Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Celebrating Hope

Hi there fabulous Southern Hope readers! I'm so grateful y'all have stuck by me while I've been inconsistent with this space. If you follow me on Facebook, you know that The Big Dawg and I have been attending Celebrate Recovery at our church. This isn't a program either one of us is ashamed to share we are GOING TO because everyone of us has hangups and habits that keep us from feeling God's love and presence in our lives. If you can find this program in your area, I encourage you to attend. God is drawing you into a loving and lasting relationship with Him.

Dana, one of the CR leaders, gave an absolutely fantastic talk about HOPE. I know somebody reading today needs to read this, I pray it brings YOU as much HOPE as it did me... 
You can follow Dana's blog Mojoy here 
Facebook page HERE 
Follow her on Instagram HERE 

Hi, I’m Dana. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with guilt, shame and lately, a truckload of fears.

Tonight we’re going to talk about hope, but before we start I have to admit to you, I struggle with hope. One of the crazy things about recovery is that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. Or sometimes everything is going along wonderfully and all of the sudden you run full speed into a brick wall.  Or you think you are finally free only to look down and find another pile of baggage on the doorstep waiting for you to sort through it.

Without hope, recovery may seem impossible.

So before we begin tonight I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell myself every morning before I open my eyes, or get out of bed…

God is not disappointed in us.
He’s not disappointed in me. He’s not disappointed in you.

God doesn’t think we are moving too slowly through the healing process. He doesn’t expect us to be better by now. He doesn’t wish we would get on with it already. He doesn’t wonder what in the world we are doing.

He’s not disappointed in our journey. He’s not. Maybe you needed to hear that tonight as much as I need to hear it every morning.

So now, let’s talk about Hope.

Psalm 62:5 says it this way: Yes my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.

In the first principle we admitted we are powerless. Through the admission of powerlessness we are able to believe and begin to receive God’s power to help us recover. We are powerless, but God’s power never falters and never runs out.  

Before principle one, we tried to cover the bottomless pit of our hurts, habits and hang ups with layers of denial, or we tried to quick fixes to “make us better.”  But in Celebrate Recovery we are learning to keep our hurts exposed to the light, allowing God’s power to truly heal us.  This exposure is one of the hardest parts of recovery.

In the second principle we come to believe not only that God exists, but that we are important to Him. We are able to find the true Higher Power, Jesus Christ who wants to fill our lives with His love, His presence and His joy.

One of my favorite parables is commonly known as the prodigal Son. In case you aren’t familiar with it’s a beautiful story of God’s love for us.  To begin with, the younger son of a family asks his father for his inheritance. Once he receives it, he leaves home and wastes every penny partying and doing whatever feels good in the moment. Eventually he finds himself broke and friendless because the money is gone. He begins to starve so he finds work feeding pigs and finds himself wishing he had it as good as the pigs do.  He decides to return home and beg his father for a position as a household slave, knowing he deserves nothing and under Jewish law, may even be stoned to death.

This is where the story gets good. Although we call the son the prodigal because he spends everything he has wastefully and foolishly, it’s the Father who is truly prodigal, not with money but with his love. When we see the Father in Luke 15, he isn’t cursing his son or nursing a grudge against him, or thinking up ways to punish him for what he’s done. Even though he has every right to be angry and vengeful, instead, He’s eagerly waiting.  Every day He’s waiting and watching down the road for the son He loves to come back to Him. Here’s what Luke says:

When the son was still a long way off, his father saw Him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced Him and kissed Him. The son started his speech, “Father I have sinned against God, I have sinned before you. I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.”  But the Father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants Quick! Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Get a grain fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here! Given up for dead and now alive.  Given up for lost and now found!

This is the God who gives us hope.  He is not disappointed. He’s waiting to recklessly, extravagantly pour out His love and healing on us. He’s looking for us to turn to Him and when we do He runs to us, picks us up and welcomes us home.

Romans 11:36 says: Everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by His power.

Not only is God not disappointed by our doubts, struggles and questions, He welcomes them! He wants to fill the areas where we lack with His extravagance. God never runs out of healing, of forgiveness, of patience, of kindness, of love.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says My grace is enough for you, for where there is weakness my power is shown the more completely.  
He’s a higher power we can Hope in because He cannot fail.

Hope is openness to change. We resist change, sometimes, because we are afraid, even if our past was painful. We resist change because of our fear of the unknown, or in despair we believe we don’t deserve any better.

The good news is Hope opens doors where despair closes them! Hope discovers what can be done instead of being stuck in what we think can’t be done.

Throughout our lives we will encounter hurts and trials we are powerless to change but with hope we can be open to allow those circumstances to change us -- to make us better instead of bitter.

Eph 4:23 challenges us by saying: Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. You must be a new and different person.

Phil. 4:13 promises I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me strength and power.

Power to change comes from God’s grace. Hope draws its power from a deep trust in God. As our trust deepens, God begins the work of changing not just our words and actions but the ways we think and even the very desires of our hearts.

Ps 25:5 Lead me and teach me; for you are the God who gives me salvation. I have no hope except in you.

Phil. 1:6 says, I am sure that God who began a the good work in you, will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task in you is finally finished on the day when Christ returns

Let’s not give up before God has a chance to complete the work! Transformation isn’t like a magic show: now you see it and now you don’t. The process of transformation is even more important than the finished outcome we long for.

He isn’t disappointed in our progress.

Often the hardest step is to get started, and you may be saying to yourself, “I don’t have enough faith to see this through.”

But Matthew 17:20 tells us, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

It’s comforting to know we only need as much faith as it takes to make the first step, and then, after that, faith for the next step. We don’t need all the answers or all the perfect behaviors, and we don’t have to constantly worry about messing up again – we will mess up, but when we do, it won’t be the end of our story as long as we are able to begin again and again and again.

Our eternal life doesn’t begin with death, it begins with faith!  Faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to open the flood gates of God’s hope.  Faith is the path to God’s saving Love and He’s eagerly waiting for us to start walking down it. He won’t wait for us to complete the journey to Him. He’ll run to us and provide us with everything we need for every step we take until we finally arrive home.

Today I encourage you to take this step of hope. It will give you the courage to reach out and take Christ’s hand, to face the present with confidence and the future with realistic expectancy.

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