Tag Archives: hope

Press Re-set on 2015

So we’re almost a third of the way through 2015, and if you live in the northeast like me, you’re thanking God that it’s finally spring after the longest, coldest winter since Washington hunkered down at Valley Forge.Press Re-set on 2015

While we can celebrate by finally wearing short-sleeves and chilling outside, it’s also time to reflect on how our year is going and if we’re living the theme or goals we proclaimed back in January.

Hopefully you’re on track to reach the goals, but even if your life has gotten off track, there’s still time. That’s right, who says starting over is relegated to the turn of the calendar? Every day is a day that never happened before—ever. Each day is a fresh start, sort of like the new year.

We don’t think of it that way because we get caught up in the routine where one day seems no different than the last. Even the start of a new week feels static.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to let a calendar dictate your progress. You can have a fresh start now. You can set new goals and a new vision starting today.

Maybe the year hasn’t gone as you hoped it would. Maybe you’ve experienced heartbreak, a setback in your health or finances, loss of a loved one, or disappointment. Maybe those goals you set at the beginning of the year appear impossible now.

Sure, the first few months of the year haven’t gotten off to a good start, but today is a new day…and so is tomorrow.

Each new day offers an abundance of possibilities. An abundance of opportunities. It’s all in how you look at it.

Sure, your circumstances may still be the same, but your mind-set and attitude can be completely different. And how you think determines how you feel.

I’ve come to realize our thoughts and decisions can determine our mood. As a friend once told me, “Being in a good mood is a choice.” Circumstances don’t control your thoughts, you do. They can influence them, but you determine how much influence they have.

So today can be different. You can start your year over today. Inject new hope, new life, and new optimism into your life.

Today is nothing like yesterday. It’s completely different. It’s your new year. So pop some Champagne, forget the past few months, and look ahead with hope and happiness. You can press re-set on 2015.

 “…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” – Phil. 3:13

 

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How to Stay Encouraged During Life’s Storms

At some point in life, we’ll all get discouraged. Heck, at some point this week we’ll get discouraged.How to Stay Encouraged During Life's Storms

Whether life is going great for you right now or you’re in the worst year of your life, there are moments when you feel down. If you’ve sat through or listened to any number of sermons during your life, you’ve likely heard a minister say you need to “encourage yourself in the Lord.”

That’s a cool saying, I always thought, but what exactly does it mean? And how do I actually encourage myself in the Lord?

The phrase is quite vague, especially out of context, but the light bulb started to come on for me while reading about King David in 1 Samuel 30. David and his army of a few hundred men had just been rejected by the Philistine army (you’ll have to read the background as to why the heck he and his men were trying to join the Philistine army) and were returning to their camp. When they got there, the village had been raided and burned down, and their wives and families had been kidnapped.

Oh snap.

So everyone was devastated, crying, in despair, and angry. Then they turned their anger toward David. They talked about killing him (hey, somebody had to be the scapegoat). Needless to say, this was bad day for David. He was beyond discouraged. But then…

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” I Sam. 30:6

In the middle of his despair. In the middle of the worst day of his life. In the middle of destruction, David encouraged himself. He had no one to encourage him—everyone around wanted him dead—but he found a way to encourage himself.

So how’d he do it? The Bible doesn’t explain how, but theologian John Gill presents a clear explanation in his commentary that we can use to encourage ourselves in times of discouragement.

HE TOOK IT ALL PATIENTLY

Grieving the loss of his own loved ones and being surrounded by a mob of angry soldiers, Gill says David “took it all patiently and exercised his faith in God.” David didn’t freak out. He didn’t react in anger, fear, or desperation. He kept a level head. He was patient. When it seems like hell is breaking loose in our lives, we’re tempted to react in unhealthy ways like speaking negatively, using depressants, venting on Facebook/Twitter, or taking out our frustration on others. The first step to encouraging ourselves in the Lord is to take the hits patiently. This in itself is an act of faith in God (because for most of us, being patient is a miracle).

HE TRUSTED IN THE POWER & PROVIDENCE OF GOD

David trusted in God’s power, knowing the Lord was able to pull him and his men out of their despair, and in God’s providence—His divine guidance and care. We need to remind ourselves that God is greater than our problems and circumstances, and even when we feel alone, His providence is keeping us.

HE REMEMBERED GOD’S PROMISES & HIS FAITHFULNESS

David had been already seen God work in ridiculous ways in his life. He knew God’s promises and experienced His faithfulness to them. In our lives, we’ve seen God’s promises fulfilled—in big and small ways. We encourage ourselves by remembering what God said and knowing He’s faithful in every single promise.

HE RECALLED THE GRACE, MERCY & GOODNESS HE EXPERIENCED

Finally, David recalled the lavish grace, mercy, and goodness of God. Above all else, he remembered that God is good AND He had been good to him. Likewise, we must remember that God has been good to us. Like, ridiculously good. Why, when we need Him most, would He pull back?

If you read the rest of 1 Samuel 30, you see David prayed to God, pursued the scoundrels that burned down their village, killed them all, and rescued everyone’s family—happy ending. I’m sure our stories will be less dramatic. But hopefully, like me, you have a better understanding of what it means to encourage yourself in the Lord.

If we take a lesson from David and we encourage ourselves in the Lord during a dark moment, depression, debt, sickness, or any situation, we’ll not only get through it all, but we’ll come out of it stronger in God, and with a heck of a testimony.

Be encouraged my friends.

 

 

 

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When Life is Hard, We Don’t Need Answers

Life is hard sometimes.

Sometimes it’s trying.When Life is Hard, We Don't Need Answers

Sometimes it’s confusing.

Sometimes it’s depressing.

Sometimes it’s all of the above.

During those times, when life is unstable and uncertain, we search for answers. For many of us, we go to the Bible. Heck, even people who aren’t Christians often turn to the scriptures for answers.

The beautiful thing about the Word is it provides what we need at the right time, not necessarily what we want or expect.

The Bible is not a book of answers.

It’s not a go-to guide for quick solutions to life’s troubles, though we want it to be sometimes. It’s a narrative of God and His people, and from it we learn of His goodness, His grace, His love, and His power. In it we find peace, comfort, and strength.

It’s not full of answers, but it points us to the answer—Him.

When we experience a death of a loved one, we may want answers to why his/her life was taken. But knowing why someone died is not what we need or truly want. We want comfort. We want healing. And God, through His Word and Spirit, provides that.

Several years ago, I was in the midst of the worst year of my life. It was one of the lowest points I’d ever been emotionally. I felt alone, confused, and depressed. I needed something to hold on to and it was Psalm 27:13:

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

That scripture gave me hope. It kept me believing that I would see the goodness of the Lord. It didn’t specify what the goodness of the Lord was, nor when it would manifest. David, the writer of the Psalm, didn’t say he saw the goodness of the Lord. He simply said that by believing he would see goodness, he was encouraged. He knew the trouble wouldn’t last forever.

That scripture didn’t give me an answer. It didn’t give me a three-step solution to solve my problem. It simply showed the words and faith of someone who went through something much worse than I did and how, inspired by God, he got through it. It gave me hope.

Hope was exactly what I needed.

God’s Word is indeed powerful. But it doesn’t give quick fixes and simple solutions to our troubles. It doesn’t necessarily change our situation, but it does change us. It takes our focus off our problem and puts it on to God. Because ultimately, we don’t need answers, we just need to trust Him.

What scripture has gotten you through a difficult time? Is there a verse you often turn to in trouble? I’d love to read your comments below.

 

 

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We Can’t Breathe: Eric Garner, Advent & Grace

In recent years, I’ve commemorated Advent, the four-week season that leads up to Christmas. It’s been a great time of reflecting on the story of the birth of Christ and the celebration of the coming of the Messiah to rescue humanity.We Can't Breathe: Eric Garner, Advent & Grace

The interesting thing about Jesus, and something that Advent so powerfully recognizes, is that the rescue He provided is progressive. In Advent, we celebrate the rescue that came, the rescue we live in now, and the rescue that is still to come…the ultimate rescue we long for. We look back on His work on the cross, we contemplate the salvation He is working in us now, and we anticipate His return to restore a broken earth still suffering from the impact of sin.

And in the middle of this season, I can’t help connecting all that Advent represents with the state of America right now. As the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., have sparked anger, outrage, protests, and debate, we are seeing a groaning rising from the earth. There are plenty of things that can distress our hearts. There are plenty of things in this fallen world that cause us to long for Jesus’ return. Some of those things are obvious to all believers, and some of those things are obvious to all mankind (such as human trafficking, terrorism, etc.). But the events of Ferguson and Staten Island haven’t caused a universal distress.

I can’t breathe.

I won’t lay out all the background of why the black community (and those who sympathize with it) see police officers escaping indictment for lethal force as such an injustice. But understand that there is an inbred distrust of law enforcement that goes back generations. It comes from the experiences of our grandfathers, our fathers, ourselves, and our children.

I can’t breathe.

We have seen too much injustice. We have seen law enforcement officers receive grace for their mistakes while the mistakes of our brethren are fatal. We have seen a justice system we are told to trust disappoint us time after time. So we groan:

I can’t breathe.

Our struggle is like that of Advent. Our rescue has come. We have seen the dismantling of institutional racism in this nation. We have made progress. We have a twice-elected black president. We have increasing opportunity and influence. We are experiencing rescue. But we realize we are still broken. Still disproportionally in poverty. Still undereducated. Still looked upon with suspicion (whether we have a degree, own a home, and make more money than those profiling us). So we Advent. We yearn for a rescue. A rescue the president, justice system, nor any civil rights leader can provide. Writer and Pastor Winn Collier’s words on Advent ring so true:

“Advent first pierces the cold air as a desperate groan from those living at the jagged edges, from those who taste sorrow’s bitterness, those accustomed to the crush of disappointment, of fear. Advent comes first for those who have made a wreck of things, those who carry a legitimate complaint, for those whose existence teeters on the brink. If you do not know any pain, if you have no yearning for what is not yet true, if you have no pang of grief for your sorrow or the sorrow of another…if there is no raw, raspy voice somewhere in the hollows of your soul that every now and again whispers into the ravaging night, God, please…Please tear the heavens and come down… then some of what Advent offers will always stand remote for you.” – Groan, by Winn Collier

The groaning of the black community in America today is not an African-American groan, it’s the grown of mankind. It’s the groan of broken people who make mistakes, sin, and carry anger yet believe in grace and yearn for grace. It’s the groan of people who realize justice might be blind, but it isn’t always colorblind. It’s the longing for the just and righteous One who looked into the eyes of the adulterous woman and said “go, and sin no more,” instead of consenting to the lethal force of the authorities. Our world is broken. Our justice system is broken. We are broken. So we yearn. We Advent. Desperately, we Advent. Oh, Come Emmanuel.

We can’t breathe.

 

 

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We’re Not God, We Don’t Have Answers

Sunday night I was stunned and saddened to find out, via Twitter, that Dr. Myles Munroe, a renowned pastor and leader from the Bahamas, died in a plane crash along with his wife and seven others. I loved listening to Dr. Munroe speak. His teaching was so profound, insightful, and inspiring. And he always had a smile on his face when he preached, so he felt welcoming.We're Not God, We Don't Have Answers

Though I haven’t heard Dr. Munroe in a while, and haven’t read any of his books (he’s written or co-authored about 100), his tragic death hit home for me.

When untimely tragedies like this happen, we are forced to contemplate difficult questions of life and faith. Unfortunately, we don’t have proper answers to the questions.

I read several post on social media following news of Dr. Munroe’s death Sunday, with some people saying the pastor had finished his assignment and that his work on earth was complete. Those words are often used to help the mourning come to terms with their loss, but I question the accuracy of it.

How do we know Dr. Munroe’s assignment was complete and his purpose fulfilled? It might have been, but it might not have been either. Surely he has done more than most to advance the Kingdom of God in his lifetime, and he lived a full life. But just 60 years old and en route to a leadership conference, Dr. Munroe could have still done plenty more and impacted more lives.

I don’t know if Dr. Munroe’s time was up and he was just ordained to die on that day. But neither does anyone else on earth.

We like to have answers. Maybe we think it will help us sleep better at night or deal with difficulties in life. Maybe it’s just part of our culture, or just human arrogance that we need to know why. But I’ve found God rarely gives us answers despite our myriad questions. And He does it for a reason…faith.

We just have to trust Him. Trust Him when He tells us to do something that makes no sense. Trust Him when we experience an inexplicable tragedy. Trust Him in life, and trust Him in death. We don’t need answers, we just need Him. And though He never promised us answers, He has promised His presence.

Our theology — no matter how profound, historical, researched, spiritual and biblical — is inadequate to provide reasons and answers to difficult things of life. We do more harm than good when we try to give an explanation for everything.

God has the answers, not us. In our immaturity, we probe Him for answers. But in our maturity, we realize He is the answer. And that is enough.

Death is always a hard thing to process. And I don’t fault people seeking answers in pain. There are two great perspectives on death and mourning I highly recommend. First, my friend Jordan Rice, who lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, has written beautifully on this topic. Check out his blog post: Trapped in the Grip of Grace. Second, to go deeper on death and the hope after it, N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope is an excellent and profound read.

 

 

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