Learn to preach to yourself. Become your own favorite preacher. And especially master preaching hope. Hope is not a wish. Hope is not positive thinking despite your painful experience. Hope is not unconvinced optimism in the face of odds. Hope is the confident expectation that God will come through on your behalf regardless of how your circumstances unfold. Hopelessness is not of God’s reality. Neither should it be of yours. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 43:5). That’s David preaching hope to himself. Go and do likewise.
Change is part of the deal. You cannot control its timing. Take a deep breath and embrace it. If you do not, you will find yourself questioning God, pouting with God, and working against God. Be more of a rubber band than a rod. A rubber band is flexible. It stretches and adjusts to the forces upon it. A rod only bends… then snaps. Trust Jesus. Adjust. Before you snap….
The God of heaven and earth is not limited by what you can or can’t do. He is not dependent on you. Yet He desires to show off through you. That’s why God sends daunting opportunities—divine moments—your way. He beckons you to embrace moments that remove all security from your life but Him. But anyone who says, “God needs you to…” or “God depends on you…” is dead wrong. God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. He is unstoppable in His plan. And the fact that God doesn’t need you ought to compel you to take Spirit-led risks. You can’t fail. The truth that He wants to show off to you and through you should move you to go-for-broke. You can’t lose. Divine moments, as scary as they can be, are where cosmic awe and wonder await you.
So what big risk are you facing? Where is God leading you to take the leap?
Don’t miss your moment.
These were some of Marni’s first words to us through a translator in Ukraine last year. Marni wanted us to know that if we would adopt her, love and accept her, she would serve and obey us.
Does this translate spiritually into your view of God? Are you living with a haunting sense that if you serve and obey God enough then He will love and accept you?
Joy-full obedience is all about motivation. “I obey God so that I will be loved,” is misery. “I am loved by God so I obey,” is life.
We told Marni (through her translator): “We do not care one bit what you can do for us. We just want you. We love you.” It’s been one year since Marni became our precious adopted daughter. Most times after dinner she is the first to clean the table. A year ago, Marni would have asked, “Daddy, if I clean the table will you love me and accept me?” Today, however, she looks at me with joy in her eyes as if to say, “Daddy, I clean the table because you love me, you accept me, and I love you.”
Whether cleaning a table, serving an enemy, or obeying painfully, may there be joy in your eyes that declares the same to your Daddy who first loved and accepted you.
I came across an acronym years ago that has served me well over the years. Whenever you find one of these areas heightened in your life, watch out. It’s called the H.A.L.T. reality. Just recently, however, another letter/reality was offered by a friend. And I think he is spot on. So I’ll update the acronym to H.A.L.T.S.
You are most tempted to ruin your life when you are:
Ever notice how irritable you become when you haven’t eaten? This points to a deeper reality. Your human appetites in general. Not just your physical appetite, but relational, emotional, sexual. Whenever physical hungers, relational hungers, emotional hungers, and even sexual hungers become your focus, moral failure lurks.
Anger will make you say, email, post, comment, and do things you regret. Also, anger fantasies can lead to anger realities. When angry you will look to either numb yourself or vent yourself–verbally, physically, or through social media. The result is almost always sin, pain, and regret. Unresolved anger is especially dangerous. In fact, the Apostle Paul says “Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Paul’s point is to not dwell on, seethe, or boil in anger but to resolve it daily. And why? Because not to resolve anger gives the devil a foothold in your life (Ephesians 4:27).
When you get lonely, you get desperate. Any attention, affection, stimulation, or escape that can ease or eradicate your loneliness will become overwhelmingly seductive, regardless from whom, what, or where it comes. Along with loneliness, boredom brings its own seductions as well.
When I’m tired, I crave sugar–soda, ice cream, candy, cookies, and the like. Fatigue festers not only the physical appetite, but the other appetites mentioned earlier. Plain and simple, when tired, you want relief. Unfortunately, relief through rest is usually the last option. Instead you are tempted again to find relief through numbing, self-medicating, and escaping your reality. Regrettably, many don’t stop with sugar. In addition, fatigue clouds your thinking and emotions. An issue that typically registers a “3″ on your frustration/anger scale, is now an “8.” When fatigued, your reality is not fully “reality” any more. But the temptation will be to react to it as such.
Thanks to my friend, Alex Rossi, for pointing this out. When life is good our hearts tend to drift. Subtle self-sufficiency and pride creeps in. You’re not praying like you once did. Reading Scripture gets more of a pass. And a sense of entitlement begins to settle in. No wonder God said to His people, “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God…lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through great and terrifying wilderness…who fed you in the wilderness…. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…”(Deuteronomy 8:11-18)
What’s the remedy to H.A.L.T.S.? Meeting with God. Every day. Early morning, lunch time, break time, or late at night after all are in bed. Get in His Word and feast and drink. Walk in His Holy Spirit. God Himself declared he would meet all your needs (yes, even sexual needs) according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
Confront and address issues and people to resolve your anger immediately (before the day ends!). Eat a big meal with friends and family you love. Go to bed earlier, or take a nap, or “rest” in God’s strength. Give thanks every moment of your life and resolve in your heart that you can live without any success because Jesus is enough. Know yourself and your heart to recognize when reality is distorted due to fatigue and restrain yourself until further notice.
And take this to the bank: No matter how lonely you get, the pain of loneliness will not compare to the pain of what will come from whomever, whatever, and wherever you seek to escape and eradicate that loneliness outside of Jesus.
Plain and simple, the answer to H.A.L.T.S is J.E.S.U.S.