by Dr. Rudy Cerullo II, ThD, PhD
Jesus said, we are not to put new wine into old wine skins still filled with old wine, or else what little new wine we can get into them will become tainted by the abundance of the old wine, or the wineskins will simply burst. Rather, we are to empty out the old wine first, clean out the skins, and only then pour in the new wine (my interpretive paraphrase of Matt. 9:17, Mark 2:22 and Luke 5:37-38).
Stated another way, we all understand principles of physical healing. If we have a splinter in our finger, no matter how much pain we must experience in order to remove it, we know it must be gone first in order for healing to be promoted. Similarly, we also know to never put a bandage on top of an infected wound that has not first been cleaned. Otherwise, we are likely to set up an even worse infection. Anything foreign to our bodies must first be removed, in order for new healing growth to fill in the damaged tissue.
The same principles apply to spiritual healing as well. We have to first die to our fleshly natures in order to then become alive unto righteousness (Rom. 6:11). The two dynamics cannot operate side by side within us. The carnal mind must be removed and then transformed by being replaced with the mind of Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). In order for our Lord Jesus to redeem our hearts, He had to first remove their sin natures (Jer. 17:9), by taking them upon Himself on the cross, and then once emptied, in their place; fill our hearts with His own righteousness (II Cor. 5:21).
As you can now guess what I’m about to state, yes, the same principles are just as true for our psychological healing! Our grieving must first be cried out in the evening, so that there is space available within us for God to impart joy to us in the morning (Psa. 30:5; 45:7-8; Isa. 61:3). And yes, our broken pasts with all their memories, emotions and how they have conditioned us to act in response, must all be confronted and removed from us before we have available space to fill with the conditioning of our Lord’s present and future for us!
If I was our Lord’s advisor (which of course I am not--though at times wish I was) I would surely encourage Him to consider giving to every new believer and counselee a magical tap, so they could painlessly insert it in their sides, before they went to sleep. Then, while peacefully sleeping and unaware, all the painful past could just drain out, so by morning, they all would be empty, healed vessels, ready for their interiors to be filled with God’s good things. A one night process of transformation without any pain or participation on our part; now that’s what I’m talking about! Gain without pain; instant patience formed without tribulation (Rom. 5:3); healing without any suffering!
Actually, we all look for this process of healing and hope for none other, which is why we all ask the question, do I have to talk about my painful past in order to be healed? Yet deep within we also instinctually know that only truth sets us free (John 8:32), and deceiving ourselves only puts us in bondage. That is why it is aptly said, we are as sick as the secrets we keep! So Jesus tells us, everybody who avoids exposure does harm to themselves; but everyone who does truth, comes to the light to indeed be exposed, so that God can take their painful pasts and reshape them into testimonies (my interpretive paraphrase of John 3:20-21). Only as we confess the hidden things within our hearts, all the fears, brokenness, weaknesses, bondages and sin therein, are we healed (James 5:16; II Cor. 4:5).
Of course the process of exposing our painful pasts to someone else, even an empathetic, trained counselor, can still be traumatizing. After all, we probably have spent most of our lives trying to cover up and hide the painful parts of our past, only to be frustrated with them resurfacing over and over again (despite our best denials, diversions and escapes). Who wants to re-experience old pain anyway? Yet, the fact remains that our painful pasts hurt just as much when they continuously recycle within us as they did when we first experienced them. And that is precisely why we have to face them once and for all, and better with someone who has been called by God to help us do that.
Maybe we felt all alone when we went through our worst, past experiences. Maybe we felt helpless and powerless as the children we once were, to stop what happened to us. But we are older now; stronger, and can face what used to be the ineffaceable. Besides, if we have been strong enough all these years to carry around all the pain we have suppressed, we are also assuredly strong enough with God’s help and that of another to bring it up and let it go.
Then there are other fears about exposing our deepest secrets to a counselor. ‘What if I spill my guts and the counselor I chose is not experienced enough or educated enough to help me? Wouldn’t that be just as disastrous as going to a surgeon who opens me up, placing all my vitals on the gurney, then doesn’t know how to put me back together? Or what if I become vulnerable and expose my secrets, and the counselor tells others about me, just like others did in my past, using my secrets against me and betraying my confidentiality, hurting me so deeply? Am I in for Déjà vu (been there, done that)?’
These concerns may be valid based upon our past experiences and reasoning, but the truth is, we are most likely using them to avoid the desperately needed therapeutic process that truly heals us. Professional counselors are required to keep consultations in the strictest of confidence, and to refer any counseling cases beyond their expertise, to someone else. It’s therefore better to seek counseling with someone committed to helping us, and who has the confidence, competence, compassion and anointing to help us with our painful pasts, then to continue living the rest of our lives trying to bury what keeps on resurrecting!
My wife, Lynn, and I, are committed to being those kinds of counselors, who set a safe environment for you to face your painful past, and with God helping us work together, will assist you in carefully emptying out the old wine, so you can be healed, affirmed and filled with His New Wine.
Just think, once emptied of the old, the Lord can fill you with real freedom and peace. Perhaps, for the first time ever…
Do I Have to Talk About My Painful Past...
in Order to be Healed?
He Bore Our Sorrows
By Dr. Rudy Cerullo II, ThD, PhD
Do you ever feel at times that no one really understands what you are going through? Years ago when my mother went through open heart surgery, I was there every day with her in the hospital. I prayed with her, cried with her and mostly winced at what she was going through. I never really knew what she really suffered…until now, after going through my own open heart surgery.
I truly believe it is a great instinctual need within us to be known. For us, in times of desperate need, that means we have someone there for us, experiencing it with us. This is the ultimate experience of being known.
Our Lord knows this intense need within us to be deeply understood. That is why His work on the cross was designed for He Himself to experience all we go through, so in Him-we would be known.
Yes, our Lord Jesus died for our sins, sorrows and sicknesses. But His Word is far more descriptive of His bond to our pathos-suffering. Isaiah 53:5 states He surely “bore” our sorrows. II Cor. 5:21 goes even further to state he “became” our sin. What does that mean to us? Jesus did not just suffer shame, the alienation as a result of sin and similar experiences of pain and suffering we endure. The Word states He experienced our very own moments of despair!
He revealed this so clearly to me as I lay all alone on a hospital bed. I was going through a tough period right after heart surgery. Everyone else was being discharged after five or so days and there I was, two weeks later, having every possible complication known. I was crying out to Him in prayer and expressing my pain and aloneness in what I was going through. Then-as clear as an audible voice, He answered me, “I know- the pain we are going through--really does hurt!”
Wow! What a revelation! My hospital experience He already bore and became—on the cross. My suffering was His suffering. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel alone and isolated any more. I was truly known in my surgery.
I share this with you, because we all believe that we are all alone in the midst of our suffering. But our experience was and is actually being experienced by the Lord. He knows no time. I trust that this reaches you as it does me. With Jesus, YOU REALLY ARE NEVER ALONE in whatever you face. Meditate on this and be set free—you are known fully.
Oh, incidentally-Jesus has the same need to be known just as we do. II Cor. 5:21 makes this clear: “He became our sin so we could become His righteousness”. As much as in our time of need, we want our pain known, so Jesus wants us just as much to know Him in His righteousness! So as He takes upon Himself our sorrows, and then imparts to us His very own experience of righteousness. Ah…now that is being known and knowing. That is true relationship. Praise be to our Lord, our suffering is shared indeed, and our righteousness is none other than that of Jesus, Himself!
Dr. Rudy Cerullo and his wife, Lynn Cerullo, direct Healing Streams Christian Ministries in Colorado Springs, CO. They are members of the American Counseling Association and have been in active ministry for over 40 years.
Chili & Covenant Love
By Lynn Cerullo
“Understanding is a fountain of life to him who has it.” Proverbs 16:22
Relationship issues are responsible for most of our pain in life. What others think of us and how we think of them uses up much of our mental and emotional energy; conscious or not. So much of our concern is attempting to be known, valued and understood by others and wishing to make an impression upon them. Realizing this frantic pursuit in us all, St. Francis prayed: “Lord, grant that I may not so much seek…to be understood, as to understand.”
Understanding is technically defined as “grasping how things relate to one another; how a thing relates to its environment”. Not simply isolating an individual, a circumstance, or an item, but comprehending its effect on its environment and it’s responses to the relationships around it. It is grasping the big picture by backing up and seeing everything related. It is the same idea an IQ test uses to investigate spatial and linear intelligence. Do we discover patterns by studying well the each previous piece of information? Do we see the finished picture of an unfolded box? Can we picture the end result? Do we investigate all the existing data to form our ideas about the next obvious conclusion and possibly the result in the making? The IQ test is attempting to measure our understanding of linear concepts.
We may understand that we could knock a cup of coffee over because our hand is too close in proximity to it. We also understand what needs to be changed in order to avoid an accident. A person of understanding doesn’t only see or hear the events in front of them, but interprets them as they relate to the whole situation. In other words, we cannot understand the danger the cup is in if we don’t factor in its relationship to our hand-and the edge of the table-and the possible consequences.
Understanding looks at the whole picture, the individual parts and how they relate to the whole.
As it applies to relationships, we cannot comprehend by hearing only one side of a story until we have the big picture involving other facts and how they relate. Neither, can I understand how you feel about your present circumstance if I do not have other facts about you to assist in helping me to interpret and empathize with your present experience. I cannot understand you by interpreting you through my facts; I would then be comparing us, instead of understanding you. I can only understand you by learning the different passages in your life that brought you to this place. I must listen to understand. I must get beyond the average, mundane way in which facts are perceived. It is essential that I lift the lid and discover what really lies beneath the surface; forming my belief system on a deeper investigation.
To understand, we must stop…really look and listen. It’s like being stuck in the island of a busy intersection, trying to cross a street. There is traffic in the way, so you must navigate, using everything in the picture-with all your senses. You make your way based on the direction, spacing and speed of the other cars in front of you, and not just your former experience of having been stuck in a traffic jam. Understanding the whole picture of what you are facing right now will get you safely to the other side.
A few years ago, my husband and I went together for routine exams with our doctor. We had a little list of things we wanted to get advice for, and then get back to the church office. You know how it goes: blood pressure, weight, hit your knees and listen to your heart and lungs. Since we had both stayed in the care of good doctors and felt quite well, we had no real concerns. But upon listening to my husband’s heart, Dr. Miller began to ask him to breathe all different ways, lean forward, lay back; and then began to ask all sorts of questions about his experiences, feelings and past health. He asked what previous doctors had noticed. Dr. Rudy answered that they had said he had nothing but a murmur. Dr. Miller insisted on sending Rudy for more tests because he felt he was probably hearing something more serious. It did turn out that he did indeed have a very serious heart problem, which resulted in life-saving open heart surgery within months. He is now alive and very healthy. How grateful we are that Dr. Miller did not just treat him as routine…but looked deeper and listened closely.
Counselors, pastors, teachers, leaders, bosses, spouses, parents, doctors and friends: We must begin listening for what we do not know, instead of simply projecting what we already know and thereby continuing to treat the symptom. If we listen to understand, we may discover their real problem, instead of settling for the shallow waters of our own previous conclusions.
Listening offers time for the treasures to peer out of hiding and be shared by one who treats them with care. Listening allows for the accidental discovery of a secret cave of emotion and or a long repressed past; a dark habit, an addiction, or a skeleton decaying beneath a finely clothed exterior. I must listen…to your heart…and to mine. And oh, I must listen to the heart of God.
Our prejudices and belief systems program us to presume without facts. Presumption will not serve us. Pat answers and cheap put-offs will frustrate authentic solutions and effective ministry. Only by stopping to listen for what is not said, and to see what is not shown, can we begin to understand the real needs in others…and ourselves.
If we take the time to understand…we may have the serendipitous delight of a glorious breakthrough…
...and someone may get a new heart.
Lynn Cerullo and her husband, Dr. Rudy Cerullo II, are Directors of the Center for Biblical Healing; a School of Ministry, Counseling and Restoration Center in Colorado Springs. They are both members of the American Counseling Association.
By Lynn Cerullo
Dr. Rudy and I just finished watching the Jesus movie, the one with Jeremy Sisto from Trimark. It’s my favorite. Jesus laughs at His disciples, splashing water on them…He cries with them. He dances with joy at the wedding at Cana. He is easy to be around and so very human.
But so very other.
He walks off alone…seeking His Father; while His disciples wait for Him at a distance. He comes back after hours with a word from God that shakes their world. Quietly taking note, they witness what it means to seek and find the heart of God.
The movie is a great treatment of the breadth of the Lord’s personality…compelling, relaxed, relational--and so very aware of everyone around Him.
Something struck me profoundly tonight. The part when all the disciples are with Jesus in the upper room dining. Remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians? "On the night in which Jesus was betrayed..." The Bible never called that night the “Last Supper”--Leonardo DiVinci did. The Bible calls it the night of Betrayal.
In this horrifying scene, Jesus is demonstrating covenant…right in the midst of his own betrayal. In the movie, you see Jesus’ emotion as He breaks up the bread; almost crushing it from internal agony. What a picture--Jesus was actually crushed by the betrayal He was experiencing in that very moment. As His follower was breaking covenant with Him; He dipped His brokenness into His everlasting love and reaching across the table…extended him wholly undeserved Grace.
Passing the wine, He explains what it really means to share blood: share LIFE. Saying in essence, ‘Take My life and My body into you and though I am away, we will be one. My life, my heart, my ways, my presence-will remain in you...if you do this.’
He continues, “…do this in remembrance of Me.” If you are like me, you may have emphasized the word remembrance in that sentence. But I didn’t tonight. All I could hear was the word this. “Do this…share real covenant; and love those who hurt you. Do this with each other when I am gone”. He wasn’t simply telling them to eat bread and wine ‘to remember Him’ whenever they went to church. They had bread and wine all the time!
Once we had several of our leaders over to our home for a chili fellowship. We were all crowded around in the family room, stuffed in the couches and chairs and on the floor…sharing the depth of our hearts, confessing our faults---laughing and crying together. If at some point Dr. Rudy had said, “Do this when we are gone…continue this…” Would he be saying, “Eat chili every week”?!
Jesus was calling them to remember Him in this moment…sharing covenant relationship. Do commitment. Remember to share life, share laughter and dancing; share pain, weeping, victory, defeat…share it all. Together.
As we gather with our families and friends, along with memories of loved ones with whom we cannot share this holiday…let’s do this Christmas in remembrance of Jesus. Let’s “do this”: walk in covenant with one another…walk as a family, a Body; walk in commitment to each other for the long haul; walk as one. “Be like minded, forbearing with each other, tender hearted, deeply forgiving one another, just as Christ, in love, forgave you…” Live in the joy and peace of covenant.
Circle in a little tighter.
Walk as people whom God has purposefully brought together…touch and inspire each other, strengthen and walk alongside-healing each other. Walk in this covenant with your spouse, your family and friends; your church Body.
Want to give a gift to Jesus this year? Step right over fear of rejection and reach into others …however he leads…and with all your heart.
Step over a carefully nursed grudge and give your forgiveness; generously-- without strings. Step over the calendar and give your time…with enthusiasm. Step over your wounded heart and give out grace, gratitude and acceptance. Step over your judgments and contempt…and give understanding.
Reach across the table and give life again to those who have hurt you….and be healed.
….and find your heart again.
Showers and Body Parts
...Why Should I Belong to a Church ?
By Lynn Cerullo
Have you ever wondered “Why the Church? What is so important about getting together? Why did God always have His people to meet regularly with each other all though the Bible? Can’t we just get fed from a CD, book or TV?
Individuality seems to be a lofty goal within our culture-and it can be confusing to a believer who has decided to follow Jesus and obey His Word. Are we really meant to have a Local church? What’s the purpose of going, singing, sitting and leaving?
“…We are one Body and individually members…one of another.” Romans 12:7
Most will agree with the concept of unity and peace and a healthy expression of each individual. And we would agree that it is hard to be ONE with people you don’t know and who don’t know you. It is hard to walk in unity with people who are not committed to be with you…to gather together each week…to stand together-to accomplish together. It is hard to tend a wound on your hand, if your arm is taking the day off.
It’s hard to be ‘one’ with people whom you do not know… and who do not know you.
Let’s take a fast look at why Paul used the metaphor ‘the Body of Christ’ to describe us.
The Body protects itself. The skin is actually amazing. It is the largest organ in your body. It filters toxins out of the body, (much like the kidney and liver), protects the inner tissue from exposure to sun and elements; it protects the body from absorbing everything it goes through. That’s why when you take a shower; your kidneys don’t get full of soap. Without this body part, we would be a bunch of bruised organs, shredded muscles and splintered bones. Pretty powerful for such soft tissue!
The Body heals itself. When Dr. Rudy injured his hand in a power saw a few years ago, part of a finger was ripped off and thrown into a nearby bush. Even in his shocked state, he ‘gathered himself up’ and went searching frantically for his lost finger. His stomach didn’t say, “Hey! It’s time for lunch!” His legs didn’t say, “I’ve already been standing for too long; do we have to move??” His adrenal glands didn’t say, “I’ll get involved when I think it’s really important.” EVERY PART of him worked in concert to minister to the wounded and lost member!
His stomach didn’t say, ‘Hey, It’s time for lunch already!’
The Body washes itself. Everyday, without fail, it’s ‘shower time’. My body tells me if my friends don’t! The hair is flat, the skin is gross, the feet—okay you get it! I don’t know why we look in the mirror in the morning. There has to be a faster way to a healthy self esteem. But sure enough-there we are faithfully poking, prodding, gazing. When we finally have had enough of the ‘way things are’—it’s into the showers! And every part of us tends to another part, scrubbing, shaving, washing, exfoliating, soaping…and ta-da! We all come out at once smelling lovely again! But not without the tender focus of each part of us on the other. Not without time spent to nurture another and be tended to ourselves. The Body has its faults, and your active presence may be just the refreshing they need!
We were never meant to be fully alive without the love and care of a local Body of believers; that we would totally commit to and were totally committed to us.
Paul states that each body part is a member not just of the bigger picture, but of each part around it. “…and individually members one of another.” The pancreas is counting on the stomach and the stomach counts on the saliva glands in the mouth. It is a powerful picture he uses to illustrate the fact that you were meant to function HERE, to flourish HERE, to discover your destiny HERE…in the connecting…not trying to function apart from it. We were never meant to function fully alive without the love and care of a local body of believers that we could totally commit to and were totally committed to us! That is God’s design.
The Body works together. “As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” I Pet. 4:10
Most of my body parts are in existence for the health and direction of the other body parts, not themselves. Another body part tends to them. My head tells my body to go to the store. My feet get all of me going in one direction (Imagine if my body parts all decided they were going to be different places…”just send the nose and feet this time! We’re going to a movie!”) My eyes tell my feet where to go, where my keys are and then direct me to the store…and much of me cooperate with the main players in that moment. Ahhhh…but once I’m in the store, and my eyes see and my nose catches a whiff of something yummy, my stomach has a voice and wants to give some direction! It may not have a voice when I am playing my guitar; but right now—it is serving me with its expertise.
The family that God places you in has a mission. It is meant to be great and to do great things in the earth.
The Body touches the world together. The Body of Jesus was meant to come together to express itself, to tend to itself, to hear together and to go accomplish things and make a difference… together. The Body, the family that God places you in; has a mission! It is meant to be great and to do great things in the earth. But a liver hanging out on the sidewalk…rarely reaches its full potential. Much of God’s word and promises were written to the PEOPLE of God, not to individuals. Much of the Kingdom was meant to be experienced as we gather. Getting connected is the way to come alive, to grow deeply and be free to express your dream. Yes, you are an important part of the Body-- and your most joyful expression of that- is attached and functioning!
A liver hanging out on the sidewalk…rarely reaches its full potential.
What suffers when you are not functioning in your place? What is left undone, whose life is left untouched, whose worship is not stimulated, whose heart remains locked up, who doesn’t feel loved, who isn’t greeted with loving arms, who needed to be with you?
“…the members should have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; it one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. “ I Corinthians 12:25-26
Come together! Come faithfully! Come believing for your miracle and that of another. Come ready to reach out and touch and be touched; to give and to receive. Come ready to take a shower and take on the day! Let someone else refresh you, just by watching them love another brother. Let someone encourage you by their testimony. Give someone the air they need to fill their life with courage again. Get in your place and function with a dynamic excellence! Be stimulated by another’s expressive worship and let the Word anoint your head. This is not just the job of the lips, tongue and vocal chords. It’s yours. It’s mine. It’s our call together. We’re one in Him. Let’s be His Body.
An Unoffended Heart
by Lynn Cerullo
“Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing shall offend them.” Ps. 119:165
We won’t get through life without being deeply hurt by others. Though people can hurt us knowingly; most often they don’t realize the true effect of their actions. Offenses will come. People are imperfect and they will do hurtful things. The difficulty lies when we go from simply being offended…to having an Offended Heart—a cyclical habit of being hurt and offended; a life identified by one’s wounds and bruises. Of all the character flaws, this is the most divisive and wounding to those around us.
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” Heb. 12:15
When we allow the accuser of the brethren to begin to deceive us into believing the worst of people around us, we will find our minds being filled day and night with critical thoughts and suspicious feelings of others. If we rehearse an offense long enough, we’ll widen the circle of suspicion and begin to feel that most people just can’t be trusted…that no one is safe.
If we have an offended heart, others secretly give us labels like: high maintenance, touchy, moody, critical, unwise, picky, demanding, angry, harsh, begrudging, manipulating, unforgiving, passive-aggressive, hard to get along with or not easily pleased. If we struggle with this, we’re not alone…but we are quietly lonely. Let’s unmask this tendency in each of our hearts-without blaming anyone-and find again His deep refreshing waters of forgiveness, freedom and trust.
Here’s a simple test to determine if we have an Offended Heart. We know we are too easily offended when:
We find ourselves in one battle after another with various people. There always seems to be someone, somewhere, with whom we’re struggling
We tend to stack up the offenses of people within our hearts without communicating with them. Every once in awhile, we just explode. But most of the time, we keep it all inside.
We may feel that certain people are out to hurt us, they don’t truly care or want to help us; that people do not deeply have our best interests at heart. (If they did, they would do things the way we think they should.)
In every job, every church, every group, every relationship, we eventually find ourselves having issues with those over us and around us. We find it hard to find inner resolve; walking in peace and harmony.
People in authority always end up troubling us. They seem to be forever abusing us, offending us, wounding us, disappointing us, not being polite enough, sensitive enough, or attentive enough; not soft enough, strong enough, forceful enough or________enough.
When we arrive at a place or relationship we enjoy, we are too often secretly waiting for this place/person to disappoint us. We begin to (often subconsciously) sabotage the serenity to find out where the problems are secretly lying in wait to ambush us.
People we get close to--always let us down. No one seems to get us quite right or take the time to understand us or our family and give us what we need!
We lack inner contentment—our heart is loud and conflicted--not filled with quiet peace or His still, smallvoice.
Though we may know how to surround ourselves with people, we have very few intimate friends. We do however; have a list of people with whom we’ve had a falling out.
We may have even arrived at the point where being weary from offenses, we just back off from people and don’t get too close anymore…it’s just too painful.
The Habit of Getting Offended
Our Right to be Offended
We have a right to our opinions. We have a right to disagree. But where did these rights originate? Biblically, our conscience is the Holy Spirit's voice of truth within us. He writes His ways on our hearts, imparting a deep sense of justice, righteousness, truth, love and godliness. But when our understanding of right and wrong become inverted to serve as weapons that wield our pride and preferences, our egos and anger, our opinionated pontificating, our insurrection and envy; or our right to judge, disregard and hurt others—we will have lost our true discernment and ability to judge wisely. The offended heart is always marked by poor judgment…because once we surrender to this dark thought habit, we are no longer seeing people and situations clearly.
Perhaps we walk by someone who we hope will notice us and they do not give us the attention for which we hope. We may have a variety of thoughts that come to mind: “They’re deep in thought” “Must be in a hurry” “I should give them a call, they look troubled” “Maybe they could use some help…they look overwhelmed.” We are thinking of…others and their needs.
But the offended heart thinks, “They judge me and are avoiding me” “They don’t want to talk with me” “They think they’re more important than me” “They never have time for me” “They’re upset with me” “I did something wrong” “I’m not important” “Everyone always ignores me”. The common strain of thought here is…me.
Patterns of Offense
If this struggle sounds familiar to us, nothing will change until we are ready to commit to get gut-level honest and take a look at our whole life’s patterns. If there is a path of painful broken connections with others, a feeling of never belonging, or deep disappointment in others’ ability to perform on our behalf, if we sabbotage intimacy with critical language and controlling patterns--then we must fully accept the portion of responsibility that does belong to us. We must break the pattern of always shifting the blame to the other party, and invite the Holy Spirit into our defenses. He can be trusted with our hearts. Like a skilled surgeon, He will gently and truthfully bring deep healing. But, we must sign off our rights to remain diseased and permit His light to penetrate areas in our lives that frighten us to death.
If we struggle with a fear of abandonment, we will constantly be looking for the next person to fail us. Instead of understanding that people are imperfect and all of us are in process, we suffer from illusions of perfection and utopia-like ideals of what people should be like and how life should unfold. Consequently, life offers us many opportunities for DIS-illusionment. Because we suffer from a commitment to unrealistic ideals, we will experience the constant disassembling of the hollow edifice we cyclically erect in our minds of how others should perform to keep us nice, happy, peaceful, blessed, secure, confident, quiet, loving, content, etc. So life feels disappointing and someone is always invading our sense of well-being and disturbing our peace. The difference between one who wisely navigates life and the Offended Heart...is how they deal with disappointment.
Self-Respect or Pride?
If we nurse offenses, we often create a false refuge by mentally vowing our way out of a possible painful future. To control our fear of a recurrence, we often make internal vows to ourselves, rehearsing things like: “I will never let myself be hurt again”… “No one will ever abuse me again”…“I will always rescue people I’m responsible for who are trying to hurt themselves or me, to save myself the embarrassment of their failures and rejection”… “I must hide the truth about me" "If people knew my real story, they wouldn't love, respect or admire me”…“I will never allow anyone to dominate, control or suppress me”… “I am always the victim of others’ failures and abuse”… “Authority always hurts me”…“People owe me now; I’ve paid my dues. I always get the short end of the stick”…“I deserve the very best”…“God doesn’t bless my obedience. I do everything right and He doesn't keep His end of the bargain"… “I don’t have to work hard, others should take care of me. They owe me," etc.
In an attempt to reconstruct our self-respect from emotional trauma, a vow is a fierce coping mechanism designed to freeze out the fear in our mind, by attempting to mentally control our future. But bitter vows become entrenched and can refuse to thaw out even when the threat is gone. If you’ve ever met someone you might describe as ‘stuck’ or ‘living in the past’ or ‘can’t get over it’…you’ve met an offended heart.
Regaining self–respect does not give us permission to wear a chip on our shoulders that’s begging to be knocked off so we can act out. It doesn’t warrant us throwing our feelings out there and insisting that the world walk around us carefully on eggshells to insure we are comfortable and pleased.
But I am right!
In the Kingdom of God, our Father does not judge relational conflicts like judges who sit behind high desks with gavels—basing their judgments on equity, fairness and proof of who did what and when. God judges our hearts’ motives and intents, our secret thoughts and our responses to being mistreated. Period.
Lord, is this You?
Understanding God’s Agenda
Even though we don’t claim to be Buddhists, our society tends to believe in a sort of Karma…“that things only happen to us because we deserve them”. The problem with this thinking is that it’s actually quite prideful. The truth is--we don’t deserve any of the grace, mercy and favor that God has poured out upon our lives. It is wholly undeserved. But, it is God’s portion and gift to us…all of His gracious goodness. On the other end, life contains much pain and sorrow which we will each experience-that we also may not deserve. Though God does not send sickness, poverty and trials--He intercepts and uses them to work together for good for those who love Him; for His plan. What could He be desiring to produce in us and through us--with our undeserved pain, suffering or rejection??
When we look at each of the major characters in the Bible, we find that their lives were filled with blessing, awe, miracles and….seasons of fierce, relentless suffering and pain. Did they get what they deserved or did they get what it took to make them into Vessels of Honor?
Daniel didn’t deserve the lions den, but he walked away learning how not to be eaten alive by opposition. Joseph didn’t deserve the pit, but learned that if you walk in fogiveness and pursue wisdom--just because you’re hidden, abandoned and falsely accused, doesn’t mean you won’t get exactly where GOD is sending you...and right on time. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t deserve the fiery furnace, but they learned that the only thing the flames would destroy was that which bound them--and He's with them in the fire. David didn’t deserve to spend years hiding in caves, but he showed us that true power is found in chasing God’s Heart instead of position. Paul didn’t deserve prison, beatings and constant persecution--but his heart’s response to passionately write out God’s faithful Word instead of wasting his energy defending his innocence…changed the world FOREVER. Jesus didn’t deserve His rejection, persecution and the horror of the cross, but “He learned obedience through the things He suffered.” Each of these laid down there weapons of bitterness and defense…and so must we.
Defending Another’s Reputation
The Word says that we are to be “found faithful with that which is another man’s, so that we will be entrusted with that which is our own.” This is a test so many find themselves having to retake. There is no greater temptation than to be unfaithful with another’s reputation; particularly if they are in authority over us. It is so easy to say how they should do it, what they fail to see and question their every move and decision. It is sad how people consistently feel the right to demean and berate our President—particularly if they did not happen to vote for him. Teenagers do this with their parents and teachers, who usually shrug it off trusting that they’ll eventually grow in wisdom and understanding. We are a culture with little self-respect (a humble understanding of one’s own integrity and value) and therefore are not very generous with giving all people the respect we ourselves do not internally possess.
My Journey to Grace
When I was young, as I started being used in ministry and attempting to exercise authority, I found myself quite critical of just about everyone I ever served at work or church. Maybe not at the beginning, but eventually I’d begin to dismantle their ways in my mind and figure out what all they were doing wrong. There was always plenty of ammunition with which the enemy was ready to feed my prideful mind. The Holy Spirit soon arranged a few powerful divine appointments with Him so severely convicting me of my tongue and my heart’s motives and breaking me into repentance - that I can’t believe I’m alive to tell the stories! They alone would fill a book. (I did learn to respect why people were stoned in the OT for denouncing a leader publically and forbidden to do it in the NT. My rebellion grieved the very heart of God.)
I started to get a clearer vision of God’s ways in submission, authority, and trust in my 30’s. I was serving on staff at a national ministry where each week I gathered with the other leaders to discuss decisions. The ministry’s founding leader would often say things in the meetings that would make your hair curl. They would say, “Some of you are getting fat and you need to loose some weight. You’re a bad reflection on the Lord.” Or”I wish you all prayed like so and so. So and so is anointed. You all never come to prayer meetings. If you did, maybe God would anoint you.” “I don’t blame people for not coming to some of your meetings. Some of you shouldn’t even be in ministry.” Difficult things that could have been said in a sweeter way to motivate or mentor us or just completely left unsaid were too often hurled out like this, leaving many with dropped jaws, widened eyes and speechless.
Some of the leaders started stopping by my office which was close by, to decompress after these weekly meetings. They went from trying to understand the lack of tact to then accusing all the leaders, threatening to leave, etc. At first, wanting to help them, I heard them out. I respect truth and didn’t want to sweep the reality of this issue under the carpet. People were being hurt. I started to see their points and agree with their complaints. After a few weeks, I began to feel the strong current of a very familiar conviction welling up deep in my spirit. I began to hear the heart of God over the top of everyone’s complaints. I was called to this place; therefore, God had called me to serve these leaders.
…Just like God called Daniel to a king that threw him into a lions’ den. Just like God called Joseph to faithfully serve a leader who threw him in jail and like God called Jacob to serve a father-in-law who deceived him. Just like God called David to serve Saul and not to denounce or destroy him--God had CALLED me to an imperfect leader for HIS purpose and for His purpose to be fulfilled, I had to obey HIS WILL to pass this test.
His will for me was to be faithful, steadfast, and humble; for my heartfelt submission, for my tongue making peace between people who were discontent. His will for me was to set an example of an UNoffended heart. I did deeply love these leaders, and knew the Spirit of God truly rested on them. I soon shared with my colleagues that they would find imperfection everywhere-that we would never find a place where the people ‘had it all together’---that our mandate is to fill up what’s lacking, to love them and truly pray for them and serve them with joy, however they asked.
To let God use us to minister to their hearts as those who would not use them to be a stepping stone or tear down their work of God (which they were quite accustomed to happening). This kind of servant’s heart would enable us to earn the right to speak into situations and influence these people that may have needed frank wisdom, but only from those who supported them with a whole heart.
Authority and Submission-Is there a balance?
Truly, there has been much pain and havoc brought about by leaders with uncircumcised hearts. God does not call us to remain in a situation that is destroying us. David did not have to remain with Saul when Saul started using him for target practice and was trying to destroy him. David fled out of range of Saul’s spears, but his heart still remained steadfast to not revile in return. We are not called to remain in situations where leaders are dishonest, unethical, immoral, violent, false teachers, etc. or when being there threatens our well-being-spiritually, emotionally and physically.
However, much of the time the thing that God is allowing to be attacked in our lives is not destroying anything but the STRONGHOLDS that are already destroying us! Our pride, preference, ego, comfort, demands, position, rights…all these things are holy target practice for the Holy Spirit and He will use whomever He desires to break us free from self-centeredness and selfish ambition and…and an Offended Heart. He is our lover and our Lord and He is relentless in the pursuit of our heart.
I once worked for a very abusive boss. This leader had huge turnover because they were known for tormenting, accusing, berating, and threatening their leaders. But they also had a powerful ability to get results. They had a keen ability to troubleshoot people problems and solve inventory issues. Consequently, this leader’s team was technically successful. I worked for them for sometime, but was getting more and more troubled by their tactics.
I was struggling desperately in church one night with a decision my boss was making that was putting me in a severely painful place of helping to fire a good friend whom I deeply respected. I saw a former employer of mine, a sensitive and anointed man of God, at church that night. I asked if I could speak with him and poured my heart out in the pew. I was feeling fed up and that I needed to resign. This man of God looked into me and said, “Lynn, this boss has been placed by God in your life for a reason. They are just what you need, for His purpose. Now what are you supposed to be learning from them that you’re not getting because you’re distracted by a decision they’re making that God has not given YOU the authority to make?” I burst into tears and said, “Oh my God, you are so right.” I went in to work the next day with a new heart. I had a chat with my boss and shared respectfully with them that they could make things quite difficult and it honestly often troubled me…but that I was truly learning a GREAT deal from them and knew with all my heart that GOD had sent them into my life and that my job was to serve them faithfully…and I was going to do just that!
What a relief! What joy! We both teared up and had a powerful exchange. The leader admitted their weaknesses and promised a wiser approach. We became closer than ever after that and I was able to represent this leader to the others with grace and respect. The leader often began looking to me for advice and ideas on leadership. (Incidentally, my friend that my boss fired that day was soon hired by a famous international ministry to head up an area they were perfectly suited to lead and they’ve since thrived in God’s best!)
Clay in His Hands
God will not only allow us, but arrange for us to be offended by authority over and over---until we learn to respect authority and obey Him with a truly submitted and free heart. We will continue to get traffic tickets until we respect the law. We will keep getting penalized for not honoring time boundaries and financial commitments. We will continue to be overlooked for promotion, greater responsibility and honor when we fail to “be faithful in the little things”…because to Him, the little things are HUGE.
We will continue to have negative exchanges with all types of authority, challenging them and letting them have a piece of our mind…until we put the sword down and realize its GOD we’re fighting. He is the One who designed authority in the earth. He has placed all authority in our lives, holy and unholy, for the purpose of sculpting us into His image. He is the One who places one man over another. He puts one up and another down. He moves each of us as it pleases Him…like pieces on a chess board.
“Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Rom. 13:1-2
“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable….for you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” I Pet. 2:18, 21
Lord, I surrender. I give up my rights to the attitudes that are sabotaging my future and Your plans for my life. I am putting my sword down and don’t want to fight You any longer. I hear Your voice calling me to trust You…opening my eyes to understand Your ways. I want to be like You and You can use anyone You want to change my heart. I am listening. I am Yours. I am Your servant to place and to use for Your pleasure. Cleanse me from the habit of offense and renew a right spirit within me. Restore my soul to long after You! May others see You through my submitted heart, dancing with joy in Your renewed favor upon my life!
“I will run the way of Your commandments, for You will give me a willing heart.” Ps. 119:32
Lynn Cerullo and her husband, Dr. Rudy Cerullo are Directors of Healing Streams Christian Ministries in Colorado Springs.
They have 3 deeply-loved adult children, and 8 delightful grandchildren.