Trick or Treat’Choosing Authenticity

Dante Poole MA, NCC

Ask a kindergartener what they want to be when they grow up and most will give you an answer without hesitation. In the mind of a child the possibilities are endless as they are allowed the freedom to dream big dreams because they are children and well’the possibilities are endless. By middle school most early adolescents begin to exchange their big dreams for someone else’s small fantasy. The greatest heist occurs during these years as the enemy begins to seduce us through the influence of our peers, into believing that we need to be just like them. Using our need to belong and the threat of that need not being met, our dreams latent with the truth about who we were suppose to become, get tabled in exchange for cheap Halloween costumes that we accept as our new identity.

If you have ever worn one of those costumes you know how uncomfortable they can be.

As a child my parents allowed us to celebrate Halloween. Every year we would get a new costume and participate in some party or gathering highlighted by tons of the sugary treasures we hoarded in our pockets, socks, plastic jack-o-lanterns, themed plastic bags or the old faithful brown paper bag. Most outfits were plastic jumpsuits with drawstrings that got tied around your neck. There were two very distinct features about these outfits;

(1) no matter which character you chose to be (or in some cases the only character left on the shelf because your parents waited to the very last moment to buy your costume) there was always a part of your back that remained exposed leaving part of your true identity without concealment;
(2) the rubber band that held that hot plastic mask to your face always irritated your head as you sweated profusely all the while yelling ‘Trick or Treat!’

Oh, the lengths we went to become someone else.

The truth is we enjoyed those outfits because for a moment in time we had the chance to be something or someone we admired. The costumes, whether superhero or super-beast/creature, had characteristics we longed to have in our own lives and we chose them so that we could pretend to be able to leap over buildings in a single bound. We were faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.

Unfortunately, masses of men are still running around hidden behind hot sweaty masks with their backs exposed hoping no one will notice that it’s just a costume. We have somehow convinced ourselves that as long as we wear the costume and play the part no one will know the truth. Our lives have become adjusted to the darkness of our concealment to the point that we have become crafty as actors, playing our roles so well that we can no longer distinguish between the false persona and the real person. When faced with the truth about ourselves we fortify our masks and push others away so that we can remain in darkness.

The scripture says in Luke 8:17 ‘For everything that is hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light and made plain to all’. (NLT)

Have you ever met a child who wanted the trick instead of the treat? What disappointment a child would experience if they got duped into believing that they had a bag full of treats only to discover later that they had been hoodwinked. Have others experienced this disappointment because they were expecting to encounter the genuine you and what they ended up with is feeling tricked? We cannot hide in darkness forever. We are called to live authentically. That means we not only tell the truth about ourselves, but we live the truth and accept that some people will not be able to engage us with loving kindness when they see us for who we really are. To live authentically can be unnerving for those who are skilled at hiding.

One truth that has helped me in my struggle for genuine transparency is knowing that God loves me despite all of my failures, bad decisions and all the other things about my life that make me want to take cover. He loves me, not the person others say I should be, not the person I wish I could be’.He loves me and that’s the truth. The Father Almighty takes pleasure in bestowing His love, mercy and favor upon all those who would dare to live the truth. His love looks beyond our faults and meets our need for love.

Here are three steps to towards living more authentically:

1. Learn to tell yourself the truth. Jeremiah 17:9-10a says ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.’ It is part of our human condition to lie to ourselves about our abilities, limitations and the true nature of our condition. Left on our own we will make a mess of our lives. What is it that keeps us from being honest with ourselves? Pride. It is being confident in our own ability to fix things. The trouble in our lives didn’t get there because of someone else but because we refused to accept our own limitations for fear of being seen as weak or failures. If you re-examine every failure in your life you’ll find bread crumb trails that lead you back to moments of pride & self sufficiency. All of us are in need of spiritual heart surgery.

2. Let God show you how to live in any way that seems right to Him. Sometimes we are expecting God to do things according to what we have determined is the right course of action. The problem is that God’s ways are above our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). We are all guilty of trying to tell the Expert how to do His job. The Lord knows what is best and He chooses the course of action that best accomplishes His will for the lives of humanity. Trust the Expert.

3. Look at the man in the mirror. Authenticity requires regular self examination even when things are going well’no especially when they are going well. Surveying our hearts for the little things we let slide because they don’t seem to matter, will make all the difference. What we won’t deal with today, will deal with us tomorrow.

Either we make a choice to come into the light freely or God will allow circumstances to bring us into the light through consequence. Never ever forget that God is with you and longs to reveal the real you to the rest of the world because you are an expression of His love. The earth becomes a better place when men decide to take off their masks and live an unconcealed, unveiled life. Walk in the light and may every person who encounters you discover the treat that God has gift wrapped in the package called you.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Chris Cole

‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,’ Proverbs12:25.

Being anxious or fearful are common emotions that all of us face and deal with, especially when we go into recovery from addictions. Perhaps you have been medicating the anxiety experienced in relationships for many years and now you are for the first time beginning to deal with it in a healthy way. The scripture affirms that anxiety can really weigh a man’s heart down. It can be such a burden that we will do anything to find relief. In this article I will focus on some strategies to help you overcome the struggles with anxiety and fear.

I think that one central fear we face is the unknown. Not knowing what will happen can really drive a person to control their environment and everyone in it. As a result, we try to control so much that is out of our control. We anxiously try to control outcomes, as well as the circumstances. We try to control bad things from happening and people from getting upset with us. I believe that is why we falsely think that our addictions can make life work. We find relief from the anxiety with something that we can control. Take away that and the anxiety comes back. Then we get desperate for something else to take away the anxiety that we can control. Perhaps you struggle with cross addictions, where you take away one addiction (sex) and increase another (smoking).

Learning to deal with anxiety in a healthy way is an essential component to your recovery. The bible teaches that we must renew our mind with the truth, for the truth sets us free.

One strategy is to learn how to recognize anxious thoughts. Beware of: all or nothing thinking; over-generalization, dwelling on the negative, magnification and minimization, and ‘should’ statements. Learn to speak the truth to yourself and to calm yourself down by utilizing positive and truthful self talk.

In Philippians 4, Paul wrote:
‘(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (9) The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ‘

I want to highlight the importance of dwelling on the things of verse 8. Verse nine says we need to practice them. You can train yourself to respond (think) in a new way. I also recognize that much anxiety comes as you project yourself in the future. Some people use the acronym FEAR as Future Events Appear Real. I cannot control the future, or how someone may respond or react, but I can control me and what I think in the here and now. So stay in the present. Also remember, take one step at a time. Essential here is learning to give up control over what I can’t control anyway, like what people think of me or how they may react.

If your anxiety is overwhelming, seek the help of a professional Christian counselor. Sometimes medication may be necessary to help you manage while you change the way you think. A counselor can help you process your fear and anxiety and help you develop new ways of handling life. He or she can help you learn to take risks and grow, and depend on God in new way. Peter (1 Peter 5:7) said we are to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’

So in summary, learn to accept anxiety, understand it in context, and learn to identify the anxiety producing thoughts and replace them with the truth. I like the serenity prayer that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote because it reminds me that I need to ‘accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.’

Do you need some help with you fear or anxiety? Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Shame: A Toxic World of Self-Deception

Jonathan Daugherty

Shame is the underlying belief that you are defective as a person. It is different from guilt. Guilt is actually good because it alerts us to inappropriate behaviors and can be a useful emotion to point us back to truth. But shame is destructive because it doesn’t act as an alarm for wrong behavior. Instead, it chooses to attack your personhood through the deception that screams into your soul, “You are a mistake.” It slides right by the behavior and lunges at your inner being.

This toxic self-deception can create great confusion, frustration, and even despair to the point of seeking relief through addictive patterns.

The entire premise of shame-based thinking is founded on lies. You are NOT a mistake. God took great care and precision in fashioning you after Himself (Gen. 1:26,27; Psa. 139:13-16). But shame wants to cause you to believe that at the core of your being your design is defective. If that were true, then God Himself is defective. Shame lies about who you really are.

But belief is a funny thing, isn’t it? Does the object of your belief need to actually be true to keep you from acting as if it were? No! A good example would be people who believe in Santa Claus. The fact that Santa doesn’t exist in reality (sorry) has no bearing on how people who believe he exists will act. The belief is what ultimately drives the behavior, not the object.

So, if shame has convinced you that you are defective at the core, a mere cosmic mistake, guess where your actions will follow? They will lead you down a path of self-hatred and woundedness because the belief says you should behave in self-destructive ways.

So, where do we form our beliefs? From our thoughts. Do you see the breadcrumb trail we are on now? Starting with your self-damaging behaviors, you wind a trail back to the underlying beliefs of shame, and then you must come to their place of origin: your thoughts. Thoughts are those ideas that we allow to remain in our minds until they become patterns of thinking. Imagine thoughts being to you what cud is to a cow. You bite off an idea you read in the paper, or in a passage of Scripture, a conversation you had with a friend, or from a sermon you just heard. You chew on it for a while and down it goes into your mind library. Over time you bring it back up to chew on it a little more and send it back down, this time even deeper than before. Do this long enough and you form a belief, whether the original idea was true or not.

Shame is toxic because it moves us to embrace false beliefs that affect how we view everything else in life. If you latch on to the belief that you are a mistake and defective at your core, every decision you make in life from that point forward will be tainted in some way by this false belief. This is why it is so important to combat the lies of shame with the truth of God’s Word.

We are told that God’s Word is alive and active, sharper than a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). Now that’s the kind of weapon we need to extract this cancer of shame! As you wield the Sword of the Spirit in all the areas where shame has deceived you, new patterns of thought based on truth will form new beliefs. Your new beliefs will move you toward actions consistent with your true identity and carry you farther and farther from your old, shame-based lifestyle. But in the same way it took time for you to create a belief system built on shame’s lies, it will take time to reverse such a system and develop truth-based beliefs.

The following are some good starting points for building a new belief system based on truth.
Think of these verses as ‘Truth Cud.’

‘ 2 Cor. 5:17 ‘ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

‘ Galatians 2:20 ‘ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

‘ 2 Peter 1:3 ‘ His [God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Start chewing on truth today. As you bring truths such as these listed above back to your mind over time, you will not only develop a new system of belief, but you will also destroy the stronghold of shame in your life. And when shame is destroyed, purity and joy will thrive!

Need additional help in the battle for purity? See Every Man’s Battle.