Hopelessness is a Lie
When the Bible says to followers of Jesus, “…you will not grieve like people who have no hope,” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, NLT) does it mean, that we are a little less hopeless than other people? Absolutely not! In the past, without Jesus, my hope was not just completely absent from my present, it was totally absent from my future. We each have to decide if our hope is just for the “sweet by and by”, or also for the bitter disappointments of today. Hopelessness is a lie that I refuse to allow in my heart. When it shows up, I drive it from my mind. I wash it away with the truth of God’s eternal promises. Because God has never had a hopeless thought about me, I refuse to bow for even one moment to the lie of hopelessness!
Words of Encouragement
A longtime friend of my wife and I was struggling believing that she could be successful in a weight loss program we had found to be incredibly effective. After listening to her struggle to believe that she could actually do it, I finally entreated our friend, “You can do this! You’re going to be successful! You’re going to love it.” Months later, after losing the 50 pounds she had hoped to lose, she shared that those hope-filled words of encouragement were the tipping point for her to have the faith to try, once again, something she had repeatedly failed at. Who in your life needs a word of encouragement to conquer a giant, defeat a foe, and secure a victory? You may find that your words of hope and life will be the difference maker for them as well!
One Night in an Inconvenient Motel
Ever feel overwhelmed by the challenges of Earth? I know I do, and often. So when I saw this quote from Teresa of Avila, it made my day. She wrote, “In light of Heaven, the worst suffering on Earth, a life full of the most tortures on Earth, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.” Wow! That sums is up. My worst moments on Earth can’t compare to the joys of Heaven. They’ll seem like “…one night in an inconvenient hotel.” The Bible agrees and says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV) Even Jesus had His take on how we should face the worst that life can throw at us, “…lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28, NIV)
Finding Our Identity by Wrestling With God
In the Old Testament, Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his first-born birthright and, consequently, the blessing of his father, Isaac. Because Jacob had gotten the blessing illegitimately, he never believed his life was blessed. Years later, after many dealings with God, Jacob was willing to wrestle with God until he received His blessing, no matter how long it took. Because of Jacob’s humble persistence, God changed his name to “Israel”. Only then did Jacob embrace his true identity. He went from being Jacob, “the swindler and cheat”, to Israel, “prince with God”. Each of us have tried shortcuts to receive the blessing only God can give. But, unless we know how much God really loves us, and then embrace His forgiveness for our sins, we’ll never feel as accepted as we really are.
Religion vs. Relationship
One of the greatest dangers of following religious rituals is that they temporarily soothe our conscience without requiring us to obey God’s Spirit. This was one of the favorite practices of Pharisees during the time of Jesus. After Judas betrayed Jesus and then killed himself, religious leaders decided it was unlawful for them to take the money that Judas had thrown down. They reasoned that because he was a murderer, they couldn’t put the money back into the temple treasury. What could be more absurd than that? They had paid Judas to betray Jesus, the Savior of the world, and now felt it was immoral to put their blood money back into their treasury. How foolish! Yet, what a perfect example of the difference between religious ritual and the reality of a genuine relationship with God.
Does God Really Care?
All of us have felt at times, “God, where are you? I’m dying here!” The disciples of Jesus said exactly that in the middle of a raging storm, shouting at Him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38, NLT) When He quieted the storm, they realized Jesus, of course, did, but in their fear and unbelief they accused Him of indifference. “Don’t you even care” is really the crossroads question that will take us either to faith and courage, or unbelief and discouragement. No one has cared more for each of us than Jesus. And He demonstrated it most clearly by taking the punishment for the sins we committed and dying a horrible death on the Cross. The Bible promises, “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (Psalm 121:8, NLT)
Why Great Trees Fall
I’ve often wondered why great trees fall in high winds. Why taller trees are even most susceptible? More often than not, trees tend to uproot than break off in heavy winds. During my research, I found that many times it’s because the tree’s roots had been cut. A healthy tree will have its roots extend twice as wide as its branches. But, due to urban development, when roots of a healthy tree are severed, it can lead to the decay and premature toppling of a once-thriving tree. Though I have seen this pattern in the lives of spiritual giants, it frankly caused me to consider my own life. Do my roots go deep in the soil of God’s Spirit and Word? Have once-healthy relationships decayed over time? Jesus, help my spiritual and relational roots to remain strong and healthy.
Dismissing What We Don’t Understand
We all tend to dismiss what we don’t understand, even if it is the Word of God. Jesus told the religious leaders in His day, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19, NLT) Not only did the Jewish leaders not understand His words, His disciples didn’t either. Only after Jesus was resurrected did they realize He was prophesying about His physical body being raised from the dead. There are many things I am waiting on God to fully reveal, though He has already placed his seal of authenticity upon them. Don’t dismiss what you don’t understand if it came from the Spirit and Word of God. In the fullness of time, even the most perplexing words God has spoken to you will at last emerge, revealing His original intention.
What God Thinks of You
I’ve often wondered what it was like for great men and women to walk with God. As with each of us, when the patriarch Jacob looked back over his life, he knew he had failed many times. But during one night of struggle, he was willing to fully submit to God’s will and not his own. Jacob wrestled with God all night, and finally accepted that God fully approved of him. How did Jacob walk away from that transforming event? He didn’t come away feeling powerful. Instead, Jacob came away knowing God was powerful, and from then on walked with a limp. Are you ready to meet God? He’s ready to meet you. But remember, the true value of your relationship with God is ultimately caring infinitely more about what He thinks of you than what you think of yourself.
“Special Needs” Love
You’d be amazed at how many families are caring for loved ones with special needs. They’re often treated as invisible and under-valued, not realizing the care required can be rigorous and unending. Dear friends of ours have raised a son with special needs for three decades. For years they struggled alone until connecting with “Joni and Friends” where they found fellowship and support. The result: The Dads Band Project, four musical dads who’ve made an incredibly anointed and revealing album called “Waiting Room”, showcasing anointed music and gripping lyrics contrasting their struggles on Earth with their longing for Heaven. It provides a holy glimpse into not just their daily difficulties, but their eternal hope in God’s promises. As I listened, I heard the true miracle and value of God’s divine intention. And . . . it changed me!
Digging Out of Ruts
Each of us have found familiarity to be one of the great comforts in life. But, is it always? Though we all tend to sit in the same seat and repeat the same expressions, doesn’t familiarity, at times, cause us to take those we love for granted? Aren’t there habits that numb us rather than motivate and inspire us? I’ve found, as I get older, one of my greatest needs in life is to experience the unfamiliar, the brand new, especially the unexpected; to wake up thinking new thoughts and uncovering fresh insights. Only then do I rediscover healthy growth. Frankly, changing patterns in my life has helped me blast out of old ruts. Most of all, remembering God never duplicated a moment or a memory inspires me to try and do the same. Today, ask God to show you something new, and He will.
Why Do Christians Fall?
Having been a Christ-follower for nearly a half-century, I’ve seen too many come and go in following Jesus. At times, as I’ve lost even close friends to deception, it’s broken my heart. In retrospect, were there any early indicators of a person’s future spiritual unhealthiness? Over the years, I’ve found the growth patterns in trees to be surprisingly insightful. The eventual destruction of both trees and people can be seen in their early leanings. In a person’s spiritual life, is there a fascination or inclination toward non-biblical ideas? This tendency can reveal a future willingness to separate from biblical truth for the foolish philosophies of this fallen world. I’ve lost many a friend because they naively entertained the wisdom of the world and lost sight of the flawless eternal wisdom of God and His Word.