I invite you to join discussions, it enhances the reading experience for everyone. Please share your thoughts, opinions and knowledge in a respectful manner. May we all learn something in our endeavor to educate our hearts and minds. I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Doing things HIS way - Building a Framework of Hope: Part 7

How do you normally handle tough times? 

Are you someone who meets challenges head on… or do you prefer to stick you head in the sand and hope the problem goes away?

When you are met with failure, do you beat yourself up… or look for the lesson to be learned?

When things go wrong, do you blame yourself…or someone else? Are you able to see that sometimes you need to accept responsibility and sometimes things are out of your control? 

When you are successful, do you pat yourself on the back and tell everyone how great you did…or do you realize you couldn’t have accomplished it without God’s help? 

How you handle these things tells a great deal about your relationship with God and how mature you are in your walk with Him. (Hint: no one handles these things perfectly. No need to beat yourself up, just acknowledge your tendencies and be intentional about growing in Christ).

You might be wondering what this has to do with Building a Framework of Hope…

As I mentioned in the previous post, to have hope, we must learn to endure hardships. 

How we handle difficult times (and achievements) says a great deal about our maturity.
James 1:2-4 puts it this way:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

To grow and mature, it’s important that we pause from time to time to look back at where we’ve been, analyze where we are, and identify where we are going.

It’s my prayer that the tough questions I pose will help you accomplish this.

I also endeavor to help you recognize any areas, or ways, you are trying to make God fit into your life instead of you conforming to His. 

I know I’ve often prayed with the motive of trying to gain God’s favor, or change His mind about the answer He is giving me.

It’s taken a great deal of self-reflection, honesty, and asking God to reveal the planks in my eyes for me to realize that I don’t trust Him enough to wait for His timing and His will to be done. I want things done my way and in my timing. I’ve tried forcing God to be whom and what, I believe I need. This has hindered my walk with Him, my growth in Him and my fellowship with Him. 

I’m guilty of trying to build upon the foundation He laid for me MY way, instead of His.

I’m guilty of trying to make God’s Word compatible with my lifestyle, and personality, instead of allowing Him to refine me through the fire. 

I’m guilty of wanting to dictate my relationship with Him. How much I’m willing to follow and where I’m willing to go. What I’m willing to give up and what I want to hold onto—regardless of what He says. At times it’s like I’m a toddler sticking my fingers in my ears so I won’t hear Him. 

Truth is: Trials refine us. They get rid of sin in our lives. They point us toward our need of God. They mature us. They increase our faith. They build our hope. They help us endure. They give us joy.

Reflection Questions:
1.        Are you trying to dictate what is being built upon the Foundation of your Salvation or are you open to God’s plan, even if it’s includes pain?
2.       Going back to the opening questions, does your behavior indicate you’re growing closer to God or keeping Him at a distance?
3.       Are you trying to make God fit into your life or are you conforming to His Character AKA becoming “Christ like”? Remember, sins (even “small” sins) inhibit our fellowship with Him and make it hard for us to see the planks in our eyes. Ask God to show you any planks you’re unaware of.

Monday, April 10, 2017

From Suffering to Hope - Building a Framework of Hope: Part 6

Now that our foundation is cleared of any litter we knowingly, or unknowingly, put there—Let’s BUILD!

In John 16:33b Jesus says, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We are told, we WILL have trouble.

Christian’s are not immune. Troubles and hardships come to us just like they do to non-Christians. But how we deal with them should distinguish us as HIS.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… 
Not only so, but we also GLORY in our sufferings,
 because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5 NIV (emphasis mine)

We want to Build a Framework of Hope.

Notice the steps necessary to get to HOPE?

Character building. 

None of those sound fun.

But they are necessary in order to have a HOPE that can withstand the trials of this world.

Without Hope, we will crumble when the storms come.

Even with Hope, we will fall at times. But God’s hope will not “put us to shame”.

We have His love as a guarantee.

That guarantee is the HOLY SPIRIT living in us.

The Holy Spirits helps us stand on our foundation when the world tries to knock us down.

He (Holy Spirit) helps us take the sufferings of this world and not only persevere, but turn them into Character building opportunities. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned WAY more in life from failings and hardships than I ever have from triumphs. 

This is because hardships build character.

Hardships stretch us, refine us, and highlight our need of Christ. 

Trying to avoid conflict, or rush through a trial, deprives us of these character building opportunities that enable us to place our HOPE in God.

Trials help us realize we can preserve despite the pain. We can claim as Paul did that “we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.” (Rom 8:37)

Failures teach us that we are the same person we were before the loss. (That’s why it’s important to know who you are and what you value)

Loss, failure, tragedy, setbacks, and trials do not define us. 

Having a Framework of Hope will hold us securely in who we are IN Christ when these things occur (Holy, Beloved, Redeemed, Victorious, etc.). 

So the next time trials come, don’t “grit your teeth and bare it” and don’t try to rush through it, INSTEAD realize you’re building Strength of Character that will enable you to push forward and confidently say as Paul did:   

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 Reflection Questions:
1.   Think about a past hardship, can you see God in it? What did you learn about yourself from that experience?  What did you learn about God? Ask God if there is anything else He would like you to know about that trial.    
2.  What does God have to say about the season of life you are currently in? What does He want you to learn? 
4.  How do you tend to view yourself? Does this align with what God has to say about you? If not, 1 John 1:9 is a great place to begin healing so you can move forward.
5.  Who does God say you are? (hint: It's all good things- redeemed, loved, apple of His eye, etc)

If you would like help aligning your thoughts to God's Truths, I highly recommend "The Renewing of the Mind Project: Going to God for Help with your Habits, Goals, and Emotions" by Barb Raveling.