Click the player to hear me read today’s post:
Normally autumn is full of contrasts: bright blue skies against golden yellow cornfields. Bright red and gold leaves. Emerald grass and brown fields. Skies filled with constellations twinkling on a midnight curtain. But the skies have been pregnant with clouds, heavy and foreboding.
These gray days of marching forward no matter what while shrouded in lack of light have become symbolic to my faith. I believe the sun has risen even though I can’t see or feel it and so I behave in a way that confirms that belief.
I get up and follow my morning routine of teeth brushing, face washing, coffee making, praying and scripture reading. When the clock says 8am, I begin the day’s work and at noon, I break for lunch. All the while, it’s gray, depressing gray, and my spirit wilts and a scowl digs permanent furrows in my brow.
But when the sunshine pierces the gray mass, I rejoice by throwing my arms up, upturn my face, close my eyes and feel the sun warming my bones. Then I tuck the remembrance of what it feels like into my memory when the gray blankets my world once again.
It’s a simple illustration, but living out broken cycles is like wrestling through the sunny and gray days.
Living as #cyclebreakers means that we’ll have days when we feel like we’re conquerors, but we’ll also have days when we will feel imprisoned to old ways, habits, and thoughts.
In those moments, you must remember that you are a conqueror who lives by faith.
Living by faith is an active, continual journey upward and onward. It’s fluid and moving and ebbs and flows. Then it circles back around to readdress an old wound or realign a misguided heart. Yes, we receive Jesus by faith, but then we activate that faith when we live the truth of what we believe.
Will it be hard? Yes.
Will we see the fruit? Maybe.
Will we be forever changed? Absolutely.
You are a bold, fierce cycle-breaker because of the One who reigns in your heart.
Live boldly with activated faith like these examples:
Noah. . . who’s faith led him to spend 120 years building the ark, who teaches us faith in the face of ridicule.
Abraham. . . who left his hometown to go to a land he didn’t know who teaches us faith in the heart of God to lead and guide us.
Moses. . . who confronted Pharaoh, delivered his people, and led an unruly nation to the Promised land who teaches us our strength comes not from us, but from the One who is strength.
Joshua. . . and the Israelites in their unusual military strategy against Jericho who show us how to be obedient even when we don’t understand how things will work out.
Jesus. . . as he went to the cross to break the sin cycle once and for all and who is everything we need.
Believe and act. That’s the key to breaking cycles.
When you fail (because you will) refuse to accept condemnation and self-recrimination. Confess, receive forgiveness (from yourself, too), ask for strength, and move on.
Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for obedience.
These tools of breaking cycles are in your toolkit now. Each one works in conjunction with each other to break cycles, but the one you reach for will depend on what’s happening in your head and heart.
Do your thoughts ride an incessant merry-go-round? Be still.
Is there a stronghold in your way? Use your weapons.
Activating your faith means walking boldly in the face of your fears, enemies, and failures because of who is in you. God’s Holy Spirit will strengthen you, encourage you, and build you up. (Acts 9:31) He spreads a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He leads you to quiet waters and restores your soul.
He is for you and and not against you and equips you with every good gift in order to bring glory to him here in this life.
Remember God equips you for the task. He’s set you free from the bondage of sin and he will enable you to break the patterns that prevent you from running in his freedom.
Listen to this song and ponder it’s meaning.
Breaking cycles is a lifelong journey full of adventures and misadventures. One cannot condemn oneself when one fails and one cannot take the glory for one’s successes. It’s grace that we are carried through and it’s grace we receive when we need it.
Breaking cycles requires vulnerability. It means we must open our hearts up to new ways of thinking and patterns and take risks at doing something new. We might fail or we might succeed, but we won’t know unless we try.
One of the most challenging aspects of vulnerability is the risk our heart’s take. And vulnerability isn’t weakness, it’s allowing yourself to be known for who you are. It’s inviting someone from the foyer of your heart into the heart of the home, allowing them to see the dishes stacked on the counter and dried food on the table. (Has anyone else had a guest absentmindedly scrape food off your table?)
You see, when I break cycles, I need to practice living a new way. I need to step out from being afraid of failure or repeating what I don’t want to repeat. It requires a certain level of vulnerability coupled with a great deal of bravery.
But it’s dangerous and I’ve been burned. I’ve been like a moth to a flame, drawn in close by the lightness and the brightness of someone’s acceptance only to be seared by their rejection.
I’ll never ever forget the times when I had to bear the brunt of someone’s confession:
It was easy for me to talk to new people and not for them and they were offended.
I cared too much about raising my kids with a consistent set of standards and it made them mad.
I wasn’t grateful enough and caused their depression.
I wasn’t the type of person they were hoping I would be.
These incidences find their place in my memories and make me wonder if breaking cycles is worth it. But for grace.
Last week, we talked about using our spiritual weapons to tear down strongholds and how important it is to remember the power that lives in us because of Christ in us. This week, it’s about grace.
The kind of grace that transforms and gives us the ultimate ability to break cycles, bring peace to painful memories, and overcome failures.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8.
This verse reminds us that God is able. He is able when emotions run together and doubt and despair overwhelm us. His grace comes to us because we come boldly to his throne room.
Will you? When your cycles seem to be breaking you instead of you breaking them, will you run to him and admit your need and reach for his grace?
You can break those cycles. You can be a cycle breaker. This is part of your identity in Christ because you are a new creation because of the work on the cross. You don’t have to stay locked in the cage of your habits and patterns; you are liberated to enjoy the abundance that God has for you.
The abundance of things like grace and goodness, kindness and love, strength and steadfastness.
But. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it though. Sometimes we feel weak and broken down by our own failures and by other’s expectations.
Our weary hearts need a soft place to land and we have that in the arms of God receiving grace when we need it.
How does this work?
We catch our minds scattering down a path that leads us away from God. So we stop, we gather our thoughts, toss out the ones that don’t bring honor to Jesus, and then run right to the throne room and ask for grace. And our thoughts change from speculation and what if’s to settling on truth.
Or we know we’re going to see the person who’s words wounded us, so we pray ahead of time and ask God to remind us that he is near and then when we see that person, our spirits pray for grace while we interact and we see God move in us because we’re loving and responding with grace.
Breaking cycles draws us into a transformative relationship with Christ because we practice vulnerability with Him first, sending down deep roots into his love so that we can break those cycles that tear us and our relationships apart. We need not fear vulnerability for it is there that we find what we’re really looking for: strength to break cycles and live our lives as new creations because of Christ.
Spend some time in prayer today laying out the areas that you need to break. Be honest and vulnerable.
Ask for grace to help you break the cycle and then believe that God has met you.
Breaking cycles is like fighting a battle. It’s a battle for your heart, mind, present, and, mostly, your future. You might be thinking, “Duh, I’m lying bruised and bleeding on the field and every time I get up, I get knocked down.”
Yes. It feels like that. It feels like loss and after loss. And it feels like you carry the losing banner everywhere you go.
Breaking cycles and patterns of thought sometimes feels like you lose more than you win because it’s a series of small skirmishes amidst decisive battles.
But we’re not alone. We might be surrounded by the enemies of our pasts or our own imaginations, but God says he prepares a table, a feast for us, in the midst of our enemies. He invites us to rest and in the respite we’re given the strength to stand and fight again.
He commands angel armies and fights for you.
Paul says to don the armor of God. Ephesians 6.
The Psalmist describes God as a warrior riding the clouds in response to your cry. Psalm 18.
The breaking cycles weapons are not a pick yourself up by your bootstraps and keep a stiff upper lip and all that rot. It’s so much more.
Our weapons are the power of a heart fixed on the power of God. They’re spiritual weapons that enable you to tear down any thought, imagination, or mind-stronghold so that God’s truth can penetrate your heart.
The cycles and negative thought patterns begin before we’re even aware of what’s happening in our minds. It’s called a cycle because it’s become an automatic response. This is why one of the breaking cycle steps involve awareness of what’s in our minds. One way to interrupt the patterns of thoughts is by using your spiritual weapons to tear down thoughts and imaginings that don’t line up with God’s truth.
How do we do this?
We pray scripture.
“In Jesus name, I tear down the pride that’s creating this stronghold.”
“According to Jesus’ power, I tear down the idea that someone is spreading rumors about me.”
Listen, we walk and live in the flesh. We live in this world. We still have the effects of our past in our present. Yet, we’re also not of this world. This world is not our home, but this is where we live.
What would happen if we were to apply the benefits of being a citizen of heaven to our life in this world?
Wouldn’t we reach for heavenly weapons rather than for our usual way of dealing with problems that plague our minds?
Couldn’t we share the power of God with others by applying the power of God to our own minds and praying for other’s who are locked into patterns of thought that keep them trapped in strongholds?
“For though we walk in the flesh (driven by our natural responses), we are not waging war according to the flesh (self-preservation). For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh (revenge, back-biting, vindication), but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (parentheses, my addition)
Jesus is our High Priest. He intercedes for us. And it’s because of him that God sees us as holy and righteous and it’s because of him that we can go directly to God and receive the grace that we need in the exact moment we need it. Hebrews 4:12-16.
There is a light that flows out like a river from God. He invites you to step into it, arms thrown back, and let that light overtake every single aspect of your mind and heart. It’s in that position where strongholds tumble.
It’s a battle of which you’re assured victory. You might feel as though you’re losing more than you’re winning, but you win when you’re faithful. I heard a best-selling author assert that your successes are built on your failures, but I proclaim that your successes are built on faithfulness.
It’s your faithfulness in trusting God and his faithfulness in directing every one of your steps while you’re breaking cycles.
Prepare your heart for the battle by studying the Armor of God. I recommend Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study.
Think of a situation that sets your mind to setting up strongholds because of false imaginations and then pray 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Out loud. And name what’s keeping you bound. Speak to it in Jesus’ name.
Take time to rest in God’s abundant love for you. That’s where you find your strength to stand and fight the battle.