Spiritual Strongholds?!

A stronghold is a way of thinking & feeling that has developed a life of its own in a person. It might be a rut of depression or recurring unbelief or habitually bad temper. That was a stronghold in my life, but with God’s help, not any more!
     It might be a repeating pattern of failure:
     Sometimes a stronghold will cause you to provoke others to reject you
         (without necessarily knowing you’re doing it) It might be a stronghold of resentment or worthlessness. If a child is sexually molested and/or badly verbally abused, a stronghold of worthlessness may build up a stockpile of negative thoughts: “I’m guilty. Nobody could really love me. I’m good for nothing. I’m ugly.” She might actually be beautiful — and certainly is beautiful in the eyes of God. But a stronghold gets filled with arguments like these:
        “Nobody would like me if they really got to know me. Nobody really knows me. Nobody really cares for me. Nobody really wants me for me.”
     Now all these thoughts may be a pack of lies,
         but they can be a stronghold keeping out the truth of God’s love.
     Such a person may hear a message about God’s love, whether from a pulpit or a friend, but it goes in one ear and out the other, bouncing off the walls of a stronghold of rejection or worthlessness.


     You almost hear the truth come to set you free, and then comes another thought, “Yeah, but what about…?” Or “You just don’t understand….”
     And out comes another string of lies, excuses, smokescreens, shot down by blocking spirits. Thus a stronghold creates inner captivity to deception and misery.
     A stronghold keeps a person from thinking clearly, accepting the truth,
         repenting of sin, and receiving deliverance.
     A stronghold can keep a unbeliever from hearing the good news.
     A stronghold can keep a believer from hearing the fullness of the good news.

If you want the abundant life and peace that Yeshua promised,
     you must let his Spirit capture the stronghold up there!
     Nor only is our conscious mind the target:
     Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
     In Matt 12:34-35, Yeshua said,For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him,
and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

Strongholds are also storage places, holding food, water and weapons. A stronghold gets stronger as more stuff—more thought—gets stored in there.  In the life of the mind, the stuff that you were once aware of gets stored up in unconscious memory, but it can make a stronghold a tough nut to crack!
   

 So how do you take a stronghold?
     First, you have to see it, so you know what you’re dealing with.
     It’s kind a hard to take a stronghold you can’t even see.
     But strongholds of the mind can be hidden—evil things hang out in darkness.
     Satan is the prince of darkness, but Messiah is the prince of light.
     You have been called out of darkness into his wonderful light!
     Nevertheless, if there is an old, sinful pattern of thought in you,
         that is a place of darkness, a stronghold.
     Ephesians 5:11 urges us to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
     If you want to let the light of God expose the darkness, you need an attitude of humility, willing to let the light of God reveal the darkness in you.


     In Ps 26:2, David prayed, “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” Can you agree this request?
     If not, if you are not willing to let God reveal any strongholds in your life,
         then the first stronghold you may have to start tearing down is pride!
     Who was the first to be guilty of pride? Satan! Massively so!
     Pride is the armor of Satan — he uses it to keep demonic strongholds hidden. Pride keeps people from ever seeing that they are trapped in demonic darkness.   The Spirit of God is determined to bring down the stronghold of pride.
    

Isaiah 25:11 says,

God will bring down their pride despite the cleverness of their hands.
He will bring down your high fortified walls and lay them low;
he will bring them down to the ground, to the very dust.

     If pride is bad news, how much more is humility good news!


     James 4:6, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
     This is a promise: humility release grace, the power of God to save you.
     James 4:7 continues with another promise:
     “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
     Satan can’t stand humility! It breaks his power over you!
     But God loves it! “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
     The sacrifice of Messiah is a perfect shelter of grace enabling you to look at your needs.

Once you recognize the stronghold, the next step to bringing it down is repentance. Be honest before God, and humbly let the Spirit expose the stronghold in the darkness.
     Pray, “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.”
     When the Holy Spirit shows you an area of darkness, repent.
     You may need to overcome the instinct of defend yourself.
     You may need to silence the little lawyer who steps out of a dark corner of your mind,
         pleading, “My client is not so bad.”

     If you let him, that whiny defense attorney will defend you just fine—
         but you’ll never see what’s wrong in you, nor face what needs to change.
     Who is the best defense attorney of all time? Yeshua!
     How does He defend you, how does He justify you? By his blood.
     So you don’t need to justify yourself. Let him do it.
     A broken and contrite heart he will not despise.


     Suppose a stronghold has gotten pretty entrenched and strong?
     Sometimes a frontal attack on a stronghold doesn’t seem to work. What should you do?


     Jewish soldiers tried to capture the Old City of Jerusalem with a frontal attack
         a couple of times in the War of Independence,
         but as soon as they got up to the gates of the Old City, and were thrown back. Here’s how the IDF took the Old City in 1967:
         They swept around the city to the north, then seized the Mount of Scopus,
         then kept on going up to the Mount of Olives, to the east—
     I’ve seen a picture of Israeli generals looking down at the Old City from the east!   Thus, having surrounded the city, they were able to cut off supplies and reinforcements. Though the Jordanian army tried to send reinforcements up from Jericho,  this time they were thrown back! When the Jordanian general inside the Old City realized he was surrounded,
         he realized, “resistance is futile,” so he cut his losses and fled the city.
     Then the Israelis were able to break into the city with relatively little resistance. So, this is how successful military planners usually do it:
         surround the stronghold and cut off its supplies.

Does this strategy also apply to spiritual strongholds? I think so….
     Something like this strategy was at work in the battle of Jericho.
     Who gave Joshua the strategy for taking the city? The angel of the LORD.


     What was the strategy? March around the city for seven days then blow your trumpets!
     Here’s what I think they were doing, in the Spirit:
     They were surrounding the city, with obedience to God’s word, with faith,
         with the praises of God. Thus they cut off that city from its supplies, from the realm of darkness. As the power of faith grew in the hearts of the marching people, the power of the walls of Jericho grew weak.
     How do you surround a stronghold of negative thinking, bad old speculations? How about praise?
     Psalms 32:7. “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
     Surround the stronghold with the praise, singing psalms and spiritual songs to God. Demons can’t stand praise! Praise is a powerful way to bring a stronghold.

For every negative stronghold, there’s a powerful way to surround it with opposite truth from God.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of depression, surround it with hope.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of rejection, surround it with acceptance from Abba.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of unresolved anger, surround it with forgiveness.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of fear, surround it with the knowledge of God’s love.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of failure, surround it with the victory of the resurrection!
     Once you’ve identified a stronghold, go to the Scripture, and study the opposite truth from God.
     If the stronghold is rejection, study all that the Bible says about God’s acceptance.
     Use a concordance or a chain bible or topical bible.
     Then surround that stronghold with the word of God!
     Listen, once the enemy sees he’s surrounded by humble submission, praise,
         and the word of God, his resistance will quickly weaken, and if he isn’t gone already!

Can we take a moment to pray about this?
     “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.”
     Show me any areas in my life that I have not fully surrendered to you.
     (If you recognize any area of chronic sin strengthened by negative thinking,
         take a moment to confess it to the Lord, now.)

     Lord, forgive me of compromise. Give me the courage to pull down every stronghold within me   without reluctance or willful deception in my heart.
     Thank you, Lord Yeshua, for forgiving and cleansing me from all my sins,
         and breaking every curse against me, on the cross.


     By the power of the Holy Spirit and in the Name of Yeshua,
         I bind any satanic influences that were reinforcing compromise and sin within me.
     I submit myself to the light of the Spirit of Truth to expose any strongholds of sin in me. By the mighty weapons of the Spirit and the Word, I proclaim that each evil stronghold is coming down!


     I purpose to surround this evil stronghold with praise and affirming truth from the Word of God.
     I purpose to take every pattern of negative thinking captive and bring it to the obedience to Messiah.
     I purpose, by the grace of God, to follow through until even the ruins of this stronghold
         is removed from my mind!
     I purpose to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
         I will think about such things.
         I will talk about such things. I will get involved in such things.

     I purpose, by the grace of God, to build up one stronghold within my mind and my heart:
         the stronghold of the living God!   “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous will run to it and be safe.” In the shelter of your presence, O God my Savior, you will keep me safe. In Yeshua’s mighty name, Amen.

How to Cope with a whole Narcissistic Family?!

 How to Cope with a whole Narcissistic Family, Possible Solutions

Narcissists are particularly difficult for family members who can’t avoid them. Many people have some traits, but not the full disorder, people with a severe pattern of constant criticisms, arrogant statements, preoccupation with themselves, disparaging remarks, and demands for admiration.

You know that this not only gets very tiresome, it can also wear down your own self-esteem, be exhausting, and absorb a huge amount of your time without providing any benefit in return.

This message offers some enlightenment for coping. Do not call them a narcissist. This is always tempting, but it typically backfires and makes things worse. Usually calling someone a narcissist is intended to make them stop and think about the damage they are doing.

People with narcissistic personality disorder can’t reflect on their own behavior and instead become obsessed with proving that you are the one with a problem. They are better at doing that than you can ever be. It’s true that they do not self-reflect and gain insights from people’s feedback, no matter how constructive or intense it may be. Just forget about it! You’re not going to give them insight into themselves. And you may make your relationship worse.

Examples in Some cases in an adult child angrily confronted the parent, telling them they had narcissistic personality. Afterwards, the parent kept dropping by the house uninvited to say, “What you said about me just isn’t true, demanding apologies or I’ll keep coming back until you do. After all I have done for you, I can’t believe how ungrateful you are!”   Do not argue with them.

It doesn’t help to argue with them. They’re not going to have insights from your feedback. And you don’t need to defend yourself, because it isn’t about you. It’s really about them and their personality and lack of interpersonal skills. They tend to see things in all-or-nothing terms so that the fault is all yours and all the victimhood as theirs. You can’t change that. They constantly see themselves as victims-in-life, treated so unfairly by those around them, without any recognition of their own part in the problem—which may actually be the primary part of the problem. Arguing just puts them in the emotional parts of their brains where they shift into high gear of defensiveness.

For example, some relationships get hooked into arguments over who is the more intelligent person in the relationship. Narcissists continually put out subtle and blatant messages that their family members are less intelligent than themselves — observations, criticisms that just don’t stop. They must feel superior to feel okay. And even then, it’s a shaky feeling of superiority which they have to constantly shore up by putting others down. In high-conflicts, narcissists fill  with their stories of how incompetent financially, morally, and otherwise. Courtship stories of how wonderful they are and how special they will treat you become opposite: They put you down to protect their superior self-image. They’re just telling the “truth,” they insist. Don’t be surprised by this.

Do focus on choices, yours and theirs. People with narcissistic personalities are frequent complainers about their everyday lives. They insist that people treat them unfairly and without the great respect. They also do not see how their own behavior influences how others avoid them or criticize them in return. If your family member is talking to you in this manner, simply let them know that they have some choices in the situation.

Example, “That’s too bad. Sounds like you might want to put your energy somewhere else, or realize that so-and-so isn’t going to give you what you want. You always have a choice of what to do or who to be around. Good luck with that.” At the same time, it helps to know that you have choices, too. Being around a narcissist can be emotionally draining and trigger unnecessary self-criticism. You can choose to avoid them, limit your time together, or have someone else with you when you are around the person. Just thinking that you have choices often helps it feel less stressful. Also, know that you can choose to set limits. Do set limits on what you will do for them.

You cannot control a narcissist’s behavior; you can control your own. Instead of trying to get them to change, look at how you can change. One of the first places to look is at ways you may tolerate or support their narcissism. In many families, a narcissistic sibling or child slowly takes over by demanding the most attention and loyalty, insulting everyone (even parents), violating the family’s rules, and manipulating its decision-making. You do not have to cooperate.

You can withdraw your participation in their actions against others, or even behavior toward yourself: “If you’re going to speak to me that way, I’m going to have to end this conversation.” “I’m sorry, but I can’t go with you when you confront other family members, etc. I don’t agree that they have done anything wrong.”  

I have seen adult narcissists in court bring parents and siblings to support them in their legal conflicts such as lawsuits against neighbors, exes, former colleagues or employers, etc. The parents and siblings often appear worn out after a lifetime reluctantly coping with and trying to support their narcissistic family member; trying to placate them so they will calm down or not be angry with them.

The trouble is that this has no positive outcome. It’s better to set limits sooner rather than later.   Get support and consultation. People feel alone when dealing with a narcissistic family member.

Your own self-esteem may be worn down after all the insults, criticisms, and public humiliation. Yet with support from friends and/or professionals—such as counselors, lawyers, and others—you can get perspective and learn that you don’t have to be embarrassed. There are millions of narcissists and they are good at making their family members feel like they have a unique problem so that they are too ashamed to deal with it by speaking to others outside the family.

You have nothing to be ashamed of. Your family member may be suffering from a disorder they don’t understand and didn’t ask to have. Tolerating their dysfunction does no one any good.

I have seen many adult children, parents, siblings, and partners gain strength by discussing their situation with a therapist or with friends and deciding on a step-by-step course of action to stop enabling the narcissistic family member. In some cases, they end up cutting ties, but in many others, they learn to get some distance emotionally so that they no longer feel obligated to engage with their narcissism while still staying connected as a family.

As they say , “Let go with love.” This doesn’t have to mean having no contact. It can mean letting go of certain interactions, discussing certain topics, or having certain conversations at all. You can say, “I need to go now. Talk to you later.” And quickly move on. Over time it gets easier. Sometimes writing out what you are going to say in advance can give you confidence, including how you will respond to their predictable disparaging comments when you set limits. Or you can have a practice conversation with a counselor or friend before you have a limit-setting conversation in person. 

Conclusion, Millions of people have a narcissist in their family; you’re not alone. These and other tips may help you disengage from the emotional hold they have over you and others. You may be surprised at the energy, free time, and inner peace you gain. It’s not easy, but step by step, it may be possible.

May peace be with us all, always.

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