Category Archives: Obstacles

Life is Full of Detours

Hagar: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me by Shadia Hrichi

Hagar: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me by Shadia Hrichi

Do you ever wonder what God is doing in your life? You head in one direction and end up taking a detour to somewhere else. That’s sure been my story for the past year. More about that in another post…

My friend, Shadia Hrichi, is publishing a Bible study on Hagar that looks wonderful. (BTW, have you ever seen a Bible study on Hagar? Shadia is working on a series on the often-overlooked people in the Bible. I love that concept!)

Today on her blog she revealed a portion of the first chapter, titled “Life is Full of Detours.” I loved this paragraph:

After Abraham and Sarah left Egypt, taking hordes of animals and slaves with them, they traveled right back to where they started. Could it be that God was watching over Hagar and that He decided to remove her from Egypt and its pagan gods? Might He have orchestrated this little detour into Egypt  — not because God needed to send Abraham and Sarah in  — but because God desired to bring Hagar out?

Wow! She calls this “God at work behind the seen.” I love it. It makes me wonder what God is doing “behind the seen” in my life. And yours.


How to Get What You Don’t Want

Did you know there’s a sure-fire way to get what you don’t want? Yep, and many people practice this method everyday. They speak their reality into existence with their words, and what they speak is what they don’t want rather than what they do want.

Sometimes we Create Our Own Mess

Sometimes we Create Our Own Mess

How often have you heard someone say, “I’m so bummed because I’m not married yet.” Or “I’ll probably never have children. It’s getting too late in life.” Or “I’m sure I won’t be able to get a job as good as the one I had before.” Or “I’m hopeless! I’m such an idiot!” Maybe you’ve said at least one of these yourself.

Do you realize that your words have creative power? Do you realize that, like the God whose image we are created in, we can speak reality into existence. Matthew 9 is filled with such stories: the man whose daughter died, the woman with the issue of blood, the two blind men. In each case, Jesus healed them and commended them on their faith. After healing the two blind men he said, “According to your faith be it done to you” (Matt. 9:29). All of these people spoke in faith, believing that Jesus could and would heal them.

Jesus hasn’t changed. He still acts according to our faith. What do you have faith in? What would happen if you stopped speaking in faith that the negative will happen, and rather, spoke in faith that Jesus will indeed provide what you need or desire? If you’re creating a reality you really don’t want, there is a way to change that.


When You Think You’re Dying

Making change is hard. Sometimes very hard. When I’m doing ministry and encouraging change, I often hear, “I feel like I’m dying!” And that’s true. Change often feels like death, and in fact, requires a death.

Go Ahead and Die!

Go Ahead and Die!                                                                                                                        Photo Credit: Jhong Dizon

Here’s the deal. Many of the behaviors and attitudes we want to change actually require a death. A death to the habit. A death to the factors that drive the habit. A death to the good feelings that the habit generates. It feels like death unto death.

But here’s the reality. When we make a change that is good for us, it can be a change unto resurrection. We may be in the “grave” for a short time, but if it’s a change for good, it’s a change to resurrection. We come out better. We come out transformed. We will never be the same again. The old has indeed passed away, the new lies broad before us. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

So if you feel like you are dying as you try to change, that’s a good thing. Continuing the old habit will bring death. But allowing the habit to die, well that brings resurrection! So go ahead. Die!

Skin in the Game: Living an Epic Jesus-Centered Life

One of the myths I teach in Obstacles to Healing is the myth that “God is my fairy godmother,” which is the lie that I can heal with no skin in the game. That God will wave his magic wand and everything will be OK. I can’t tell you how often I run into this belief. Everyone wants to heal, but few want to pay the price.

Rick Lawrence challenges this mindset in his book Skin in the Game: Living an Epic Jesus-Centered Life (Kregal, 2015) . Using stories from the Gospels, he urges readers to face their shame, receive grace, embrace their true identity, own what they want, confront their fears, take a risk, and wait when all hope is lost. Through it all he encourages readers to make Jesus their first and last resort. These are all issues I see in virtually every ministry session, and Lawrence’s story-based approach makes them attainable by those with little understanding of healing.

The book is simple, yet filled with practical truth critical to healing and discipleship. I expect to recommend it to ministry clients as a way of challenging their beliefs and practices and moving them a step closer to Jesus. Without the magic wand.

How to be Chronically Unhappy

Just in case you were wondering, there are some surefire ways to guarantee that you will be chronically unhappy.

Depressed Man

7 Surefire Ways to be Chronically Unhappy                          Photo Credit: Phillie Casablanca

Tamara Star shares 7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People  in an article in the Huffington Post. I can confirm from my ministry with hundreds of people that these characteristics are unequivocally true. They’ll make you miserable in no time at all.

So if your goal is to be depressed, despondent, and glum, try these can’t-miss tips:

Believe that life is hard. Of course life is hard, but this is talking about a default belief system that hard is bad. I’ve discussed this here and here.

Refuse to trust others. The reality is that most people are good and trustworthy. But unhappy people assume they are bad and untrustworthy.

Focus on what’s wrong rather than on what’s right. Sure there is a lot wrong in the world, but seriously, there’s a lot more that is right. Unhappy people can find the negative in anything.

Negatively compare yourself to everyone. Yep, everyone. Decide you can never measure up, and sure enough, you won’t.

Strive to control everyone and everything. After all, you are doing such a good job in your own life. That vice-grip control is guaranteed to make you miserable.

Worry and fret about the future. After all it’s the one thing you can’t control. And heaven knows all that might possibly go wrong.

Gossip and complain about everyone you know. And those you don’t know.

Do these things and I can assure you that you’ll be miserable, depressed, despondent, and just plain unhappy.

Of course, if you don’t like it there, consider behaving just the opposite and see what happens…


Doing the Hard Thing

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

Persevering through the Hard Times



10 Important Reasons to Make Room for Silence

My life has little room for silence. My guess is yours is about the same.

Trees with sun shining through 11424340453_709bd50b4a_z

Make Room for Silence in your Life
Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management Oregon/Washington

I wonder why that is? We know intuitively that silence is important, but life seems to move so quickly. We are over-stimulated at every turn – freeway noise, music, podcasts. I can’t get dressed in the morning without talk radio—my way of keeping up with current events in a life too busy to read the news. Our homes are filled with sounds we no longer hear – the refrigerator motor, the washer, the heating system. All of this contributes to a sense of frenzy that has become normal.

Thai Nguyen has written an article on 10 Important Reasons to Start Making Time for Silence, Rest and Solitude  Using the latest research, he point out ten benefits of silence, rest, and solitude. I like and especially need number four – memory benefits. He says that taking a walk alone gives the brain uninterrupted focus and helps with memory consolidation. At my age, I could certainly use that!

As I prepare for my annual planning retreat in a couple of weeks, I am going to make sure I have time not only for planning, but also for silence. Maybe it will even help me hear from God more clearly!

How about you? How do you incorporate silence into your life?

The Myth of Happiness: A Follow-Up

A few weeks ago I published an article on The Myth of Happiness as an obstacle to healing. It was quite popular, and it seems, timely. I’ve seen a couple of articles this week that have confirmed my point and taken it a step or two further.

Happy dancers

Let’s Just Be Happy!
Photo Credit: sima dimitric

The first, Why God Doesn’t Care if You’re Happy by Joseph Mattera, could have been a take-off on my article. It reinforces the idea that God has much bigger goals than my happiness. The second, The Osteen Predicament: Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel, is one of many articles being published on the statements by Victoria Osteen, wife of Joel Osteen, who declared that it’s our happiness that give God his greatest joy. Author Albert Mohler takes both the Osteens and the Prosperity Gospel to task. When we focus on our own personal happiness, we degrade the true Gospel and discount the blood of the martyrs over the two millennia of Christendom.

Despite this, many American Christians simply can’t wrap their heads around the idea that their individual happiness isn’t foremost in God’s heart and mind. If we as a Church hope to have any effectiveness in a post-Christian culture, we need to seriously rethink our personal theology. We need to value conformity to the image of Christ far more than our personal happiness.

Your thoughts?


The Myth of Entitlement | Obstacles to Healing



Feeling like God owes you?
Photo Credit: Farhan Chawla

We’ve looked at the myths of happiness and fairy godmother. The third myth that will keep us from healing is the myth of entitlement, which says, “You owe me!” Sometimes we think God owes us. Sometimes we think others owe us. But one way or the other, we escape personal responsibility when we buy into the myth of entitlement. The myth is entitlement is closely related to the victim spirit or mentality, which claims, “It isn’t my fault!” Either way, the result is escaping responsibility and expecting God or others to fix us or fix the problem.

God wants us to be responsible. To grow up into him (Eph. 4:15). That doesn’t negate faith, but it does require us to become mature. To make right choices. To be obedient.

The antidote to the myth of entitlement is good old-fashioned hard work and responsibility. It’s the willingness to get our hands dirty. To do the right thing. N.T. Wright in After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters says, “Virtue…is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right, but which doesn’t ‘come naturally’—and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required ‘automatically.’” It becomes an “acquired naturalness.”

Battling the myth of entitlement isn’t easy, but then, few worthwhile things are. As long as we believe that God or the world owes us, we’ll remain stuck in our sickness, whether physical or emotional.


The Myth of Happiness

The Myth of the Fairy Godmother





The Myth of the Fairy Godmother | Obstacles to Healing

I Want God to be My Fairy Godmother

I Want God to be My Fairy Godmother

Yesterday we looked at Myth #1: God wants me to be happy. Myth #2 is that “God is my fairy godmother.” We believe this myth when we demand that God heal us without being willing to change our behavior and attitude to conform to His will. Yes,God wants us healed, but more that that, he wants us to grow up into him (Eph. 4:13).

When we look for a miracle, we’re following signs and wonders. We aren’t to follow signs; they are to follow us! (Mark 16:17-18). Yes, God wants to heal us, but like a good parent, He loves us too much to leave us in a behavior or mindset that doesn’t glorify him and will get us right back in the condition we were in.

God is ultimately the healer, but He doesn’t wave a magic wand. He will generally operate within natural laws and those are generally enough for healing. A miracle is a suspension of natural laws; it is the exception but we want it to be the rule. God will always operate within his laws, but His laws generally allow for our bodies and our minds to heal themselves – when we obey His principles.It is God’s will for us to be healed, but He will respect our choices. And all too often, we make bad choices and expect good results.

Healing is ultimately a spiritual endeavor. There are things that happen in the spirit realm that we don’t see and therefore tend to discount. For example, God’s words have substance; so do ours. God’s words create substance; so do ours. The power of life and death is in the tongue  (Prov. 18:21). So what happens when we use our tongues to curse ourselves?

“I’m brain dead!”
“I can’t even think straight.”
“I’m no good.”

We create reality by our words and our thoughts. We need to speak faith and affirmation – not in a new agey way, but in a “Faith in the God of the Universe” way. Then we won’t need a fairy godmother.


The Myth of Happiness



The Myth of Happiness | Obstacles to Healing

God Wants Me to be Happy!

God Wants Me to be Happy!

There are many reasons people don’t heal, but one of biggest is belief in “Christian myths.” The first of these is the myth that “God wants me to be happy!” It may come as a surprise to you, but God doesn’t really care if you’re happy or not.

Woo! Blasphemy, you say? Nope, it’s true. He really doesn’t care if you’re happy. So what does he want? God wants us to be filled with joy (John 15:11, John 16:24) and to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). When we seek him first, he fills us with joy.

Seeking happiness, on the other hand, causes people to be stupid. To “do” stupid. It causes them to enter into unhealthy relationships, to make unwise choices, to sin. I have a friend who was unhappy in her marriage and sought solace in an Internet relationship, claiming that after all, it was God’s will for her to be happy. I knew she had hit stupid when she declared they were going to get married. Just as soon they both got divorces. And they were going to meet soon. Really? I’ve known people to quit good jobs because they weren’t happy. To refuse to honor their parents through caregiving because it didn’t make them happy. To leave good churches because they weren’t happy.

Maturing Christians don’t seek happiness. They persevere in obedience, even in the tough times. And the result – sooner or later – is joy. The joy of becoming conformed to the image of Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross (Heb. 12:2).