Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stepping into Abundant Living.L5.SANITY & TRUST


Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
 4Blessed are those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted. 
GNB – Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

This “mourning” must not be taken loosely for that feeling which is wrung from men under pressure of the ills of life, nor yet strictly for sorrow on account of committed sins. Evidently it is that entire feeling which the sense of our spiritual poverty begets; and so the second beatitude is but the complement of the first. The one is the intellectual, the other the emotional aspect of the same thing. It is poverty of spirit that says, “I am undone”; and it is the mourning which this causes that makes it break forth in the form of a lamentation—“Woe is me! for I am undone.”

Our attitude toward our sins (vv. 4–6). We mourn/ lament over sin and despise it. We see sin the way God sees it and seek to treat it the way God does. Those who cover sin or defend sin certainly have the wrong attitude. We should not only mourn over our sins, but we should also meekly submit to God (see Luke 18:9–14; Phil. 3:1–14). [1]
They that mourn (πενθοντες). Signifying grief manifested; too deep for concealment. Hence it is often joined with κλαίειν, to weep audibly (Mark 16:10; James 4:9).[2]
Sorrow should make us look for the heart and hand of God and so find the comfort latent in the grief.

Principle    come to believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me overcome the lack of stability / unmanageability/ insanity in my life.

There are 4 parts to this principle that we need to apply to our life circumstances:  Coming to believe….
1.    God exists, not only that but…..
2.    I matter to Him
3.    He has the power to restore me to sanity & stability…and….
4.    He will, if I let Him…

Let’s start by defining ‘insanity’ ….
“Anything I do or think that is destructive to me or to my relationships with other people or with God is a kind of insanity, especially when I keep doing it month after month, year after year” ~J. Keith Miller, A Hunger for Healing

Sanity is defined as “soundness of mind”. What would it be like to have ‘soundness of mind’?  What are the things we do that do not reflect soundness of mind or insanity?
Some of us use mood/ mind altering substances (alcohol, nicotine, drugs, inappropriately used prescription meds, porn, even food, etc) or perhaps we use controlling behaviors (manipulation, threats, avoidance). If we do, the outcome is always predictable: more chaos

Would you put money in a bank that advertised, “your money is as safe with us as a wave tossed back and forth”?  Or.. would you be more comfortable with a bank whose slogan read:  “anchor yourself to our bank, we have your interest at heart”? The Christian concept of trust is not merely a wishful attitude, but a confident expectation.    Waves/ storms of life arise and threaten us.   But as the anchor is cast through the waters into a dark and unseen place and keeps the vessel from being overwhelmed, so must our trust be focused on the invisible God. 

We learned last week that Hope draws its power from a deep trust in God!
Hope:  “to desire something with confidence of fulfillment.  Positive expectation..

Sounds a lot like faith & trust doesn’t it?  As we consider God restoring us.. and ‘coming to believe’… some things are easy to believe. It is easy for many of us to believe that God will punish us, or maybe that He is displeased with us or He even dislikes us. What is more difficult is to believe that God is willing, available and longs to restore us. He loves us. He is powerful but we somehow fear He will use His power to hurt us or punish us rather than help us. These distortions make it difficult to trust and accept His help. So… in this part of our journey we must face those beliefs and begin the process of learning that God is ‘for us’ and not against us. He is who He says He is in the Word.


As part of the act of faith by which a person establishes a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, trust is placed in the ability of Jesus Christ to restore the broken relationship between God and sinful man.  Once Christ has been received as Lord and Savior, the believer begins to develop the confidence and trust in God to fulfill all the promises which Scripture makes to the maturing Christian.

Why can we trust Him?

1. We can trust God because He always tells the truth...

“He has given us both his promise and his oath, two things we can completely count on, for it is impossible for God to tell a lie.  Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.” Hebrews 6:18 TLB

“God will continue to be true even when every person is false.”  Romans 3:4 NCV

2. We can trust God because He loves us...

“We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly.  God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.  And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete, so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy because he loves us and we love him too.  We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us.  So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first.”  1 John 4:16-19 TLB

“Many sorrows come to the wicked, but abiding love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.”  Psalm 32:10 TLB

3. We can trust God because He is in control...
“May the God of peace himself make you entirely pure and devoted to God; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept strong and blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes back again.  God, who called you to become his child, will do all this for you, just as he promised.”  1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 TLB

“We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him.  They are the people he called, because that was his plan.”  Romans 8:28 NCV

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

4. We can trust God because He will help us in times of trouble...
“In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.  Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom.  Instead, trust and reverence the Lord, and turn your back on evil; when you do that, then you will be given renewed health and vitality.”  Proverbs 3:5-6 TLB

“But remember this - - the wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different.  Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you.  And no temptation is irresistible.  You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says.  He will show you how to escape temptation’s power so that you can bear up patiently against it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13 TLB

WE can trust that God has the power to help us. We learned that in our lesson a couple of weeks ago. However… we must ‘come to believe’ it for ourselves personally. Just like the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11-32), we have to have enough faith to begin the journey home – home to the love, compassion and help of our Father. We don’t need some sophisticated theology or years of Bible training to ‘come to believe’, we simply trust with what little we have and begin the walk – the step at a time trusting in a power greater than ourselves and believing we WILL be healed, changed, restored.

God restores…. Restores and brings freedom!

Psalm 107:13-16

New International Version (NIV)
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them(A) from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness,(B) the utter darkness,(C)
    and broke away their chains.(D)
15 Let them give thanks(E) to the Lord for his unfailing love(F)
    and his wonderful deeds(G) for mankind,
16 for he breaks down gates of bronze
    and cuts through bars of iron.



1.   Is mourning a reality for you right now in your life (mourning/ lamenting over sin/ insanity in your life)?  If not, do you remember a time when it was – what / how did God bring comfort to you?
2.   There are 4 parts to this principle – which part do you find you have the most difficulty with?
§        God exists
§        I matter to Him
§        He has the power to restore me to sanity & stability
§        He will, if I let Him
3.   How’s your trust level in God? What area of your life are you finding it most difficult to trust Him in?
4.   What steps will you take this week to develop trust or step out in trust/ faith?

[1]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Mt 5:1
[2]Vincent, Marvin Richardson: Word Studies in the New Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002, S. 1:36

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stepping Into Abundant Living.L4.HOPE with Robbie Sedgeman

Hope in Christ

Over the past few weeks, we have taken the difficult step of facing some of the issues or behaviors that are negatively impacting our lives.  We strived to face them head-on and admit to ourselves that certain areas of our lives are unmanageable – that we can’t handle them on our own. 

How important it is at this juncture to be able to see just a little bit into the future!  That is because in the future there is hope.  To face the issues and realize we cannot handle them is a crucial first step toward resolving them.   But to stay there would be unbearable.  That may be one reason why some people are so reluctant to face their problems – they have no hope, no rescuer, no savior.  Why face problems that can never be resolved?  If there is no solution, than staying in denial is not a bad option.

But there is a solution – in the form of a person.  Last week Lillian said that power – real power to overcome the issues in our lives – has a name:  El Shaddai.  And where there is power, there is possibility for change.  And where there is possibility for change, there is hope.  Indeed, hope also has a name:  Jesus.

Our powerlessness is the genesis of our hope
Deep down in our hearts we know that we cannot change on our own.  If we could change, we would have done so already.  But acknowledging our powerlessness is a scary proposition because it prompts the next logical question:  ‘Is there a way for me to change if I cannot cause that change?’  An answer of ‘no’ to that question causes devastation. 

Over a decade ago, I pondered that question, at least in its essence.  The agony of my heart cried out, ‘Help me, God, if you are there!’  I had accepted Jesus as my eternity-savior long before that, but I had not allowed him to be the leader of my life in the here and now.  I cried out to God while I was on a calm and peaceful beach in the beautiful island of Aruba.  From an on-looker’s perspective my life was going well.  My husband and I had achieved a level of success at work and our finances reflected that.  I was living in a large home with new cars in the garage and expensive jewelry in my jewelry box.  We traveled to far-away places and enjoyed the varied pleasures of leisure. 

Yet something was missing.  No matter how much I accomplished or what I acquired or experienced, there was a deep emptiness inside me.  On this particular trip to Aruba – our third visit – I found myself wandering down to the beach each evening while my husband and friends were engaged elsewhere.  It is my nature to want some alone-time, so I would excuse myself, walk to the beach, pull a lounge chair close to the water and listen to the waves coming in.  There were so many activities in the evening that the beach was deserted except for an occasional walker or wondering dog.

Perhaps it was the sereneness of the scene that highlighted the turmoil in my soul.  The emptiness inside of me bubbled up and I realized that nothing would bring me joy or contentment.  I knew for a fact that nothing would bring me fulfillment:  not another promotion, not another raise, not a bigger house and not even another vacation.  Here I was, in one of the most beautiful places in the world and I did not have peace.  It was then that I realized that absolutely nothing in this world could fill me.  Since I had experienced new places numerous times, I knew that if I went to a new destination, the initial joy would quickly fade.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that emptiness would re-surface, as surely hunger pains re-surface hours after enjoying a full and satisfying full meal.

That was my bottom.  I realized I was powerless to create an environment that would bring peace to my soul.  I had no hope.  And I realized that nothing in this world could fill me.  My reaction to that realization was to cry out to the only thing outside of this world:  God.  With the waves gently lapping the shore, I poured my heart out to God.  I literally cried out for his help, night after night. 

1 Samuel 7:6 speaks of the Israelites pouring out water before the Lord as they fasted and confessed.  They were in a time of crisis and had turned away from God.  They poured out water to both symbolize and emphasize how they were emptying themselves and returning to God’s sovereignty.  It symbolizes pouring out your heart in repentance and humility.   

A woman named Hannah is also written of in 1 Samuel.  She is a barren woman who desperately desires a child.  In 1 Samuel 1:15, she tells the priest that she ‘was pouring out my soul to the Lord.”  Psalm 62:8 says “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”   Have you poured out the cries of your heart to him?  It is when you do, in the humility of knowing he is able and you are not, that the seed of hope is planted in your heart.

God answered my cries in the coming months by directing me to Lifecare, where I began the journey of laying down my will and learning his ways of living.  It was at the depth of my mourning that I obtained hope – the hope that God exists, that I matter to him and that he can help me. 

Hope defined
I now see that the realization of my powerlessness was the foundation of my hope for change.  I come to the end of any ‘wish’ that I could produce my own peace.  I remember thinking, ‘I’ll give God a try.  There is no other hope.’  And the hope I attained was not the hope we so casually speak of.  We often use the word “hope” interchangeably with the word “wish.”  But biblical hope is not a wish or a desire.  Biblical hope is the confident assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown.  Hope in God is not wishing for change.  It is the confident expectation of change.  It is a firm assurance of change - even if the path is unclear and unknown.  

Strength to continue on
It is hope that gives us the ability to continue on in the face of struggles and difficulties.  “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4   We are not happy because we are going through the struggle.  But when we mourn – when we acknowledge our lack and our inability to fix ourselves – it is then that we truly cry out to God and attain the comfort of hope for change.  That is the comfort:  the firm assurance that change will come.  Hope comforts us by anticipating a positive change.

And that positive change toward abundant living is driven by this principle:  earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover.  This principle drives us to pour out our hearts to him and to cry to him for help.  It will also further us on our road of recovery from life’s challenges.

How do you perceive God?
At this point, our journey toward abundant living is hindered only by our perception of God.  What you believe about God can impact your ability to embrace his hope.  We will explore some areas of belief about God that may be preventing you from fully embracing the positive change that God offers.

God is all knowing and all powerful – ‘Everything comes from God alone.  Everything lives by his power.’  Romans 11:36.  God created all things, so he knows the inner workings of your heart and the circumstances of your life better than you do.  It is by his power that he sustains the smallest of bugs and the sun in the sky.  He has the ability to work out the changes needed in your life.

God is faithful – ‘I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.’  Philippians 1:6.  We tend to let each other down.  Even our best efforts can run dry due to the ‘human-ness’ to which we are bound.  Sometimes we fail others because of forgetfulness or weariness.  Other times we are injured or in some other way hindered from following through on our promises.  But God never forgets, never tires and is always able to help us.  God keeps his promises even when we cannot.

God can use anything to change us – We usually have very specific ways of accomplishing a task.  It could be how we grow herbs in a garden, how we brush our teeth, how we fold a towel or how we help others.  We are limited by time, space, our intellects and the limits of our imagination.  But God can use anything to help us – and he does!   ‘2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is enough for you; for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.”   God can use any circumstance for his purpose.  And his intellectual prowess so surpasses ours that he can even use the very things that hinder us in order to bring about our healing!

God is not your earthly parent - Our parents, especially our fathers, have a major impact on our perception of God.  It is worthwhile to examine your view of your father and ponder whether or not you impose those views on God.  Our parents are human and will fail us, but God’s love is perfect and his tender care never fails.  Psalm 27:10 in the International Standard versions says, “Though my father and my mother abandoned me, the Lord gathers me up.”  In the New Living translation, it says “…the Lord will hold me close.”  Those who were suppose to care for us may have failed at times, but God never will!

Do you believe he is willing to help you?
A final question to ponder over the coming week is perhaps the most personal of all:  Do you believe God is willing to change you?   He has the power.  He has the ability.  Do any of these thoughts creep into your mind?
  • I’ve seen him heal others, but it’s not for me
  • My problems are too small for him to bother with
  • I don’t have enough faith for him to work with
  • I’m so awful, how could he love me?

There are a thousand other thoughts that could cross your mind to tell you are not significant enough or loveable enough for God to help.  The book by Robert McGee, The Search for Significance, has a wonderful subtitle: Seeing Your True Worth Through God's Eyes.  Many of us resist or miss out on God’s help because we do not know our true worth in his sight.  Consider Psalm 56:8 over the coming week:  “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”  Others may feel uncomfortable around your sadness because they do not know how to respond or it triggers their own sadness or they simply do not have time.  But you are so precious to God that he carefully collects your tiers.  The One who so lovingly gathers your pain will certainly stay with you as you walk through your sorrows to healing.  Trust in Him this week.  He alone is worthy.

Group Work

  1. Discuss the definition of hope – not a wish, but a confident expectation of the unknown or unseen or unfathomable.
  2. Are you struggling with your perception of God in any of the areas discussed:  (1) he is all knowing and all powerful  (2) he is faithful  (3) he can use anything to change you (4) he is not the same as your earthly parent or role model.   Explain.
  3. Have you embraced the fact that he wants to help you – that he loves you tremendously?
  4. In what areas of your life are you now ready to let God help you.  Or…are you willing to give one of your problems to God…to place it in his hands to resolve in his time and way?