Category Archives: Growth/Discipleship

The Hope That Doesn’t Disappoint

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38,39

I’ve been sitting on those two verses for a couple of weeks, just waiting for a time to sit down and write how these words have been impactful to me in my life.  These two verses are a couple of verses that have been words of hope time and time again.  But this week, they hit home in a little bit of a different way.  This week, a couple of things happened that last night found us sitting, disappointed, kind of shaking our heads, discouraged and frustrated.

Last night, my wife and I stayed up late talking about it.  We were both pretty bothered and disappointed.  She was crying and I was disspirited.  As we turned out the light and tried to go to sleep, still ruminating over the disappointment, these verses came back to me.  I had to be reminded that, though people will eventually disappoint us and circumstances may discourage us, there is one rock who never will.  I had to be reminded, for a moment, of God’s love. 

No matter the discouragement we experience in our circumstances or the disappointments we face in life, Christ Jesus is never more than a prayer away.  No matter the frustration, no matter our dismay, no matter how disheartened or whatever happens in life, no one can separate us from God’s love.  Those are words of hope.

And this morning, Romans 5:5 has been on my mind as I made it into work.

Now this hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.   Romans 5:5

The hope we find in God doesn’t disappoint.  Man will disappoint us.  Circumstances will discourage us.  Things will happen.  But there is one constant, one solid rock, one cornerstone, one Lord from whom nothing can separate me.

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Trusting God – Proverbs 3:5,6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6 (NIV)

One of the hardest things for me is trying to understand things and life.  My wife would agree that I do not understand most of what she says.  Really, she’d argue that it’s more a listening problem than a comprehension issue.  But I do struggle with understanding and trusting God sometimes.  It doesn’t come natural.  So many times, I’d rather be able to completely understand a situation and fully define it.  I like to have problems solved.  I feel more comfortable that way.

That’s a human characteristic and part of our nature that dates way back.  It is great to study and learn and try to figure out why and how things work.  That’s what we do in science and all its fields.  But there are some things we’ll never figure out.  The psalmist must have known that when he wrote these words.  Now, thousands of years later, they still have meaning.

When we lean on our own limited understanding, doubt starts to creep in.  We can’t figure out the why’s and how’s and it causes us to struggle.  Sometimes we worry and fret so much about figuring things out that we lose sight of where we are and where we’re going – we can’t find the way, it seems.

Following God means trusting Him.  Trusting that He is in control.  Trusting that He knows what we feel and what we think.  Trusting that He is so much bigger than ourselves. 

One of the most difficult times in my life happened a few years ago when I left work as a missionary to return to the United States.  This verse became very encouraging to me as I began to really trust God and not figure things out myself.  One particular night, after giving an email notification of my intentions,  I was praying that God would just affirm our family’s decision.  I didn’t know it then, but during the same time, I received an email from someone that I hadn’t seen or talked to in about eight years.  Ultimately, it led to where I live now and what I do now as I walked in the steps that God put before me, one after the other.  It has been an exciting and fulfilling time.

For me, it came down to trusting God, acknowledging Him and believing He would direct my path.  That’s exactly what He did and the way things have worked out for me have been better than I had imagined.  It’s hard to trust, but as we do and as we see God work in our lives, it becomes easier and easier to follow Him.

Who Does God Love?

Who does God love?  It’s easy for us to answer, “everyone,” isn’t it?  We know the Sunday School answers.  We know that John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world…”  We can sing, “Jesus loves the little children …”  We know and believe God loves everyone.  Or do we?  We’re sure that he loves us – sometimes, that is.  Well we’re sure that he loves preachers and missionaries and nuns, that’s for sure.  They’re good.  They’re His servants.

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Five Ways to a More Joyful Life (Part Five)

Today marks the end of our little five-part series about ways to experience a more joyful life.  Yesterday I wrote about something that I know is hard for me and something over which I’ve seen others struggle.  We don’t do it often enough but we really do need to be thankful.   The first three days, we talked about being content with our circumstances, not dwelling on the past and not worrying about tomorrow.  Those things have a way of taking our focus off of what I believe is the most important aspect of time we experience here on earth, today.  And that brings us to, well, today.  Day five.

5. Live Today’s Day Today

It only happens once in an eternity:  Today.  Tomorrow, today will be yesterday.  Yesterday, today wasn’t even here.  But today is today and all that we are guaranteed, if anything, is the breath of air we currently breathe.  After that, there’s no telling.  I like to say that you can’t run from death.  Death may come at any moment and may come in the strangest of ways and, often, when least expected.

So I say, live today’s day today.  When tomorrow’s here, there’s no reason to replay yesterday.  Yesterday, I had no business worrying about today.  But today, there’s plenty of life to occupy my thoughts, devotions and energies.  It’s been an age-old question in life, “What am I here for?”  I believe we’re here for today – for we’re gone tomorrow.  James 4:13-14 (NIV) reads, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.”  All the best laid plans for tomorrow at the expense of today mean nothing if we’re not there.

We’re here for the realities of today, not the memories of yesterday or the dreams of tomorrow.  That’s not to say memories and dreams aren’t important.  They are.  They’re what gives us hope, what gives us faith, what we use to build upon along the way.  But the reality is that there are many things to take care of today.  In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus asks the Father to “give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).  Two thousand years ago, a Savior was born “today” (Luke 2:11).  When Jesus was on the cross, he told one of the criminals that that day, “today”, he would be with Him in paradise (Luke23:43).   The writer of Hebrews suggested encouraging each other daily, as long as its called “today”  (Hebrews 3:13). 

Today is what we have.  Today is where we live.  Today is where our character and who we are as people are made and defined.  At the end of all of your tomorrows, what will be said about you will depend on how you lived all of your todays.  So, go.   Live today to the fullest.  Walk in the steps that are right there in front of you, not looking behind and not looking ahead.  Stop and enjoy the sites along the way, smell the roses, hold a kid, smile at an old lady.  Live life.  Live today.  And by all means, eat two cookies and call me in the morning.

Five Ways to a More Joyful Life (Part Four)

Today is the fourth day in my little series about having more joy.  It’s not really my series nor my ideas.  They are really lessons I’ve learned along the way, am learning and need to relearn (I am pretty forgetful).  Part one, being content with our circumstances is just as difficult as part two, not dwelling on the past and part three, not worrying about tomorrow.  So what more can there be?  Actually there are lots of ways in which we can learn to be more joyful – maybe we can have a second series sometime.  But today, here’s the fourth way I’ve learned to have a more joyful life.

4.  Be Thankful

There is something therapeutic about counting all the ways that you have been blessed, about finding things to be thankful for.  There is something pure and right about reflecting on the blessings you’ve enjoyed.  “Count your many blessings,” we sang loudly from the church pews.  But singing loudly doesn’t necessarily equate to actually living and understanding. 

I wonder what our lives would be like if we took a day off from all our activities and paused for the day to name all the many blessings we’ve enjoyed.  I wonder how long it would take to name them one by one.  If we were really honest, I bet it would take longer than we think.  I wonder what our lives would be like if we lived as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,”  [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]8)

 

So, today, wherever you are, take as long as you are willing or able and name some of those blessings that you have known and continue to know.  Go ahead, name them one by one.  After you’re done, go ahead and eat two cookies and call me in the morning.