GOODBYE MARTINIS — HELLO HOLY SPIRIT

God’s Word (Eccl. 3:11) tells us that our Creator has placed an emptiness in our lives that only He can fill satisfactorily, yet so many people choose instead to fill that hole with substitutes: alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, risk-taking, or other addictions such as excess work, service, exercise, or pleasure. He invites us to exchange our demons for His refreshing peace (Matt. 11:28). Here’s one man’s tale of redemption from blessed Martinis to blessed Holy Spirit.

Prov. 23:35 (NKJV): “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

Rom. 8:6 (NLT): “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

Phil. 4:7 (CSB): “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

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MARTINIS ARE OUT; HOLY SPIRIT IS IN

FOR MOST OF MY LIFE, I lived without the Holy Spirit in my heart. I did not know the Lord in a personal way. 

IF I WORSHIPPED anything besides myself, it was an extra dry Bombay gin Martini, with properly chilled glass and garnished with a queen-sized olive.CHILLED_MARTINI

When I went to church, which was rare, it was more out of a sense of duty than of worship … and it certainly was not to offer thanksgiving or repent of sin!

Mostly, I slobbered over young attractive women, especially the ones who sat in church without a boyfriend groping at them throughout the service. I was a strong proponent of immodest clothing and loved watching the women play with their hair. 

For 20 years, comprising the time of my first marriage through the wilderness of divorce, I was a “devout Unitarian Universalist,” if there was such a thing. Once I became convinced the UU church was a dead end, I left … and I struggled some more.

DROWNING MY DEMONS

WHEN MY DEMONS became too numerous to handle, I turned to alcohol to deaden the pain. Frankly, that happened every day.

That was an “easy fix,” and, over the decades, I became very adapt at maintaining an adequate supply of gin and vermouth and olives, chilling my glasses to keep them at the ready, then chilling the gin in easy-to-pour bottles so I would not have to waste time mixing the liquid with ice cubes. Even the vermouth was stored in  the refrigerator. I never ran out of olives. 54. Broken-Heart-Hand

Within minutes of arriving home after work, I could fix a strong drink even during winter months when that drink would be made before I took off my coat and scarf.

As time went out, year after year, my life turned downhill, and my future turned bleaker. 

In lucid moments, before the sweet relief of alcohol dulled my senses, I looked into the crystal ball of looming retirement and could only see blackness — a broken man, solitary, with minimal funds, and no hope.

TURNING A CORNER

IN NOVEMBER 2006, my life’s journey turned a corner. I met a single woman for lunch, and she asked me, “Ward, do you have a church home?” I said I did not. She then gave me a testimony regarding the importance of church.

As she talked, I determined to try church provided it could be with her. She allowed me at first before ditching me because I was not a Christian. I left her church for another one and two years later met a woman who led me to yet a third church.

There, I met the Holy Spirit.47.Changed Hearts

Everything from the friendliness of the worshippers to the welcome coffee in the atrium to the upbeat praise and worship music to the doctrinally sound pastor’s message showed me a vision of God that I had never seen before.

Yet, through my stubbornness, it still took me another two years — four years from the time I was asked about having a church home — before I turned my life over to Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit into my heart.  That was November 2010 — 10 years ago this month. Happy Anniversary to me!

I begged Him to do what He long wanted to do — captain my life, steer me in the right direction, and restore love and peace to my troubled soul.

That day merely began the course correction. 

COMPLETE OVERHAUL UNDERWAY

THE LORD IMMEDIATELY went to work, healing my brokenness and giving me hope for a future, not just in this world but, more importantly, in the world of eternity.

Yes, wouldn’t you know, His first order of business was to convict me of alcohol abuse and encourage me, and then demand of me, that I stop drinking altogether. 

67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllThat involved another three-year struggle, but He won that battle, and now I’m free of the devil’s solution to my emptiness. At the same time, He introduced me to a Christian woman, who became my wife.

As each day, week, month, and year passes, I learn more and  more about God’s promises and how He wants to lead me (and all of His children) into an abundant life (John 10:10b).

Today’s text source speaks volumes into my heart. My sinful nature was leading me into death, and God’s Holy Spirit was the rescue mission to redeem me.

The Lord’s love for His children gives meaning to my life in a way that I never could have imagined before surrendering my will for my life to His will for my life. 

His Spirit fills my heart with joy even when I’m hurting. Even though I am not always happy or content, I am always joyful.

HEALING EVERYONE’S HEART

BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR HEART?

Do you fill the empty spaces with something other than God’s Holy Spirit? 

It could be alcohol … or it could be something else … illegal drugs, promiscuous sex, uncontrolled gambling, pursuit of pleasure, excessive devotion to work or service projects or exercise or children’s activities … anything that takes the place of our loving God.

image-14If so, remember that God said anything that takes His place in our hearts is wrong and sinful: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 NET) 

Yes, filling that place God intended for Himself to fill with anything other than His Holy Spirit is worshipping a false god. Satan would love to help you find a substitute to deaden the pain, when only God can provide a solution to heal the pain (Matt. 11:28).

If so, I invite you to claim the promises of our loving and gracious God, who loves each of us so much “that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16 NIV) to die for our sin that we might be reconciled to God and live … really and truly live.

~All the praise, honor, and glory
 go to the King of kings
 and Lord of lords.~

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PRAYER

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, we thank You for loving us with a rich love that surpasses our understanding, even our imagination! We thank You for your rich mercy that floods us with grace. We thank You for your rich compassion that forgives our sins. We thank You for your rich generosity that gave us Your Son, who died for our sins and lives again so we, too, can live forever in Your presence. In His name we pray. AMEN

EXPOSING OUR SECRET LIVES

We are badly mistaken when we think our “secret” lives are “secret.” God sees everything and assures us in Luke 12:3 that what we say in the dark will be heard in the daylight and what we’ve whispered in the inner rooms will be shouted from the rooftops. We know that some men and women whom we respect and admire are what Jesus in Matthew 23:27 called “white-washed tombs” with pristine exteriors hiding decay within. Being forewarned, we should avoid tripping over those snares. Proverbs 27:12 tells us that prudent people see danger ahead and take precautions, but “simpleton[s]” press “blindly on” and suffer the consequences.

Romans 2:16 (NLT): And this is the message I proclaim — that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.

Luke 12:3 (ESV): Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Proverbs 4:23 (NCV): Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.

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GOD KNOWS OUR SECRET THOUGHTS

EVEN OUR MOST PRIVATE THOUGHTS will be made  public!

65.Hidden_ThoughtsHow comforting it is to let our minds roam the extremes, darting past the boundaries of respectability and decorum, venturing into forbidden territory, flirting with danger … because no one knows and, therefore, there’s no harm!

Right? Wrong.

Yes, the God we serve knows everything about us. He knows what we do, what we say … even what we think.

While we may believe our thoughts are hidden, and that we can maintain a good facade simply by watching what we do or say, God tells us that even our thoughts are important.

MISTAKEN ASSUMPTIONS ARE COSTLY

YEARS AGO, BEFORE becoming a Christian, I assumed that what we thought lodged safely within our heads, with no impact on our  lives or those around us unless we acted — or spoke — in response.

Therefore, I reasoned, our minds were free to explore the darkest corners of dreams and ideas, with no repercussions.God's Glory Fills the Hills

As a parent of two children, I allowed them to watch whatever television programs they wanted, even when the children’s programs flirted with filth. One day, my younger of two daughters pushed me out of their TV room with these words: “Daddy, you have to leave the room. They’re talking about sex.”

Stunned, I stumbled into the kitchen, blurting out to their mother, “Do you know what they’re watching?”

She said, “Yes, it’s on all the time.”

That was 30 years ago. All that’s changed since then is the situation has gotten worse.

OUR SINFUL THOUGHTS HARM US

SIN IS BORN in our thoughts.

When those thoughts, or desires, become strong enough, they lead us to act contrary to God’s will (James 1:14-15), and that leads to death because death is the payment for sin (Romans 6:23).

In the days before my conversion, I didn’t realize that the thoughts that populated our minds — mine or, in this case, my children’s — would, or even could, find their way out through our speech or future actions.

Without the Bible’s teaching, I was content to follow my own desires for my purposes and would find a way, if I could, to neutralize any opposition, from whatever source — wife, employer, neighbor. It didn’t matter. I was the “captain” of my destiny, and I took great pride in getting my way.

As the *natural man* (1 Cor. 2:14), I was unable to see a higher purpose in which I could be called to serve others (Mark 10:45) or not think of myself more highly than I ought (Rom. 12:3) or to bear another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).

I also paid a heavy price for my insolence, although I did not immediately attribute any failings to my conduct or mindset.

GOD’S GRACE SAVES US

GOD’s GRACE is so amazing.

He not only wants to forgive us for what we do, but He wants to forgive us for every intemperate word and errant thought! (Romans  5:20)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More than that, He wants to redeem us and teach us so that we won’t continue along the path that leads to destruction. (Matt. 7:13) We learn through His Word that our paths, our desires, may seem right to us, but we take them at our peril. (Prov. 16:25)

Once we receive the Holy Spirit, He goes to work to remake us in His image. (2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 2:13)

Then, we see more clearly the strong connection between our errant thoughts and our behavior, and we strive to change our thinking, with His help and under His grace, to thoughts honoring our Savior. (2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 4:8)

POSTSCRIPT

WHEN I LOOK BACK at those days before conversion, I shudder to see how selfish I was, how prideful, how ungodly.

Then I read that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, the Godly for the ungodly (Rom. 5:8), that we might have fellowship again with our Creator, the way He designed us before our Fall from Grace (Genesis 3).

That, my friends, is love.

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PRAYER 

Dear Heavenly Father, You know us better than we know ourselves. You know what is in lone_crossour hearts, what  motivates us, what consumes our passions and energy. You are not fooled. We confess to You our selfishness, our envy, our judgment of others. Please forgive us and cast our sins away, as far as the east is from the west, and remember them no more. Lord, Your Word was given to instruct us, to rebuke and correct us, and to train us so that, as children of the Most High God, we will be adequate for every good work. We pray, O Lord, that You will soften our hearts to make us more obedient to Your will. In Jesus’ holy and matchless name we pray. AMEN