Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

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2

March 2023

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Love is a verb, part 3

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Charity never faileth: (1 Corinthians 13:8) | Read more of Love is a Verb part 3 on hopereflected.com

What love does and does not do

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul wrote about the characteristics of love. He explained what love does and does not do, and what love is and isn’t. Called “charity” in the original translation, Paul explained in verse 6 that “charity… Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;”. Here we see a very clear example of what love does not do. Real love does not take pleasure in the pain of others.

What immediately comes to mind is Proverbs 24:17, which tells us, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, And let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:”. The exact opposite of rejoicing, love grieves when it sees harm come to its object. Matthew Henry said, “It is the very height of malice to take pleasure in the misery of a fellow-creature. And is not falling into sin the greatest calamity that can befall one? How inconsistent is it with Christian charity, to rejoice at such a fall!”

Love rejoices in the truth

On the contrary, love “…rejoiceth in the truth;” (1 Corinthians 13:6). There is great joy in the truth. Here, the truth specifically refers to God’s Word and His way. Jesus said that “narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14), so what greater joy than to be walking in the truth and to see others walking along the narrow way as well. God is love, and we are only capable of love because of Him, so it makes sense then that the greatest rejoicing comes when we are walking with Him.

Love bears, believes, hopes, endures all things

Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians continues, “charity… Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (v. 7). A companion to the long-suffering we read of in verse 4, love bears all things. The greatest example of patience, love carries on and is unceasing regardless of the circumstances. One of the reasons marriages are failing and society is disintegrating is that we are looking in all the wrong places for love, instead of looking to God first.

Without God, we are destined to fail, especially in love. Alistair Begg wrote, “Contrary to public opinion, the key to loving others does not lie in loving ourselves, but in loving God.” Spurgeon put it like this: “Love does not ask to have an easy life of it: Self-love makes that her aim. Love denies herself, sacrifices herself, that she may win victories for God, and hers shall be no tinsel crown.”

“Love does not ask to have an easy life of it:
Self-love makes that her aim.
Love denies herself, sacrifices herself, that she may win victories for God,
and hers shall be no tinsel crown.”

Charles Spurgeon

Love never fails; God never fails

God never fails. Read more of Love is a Verb part 3 on hopereflected.com

The only way to bear all is when we cast our cares on Him. The only way to believe all is when our faith rests in Him. The only way to hope all is we know the Living Hope. The only way to endure all is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The last of the 16 characteristics of love is “Charity never faileth:” (v. 8). Everything else will fail but love never fails. God never fails. As Spurgeon said, “God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, acts with a hand that never fails.”

Read parts 1 and 2 of Love is a verb here

Originally published as “Love is a verb, part 3.” Independent Plus. March 2, 2023: 5. Print. Web.

Wednesday

15

February 2023

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COMMENTS

Love is a verb, part 2

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Facts about love. Read more on hopereflected.com

This past week I read in 1 John 3:22-23, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”

Love is an action word

As I wrote in part 1 of Love is a verb, love is an action word; it is very much something that we do. Studying the characteristics of “charity” (love) described in 1 Corinthians 13, it’s important to note that love is a commandment from God.

Love is not rude

Love is not rude. "Charity doth not behave itself unseemly." (1 Corinthians 13:5) Read more on hopereflected.com

“Charity… Doth not behave itself unseemly,” (1 Corinthians 13:5). This portion is translated from the Greek ouk aschemonei and literally means to behave in an unbecoming manner. In other words, love doesn’t act in a manner that is unbecoming or contrary to itself. Love is not rude, and love doesn’t degrade or humiliate others.

Matthew Henry wrote of this characteristic of love: “It does nothing out of place or time; but behaves towards all men as becomes their rank and ours, with reverence and respect to superiors, with kindness and condescension to inferiors, with courtesy and good-will towards all men. It is not for breaking order, confounding ranks bringing all men on a level; but for keeping up the distinction God has made between men, and acting decently in its own station, and minding its own business, without taking upon it to mend, or censure, or despise, the conduct of others. Charity will do nothing that misbecomes it.”

Love is not selfish

Love is not selfish. "Charity seeketh not her own." (1 Corinthians 13:5) Read more on hopereflected.com

“Charity… seeketh not her own,” (1 Corinthians 13:5). One of the marks of love is that it doesn’t demand its own way or seek its own benefit. Love is not selfish, as Matthew Henry suggested love is an utter enemy to selfishness. Just as love does not dishonour, love also seeks to honour others above itself. This recalls the second commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39).

Love requires that we uproot that rotten plant pride, and instead of putting ourselves at the center, we look out for others. The J-O-Y principle: Jesus first, Others second, Yourself third.

Love is not easily angered

Love is not easily angered. "Charity is not easily provoked." (1 Corinthians 13:5) Read more on hopereflected.com

“Charity… is not easily provoked,” (1 Corinthians 13:5). From the Greek ou paroxynetai, meaning “is not exasperated”. Soft rather than sharp, love keeps a quick temper at bay. Two fires can’t burn together, so where love is aflame, a fiery temper won’t burn.

Love keeps no record of wrongs

Love keeps no record of wrongs. "Charity thinketh no evil." (1 Corinthians 13:5) Read more on hopereflected.com

“Charity… thinketh no evil;” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Love keeps no record of being wrong. Just as love is an enemy to selfishness, love is also an enemy of dishonesty, of jealousy, and of revenge. To show love, we must practice honesty instead of dishonesty, admiration rather than jealousy, and forgiveness rather than revenge. Real love, it turns out, is not always easy to practice.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “…love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will, and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.”

Originally published as “Love is a verb, part 2.” Independent Plus. February 16, 2023: 5. Print. Web.

Tuesday

14

February 2023

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COMMENTS

Love is a verb

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Love and pride cannot live together, because love is not about you and how you feel; love is concerned with how the other person feels. Read more of "Love is a verb" on hopereflected.com

The true measure of love is shown through action

Anyone can say the words, “I love you,” but the true measure of love is shown through action. Love is a verb. For those who are not well-versed in grammar, a verb is a word that shows action.

When we describe love as merely a feeling, we are reducing what love really is. We’re missing the deeper meaning. While feeling is certainly a part of love, action is love’s other—more demonstrable—counterpart.

Characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13

Take chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, for example. If Paul had written this chapter by describing the feeling of love, rather than the action of love, how much different would “the love chapter” read? The abstract tends not to have the same impact as the concrete, and I’d venture to say the impact just wouldn’t be as strong.

Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 includes 16 characteristics of charity, or what we today call love. In the original Greek, the word was agape, used to describe love, benevolence, preference. The 16 characteristics of love that Paul described are as follows: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Love suffers long

The Greek word for “suffereth long” is makrothymei, meaning to persevere, be patient, and refusing to retaliate with anger. The best example of this is Christ. Peter described our Lord that he “is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis called such long-suffering God “holding back” to give us the opportunity to choose Him. And while our ability to love can never compare to God’s, that is one of the things that true love does. Love holds back and does not retaliate even when it’s been wronged. Someone cannot love and be vengeful at the same time.

Love is not puffed up

Another characteristic of love that stands out is that love “vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (v. 4). Love and pride cannot live together, because love is not about you and how you feel; when you love someone, you’re concerned with how the other person feels. It’s what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-4, that in lowliness of mind we should esteem others better than ourselves. Matthew Henry explained that true love will “prevent the tumours of self-conceit and arrogance. These ill qualities can never grow out of tender affection…” and we should mark the man who uses what he calls love as a platform to build himself up and to tear others down.

Originally published as “Love is a verb.” Independent Plus. February 9, 2023: 5. Print. Web.

Tuesday

16

February 2016

2

COMMENTS

5 Truths for Life from Proverbs 29

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Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honour. Proverbs 29:23

About ten years ago, I was given some of the best advice: Read a Proverb a day. For anyone just starting their spiritual walk, or even for those who are mature in their faith, there are so many simple truths for life found in the book of Proverbs.

Each chapter of Proverbs contains so much wisdom, which is just as practical today as when some of the Proverbs were first written as early as 900 B.C. Last week, I was inspired by five simple truths I found in Proverbs 29:

  1. Be compassionate towards those less fortunate than you. Proverbs 29:7 (NKJV) “The righteous considers the cause of the poor, but the wicked does not understand such knowledge.” No matter how bad you think things are, there is always someone less fortunate than you. We can’t all be Mother Teresa, but we can all show compassion and lend a helping hand to others.
  2. Watch your mouth. Proverbs 29:11 (NKJV) “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” Ever meet someone who is constantly talking, and doesn’t seem to know when to be quiet? There’s always someone who loves the sound of his or her own voice, and never takes the time to listen to others and learn from them. Don’t be that person.
  3. Plan ahead, set goals, and pursue your dreams. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” To accomplish anything in life, each of us needs to plan ahead and set goals. Sometimes spontaneity is good, however proper planning demonstrates responsibility. That’s not to say you’ve got to be super serious and no fun – it’s all about living a balanced lifestyle.
  4. Think before you speak. Proverbs 29:20 (KJV) “Seest thou a man hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him.” [See also #2 above.] There’s something to be said about knowing when to speak and when to listen. Ever left a conversation and thought, “I shouldn’t have said that!” – yeah, pretty sure we all have. There’s a proper time and occasion to express your emotions. Be mindful of what and when you share. If we’re always talking all the time, we can’t hear what others have to say.
  5. Learn to control your emotions. Proverbs 29:22 (KJV) “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.” You know that feeling when you just can’t hold back the ugly cry? UGH! We’ve all been there. It’s important to remember that how we display our emotions can have a direct effect on those around us – family members, friends, co-workers – that’s why it’s important to keep our “feelings” in check. It’s way easier said than done to control our actions – and our reactions – to what others say and do, but it sure is important!

Originally published as “5 Simple Truths for Life from Proverbs 29”. Minto Express. April 8, 2015: 5. Print.

Thursday

20

June 2024

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COMMENTS

A true friend

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"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." (Proverbs 27:6) | What are the qualities of a true friend? Learn more on hopereflected.com

In addition to death and taxes, something we all have in common is that at some point or another, we have been wounded by someone who we called a friend.

Many of us are also guilty of doing the wounding.

It is so common an occurrence that Solomon wrote in Proverbs 26:24-26, “He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart. Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.”

False friends or counterfeit kindness; whatever you want to call it, the world is filled with people who will say one thing to your face and then another behind your back; people who will woo you in order to get something from you.

It’s sad, but it’s true.

The Bible provides us with examples from Joab to Judas, and yet, we’re surprised when we find ourselves deceived and hurt by someone else.

So what are some of the hallmarks of a true friend?

Qualities of a true friend

One characteristic of a true friend is that they are faithful, not flatterers. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6) Better a friend who reproves our wrongs than one who doesn’t have our best interest at heart.

Judas in the Garden betrayed Jesus with a kiss, and Solomon himself warned that we ought to exercise caution when it comes to flattery. “When he speaketh fair, believe him not” (v. 25).

This doesn’t mean that we should question every time a friend pays a compliment or demonstrates kindness, but it does mean that we need to apply wisdom in who we trust. Someone who uses flattery is typically someone who will use you.

Flattery is disingenuous and to the discerning mind it should be easy to see it for what it is. David wrote that the throat of those who flatter “is an open grave” (Psalm 5:9), and Paul wrote that those who are deceived by flattery are “simple” (Romans 16:18).

Another quality of a true friend? They have control of their emotions and do not let their emotions control them. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 19:7), but those “seven abominations” (v. 25) as Solomon referred to them should not control the Christian’s actions. A true friend will not bolster you up in an attempt to bring you down, nor will they bring you down in order to build up themselves. Careful are the reproofs of those who truly care for us.

Proverbs 17:17 says that a friend loves “at all times”—not just when they want something, and not just when the going is good. True friends are consistent, whereas those who attempt to deceive others through flattery and false motives will eventually be exposed. “Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.” (v. 26).

Originally published as “A true friend.” Independent Plus. October 13, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

4

January 2024

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COMMENTS

Gossiping gives no grace

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"Where no wood is, there the fire goes out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth." (Proverbs 26:20) | Read more about gossip on hopereflected.com

“Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” (Proverbs 26:20)

We are wise not to speak when we don’t have all the facts. Gossiping gives no grace and only gives us a false sense of importance when in fact it is a fruitless exercise. “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” (Proverbs 20:19).

When it comes to slanderers, Proverbs 20:19 gives us wise instruction: Steer clear, avoid sharing sensitive information, and be smart. Let’s call gossiping out for what it is—evil (James 3:15-16). I don’t think I am alone in learning the hard way that no good comes from speaking when we don’t have all the facts.

Think before you speak

While we can apologize for what we say, we can’t take it back, and so it is critically important that we think before we speak. We are not the first generation to be faced with this challenge; there are so many examples of the consequences of the tongue throughout Scripture.

David wrote in Psalm 101:5, “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.”

Our speech often reveals our pride, and unfortunately, to boost their self-importance, some people purposely speak lies about others and put them down. Matthew Henry wrote that “Many endeavour to raise themselves into the favour of princes by unjust representations of persons and things, which they think will please their prince.”

There is a reason that “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16) is included as one of the ten commandments.

What to do when you’re the target of gossip

Conversely, when we are the target of gossip and slander, we must be equally as careful to guard our tongues.

We need to watch what we say when we’re hurt or angry.

Solomon wrote “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1). We know what keeps the peace (it’s not speaking when we’re angry). The trouble is, it’s upsetting when someone calls our character into question. It’s when we’re overly emotional that we endanger ourselves and can lose control of our tongues.

It is a characteristic of the wise to hold the tongue in the heat of anger— “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:1)—and even more a demonstration of wisdom to overlook an offense.

Rather than react without thinking, we ought as Matthew Henry wrote to “Give it time, and it will cool.”

Death and life are in the power of the tongue

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue:
and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

Proverbs 18:21

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21). Matthew Henry wrote that “Many a one has been his own death by a foul tongue, or the death of others by a false tongue; and on the contrary, many a one has saved his own life, or procured the comfort of it, by a prudent gentle tongue, and saved the lives of others by a seasonable testimony or intercession for them.”

Originally published as “Gossiping gives no grace.” Independent Plus. August 18, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

12

October 2023

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COMMENTS

Getting rich or laying up?

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"For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." (Proverbs 23:5) | Read more on hopereflected.com

Proverbs 4:7 tells us that “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” As I recently wrote, we spend most of our lives getting, but we aren’t always getting what’s right.

For some, their main goal in life is getting rich.

Please understand, there is nothing wrong with having money.

A misquote about money

The Bible talks a lot about money and our management of it (Deuteronomy 8:18, Proverbs 13:11, 21:20). Some Christians say that money is the root of all evil, and this is a misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10, which tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evil:”.

We are to keep our lives free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5). There’s nothing wrong with having money, but loving money and desiring it more than we desire God is where we run into trouble. When getting rich is our goal, we will never be satisfied (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

The love of money leaves no room for what really matters

Not only will the goal of getting rich leave us discontent, it also takes our eyes off eternity. The love of money leaves no room for what really matters. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 23:4-5, “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.”

It is a certainty that riches are uncertain.

Our time on earth is temporary, and our riches are, too.

Work with purpose will be rewarded

We should work hard and save to provide for our families, and we should work harder to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). A firm foundation for our family is much more than well-founded finances. The Bible tells us, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children,” (Proverbs 13:22).

When we work with purpose we will be rewarded, but when getting rich is our goal, we’ll end up with the opposite (Proverbs 28:19). There’s a difference between working hard to provide and working hard to get rich.

“Having money, even lots of it,
is not a bad thing.”

Hope Reflected

Proverbs 21:20 tells us that “There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” Much treasure is one of the marks of the wise. Having money, even lots of it, is not a bad thing. While we shouldn’t be consumed with getting rich, we should be mindful about our money and the work we do.

Proverbs 13:11 says that “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.” The Bible says that those who are rich should “be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Is our goal getting rich or laying up?

Originally published as “Getting rich or laying up?” Independent Plus. July 21, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

5

January 2023

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COMMENTS

20 life lessons learned in 2022

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The celebration of Christmas and the excitement of a new year are an ideal time to reflect on the past year and the life lessons we’ve learned. For certain this past year I’ve learned more than my share of life lessons, and here are some of the highlights.

"God allows us to experience the low points in life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way." C.S. Lewis | Read more life lessons learned in 2022 on hopereflected.com
  1. Running is an activity that requires great patience, is never perfected, and always practiced. “…let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
  2. Christians have a responsibility to stand out and to stand up for Biblical truth. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matthew 5:13).
  3. Though there may be unrest in the world, there can still be peace within us, and there are always glimmers of God’s grace around us. “No times are so wild but that in them are quiet corners, green oases, all the greener for their surroundings, where life glides on in peaceful isolation from the tumult.” (Alexander MacLaren).
  4. God is never surprised; there is no event to which He responds, “Oh boy, I didn’t know that was going to happen.” “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 1:8, 21:6)
  5. Service requires sacrifice, and so love is not just service, love is also sacrifice. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10).
  6. Even on days when we can’t see the sun, it’s still shining. There is always light. “One sun enlightens the whole world; so does one Christ, and there needs no more. What a dark dungeon would the world be without the sun!” (Matthew Henry).
  7. Anyone can lay up treasures on earth that they can’t keep; it takes real wisdom to lay up eternal treasures that you can’t lose. “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:5).
  8. When we strive to do things on our own and in our own power, we are bound to be anxious and worried. “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12:24).
  9. To wait, to keep serving the Lord requires great faithfulness and good courage because it is not easy, especially in the face of fighting and turmoil. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14).
  10. We won’t get far if we try to flee from God. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Psalm 139:7).
  11. We are disillusioned if we think that we can get away with directly disobeying God. “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” (Psalm 37:2).
  12. It is a privilege to have friends who will labour to carry us to Christ and exercise their faith on our behalf. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Mark 2:5).
  13. We are not really living our faith if our lives don’t bear fruit. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
  14. We don’t have to understand all the details when we trust that God is working every detail for His glory. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  15. We can only grow spiritually if we are daily in God’s Word as a way of living, not an occasional activity. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:” (Colossians 2:6).
  16. “Although the Lord may not appear for us in the way we expect, or desire, or suppose, yet He will in some way or other provide for us.” (Charles Spurgeon).
  17. Sin is a slippery slope, and there is always a cost to compromise. “And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.” (Genesis 14:12).
  18. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18). “The fall is simply and solely disobedience – doing what you have been told not do; and it results from pride – from being too big for your boots, forgetting your place, thinking that you are God.” (C.S. Lewis).
  19. We should be more interested in getting understanding than getting our point across. “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” (Proverbs 29:11).
  20. Vain repetitions are many words with no meaning; persistence in prayer has power because it requires us to have great faith. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

It was C.S. Lewis who wrote that “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My god, do you learn.” Lewis also wrote that “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” Whether these lessons are learned at a low point or a high point, I hope these life hacks are found to be of value.

Originally published as “20 Life Lessons learned in 2022: Parts 1 and 2.” Independent Plus. December 29, 2022 and January 5, 2023: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

4

November 2021

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COMMENTS

Countenance Sharpeners

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:" Hebrews 10:24 | Read more of Coutenance Sharpeners on hopereflected.com

The victor’s material

In Biblical times, iron was the victor’s material for weapons of war. We read in Judges that Judah could not defeat the Philistines of the valley “because they had chariots of iron.” (1:19). Before the days of steel, iron was popular for the making of swords and other weapons, because it was stronger and could be sharpened better than other prominent metals of the time period.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Proverbs 27:17 | Read more on hopereflected.com

Sharpening is important

In woodworking, a dull blade can ruin a good piece of wood. In the kitchen, an unsharpened knife can cause serious injury to the person using it. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:17 that as “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Good friends help to keep each other sharp. You know the feeling when you finish a conversation with a good friend, and you feel better, lighter, and refreshed? That is the countenance sharpening that Solomon referred to. True friends help to refine, encourage us to grow in wisdom, and point us to the Lord. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” (Hebrews 10:24). True friends prepare us for action.

Realignment and straightening

Many people have a knife set in their kitchen. A standard knife set usually includes an unusual-looking column of steel or ceramic. This tool is called a honing rod. Contrary to popular belief, a honing rod doesn’t actually sharpen knives. A honing rod is used to realign and straighten knife blades that have become blunt or curled. Beyond countenance sharpening, a good friend offers correction when we’re going astray. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:2 that in addition to exhorting one another, we are to reprove and rebuke when necessary. Jesus Himself said that when a brother sins against us, we’re to “go and tell him his fault,” (Matthew 18:15). As much as we all need sharpening, we also need to be realigned and straightened out once in a while, too!

"True friends help to keep each other sharp. They help to refine, to encourage, and to grow." | Read more of Countenance Sharpeners on hopereflected.com

True friends point one another to Christ

Some commentaries suggest that to “sharpen” in Proverbs 27:17 is to antagonize or exasperate. A true friend doesn’t provoke; a true friend promotes others to be better people and most importantly points their friends toward Christ. Anything contrary to this is not friendship.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves that, “In friendship… we think we have chosen our peers…for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ Friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to us the beauties of others.” The opposite of sharp is to be dull, blunt, or blurred. We’ve all had occasions where we’ve felt less than our best. In such times, it is prayer answered to have a friend come alongside to sharpen our countenance.

“It is prayer answered to have a friend come alongside to sharpen our countenance.”

Hope Reflected

Originally published as “Countenance sharpeners.” Independent Plus. June 10, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Wednesday

6

January 2021

0

COMMENTS

From Self to Selfless

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) | From self to selfless | Read more at hopereflected.com

New Year’s resolutions are almost always focused on self.

Popular every January, New Year’s resolutions are almost always focused on self: Bettering ourselves, practicing new habits, or letting go of our old ways. Rather than be self-focused, each of us would benefit so much more if we would choose to be God-focused, turning our eyes to the Creator, growing in our relationship with Him, and dedicating more time to our daily devotions than once-a-year resolutions.

“Each of us would benefit so much more if we would choose to be God-focused, turning our eyes to the Creator, growing in our relationship with Him, and dedicating more time to our daily devotions than once-a-year resolutions.”

Hope Reflected

There is a great danger when we put so much emphasis on our “self”.

Self-deception is the lie that we are enough in and of ourselves. Rooted in pride, self-deception tells us that we are right, that we can save ourselves, that we are enough. The reality is this: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12). Rather than taking up our own causes, Jesus called for us to take up our cross and follow Him. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). Self-denial requires us to put off the old as Paul wrote (Ephesians 4:22). How fitting for the start of a new year.

Masterfully demonstrated throughout Scripture by Satan himself, self-exaltation honours self first, and puts a focus on what we want and our needs.

Hope REFLECTED

While self-exaltation builds up our reputation, Christ made himself of no reputation.

Self-exaltation, like its cousin self-deception, is once again a sin with deep roots in pride. Masterfully demonstrated throughout Scripture by Satan himself, self-exaltation honours self first, and puts a focus on what we want and our needs. The reality is this: “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.” (Proverbs 15:33). True honour comes only after humility. Christ is the perfect example of this, and it is His example that we are called to follow. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5. While self-exaltation builds up our reputation, Christ “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant… he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8). These are not character traits that can be developed through self-exaltation, just the opposite. Humility and obedience are only learned through daily self-examination in accordance with God’s Word.

This year, rather than taking a self-focused approach to life, may we aim to live God-focused lives.

Self-righteousness tells us that we haven’t fallen prey to self-deception or self-exaltation, or any of the other self-sins. Self-righteousness encourages us to play the game of comparison, looking down our noses at what others are not doing – or not doing right – and boasting in our own works. Spoiler alert: All our works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The reality is this: “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” (Proverbs 30:12). Rather than self-righteousness, self-sacrifice sees us being transformed by God’s mercies (Romans 12:1-2). Self-sacrifice forsakes the love of self we read of in 2 Timothy 3:2 and seeks God first and others second (1 Corinthians 10:24). Self-sacrifice is selflessness rather than selfishness. This year, rather than taking a self-focused approach to life, may we aim to live God-focused lives.

Originally published as “From self to selfless.” Independent Plus. January 7, 2021: 5. Print. Web.