Through Him We have Hope Over Shame

hope

 

The Problem

 

I’ve battled with anger issues off and on throughout my life, and underneath the anger lies shame. I’m ashamed when my temper gets the better of me. I’m ashamed at the words that fly out of my mouth that do more damage than a club. Words wound in ways that destroy the essence of a person. I battle anger and I battle shame.

 

We screw up or we make life-altering wrong choices. We doubt Jesus’ blood can truly clean our past.  Anger rules us.  Our enemy uses shame to keep us locked in a pit of hopelessness.

 

How do we get out of that pit? How do we exchange shame induced hopelessness for redeeming hope?  By not letting the enemy win. By not letting shame rule your decisions or dictate your actions. Let the shame you feel guide you to the redemption Christ offers.

 

The First Reason

 

Shame indicates two things: an attack of the enemy or an issue that hasn’t been dealt with. The enemy deals with generalities and the Holy Spirit deals with specifics. When you experience overall shame and condemnation, the enemy is preventing you from knowing hope. Stand firm in God and resist the devil by speaking truth over yourself. Say, “Jesus’ blood redeems me, in his name I’ve confessed my sin and I stand forgiven. God chooses me. God makes me victorious and nothing can prevail against the God’s love for me and in me.”

 

The Second Reason

 

The second problem is a little bit more nuanced. Often when shame lingers over a particular incidence, we have a forgiveness problem. Many of us are quick to ask God for forgiveness and he grants it to us. (1 John 1:9). Often we will go to the person we’ve wronged and seek their forgiveness and whether they grant it to us is between them and God, but we’ve done our part. What keeps us trapped in shame is when we don’t forgive ourselves.

 

If God has forgiven you, why can’t you forgive yourself? God doesn’t treat us with “three strikes and you’re out” so why do we treat ourselves that way? If you’ve said something you’ve regretted and you’ve made it right with God, make it right with yourself. When you refuse to forgive yourself, you reject God’s redeeming forgiveness.

 

When you reject God’s redeeming forgiveness, you rob yourself of hope. And when you struggle through, you find your way to hope.

 

The Solution

 

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith  into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:2-5

 

When we wrestle through the suffering we build endurance. Endurance builds our character because we don’t give in to the easy way out of living in shame, but we battle through to victory over shame. Character produces hope because we’re changed from the inside out. Hope is an outward projection of belief and trust. And hope doesn’t shame us. Why?

 

Because of God’s love poured out into your heart through the Holy Spirit.

 

Hope Fulfilled

 

It’s God’s love that starts and ends it all, draws us to himself, and makes a way for redeeming forgiveness. That love resides in us. And when his love is flowing through us and out of us, shame has no place. Hope does.

 

Hope in God and rest in the confidence that he brings. You are forgiven. Your past is redeemed. Your love is God’s love.

 

Application

 

Memorize Romans 5:2-5

 

Consider anything you haven’t forgiven yourself for and receive God’s forgiveness by forgiving yourself.

 

 

 

 

How Your Troubles Can Be Your Door to Hope

 

new hope

The New Year arrives and we hope and pray that it contains ease and blessings, but what if it brings you troubles? Do you think you aren’t blessed? Do you doubt God’s goodness? Do you decide hoping isn’t safe?

 

We think if we can scoot through life with minimal trouble, our lives are blessed. We wrongly judge another by the amount of trouble they face. And we judge ourselves by how much trouble we face. And often we determine our lives are lacking or wanting for more because we can’t see the hope that troubles potentially bring to our lives.

 

Hope is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it is a person, a feeling, or a thing. Hope as a verb means to look forward to with reasonable confidence, to believe, desire, and trust. Hope is action, it’s sustaining, and life-giving. It’s tangible and at times out of reach.

 

When I use my circumstances as a litmus test for hope, I feel like a pendulum swinging. Hopeful. . . hopeless. . . hopeful. . . hope-maybe? It’s exhausting and disheartening. If I were to look at merely my circumstances for hope, I would miss out on some wonderful blessings and teachings that my troubles bring me.

 

Hosea 2:15: “There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”

 

In this passage, God is planning on drawing his people to him. They have forgotten him and in his heartache he chooses to run towards them instead of from them. His mercy causes him to draw them near rather than rejecting them. And he uses the desert and troubles to do so.

 

The Israelites lost their first love. We can relate. It’s easy to forget the hope we had when we were first set free. The troubles of life, the cares of this world and the battle between our flesh and our spirit weigh on us.  When we turn to performance and works for hope we lay burdens on ourselves, rather than resting in grace and abiding in Christ.

 

We look for our hope in blessings and our effort. But hope is Jesus (noun) and it’s trust (verb). Hope takes us from despair to belief when we take our eyes off ourselves and our troubles and onto the God who is within us and who guides us through our troubles.

 

In our safety conscious world, we think of trouble as bad. But really? Sometimes it’s your door to hope. Placed secure in God’s hands, our troubles become blessings.

 

They become blessings because they become the catalyst that draws us nearer to God. Troubles often produce a humble heart because we cannot affect change in our own strength. The Valley of Achor becomes the doorway to hope because God gives us eyes to see and ears to hear his will, his way, and his voice.

 

This New Year is fresh with promise. It’s filled with the promise of God’s presence: his hope, his love, and his joy. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to look at your valley with fresh eyes. Eyes to see God within it, pointing the way through it, and bringing beauty from it. You can look back on your troubles and see them for what they were: the doorway in which you moved closer to God.

 

Our greatest times of growth are often in the valley where we feel the rain and the wind and the storms. At times, fire sweeps through, and then new growth comes and our hearts become this beautiful landscape of beauty. Fresh green shoots look brighter on a deep black background.

 

Think of the testimony you become when you allow God to lead you to the desert place so that your trouble becomes a door to Hope. Your troubles become the way you meet God intimately. And guess what? You don’t have to wait until you have a major trouble to know this kind of hope. All of life is filled with daily little troubles. Don’t dismiss the small things. Let the small troubles teach you hope so that when you face the big ones, you’re ready to receive the blessings God has for you on the other side.

Application

 

1. Read Hosea 2

 

2. Consider your valley of trouble.

 

3. Ask God to show you how it can be a door of hope.

 

 

 

When New Year’s Goals are Good, but Hope Is Better

New Year

The New Year is like a blanket of freshly fallen snow. The snow covers everything brown, at least in my neck of the woods.  It sparkles in the sunlight. The coyotes have left their mark. The little sparrows leave charming tracks. And then there’s me–frozen in indecision–do I really want to mar the beauty? What if I take a wrong step? What if my snow angel ends up unrecognizable because I’m a klutz hauling myself to an upright position?

 

That fresh new year use to find me creating a long list of resolution. But I stopped making resolutions years ago. I couldn’t take the discouragement January 15 brought when I looked back and saw the mess I’d made out of the New Year. There were no cute paths or snow angels, but a chaotic effort at creating change.

 

I appreciate all the tools out there to help set goals rather than resolutions, but I still struggle. I adore planners–to look at–not implement. I’m still looking for the perfect system that will help me corral all my thoughts and hopes and dreams and what I actually need to do in my actual life.

 

Psalm 33:17-18: “The war horse is false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.”

 

A fully trained warhorse in medieval times was able to carry a fully armored knight, respond to the legs of a rider rather than relying on the reigns, and bite and kick on command. In our times of modern weaponry, the idea of using a horse for war is incomprehensible, but they were part of the valuable team of horse and rider. A knight could not have accomplished what he did without his partner, the war horse.

 

You can imagine with me the deep reliance a knight or solder had on his horse. And how easy it would be to place their hope in this well-trained animal. One would feel invincible.

 

Sometimes, our systems and goals become our war horse. We begin to rely on the plans we have in place to carry us through. And plans, goals, and systems are good things, and we should discover what works for us so that we can fully step into God’s purpose for us. But those systems won’t save us. They cannot rescue us.

 

God can. Our hope needs to be placed in his steadfast love rather than our resolutions. Only his love can keep us secure when our plans fall down or a storm erupts in our life. Build your systems, but place your hope in God.

 

It is good and right to make plans. But when we turn to our goals to control our life, we have placed hope in the very thing that will disappoint us. Our goals then become a source of discouragement because goals cannot rescue us. Goals guide us because they become a tool that God uses to bring about his plans for our life.

 

Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Application:

 

1. Consider what’s going on in your life: are you caring for aging parents? raising a young family? juggling ministry and vocation? Your real life affects your goals.

 

2. Pray and seek God for his direction.

 

3. Choose 1 or 2 goals to work towards rather than half a dozen. It’s so tempting to wake up January 1 and decide that your life needs a revolution. And for some, this might be the year for that, but for other’s the revolution comes about in one small step at at time.

 

4. Make your plans, but let go. Let God establish you. Place your hope in him and not your effort.

 

How to Assure Your Heart of Peace

Peace seems fleeting and difficult to catch. It’s vapor and mist. I wonder what it would be like to know peace without having to wrestle for it? What happens when our days become night and what was once bright is now dark?

 

Our flesh may fail, but God never will. God’s plans will come to pass. We will know his healing for our brokenness. Once again our hearts will sing God’s praise. But what do we do in the meantime?

 

What do we do when we wait for God to move? Or when he does move, he moves us in the wrong direction?

 

His faithfulness is great. His steadfastness is consistent. He holds us in his hands and that is where our confidence, our peace, rests.

 

God guides us in ways that are for our best and for his glory. Hence, the struggle with peace. Sometimes it seems as though God is guiding us down a path that is not in our best interest. Then we stomp our feet, and attempt a detour, which sometimes lands us in the belly of a smelly fish.

 

After Egypt, the Israelites had cloud and fire. They only had to look up to be reassured of his presence. But I’m sure when they looked at their circumstances, they had to wonder. God took them down the desert road to freedom. Then he had them wander before leading them to the edge of the sea with their enemies behind them.

 

How many times do we want the direct route to a destination ordained by God? Yet, it seems as though we get sent down the desert road to wander here and there. We wonder if this is the best road.

 

We get so caught up in what is for our best that we forget that our lives are for God’s glory too. And a life for God’s glory may not always look like a “best” life on the outside. It just might mean tragedy, relationship aches, financial challenges, or dealing with personal wounds.

 

Finding peace in situations like these require us to look beyond our own capabilities within the circumstances and look straight at God.

 

It means coming to the complete, and total end, of ourselves and finding ourselves in the very best place to be: God’s heart.

 

He doesn’t fail you. Even when life is failing you, God is still for you. He holds you in his hands and cups you close to his heart. Can you hear it beating? It’s beating a rhythm of peace. It’s the whoosh-whooshing  sound of a heartbeat that bled and died and rose again for you.

 

That’s where you find peace. That’s the place where you can be in an awful situation, and still know God’s peace. It truly is the peace that passes all understanding.

 

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.

 

Peace comfort and guards. If we revisit the Israelites, we find that God battled on their behalf. He guarded their backs while he led the way through the sea. They acted confident until they had no where to go.

 

He knows what we need. Sometimes he calls us to the battle and other times he calls us to stand still. He knows when we’re acting confident, but inside we quiver like jello. Maybe the next time you feel that way, God is wanting you to be still so he can shock your socks off.

 

Peace comforts and guards. We reject his comfort because life hurts, and we don’t understand why God doesn’t just do something already. And when we step away from the comfort, we cannot know the protection peace brings us.

 

Life screams at us, but God whispers. Lean away from the scream and lean into the whisper. And when you lean into God, he will give you the strength to bring glory to him in your life.

 

Application

 

Write down one way that peace comforts.

Write down a way that peace guards.

Listen to Do It Again and think about the ways that God has shown up in your life.

The Battleground and the Peace Treaty We all Need

peace

 

The battleground holds secrets. Wind and rain unearth things best left buried. The battleground turns into a hiding ground, and more time is spent reburying things found rather than standing strong.

 

This battleground could be a physical battleground, but more often than not, it’s the battle in the mind.

 

It’s a battle that rages for peace. It reveals hidden things that I don’t want to address. The enemy reminds me of my failures and asks, “Are you sure God really forgives you?” He is an accuser and his weapons are accusations, shame, and deceit.

 

The wounds from these weapons are insecurity, doubt, and condemnation. I lie bleeding in the shadows and struggle to find healing. My peace is stolen and I spend more time negotiating with the enemy than I do standing firm in the truth of God.

 

What if we were to stop giving the enemy so much power in our life? What if we quit negotiating or arguing?

 

There are two common responses in conflict: denial and blame. The innocent victim who denies any wrong doing. And the counter-attack, which says, “Well, you . . .” and blames the other for the wrong doing. Isn’t it easy to do this with our enemy? He throws a grenade and it explodes with a reminder of our failures. Do we play the innocent victim or counter-attack?

 

What if there was a way to diffuse the situation and still retain your peace?

 

The next time you’re faced with a reminder of your failure, take a moment to remember your failure and then re-remember the forgiveness God poured out to you. Sometimes we don’t like any reminders of our shame and failures, and so we hide them from others and ourselves.

 

This places us in a glass castle. It’s dangerous and not safe.

 

It leads to pride and works and hate. It robs us of compassion for others and gratefulness for forgiveness.

 

The story from Luke of the sinful woman bringing her expensive alabaster jar to anoint Jesus’ feet and then wiping them with her hair is a beautiful picture of the power that remembering brings to our lives. Our hearts soften in remembering our forgiveness.  A tender heart is one that knows the depth of its forgiveness.

 

A tender heart also knows peace.

 

When the enemy hits you with accusations, remember rather than fight. Remember and reject the condemnation.

 

Remember that God has forgiven you. Remember how he turned your darkness into redemption. Feel the forgiveness again. And as you feel the pain of remembering and remind yourself of God’s forgiveness, peace will flood your soul.

 

Application

 

Read Luke 7:36-50

 

Write the following on a 3×5 card:

I,(Your name here), hereby declare peace in my heart and mind.  When the accuser wounds, I will acknowledge the pain and re-remember the forgiveness God granted. I will walk in peace in my mind and my heart, knowing that God forgives so that I might know peace.

Sign your name and hang it up in a prominent spot.

 

You see, the risk a glass castle on a battleground brings is separation from the power of God in your life. God calls your name and when you stand firm in the peace he gives you, which comes through remembering his forgiveness, you become strong in your vulnerability.

 

Listen to Stars.

 

 

 

 

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I write to encourage you that you can experience a vibrant, transformative relationship with God even if your past or your shame tells you otherwise. God invites you upward and onward, will you join me? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox. By subscribing you'll receive my 7-Day Devotional, Kicking Perfect, as a thank-you gift from me!

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