Can Persecution be a Good Thing?

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 99,650 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

In our current promotion the winner will be the person who is the 100,000th subscriber will win some nice prizes. We are down to the last 350. It will go very fast. This is a huge milestone for us. 

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Look for updates here.

UPDATE!!  In the final stages of having the book finished. Much of it is already sent off to my editor. The countdown begins!!

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We have a special guest blogger today. Taylor Wilkins ison staff for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. FCA is reaching out to the local high schools in my area, and Taylor (with God) is the reason for all of its success. This post will show you why.

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Signs of Hope- The Honor of Persecution

“they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” -Revelation 12:10-11

Have you ever been put down, persecuted, or physically abused for your belief?

I’m sure to some extent all of us have experienced this; but for most of us, we don’t consider persecution a blessing—At least not yet!

Throughout this past week God has been highlighting to me Persecution. In John 15:20 Jesus tells his followers; “no servant is greater than his master, if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” and again in John 16:33 Jesus says; “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As I asked God to search me and show me the places in my life that need to grow, the fear of persecution has been revealed to me as a weakness. This is not good because this causes a compromise in my obedience to the Holy Spirit’s voice and leading in my walk with him.

The reason to fear persecution usually comes from a lack of understanding about the treasure behind it. Jesus says that blessed are you when you are persecuted for my names sake. Even when the world comes against us for our faith we are blessed by our father in heaven. The weight of being persecuted by man compared to being blessed by God is of no comparison, yet we often fear the latter!

It could be that what I’ve been describing above is resonating with you—or maybe you have been abused for things completely unrelated to faith. We live in a world that often tears people down better then it builds them up. Your story could be of broken trust, abuse, bullying, an affair, sexual abuse, or abusive parents. My heart breaks thinking of the terrible things that are happening to wonderful innocent people—and often the ones who can’t defend themselves. If your story of persecution is along these lines, I want you to know it is the glory of God to redeem that which was lost. God has been through everything with you and he will not let your tears fall to the ground unnoticed. He loves you, and He will redeem your life.

Today this is a Sign of Hope, that no matter the circumstance you are in, or the breakthrough you need, God is near to you and He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Taylor Wilkins

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

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Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all….never, ever, give up!

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Forgiveness Refused

What is going through the mind of Judas? Why does Judas continue with his sin? Why doesn’t he seek a way out, a reversal, redemption…why? Because, he believes in the lie that he is not worthy of redemption, He feels this before the death of Jesus, He feels this after the death of Jesus and he becomes a man scorned. His name is synonymous with betrayal of the worst kind. We think of Judas as a man without hope, who had no chance, who was simply caught by the hand of fate. But to believe that is to believe the lie. Judas could have turned to Jesus Christ at any time, He could have turned that night at the table – or at any time after. The blood of Jesus covers any, and all, sin. 

Have you ever thought of how different things would be if Judas had asked for forgiveness, if Judas had been able to see through the lie? Probably nine out of ten churches would have Judas Iscariot in their name. Judas would probably be the most popular name for baby boys. The name of Judas would be held in high honor. Every town in America would have a Judas Iscariot boulevard. Colleges and Seminaries would bear his name, “Judas Iscariot Theological Seminary”, “The University of Judas Iscariot”. Even day care centers would jump in on the action, “Iscariot Children’s Academy”. He for sure would have been the most powerful of all the disciples in terms of witness and preaching. Imagine, meeting the man who betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ, who would stand before you – forgiven. How powerful is that? People would flock to hear him. People would weep in astonishment at his witness. Judas would be the rock star of the twelve, the most studied, the most celebrated and the most loved….but, instead, he is loathed and despised. He believes in a lie – he believes that he is not redeemable. What a waste of such great potential.

You are worthy of redemption. You are worthy of the blood of the lamb. You are worthy of the bread of life. Don’t you ever forget – you are worthy. 

We are worthy, but not because of what we have done, we are worthy, but not because of our birth, we are worthy, but not because of some spirituality we can produce – no, we are worthy, because Jesus Christ has deemed us worthy, and by acceptance of Him as God, Lord and Savior we are promise a covenant of redemption

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My Journey to the Cross – My Story

People have dealt with the issue of addictions since they were created. Addictions and acting out based on compulsions, has existed since Adam and Eve could not stop themselves from eating of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden. I personally believe that God’s banning of Adam and Eve from the Garden was done out of love not punishment. He knew how compulsive humans were, and that we could not resist the temptation to eat also of the tree of life. Giving us a never ending life of grieve and guilt. Even in the time of Christ, that God Himself walked with us, I have little doubt addictions were an issue for many. After all He did come to deliver us from ourselves and the sin that existed within. But I cannot imagine the addictions being as rampant and blatant as they are today.

Two thousand years have passed. But some things have not changed. Sin is still destroying lives on a daily, even hourly basis. And Jesus is still redeeming them … one at a time.

My story is more intriguing than some, and less so than others; it is more tragic than many, yet less tragic than a great many more. I have journeyed down the path of despair that makes suicide seem a very reasonable path to relief.

I volunteer and speak in recovery centers, working with those who share my disease. I know how we think and how we feel. I know how lonely we can be, even in a room full of people. The way we think and respond is a baffling one, even to trained professionals who might have considerable “book knowledge” regarding addiction. If you’re not “wired” like an addict, it can be hard, if not impossible, to figure us out. We’re a special breed and makeup. Our healing must come to us in a special way.

It’s the story of a modern-day prodigal son, through which, I hope others will see through the eyes of my journey a version of their own, and learn that while they may have felt desperately alone they have never been truly alone. God has been there walking with them, even carrying them at times.

Perhaps a few others will find something here that might stir something within them. Because, when all is said and done, we have a choice of what we listen for and what we dream and envision for ourselves.

Ultimately, we’re the same, you and I, and this is in a way, a story about each of us, about our brokenness, and our humanness. All of us have wounds. Wounds that need to be healed. Wounds that only God can heal.

At some point in our lives, many of us find ourselves lost.

For some, it’s a feeling of emptiness, or lack of purpose. For others, it’s a deep loneliness, and an overwhelming sense of separation, and of not belonging, even in a crowd. Some of us have been struck down by loss, and struggle every waking moment with depression and grief that relentlessly presses down on us and won’t let up. All of these feelings are very real, and indeed are part of the very fabric of what we call Life. But many of us find that we cannot face the pain. At least not alone and we should not have to.

Often, we can turn to addictions as a temporary escape. And the deeper we fall into this false reality, the more lost we become. Eventually we become completely convinced that we’re no good, that we’re not worth saving . . . no one could love us now. Not even God. So the cycle of addiction begins…

In recovery, we learn how to see ourselves as God sees us. We work to dispel the lies we have told ourselves that keep us in bondage to guilt, shame and fear. Once we’re past some of the deep toxicity that blinds our ability to see ourselves clearly, God can begin His healing work. The journey back from so many years of self-deception can be long and difficult, and we can rarely accomplish such a thing alone.

I’m not really sure how I became lost in the first place. And I’m even more confused about how I found my way out of the storm and ended up back where I started, at the foot of His cross, alive and breathing again. But somehow, somewhere along the way, the person I had always assumed myself to be was lost, left somewhere along the way, and I discovered inside my skin a stranger, bloodied and confused. From that moment on, I have had to re-learn my life—and perhaps even some purpose for it—one awkward day at a time. It’s not easy, accepting something as precious as Grace.

For a while I tried to go my own way . But I never dreamed I could travel so far away from God’s love, Grace and mercy. I knew it was killing me from the start, but it took a while for others to see it and even longer for me to admit it. It cost me everything, like my family and friends. It almost cost me my life. My dreams disappeared somewhere in the abyss.

Today, I’m thankful for the only thing God left me with, my life. He also left me with the only thing that could change me, me.

There were inherent consequences to the path that I chose for myself. The path I chose for myself over the last few years, prior to turning back to Christ stripped me of any vision for a future, much less any thought of standing in front of others one day, explaining how my life has changed. I was separated from the will of God. I became a liar, a manipulator, a sneak and just untrustworthy. I could talk the talk, but my walk was crippled. I had broken my own legs. I began to allow myself to believe that it was okay to live this life. I was full of shame before my family, friends, and others. I was humiliated. I lost my wife. I lost respect, honor, and trust from many people.

To put it simply, I lied and God came in right behind me and shed His light on my deceit. I was trapped in a world that I created for myself. I drowned the voice, power, and authority of God out of my life. No voice, no direction.

I had lost all hope of regaining what I had lost. Hope is one of the few things that humans just can’t live without. Knowing how dependent we are on hope God calls it the “anchor of the Soul.”

I now regret well, you probably do too, we have all experienced times when we wish we could erase the sins and failures impressed in our minds, by are inherent bad choices. Often, we find ourselves in difficult situations that escalate and spiral out of our control. No more so than when we think we are in control.

Years after the Apostle Paul became a child of God, he still regretted that he had persecuted Christians. (1 Tim. 1:12-15). He couldn’t undo the past, and he didn’t try. Instead he devoted himself to do God’s will and the Lord used him in a mighty way. Paul reminds me that past mistakes need not ruin our lives – even when we can’t do anything to undo them.

I realize that I can’t forget my past completely. The philosopher George Santayana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. My journey back to faith has been a dangerous one. As with all long journeys, the scenery has at times been less than pretty. For some of us, a glance back over the last several years is not pleasant. We have done and said some things we regret. We might feel guilt and remorse about some choices we’ve made. Often we try to sweep our mistakes under the rug rather than deal with them directly and realistically.

However, God doesn’t let us get away with that. He knows that if we fail to deal properly with our sin, it will continue to have negative consequences throughout the remainder of our lives. God wants us to take individual ownership of our failures and pay personal attention to the details of repentance.

He wants me to dig deeper, and look harder, and stop pretending the healing is complete. Perhaps He longs for each of us to pause on the trails of our past, and listen for the messages hidden in our history. It’s how we unlock the mystery of our memories—taking a hard, long look at our lives, staring our wounds right in the eye, without blinking, until we find ourselves face to face with Him. We resist, of course, for as long as we’re willing to put up with the lingering pain. But eventually the Truth will just literally beat us down, if we’re willing. And we can’t keep our backs turned on God forever.

So I go back there, and look for the things God would have me never forget. The things I must never forget.

This is simply a story about remembering, and forgetting. It’s about how God wondrously merges both together into something that ultimately makes some sense of our lives.

I have to remember my past so that my perspectives are realistic and support the actions of my past. I have to look at my past to remember other’s attitudes and actions, the majority of the time, are justified by the actions of my past. People have a right to feel how they feel, because I did what I did.
I am thankful, at least in some degree, that I went through it. My past is what changed my future and brought me to a place where God wanted me to be. The purpose of God in all His dealings with sinners is not their condemnation and destruction, but rather their restoration and recovery. This is the sphere in which the Lord Jesus Christ excels—and He does that as much in the realm of addictions as in any other. Indeed, so great is His work of forgiveness, recovery, and restoration that the new thing He produces out of the wreckage of our sin after we have repented is sometimes better and sweeter than the original thing we so grievously spoiled

One of my problems was that I kept adjusting my life and my plans. The real problem was that I was the one in need of adjusting. God has never and will never adjust His plans for my life – He’s had the same plan for my life since the beginning. I slowly adjusted myself right out of His will and Purpose for my life. There are days when it is really impossible to see any good that stems from my past difficulties. Yet I know that in time and in God’s grace, I will comprehend His loving provision and His will in the aftermath of the situations.

Past circumstances are not as bad as they first seem. Life can be trying to say the least. We all face circumstances that overwhelm us —It is easy at times to lose sight of the fact that God has all knowledge and all wisdom and may lead us down paths that ultimately bring us great blessing. But it may not be without pain and struggle….

Most of us walk out before the miracle happens…..

My past has taught me and I’ve heard it said “You will never realize that Jesus is all you need until you realize He is all you have”

God has given me a chance not only to find myself, as the prodigal son did, but to restore a relationship I walked away from a long time ago. A relationship with Christ. I’m proof that there is an endless space between having the knowledge of Christ and the application of that knowledge. Knowledge has never been a problem for me, but the application stopped me most of my life from achieving what God has for me. It still stops me at times today. Don’t let it stop you. 

“We all mess up” is what I fed myself, and I can always ask for forgiveness, until forgiveness didn’t seem important, and it became, “I am going to live my life.” God showed me how in need of Him I was, I am, and I ALWAYS will be. My response was reluctant but needy. He had me right where He wanted me, at the end of myself. I was completely lost and had nowhere to go. It felt like no one understood. I was in a matrix and He was the only one that could guide me out. So I slowly, but surely, ran to His grace.

By virtue of the Cross, our past destructiveness has been forgiven and forgotten; God has already forgiven us. Now, the challenge is to forgive ourselves. Today I look at life with a perspective, an attitude, a frame of mind that sees life, not as something to be endured or survived but lived.

Nowhere is the grace that “forgives the messers and unmesses the mess” more clearly seen than in the history of David. His story is given on the pages of Scripture not so much to show a king who sordidly sinned but a God who wondrously forgave and restored

So here I am now with some time in recovery, refereeing a daily battle between the still-struggling part of me that constantly craves attention, and another part that desperately dreads drawing any more notice to myself. A certain part of me has always fully expected to be somebody, somebody important. And yet, I’m often desperately lonely and full of fear, constantly seeking approval, hopelessly hoping that someone might find something within me worth loving. It’s a vicious cycle, this all-or-nothing, warp-speed or dead-stop, top-of-the-heap or bottom-of-the-barrel kind of living. So these days, I’ve had to learn to reach out for help, and tell a others the truth about myself, at least as much truth as I’m able to understand. When I do, I find that I’m able to stay marginally sane.

What an encouragement to any man today that is walking a difficult path because of the consequences of his past wrongdoing! Such a man may have even greater cause for confidence in the God of grace than David, because he can see that Jesus died for him and that His blood is sufficient to cleanse every stain and remove completely the element of guilt over what has happened. There need be therefore no further self-recrimination, no sense that God is taking a stick to him, but rather that God is on the side of the contrite one, making something new and beautiful out of the confusion he has caused. As He did with David, God is using the intervening trials and disciplines as a means to hasten him on the path of sainthood and submission to Himself. I have been blessed and benefited by obeying God in that – I AM FREE! I am no longer held captive to self. God has shown me the freedom that I am able to walk in. I knew that once I was saved, I should have been walking in that freedom, but I allowed lies to penetrate my heart. I can now say that I am tempted like a normal guy I have a desire to follow Christ and daily grow to be more like Him. I have a hunger that leads me daily to seek God and His will for my life. I can be transparent. I still have some confessions to make for clear conscience sake, but I’m doing those day by day. I am thoroughly experiencing the freedom that transparency and death-to-pride brings. God is blessing me. 

The faithfulness of my walk with God in the next year and the next decades depends on my willingness to stay current with God. Tto stay in a relationship with Him, is a paramount priority in my life, less I return to my past. I never want to lose the grip God has on my life and the amazing privilege it is to be in relationship with Him and to faithfully serve Him till the day I am welcomed into His presence. The last thing I want to do is crawl across the finish line a defeated, derailed Christian, or worse, give up the race before my life is over. I want to break that tape with arms high and my face to the sun and say with the apostle Paul, “I have finished the course; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 3:7).

The “hole in our soul” into which we vainly throw the methods of our addictions and everything else imaginable into, can only be filled by Him. And when that happens, life truly begins. It was hard for me to say “No” to the bad, until I had first said “yes” to something better. Believe me Jesus Christ and the life He promises is so much “Better”. My goal today is to provide my children something “better” to which they can say yes. I hope my story helps. The challenge really belongs to you, and no one else. Only you can make these choices, and face the consequences of those choices. But with help, you can do it.

You know, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John aren’t the only versions of the Gospel that is available. Every Christian has his or her own version to tell. It is written in their own language, viewpoint and style—written by the very words we use and the very actions we display, on a daily basis. I wonder, what does the Gospel according to YOU say to those around you? Does it tell the story of Jesus? Does it share His love? Does it point to His gift of salvation? Does it agree with the other Gospels?

Or, does it neglect to tell the story of Jesus? Does it neglect to share His love with others? Is it quite about the gift of Salvation? Do the things your life says and does conflict with God’s Word in the Gospels and the rest of the Bible?

Our very lives are OUR version of the Gospel. In fact, for some people, we may be the only glimpse of Jesus that they ever see. Some people may never open the door of a church, but they will see our lives displayed at work. Some people may never hear a pastor share the Good News, but they can see and hear it lived out in our own actions. Some people will never read Matthew, Mark, Luke or John’s version of the Gospel….but they will read how the Gospel according to you or I appearing in our actions and words. So I wonder, what does the Gospel according to YOU say to those around you?
“It’s been said that Life is the best teacher; unfortunately it kills most of its pupils.”

The time God gives us is a precious gift; I gave most of mine to the wrong things in life. Your time is your own, please use it wisely. You may not pass this way again.
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