There is no time.  May I kill it?’ …

‘Please really- don’t bother.  Look!  It’s gone to sleep of its own accord.  I’m sure it’ll be all right now.  Thanks ever so much’

‘May I kill it?’

‘Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that … I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it’

‘The gradual process is of no use at all’

‘Don’t you think so?  Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully.  I honestly will.  In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day.  It would be most silly to do it now.  I’d need to be in good health for the operation.  Some other day, perhaps …  I’ll come again the first moment I can’

‘There is no other day.  All days are present now’

‘Get back!  You’re burning me.  How can I tell you to kill it?  You’d kill me if you did’

‘It is not so … I never said it wouldn’t hurt you.  I said it wouldn’t kill you’

‘If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me – before I knew?  It would be all over now if you had’

‘I cannot kill it against your will.  It is impossible.  Have I your permission?’ …

‘Damn and blast you! ‘Go on, can’t you?  Get it over.  Do what you like’, bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, ‘God help me, God help me’.  Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I have never heard on Earth.  The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and flung it, broken backed, on the turf.

~ The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis, ch. 11.

A lot of times when people are in addiction and stuck in a rut are afraid of change and the call that God has on them.  Many in addiction are condemned to addiction and never to change, even by the church, because churches are sadly run most of the time by people who’ve never experienced God’s healing power and so deny it to others.  While it is true that God’s grace is unconditional in the sense that no-one can do anything to merit it but receive it only as a free gift, the cost of that gift is our life.  It’s our life that must be surrendered, and not just some of it but all of it.  In everyone there are red lizards on our shoulders that we are darn scared of handing over to God because it hurts so much; and we don’t give them over often in fear that we will die.  But while it hurts, it won’t kill us.  In fact, it saves; in the Great Divorce, just after this scene the man who has surrendered the red lizard morphs into an astonishingly new and stronger man, beyond recognition.  (Interestingly, a similar depiction of healing is found in the Chronicles of Narnia, in the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Eustace is healed of being a dragon by Aslan in chapter seven, ‘How the Adventure Ended’.)

This sketch of Lewis’ is telling because it is exactly how God is trying to engage with all in sexual and relational brokenness and addiction: ‘Give to me that which is digging its claws into you.  I am safe”.  But even knowing that the saviour is safe and good doesn’t mean surrender will occur (Exodus 6:9).  The man with the red lizard goes backwards and forwards with the angel, almost haggling and the angel asks with irritating repetition ‘May I kill it?’  But the man has to surrender not only the lizard, but his deeper fears and his inner self, and that is where the biggest change occurs.  And healing does come- it is in an instant, it is thorough, it permeates the inside and through to the outside.  And even though the sin/addiction seems to sleep for a while it never rests- it must be killed if its work is to be destroyed.

Does that mean that a journey of healing over time doesn’t occur in people?  It does, but like the man with the red lizard, I and others have experienced mini-breakthroughs not dissimilar to what this man has gone through.  But deliverance is possible.  Just something to think about if you are struggling with addiction and brokenness.  🙂  The Great Divorce is worth reading in its entirety as a helpful commentary on heaven and hell and how sin leads people to hell unless it is dealt with by encountering God’s power.  Sin must be surrendered voluntarily- God never just takes away struggle because surrendering it is the only option.  It cannot be managed and lived with as many conservative Christians believe either- it must be crucified.  Is it possible?  It certainly is.  As a friend wrote recently:

When it comes to healing, God is more concerned with the process than its duration….Don’t rush God (Isaiah 5:19), yourself, or your heart when you need to be whole! Moving in haste puts you at risk for greater harm to be done. Healing is two-fold (faith + action = freedom):

Believing: Believing that God is able and willing to heal you!

Obedience: Obeying whatever He asks you to do, no matter how uncomfortable or silly it may “seem” its important for you to rid yourself from any and everything that contributed to your being broken/sick
It may be difficult but not impossible, I mean would you rather be in perpetual state of brokenness or live a life a wholeness that Christ died for?

Forgiving your offenders is important too because its through releasing those that have hurt you that will make room for those that will aid in your healing! Once again its a process so take your time; but don’t be stationary when you God is telling you move beyond where you currently are. God wants to move you onto a lifestyle of worship!

Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – It’s OK to be Angry (5th of March 2017)

Georges River Congregational Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt – It’s OK to be Angry

‘Children are to be seen and not heard’, is an expression that many of you will have heard.  Underlying this is the message that children are a nuisance, and sadly it’s also been said of our emotions.  Feelings, according to the world, are those fickle, messy, annoying things that people have which are best ignored because they make us get ‘carried away’.  “Don’t get too excited”, we are told, “and by no means should you ever get angry, dear”.  Anger – even if it is felt for good reason – gets dismissed as aggressive and pathological. 

This attitude is profoundly unhealthy because it causes us to hide what’s really going on inside.  When we pray, we never tell God about how angry we feel that someone mocked us or our friend betrayed us, and instead we don masks in ways that we think will please Him.  Consequently, God appears to us as a perfectionist who will reject us if we tell Him what we’re really feeling.  We only talk to our friends when we have ‘good news’ because we think “What will people think if they knew how much I am struggling”?  We go through life with a clown smile on the outside trying to “radiate positivity” while inside we are raging and seething, and really aching in pain.

The Psalms push us in the opposite direction.  David literally commands us in Psalm 4:4, “Be angry, and do not sin. Speak within your heart on your bed, and wail”.  Do you notice that we’re told to grieve and process our emotions before God?  Our beds are our therapy sofas, to wail out our tears and speak God’s truth in to our wounded hearts.  God actually bottles up our tears and puts them in His scroll (Ps 56:8), and rather than hiding from painful things, we remember them and bring them to God’s attention (Ps 137:1).  Paul did so (2 Tim. 4:14-16), as did the Lord (Mark 3:5, John 11:35).

Are there pains of the heart that have been afflicting you, hurts that have been inflicted by others?  Some of them could be decades old, and were afflicted by those who were meant to love and protect you.  Unspoken and unacknowledged, they will have been corroding your soul.  If we pour these things out to God, He will heal and Satan will flee: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).  Let us draw close to God and give Him our hearts.

~ Pastor Haydn.

Emotional Release Prayers

A lot of people carry in them emotional wounds, as I have been … The key to recovery and healing is to feel emotion and bring it to God in prayer.  But that is hard and addicts often struggle with even this because they’re absolutely terrified of facing deeper pain.  Here are some prayers of emotional release which, when prayed, will set you free to deeper wholeness:

emotional-release-prayers

Evangelicalism’s mixed bag

Here in Sydney, many of the Protestant churches towards the more conservative evangelical, with mixed degrees of Reformed teaching.  When many Christians look for a church, they usually aim to find one that 1) is evangelical in the sense that it shares the Good News of Jesus Christ with non-believers, and seeks to grow the numbers of the church; and 2) has ‘solid’ biblical teaching, with the right theological boxes ticked.  There may be additional criteria, but with the second attribute is grounded in the assumption that if people have the ‘right doctrine’ (however that is defined) then things like pastoral care and the like will ‘take care’ of itself.  I’ve been in enough churches to see this in action.  But within evangelical, Reformed churches there are a number of cracks both inside and outside the edifice that are causing some problems.

Pastoral care: the unloved brother

In many evangelical churches, pastoral care is the unloved brother who either never gets his way in.  Church pastors generally lack the skills to do [good] pastoral care, and many don’t even want such skills.  They’ll gleefully pour over hours of Greek, Hebrew, church fathers, articles by the Gospel Coalition, and everything else under the sun, except do pastoral care.  They try to defend this by saying that they ‘just lack’ the gifts to do pastoral care – but I don’t know how that makes sense when, before Bible college, they had no skill whatsoever in classical languages or in interpreting the heavy-hitting theology of Karl Barth.  The acquired those skills with sleepless night, grit and determination – and yet they think pastoral care is beneath them.  And yet you go from church to church and the same leaders are providing identical justifications and almost none have leaders with pastoral hearts.  Everyone wants to be a preacher with the presence of George Whitefield to bring about the next cataclysmic revival and get credit for “growing” the church.

The Church Growth Idol: Making Believers, Not Disciples

Part of the problem is the emphasis on evangelism, and especially church growth.  Church growth has become an idol in the church, being so focussed on growing numbers and ‘making’ believers, yet neglecting to help people to become disciples and growing in Christ-likeness with empathy and a listening ear.  Many pastors would have no idea how to sit with someone in moments of pain, grief, loss, temptation, sinful backsliding, shame, or anything.  When they see a struggler, they may throw out some syllogisms, Bible verses, catch phrases, token prayers, and then hope that others in the congregation will just magically meet that person’s needs without them having to get their hands dirty.  The advice given to strugglers sounds simplistic, cold, judgemental, and detached from day-to-day reality.

It’s a sad indictment, but the evangelical ethos of bringing people TO faith and emphasising ‘coming to the cross’ (i.e. salvation) is very much to blame in a lot of ways.  Without emphasising the need for discipleship and walking in the victory of the cross and particularly of the resurrection (which gives people the power to overcome sin in victory, e.g. Colossians 3:1-5), people think being a Christian is merely about just being saved.  That’s particularly true when they are first converted, and it’s an ongoing assumption that gets passed on.  Of course people in such circumstances may ‘hope for heaven’ in the sense that once they die and get there, THEN sin will all just go away; yet it’s a perspective that assumes that there’s little hope or realisation that in the meantime we’re enabled and commanded to crucify our flesh and have new deeds and desires (e.g. Titus 2:11-14). It’s like a cancer patient with a hope of recovery refusing chaemotherapy because he would rather experience by dying and going to the pearly gates.  The desire to see more numbers of people in the church is, by and large, motivating it but all that does is fill pews and make believers in the head and possibly the hands, but atheists in the heart.

I remember when I was converted in 1998, being a Christian was explained to me simply as trusting in Jesus and having the legal penalty from sin removed (and that was 100% correct).  I was given books like ‘The Cross of Christ’ by John Stott and over and over and over again I went to conferences that re-inforced the themes of justification by penal substitutionary atonement, etc.  But I was always SO hungry for more; I kept wondering ‘Is this it?’  For me it was like a golf club member being so excited that he is a member of the club, while forgetting that the whole point of being a club member is to actually play golf, and to be shown how to do that by a community of others.  Yet my evangelical church circles seemed to neglect growth in the Christian life post-salvation, even though most of the New Testament actually discusses such things.  And that wasn’t to say my church leaders didn’t teach such things – they attempted it, but there wasn’t much of an emphasis on it in church circles and many pastors were fatalistic about whether Christians could overcome sin, let alone find ultimate joy in Jesus.  

For instance, where the New Testament says ‘But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people’ (Eph. 5:3), many would snigger or shrug their shoulders with a sense of resignation and say, “Well really, who can live up to that?  No-one can be that holy, and after all I’m a fallen sinner and only human and God really understands that.  I’ll wait for heaven to be perfected”.  It is like Stockholm Syndrome, where a kidnap victim falls in love with his prison bars and his captor.  And people really do think that because the Christian life, they assume, is all about getting INTO the kingdom, but not actually living like someone who belongs to it. After a while I just couldn’t do it because it wasn’t enough. (Hence why I eventually took to John Piper and Charles Spurgeon like a duck to water.)  Many pastors and preachers have fallen into these traps, but it’s hard for them too because it’s how they were taught at Bible college, and how church was modelled to them by others.

Resistance to social witness

Because of the insatiable desire for ‘church growth’ by many evangelicals (who tend to measure ministry success by numbers), there is a tendency to downplay and even dismiss ministries that prophetically witness against the surrounding culture and denounce its sin.  They argue that such a witness comes across as ‘shrill, unloving, and devoid of the Holy Spirit’, even though such a witness can actually revive the church, bring people to repentance, and bless the wider culture.  I wrote yesterday concerning this, because sadly much in the evangelical world (similar to the seeker-sensitive and Emergent Church movements) fear of man is governing things.  It explains why my testimony is not welcome in so many church circles here, because it speaks of the ways that God can radically transform people and cause them to follow Him at the cost of self.  Many Christians – even church leaders – say that they’re walking that walk, but they’re only talking it, in actual fact; their words may speak it but their heart and actions deny it.  

Where can evangelicalism go?

Reformed evangelical churches need to repent and get real with God.  Are they there to make numbers and easy believers with cheap grace?  Cheap grace tells people that Jesus died for them so much that once they believe in Him, they don’t need to do anything.  Do nothing?!?!?  Jesus told His disciples to carry their cross DAILY and deny themselves; if it cost Jesus all, even His own life, it should cost each one of His followers too.  But are the churches teaching that?  OR (as I suspect) they’re hiding the offensiveness of the gospel because they don’t want people to resist it?  Do they think intellectual wrangling like Ravi Zacharias will win hearts more than the distinctive way that they live?  Are they willing to be silent on evils and threats in our world because they don’t want people to ‘get offended’?  When will the idol of church growth be demolished and put in its proper place, so that godliness and proper discipleship take its place?  Evangelical churches have much work to do.  There’s nothing wrong with evangelism and spreading the Good News to outsiders, but that’s not the be-all-and-end-all of Christian life; it wasn’t in the early church and it shouldn’t be now.  As Brian Ferry once sang, there’s got to be more than this.