The God of Hope

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My God is an awesome God.  He has so many magnificent attributes.  One of these is Hope.  God tells us that if we trust and believe in Him, we will overflow with hope,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

Regular, ordinary hope is when we express uncertainty, like a “keep your fingers-crossed” type of hope.  Biblical hope is different.  Biblical hope is not just desiring something good, it is a confident expectation that something good will happen in the future.  We don’t just expect it to happen, but we are confident that it will happen.  Hope is a strong confidence, not just wishful thinking.  Biblical hope looks to the promises of God, not of man.

Have you ever met someone who seemed hopeless?  That person that keeps doing the same wrong thing over and over again, never changing, never getting better?  You say to yourself, “What can we do, they are hopeless!”  How is it possible to go from hopelessness to overflowing with hope?  The answer is in Romans 15:13, “…by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  If we only had one word to describe the Holy Spirit that word would be power!  All things are possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus have us His Spirit to strengthen us, guide us and comfort us.

God is good to those who keep their hope in Him and wait with confident expectation,

“The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him.  It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”  (Lamentations 3:25,26)

Hope is a type of emotional strength I can draw on when I need it.  For example, if someone puts me down or criticizes me, I can draw on that emotional strength of hope to return evil with good.  Without the power of the Holy Spirit I would sink into self pity or return insult for insult.  Hope gives me strength to not give up and keep going.  Hope gives me the strength to turn from temptation and not give in to the lies of the enemy.

I was one of those people who were hopeless.  From my inner core, I believed there was no hope for me to get well, because no matter how many times I tried to get well, I could never stay clean and sober.  It is only by God’s grace and incredible mercy that I am sitting here today to tell you–there is hope!  Don’t give up, no matter what.  If you fail 1000 times, just keep trying, don’t quit on yourself.  It was that 1001 time that I finally succeeded and so can you!  My God is a God of hope.  He loves us beyond measure and will pull us up out of any pit we find ourselves in.

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We Reap What We Sow

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“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged.  We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

I am having to deal with a consequence from my past actions.  I like to refer to this time in my life as the “second half of my life”.  The first half of my life had many joys and sorrows, and many, many negative consequences.  The second part of my life is just now beginning.  I am literally starting over in life.  Starting over and nearly 50 years old is not easy, but certainly very humbling.  There are currently things in my life that God is healing me from.  It takes time.  So long as I am obedient to His Word, the worry and fear will disappear.

God’s Word tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of those sins.  Where would I be without His amazing grace and love?  Probably still in the gutter.  Where would I be without His mercy?  Probably still in the throws of my addictions.  God is my everything and without Him I am nothing.  I know that now.

I love helping people.  I would rather go without if it meant it could help someone in need.  I want to bring value to a person’s life no matter how destitute.  I want them to know they are loved and they matter.  This is an attitude totally opposite of how I once lived my life.  Living the life of an addict consists of what I want, when I want and how I want it.  By the grace of God, I’m not living my life like this anymore, one day at a time.

But I have a problem.

I am not able to go into any type of nursing or caregiving field because of a charge on my record.  It’s a charge that cannot be expunged and this will follow me my whole life.  It doesn’t matter that I turned my life around.  So an entire field of study is out of the question for me.  I’m reaping what I sow, and it hurts.

So here I am again, going through a test.  I’m so tired of tests!  But it’s my own doing.  It’s a hard lesson.  Peter writes a wonderful passage in 2 Peter 1:5-8,

“So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life.  Then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence.  A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better.  Knowing God leads to self-control.  Self-control leads to patient endurance and patient endurance leads to godliness.  Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I want to be productive and useful in some way.  I’m not able to do it in the manner I wanted but I put my faith and trust in Him that He will make all things come together for good.  It’s what God wants now, not what I want.  I just hope I can pass the test this time.

Results of an Established Life

What does it mean to “to be established” in God?  Established means to make firm, stable, secure, settled, be fixed upon, steadfast.  When you are established in God, negative circumstances will no longer immobilize you.  Where there was once confusion, now there is confidence.  Fear is replaced by faith.  The Apostle Paul encourages us in Colossians 2:7 to,

“Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving.”

Notice this verse and all the action phrases: deeply planted, being continually built, becoming increasingly more, abounding in and overflowing in.  These are “doing” words.  We are instructed to be doers of the Word (James 1:22).  In order to be established in God we will have to be actively doing what the Bible tells us.  We have to:

~ Reject doubt and embrace belief.  Unbelief hinders you from receiving solutions to your problem.  God tells us that if we adhere to, trust in, and rely on Him we will enter His rest (Hebrews 3:19).  Doubt will cut us off from His blessings.  The opposite of belief is doubt.  The enemy loves to put doubt in our minds.  If the devil can keep us doubting ourselves, doubting if it’s God’s voice we hear, doubting our inner knowing, then the devil is doing his job and he’s winning.  I’m tired of letting the devil win in my life.  I’ve allowed that to happen for way too many years.  It’s time to reject doubt and put our confidence in God.

~ Obey and live righteously.  The result of obedience is righteousness. “In righteousness you shall be established…” (Isaiah 43:14)  To be established in God we have to be obedient which in turn makes us right with God.  In my pastor’s sermon yesterday he asked the congregation, “Are you right with God?”  For the first time in a long time I felt comfortable saying “Yes, I am right with God.”

~ Look at the direction of your life – Are you thinking of the consequences of each decision?  Do you act before you think?  Proverbs 4:26 tells us, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established”.  Sometimes we get caught in a difficult situation because we didn’t think first and made a decision too quickly.  Remember, today’s decisions will determine your tomorrow.

~ Be grounded in your faith. We need to be grounded in the basic doctrines of God’s Word.  Know your Bible, know the Truth, and follow what you have been taught.

The result of being established in God is security and stability.  Oh, how I wanted to be stable and secure!  The way I had lived my life in the past was like standing on shaky ground.  Have you ever been in a fun house at your county fair?  Do you remember walking on the floor that kept moving under your feet, shifting up, down and sideways?  You would have to hold onto the railing to stabilize yourself in order to walk across it?  When I was using, that’s what my life felt like every day, every hour, every minute.  Except I didn’t use the railings to secure myself.  I would just try and make it across the moving floor all by myself.  I failed every time.  It wasn’t until I grabbed a hold of the railing, my Lord Jesus Christ, was I able to make it across that shaky floor.

I longed for stability and a sense of security, yet I wasn’t willing to give up my destructive lifestyle.  Why it took me so long to finally give it up just baffles me.  But I don’t keep my mind on that.  I can’t.  If I do, I get stuck in it and it’s not a good place to be.  I wasted so many years trying to figure out the “why”.  Forget it.  It’s of no use.  I had to ask for forgiveness and I had to forgive myself and not look back.  How can I move forward if I’m always looking back?  I can’t, so I keep my eyes on Jesus, His Truth, and doing the next right thing with a hope that I can be a positive influence in someone’s life.

No more shaky ground.  My feet are planted and rooted in Him.  I am nowhere near where I want to be but I keep moving foward, believing in Him and His ways, rejecting doubt and being established in God.  It’s a good place to be!

Aligning Our Thoughts With His

Everything we do and everything we say starts with a thought. Our emotions and feelings are generated from an initial thought in our mind. It is estimated that in the course of just one day we have up to 70,000 thoughts! We have more electrical impulses in our brain generated in one day than by all the telephones in the world. I’ve read that the energy used by the brain is enough to light a 25 watt bulb. Isn’t that incredible? This fact takes on a whole new meaning when we say a “a little light bulb just went off in my head”, doesn’t it?

With the thousands of thoughts in one day and all the energy generated from our mind, as Christians, don’t we have a responsibility to keep a sound mind and pay attention to what we are fixing our thoughts on? I like the Amplified Bible Translation of Proverbs 16:3,

“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.”

I started studying God’s Word in depth two years ago. I struggled for understanding in those early months. I came to realize that my thoughts and my actions were not lining up together. I would think one way but act another. There must be a balance—an alignment of His will with my thought life. Otherwise, change doesn’t happen! The result of being “out of alignment” will be confusion and frustration. God’s Word does not produce confusion, it produces peace. So obviously I wasn’t doing something right.

How do we align our thoughts with Him?

~ We need to have a working knowledge of His Word. We have to read, meditate and study the Word of God. Knowledge is good but we must also put into practice what His Word tells us.

~ We have to commit our daily life and all we do unto God. By committing the things we do and say to the Lord, we will find peace and joy! Colossians 3:23 tells us to work as if we are working for the Lord, as if God is our boss, not man.

~ We have to make God first in our thoughts life. I’ve made it a habit that when I open my eyes in the morning I say “Good Morning, Father” out loud. I want Him to be my very first thought of the day.

~ We must pray without ceasing and be thankful in everything (1 Thess. 5:17). The Apostle Paul tells us we are to pray continually and be thankful in everything. Having a grateful heart reminds us of how blessed we are. Praying keeps us with an active connection with our Heavenly Father.

Obviously, we will never be able to think like God, but we can develop a Christ-like mindset. All believers should be working toward having a mind like Christ. After all, doesn’t the word “Christian” mean “Christ-like”? God’s Word tells us that His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). That means He is above our thinking. And so He should be. He IS God after all. I’m talking about aligning our thoughts with His. It’s a mindset. It takes practice. It is only then that we will see changes in our life. By keeping our thoughts and actions in alignment with our Holy Father, we find the peace we’ve been searching for and we experience what the truth really is.

The Proper Response To God’s Grace

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As believers, we obey God because He loves us and know that He wants to help us succeed in this life.  Once we realize how much He loves us, we are motivated to trust in Him.  God provides the power for us to live godly life. 

The proper response to God’s grace is right conduct.

The apostle Paul writes in Titus 2:12,

 “And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures.  We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God.”

 I always find it intriguing how Scripture written 2000 years ago can still apply in the crazy world we live in now.  Obviously, men’s (and women’s) hearts back then are in the same shape as our hearts are today.  Our world has definitely evolved since Paul wrote this letter to Titus back in A.D. 63-66, yet we can relate to what Paul is talking about and apply it to our lives here in 2018.

 Paul goes on to say in verse 13,

 “…we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.”

There is an excellent payoff to being a Christian and working hard at having self control and right conduct.  That payoff is the “blessed hope” of Christ’s glorious return.  I certainly look forward to it and can’t wait to hear those 3 sounds talked about in 1 Thess 4:16.  We will hear 3 sounds as Christ descend from heaven:

●  A shout.

●  The voice of the archangel.

●  The trumpet of God.

Talk about a grand entrance!  God’s grace is for everyone on earth.  God desires for all people to be saved.

“For the grace of God has been revealed brining salvation to all people.” (Titus 2:11)

None of us deserve God’s mercy and grace but it is available to everyone because of what Christ did on the cross.  Having self-control and living a godly life involves daily devotion and commitment.

The devil wants us to focus on how little we have grown spiritually.  One of the lies he tells me is, “You should be allot further along by now, Michele.”  It’s a trick to stifle my self-confidence and get me to feel guilty.  When feeling like this, I get upset with myself and I am playing right into the lie.  If I were to keep believing this lie, I become an unproductive follower of Christ.

If we want to have any kind of chance in this evil world, we need to focus instead on how far we have come.  God’s amazing grace gives us the confidence we need to live a godly life, have right conduct and the power and strength we need to accomplish any kind of right behavior.

 

 

Sensitivity to God’s Will

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What does it mean to “work out our salvation”?  Philippians 2:12-13 says,

“So then, my beloved just as you have always obeyed, not as in My presence only but now much more in My absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

I want to further my understanding of what this means—-to work out our salvation.  Charles R. Swindoll wrote a booklet God’s Will.  In it he explains the above verse,

“Closed doors are just as much God’s leading as open ones.  The believer who wants to do God’s will must remain sensitive and cooperative not forcing His way into areas that God closed off.  The Lord uses circumstances and expects us to “read” them with a sensitive, alert conscience.”

He goes on to say that what it means to work out our salvation in fear and trembling essentially means maintaining a sensitive heart.  As part of my prayers, I usually ask God to keep me sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading.  I have a true desire to know His will for my life.  God tells us in Psalms 32:8 that He will instruct and teach us in the way we should go.  So how do we know if we made a right choice?

One way is the fact that no matter the outcome, whether it is happy or horrible, we have inner peace.  It’s difficult for our human minds to comprehend having inner peace in the midst of a horrible outcome.  But I have experienced this personally.  It can and does happen.

I love one of the lyrics written by Heather Williams,

In spite of it all…..Hallelujah!

Every person wants the feeling of satisfaction.  It’s the feeling that we are making the right choices in our life and from those right choices we feel happiness.  I question that I made a right decision recently, but in spite of it all, I am leaning on God and I know He is instructing me and teaching me as I go.

The Devil and His Tactics

One of the first and most interesting things I learned in my early recovery of addiction was learning about just how the devil and his demons operate. Knowing how Satan and his workers (demons) affect my mind and thoughts has helped me tremendously. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:8,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

The devil will suggest ways for us not to suffer.

How many times have we heard that little voice in our head saying, “You don’t have to suffer like this. One drink is all you need to take the edge off. Just use a little and you’ll feel so much better.”

Satan tempted Jesus in this way. When Jesus fasted for 40 days, in the wilderness, He was famished. This made Him vulnerable and in a weakened state. Satan knew this and made his move. He tempts Jesus by saying, “If you are the Son of God, change these stones into loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3) Why suffer like this, right? All you have to do is take a little bit, right? Perhaps Jesus felt God forgot about Him and felt abandoned. Perhaps Jesus became confused by hunger pains and thought that eating just a little of bread won’t hurt. Even in this weekend state Jesus remained strong and committed, responding to the devil by saying, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every work of God.’” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus continued to trust God and did not give into the devil’s little trick.

How many times have we fallen for this tactic of the devil? How many times have we given in to him saying, “Why suffer when all you have to do is ____?” These words, “all you have to do is _____” plays in our heads and it’s important to remember that this is Satan planting a thought in our mind. Our mind is the devil’s favorite way to get us to sin, which is why it’s vital to know the Truth, study the Bible and be aware of the devil’s tactics. This will enable us to stand firm, be strong and not give in.

Other Tactics:

  • Satan knows it is more difficult to resist him if we are excessively tired or hungry.
  • Satan wants you to think you are mentally deficient—that something is wrong with you.
  • He wants you to think you are mentally deficient so you will not attempt to do anything about it. He wants you to think that’s “just the way I’m made”.
  • Satan frequently steals the will of God from us due to reasoning (trying to figure out the “why” behind something). The Lord may direct us to do a certain thing, but if it does not make sense—if it is not logical—we may be tempted to disregard it. Confusion is of the devil. God does not create confusion.
  • An inability to concentrate could indicate a mental attack from the devil.
  • Satan wants us to passively accept whatever lies he tells us.
  • Satan will use other people to try and weaken you. A good example of this is if you’re in an abusive or toxic relationship or some “old friends’ will come around. He especially comes at you like this if he sees you’re getting stronger and resisting him more.

“Don’t give in, keep resisting and the devil will flee.” (James 4:7)

Many times when I was trying to stay clean, a drug dealer would call me out of the blue. The only time they called was when they hadn’t seen me in awhile. I was suffering cravings and had constant thoughts of using again. At first I wouldn’t say to them “I quit, please don’t call me anymore”. At first I would just say I had no money. The reason I didn’t say I quit was because in the back of mind I thought I just may use again and didn’t want my dealers to think I was clean. When I finally did tell them I was clean, it was a very freeing feeling.  I wasn’t letting Satan win.