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.

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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.

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.

Keeping Things Simple

When I first got sober, people would tell me I only had to change only one thing—EVERYTHING!  This is an overwhelming thought, and I questioned if it was even possible.  Being newly sober can be very confusing and complicated.  Many of us have left a path of destruction during our time of addiction.  These could include:

  • Legal Problems – Many of us have legal problems in the beginning of sobriety. This alone is a heavy burden to someone who feels very raw and vulnerable at the onset of staying clean and sober.
  • Money Issues – Most of us have little or no money left when we reach recovery and perhaps an immense amount of debt.
  • Damaged Relationships – I don’t think I’ve met one person in recovery who didn’t have damaged relationships stemming from their addiction. Many of us have lost custody of our children and may be dealing with divorce.
  • Unemployed – Many of us have lost our jobs due to our addictions.       Having no income causes much anxiety and stress.
  • Homelessness – This is an extremely stressful situation. I too was homeless for a period of time. It’s a horrible feeling. Every day is a struggle.

Handling these problems all at once will certainly set you up for failure.  Keeping things simple is paramount.  But how can I keep things simple when the problems I’ve having are so huge and all consuming?

Often we take on more than we can chew in the beginning.  It’s important to understand these problems can take a long, long time to recover from.  But don’t be discouraged!  Every day you stay sober, little by little, you will start to see these problems getting just a little less day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year.  One by one we start to tackle our issues.

Some suggestions for keeping things simple:

We have to slow down our thinking.  Make a list of the major issues that you need to address and then relax your mind.  We deal with one thing at a time.

Keep big problems from getting any bigger.  Although you may have a big problem that can’t be solved overnight, be rest assured, staying sober will enable you to address the issue once and for all.

Legal problems must be faced immediately.  We don’t have a choice on when to deal with these issues because it’s all mandated by the court.  A great person that can help you with would be a sponsor or the house manager if you’re in a halfway house.  When I was living in a halfway house, my house manager even went to court with me.  She was so supportive and made the experience less stressful.  I didn’t feel alone.

Finding a place to live should be the first issue to address.  You have to get some sort of stability in your life.  Having a place to live will ease your frustration and fears.  I stayed in many different halfway houses.  Halfway houses were the only place that would accept me without having a dime to my name.  I had burned all my bridges with family and friends.

Secondly, find a job.  After securing a place to live, let’s get employed and start generating an income so we can start to address our money issues.

Write a list of money owed.  Tackle the smallest amount that is due and get those paid first.  Bigger money problems will take time.

Start mending one relationship at a time.  For me, it was my parents, especially my mother.  Work on getting back your kids or mending a damaged marriage.  Damaged relationships take a long time to heal.  Some may heal right away and others could take years, if at all.

It’s important to reach out and ask for help.  If you go to AA or NA meetings, there are allot of people in the rooms who are willing to help you get things organized and give you some great advice.  Trying to tackle all these issues by yourself is too overwhelming.  Having someone to lean on and give you advice will help you keep things simple so that you can focus on staying sober one day at a time.

What’s Your Motive?

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10

Wouldn’t that be a great name for a game show, “What’s Your Motive?” Motives are a sort of mind game, aren’t they? It’s ultimately about our intention to have you believe something or to acquire something we want. Motives can be good or bad, wrong or right, pure or impure.

Have you ever known someone always seems to operate with a hidden agenda? You know the one. The one who is “fake”. The one you can’t trust. The one who whenever he/she is talking is more than likely lying to you? Do you remember when you first found out this person had a hidden agenda? You figured out this person’s method of operation was tricking you and deceiving you for their personal gain? Maybe it was subtle. Maybe they just wanted you to believe something that they are not. You feel deceived, betrayed….like you got kicked in the stomach.

You see, I was one of those people. In active addition, that was my M.O. I wasn’t like that when sober though. No where near it. As days of sobriety started to add up, God revealed to me the subconscious manipulation methods I used in order to get people to do what I wanted. He showed me how I could be subtle in my intent and that my motive was not pure. I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. It had become a learned behavior and half the time I wasn’t even aware of it.

So I asked God to help me stay sensitive to the motives of my Heart. I ask God often to bring to the surface the little bits & pieces of impurity that may have lingered or have worked their way back in again.

“Grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you.” – Psalms 86:11

God doesn’t reveal these things to me so I will feel bad about myself. That is what the devil wants me to believe. I use to live in a state of guilt and shame (see my post about forgiving myself). God knew my self esteem was unstable back then, and in time I would heal. But now He reveals the condition of my heart so that I can repent any unconfessed sin. I want Him to. I ask Him for this. He reveals my subtle motives so that I can become pleasing in His sight. So I can change. So I can honor Him.

God knows my heart. He knows me better than I do. God knows that I really don’t want to hurt people or even hurt myself. He knows I wanted to change and I wanted to please Him but I couldn’t do that until He showed me the motives of my heart. It’s important that I keep my motives in check on a daily basis. Without purity of hear, I won’t be able to move forward to what the Lord wants for my life.