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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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.

Changing My Way of Thinking

This is probably one of the hardest things to do and it’s an ongoing process that has to be worked on on a daily basis.thoughts

Don’t be discouraged though.  It can and does happen if you allow Christ to work in your life.

“Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

I was a tough nut to crack, stubborn and resisted change, even though I wanted to change!  I had to commit to reading God’s Word and learning all I could about God’s character and what He wants from me and what I can expect from Him.  I became hungry for the Word and that hunger hasn’t stopped!  I was allowing God to speak to my heart and open to receive His love and grace.  Satan’s lies were so engrained in me and I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.  So all the energy I had put into my addicted days, I used the same energy to immerse myself in the Bible and Christian books.

A fantastic book written by Joyce Meyer, “Battlefield of the Mind, Renew Your Mind Through the Power of God’s Word” helped change my life.  I highly recommend you read this book to enable you to learn how to change your thoughts.  I started to learn what were Satan’s lies and what was the Truth (see my post “The Devil and His Tactics”).

I started changing!  I stared getting inspired!  I started listening to Christian music.  I stared dressing more modestly.  I started paying attention to my speech and my cursing.  When I gained the desire to please the Lord, my way of thinking started to change.

The apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:12-13,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection!  But I keep working for that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants to be…I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing—forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

The Freedom of Forgiving Myself

For many years, if not most of my life, I lived with self-hatred.  For years I could not forgive myself for my past, my actions, my behaviors, my choices, but most of all, how many people I have hurt through the years, especially my mother.  The pain I put my family through, the many tears shed on my behalf and the feelings of helplessness my loved ones must have gone through seeing me destroy my life.  It still hurts to think about it.  I couldn’t understand why I kept doing the things I was doing, even though I really wanted to change my life.  I grew deeper and deeper into confusion, depression, and self-hatred.  Why was I like this?  How did I get to be such a horrible person?  The “why” questions would consume me.  I gave up on myself.  I gave into the devil’s lies. 

The devil had me believing for years that the way to show remorse to my family was to remain guilty and ashamed.  If I showed happiness of any kind it shows my family that I don’t care.  I didn’t have a right to happiness and peace.  I believed the lie that feeling guilty showed my family that I loved them and felt bad about everything I did to them. 

One night when I was four months sober, I finally forgave myself for all I’ve done.  I had been in active addition my whole adult life.  I truly, honestly and wholeheartedly forgave myself.  I was praying and crying out to God that night because I was in distress from my ex-boyfriend being verbally abusive and screaming throughout the house.  I was locked in my bedroom and cried and prayed for him to stop.  The Lord spoke to me about forgiving myself, even though that wasn’t what I was praying for specifically.  He said, 

“Who are you to not forgive yourself when I, the Almighty God, have forgiven you long ago!  Don’t you trust Me?  I know your heart.  I know all you are.  I know who you are.  You will not grow in Christ if you keep hanging on to your past and allowing abuse to stay in your life.  I love you.  Your family loves you.  They have forgiven you too so why aren’t you forgiving yourself?  It’s okay.  You can let go now, and let go of this relationship.  I know your heart and you are my beautiful child and I love you.  You are not that person anymore when you were using.  You never were.  You just lost your way for a while.  Forgive yourself.  Allow Me to direct your path from now on.  Obey Me and trust Me.  You can let go now.” 

My body suddenly became very warm and an overwhelming peace came over me.  My scalp tingled and I took a deep breath.  I felt a sudden sense of freedom and calmness.  I stopped crying and reflected on what just happened to me.  It felt like the Holy Spirit filled my entire being.  I was calm.  I could breathe.  All while my ex was still screaming and yelling outside my door.  I was still.  I had a breakthrough.  I was free.

Our Emotional Life

God created us to be emotional, feeling human beings. Managing our emotions is an important skill set for anyone who wants to help others deal with life situations and life circumstances. I know from personal experience that it is very difficult for me to learn from someone who may be strong in their knowledge of the Word of God but in their emotional life they are a wreck.

It is equally important for our own personal peace and happiness to get a handle on our emotions. As Christian believers, our emotions play a major part of being “in His image”. Jesus was emotionally expressive during His ministry and portrayed a life of self-control, and situational discernment. He experienced anger, sadness, grief, excitement, joy, love and even experienced feelings of abandonment.

Our feelings are every changing. They seem to fluctuate with no apparent reason. We can go to bed feeling good about our day and in good spirits, and the next morning wake up irritable and tired. We often ask ourselves, “Why am I feeling this way?” It can be very frustrating and confusing. The good news is we can learn how to manage our emotions instead of our emotions managing us.

It’s important to know that even though we feel bad, we can still choose do what is right. Our feelings are neither good nor evil. Our feelings cannot always be trusted though and they are usually unreliable. We are to follow wisdom not our feelings. The Holy Spirit will convict our hearts to follow wisdom instead of our emotions. For example, something may feel (emotion) right be we know (wisdom) it to be wrong. Paul explains his own struggles with sin in Romans chapter 7 and I believe he is not only telling us of the sin within us but also the emotions and feelings that go along with this struggle. We know what’s right but sinning would feel good or feel more comfortable than doing what is right. Paul also tells us in Romans 8:5-8 that if we have the Spirit of Christ living within us that we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not our old nature.

“Those who let themselves be controlled by their lower natures live only to please themselves, but those who follow after the Holy Spirit find themselves doing those things that please God.” (Romans 8:5)

My emotions and feelings have run amok as an adult and although I have definitely “grown up” and matured in the last couple years, I still have much more work to do in this area. Just about my entire adult life has been consumed with drugs and alcohol I have heard that my emotional maturity stopped at the age of 18, which is when I started drinking and using on a daily basis. I have also heard that our emotional maturity ceased to grow at the onset of abuse and neglect. Any form of abuse, addiction or trauma greatly affects where we stand in our emotional lives.feelings jpg

I want to explore the Christian’s emotional life deeper and will be writing more posts on our feelings and how we can learn to do better in this area of our lives. We should do our best to model the emotional life of Jesus and I will be exploring more of how He managed His emotions when He walked on this earth. It is my hope that I can help you learn some practical ways to manage your emotions and we can mature together in how we handle our feelings on a daily basis. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit will help us heal our emotions from past hurts and with His help we can learn to develop a stable emotional life. As followers of Christ I believe it is our responsibility to develop and mature our emotional lives to a level that is pleasing to God and in return it will enable us to live a life of peace, joy and a sense of contentment no matter what is going on around us.

Sensitivity To God’s Will

“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.”  Philippians 2:12-13

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 Confidence Killer

Satan is the enemy to those who want to follow Christ, to those who are called according to God’s purpose.  Satan is the enemy even to unbelievers.  We as Christians know that the devil hates us.  He hates us because we love God.  I wish unbelievers knew just how much Satan really hates them too.  He may “appear” to be happy with them because of their pride, immorality, and material possessions.  But he hates them just the same.  Satan likes to see people do his work on this planet, whether they are Christian or not.

Satan’s true hatred is toward the Almighty God.  He wants to do everything he can to us so that we grieve the Holy Spirit, demean Jesus Christ, whatever it takes.

I think what the devil loves most is stealing and destroying any kind of joy in a Christian’s life.  I think he gets his biggest kicks out of doing this to us.  Sometimes I feel like I fall so easily to this sneaky trick.  Doesn’t it anger you to think he does this?  Even worse, we allow him to do it!

One way Satan kills our joy is to doubt ourselves.  I’ve been doing this allot lately!  And quite frankly, I’m tired of allowing him to steal my confidence and my joy.  Today was a very stressful day at work but I find my peace and rest when spending time with the Lord and reading his Word.  The Lord has been reminding me that He is there and will take care of me; to not stress and to do the best I can.  God will even put people in our presence to give us encouragement and to remind us that He is watching and is with us.

I had a customer tell me that I have a “light” about me.  Comes to find out, they were a Christian and we had a quick talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  It made my day for someone to see me like this.  I wasn’t sure I ever really portrayed a difference by my mannerisms.  It reaffirmed my love for Christ and that even in the midst of chaos we can still allow Jesus to shine through us for strangers to see.  Satan tried to steal my confidence and joy that day but,

 “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is the world”.

….take THAT Satan.