Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

Published Work Archive

Friday

17

August 2018

Hope Reflected | Listening to God

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"Call to me, and I will answer you." (Jeremiah 33:3) Listening to God | See more at hopereflected.com

Listening to God

Listening to God is one of the most important components to being a Christian

If you watch, listen, or read the news, you’ve likely heard about Vice President Pence being mocked for saying that He talks to God and listens for God’s voice. “I will hear what God the LORD will speak,” reads Psalm 85:8. One of the fundamentals of the Christian faith is that we communicate with the Lord, and listen for His leading. While it may not be popular, that doesn’t mean that it’s not right.

Last week, Wes and I were discussing the importance of listening to God. We place so much emphasis on talking to God, but what about the other side of the conversation? Sometimes when God is speaking to us, He’s easy to hear. You make a prayer request, and He answers it, sometimes very obviously. When we slow down, we often hear God in the quiet times – early in the morning or late at night lying in bed – and that’s one reason why so many people turn up the noise and distractions of music, talking, and that bad word “busy”. But what about listening to God in the chaos? Oh, how challenging it can be to hear God when we have so much going on! When the clock is ticking and we’re feeling overwhelmed, we often talk ourselves into believing several myths to avoid listening to God.

Myth #1: I don’t have time. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Some days, you just find yourself running: Laundry, dishes, work, meetings, dinner, and the list goes on. One of the biggest myths about listening to God is that you don’t have time. That’s not true! You do have time. In fact, any time that you do have is a gift from God. Charles Stanley says that “prayer is life’s greatest time saver,” and he couldn’t be more correct. When we take the time to take our problems and our praises to the Lord, He hears us. When we take the time to listen to God, we’ll often be surprised at what we hear. God longs to speak to us, and prayer is a two-way street.

Myth #2: Thanks, Lord, but I’ve got this under control. “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19:21) Why would we spend time listening to God when we’ve got it under control! We’re all guilty of thinking we’ve got everything under control or that we’re the orchestrators of our own circumstances. Ultimately, however, we’re told in the Bible that God is One Who is in control. Job 12:10 says that, “In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” God’s thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). The next time you catch yourself thinking you’ve got things under control, take a moment and give it to God.

Myth #3: It won’t make a difference. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Sometimes we negate the importance of listening to God because we think that listening to God won’t make a difference, or that casting our cares at His feet doesn’t really matter. This is where our faith comes in. So often, when everything’s going our way, we’re less apt to take things to the Lord in prayer, but really that’s when it’s the most important! Keeping a prayer journal and a record of prayer requests, answers to prayer, and praises, is an awesome way to recall to mind and remind ourselves that our time spent listening to God really does make a difference!

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known,” reads Jeremiah 33:3. Listening to God is one of the most important components to being a Christian; do you have a listening ear? As C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Originally published as “Listening to God.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. March 15, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Thursday

2

August 2018

Hope Reflected | Truths about Pride

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"None is so empty as those who are full of themselves." Benjmain Whichcote | See more at hopereflected.com #quotes #qotd #bestquotes

Truths about Pride

Truths about pride from the book of Proverbs.

Pride. It’s personal. It’s not always public. It’s quite often your own perception of yourself. Pride starts in your heart, pride causes problems, and pride brings you down. Someone once said that “pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes,” which is ironic because pride will tell you that you’re at the top above everybody else.

The Bible is filled with verses about pride – more than 60 by my count – and the book of Proverbs is no exception. More a part of character than a feeling, here are three truths about pride from the book of Proverbs:

  1. Pride starts in the heart. “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility.” (Proverbs 18:12) We’re told in Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. God hates pride (Proverbs 8:13), and it should come as no surprise that pride starts in the heart. We’re told in Proverbs 16:5 that “everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD”. Pride, in its most pungent form, puts you above everybody else. Sure, pride may not always be overtly obvious, “I’m up here and you’re down there.” Maybe pride for you stems from a situation that you think should be suited to your needs. Perhaps pride for you is placing your own emotions over the facts. Or it could be that pride for you is not being willing to hear the opinions or feelings of another. Pride starts in the heart, and it won’t stop until it destroys you.
  2. Pride causes problems. “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10) The philosopher Benjamin Whichcote once said that, “none are so empty as those who are full of themselves.” Pride has this way of making everything about “me” and driving others away. Why did they say that about me? What does that mean for me? How is this situation going to affect me? Pride causes problems – relationally, professionally, and personally – because it puts the focus on “me”. You may be familiar with the JOY adage, “Jesus first, Others second, Yourself third”. By putting yourself first, you’re putting yourself above the Lord, and above others. And that’s bound to cause problems. As Ezra T. Benson once said, “Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.”
  3. Pride brings you down. “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honour.” (Proverbs 29:23) It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, and in fact, it may not be until eternity that your pride will bring you down. Whatever the case, we’re promised in God’s Word that “when pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2) Pride starts in your heart, pride causes problems, and as a result, pride will bring you down. Proverbs 26:12 tells us that there is more hope for a fool than for a person is who is wise in their own eyes. Pride will ultimately bring you to a point where you think you’re equal – or better – than God. Psalm 10:4 says, “In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” And where there’s no room for God, you’re bound for disaster. Pride will bring you down.

The deceptive thing about pride is that it’s not always obvious. Pride has this way of sneaking up on us – through private thoughts or vain victories – so it’s important that we always remain aware and keep a short account with God. Ultimately, the greatest danger of pride is that it divides us and separates us from God. As C.S. Lewis said, “As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

Originally published as “Pride.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. February 22, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Thursday

26

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Forgiveness

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"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” C.S. Lewis | See more at hopereflected.com

God’s Forgiveness

God’s forgiveness, in addition to being all-encompassing and an example for us to follow, is a great reminder to us of His everlasting love for us.

C.S. Lewis once said that, “everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” It’s true, isn’t it? So often we’re quick to give out the advice to forgive, but when it comes to leading by example, forgiveness can be difficult. Not that drinking the poison of bitterness and resentment is any less difficult, but sometimes avoidance – of the truth, of hurt, of pain – disguises itself as the easy road.

There is so much that we can learn when we look to the Lord. His forgiveness is a gift.

God’s forgiveness is not an excuse to do whatever you want. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1) This may seem like common sense, but it’s surprising how many people think that God’s forgiveness is an excuse to carry on with sinful behavior. I’d argue the contrary, that God’s forgiveness and grace should be reason enough to do our best to live a faithful and holy life! He sent His Son to the cross for us, to die – that’s the ultimate sacrifice. To continue on in sin, and to not strive to be our best for God is like the ultimate insult and ungratefulness. Does that mean that we’re perfect? No, but it does mean that we even when we trip, we pick up our cross and keep going.

God’s forgiveness is all-encompassing. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) How far is the east from the west, exactly? Well, the two don’t meet. You can travel the world, and east and west don’t intersect. God’s forgiveness separates us from our sins. His forgiveness wipes our slate clean. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) God’s forgiveness isn’t just for some of your sins; God’s forgiveness is all-encompassing and includes even the secrets of which you’re most ashamed.

God’s forgiveness is an example. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:13) God’s forgiveness of our sins is an example of how we should forgive others. C.S. Lewis once said that, “to be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Is it easy? No! Sometimes forgiveness can seem like the hardest thing. We want to focus more on our feelings than we do on Christ, and that’s part of being human. We should challenge ourselves however, to look to Christ’s forgiveness and follow His example, not just with others, but with ourselves as well. “I think that if God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.” (C.S. Lewis)

God’s forgiveness is a gift. God’s forgiveness, in addition to being all-encompassing and an example for us to follow, is a great reminder to us of His everlasting love for us. He loves us enough to forgive us. “The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.” (C.S. Lewis)

Originally published as “Forgiveness.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. February 8, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Wednesday

18

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Peace

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Seek peace, and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14) | Peace | Read more at hopereflected.com

Peace

When you have a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour, peace is possible.

“Daniel slept in a lions den, Peter slept in a prison, Jesus slept in a storm. No matter your circumstance, you can take a nap.” Last week when I saw this meme I laughed out loud. Upon further consideration however, I realized how true that statement actually is, because of God. I think most of us would be in agreement that when you’re going through a stressful time, you don’t sleep as well. Your mind wanders. You can’t concentrate. You can’t rest.

Peace, it would seem, often eludes people during times of distress.

In an effort to capture peace, people search many different avenues, such as meditation, yoga, healthy eating, even exercise. The truth is though, that there is only one way to achieve true peace, the “peace that passes all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) It’s through God. When you have a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour, eternal peace is possible. And trust me, it’s a reassurance unlike any other!

Does that mean that you won’t ever encounter stressful situations or hard times? On the contrary! However, even in the midst of adversity and trying times, peace is possible.

  • Keep your focus on the Lord. “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8) Psalm 16 goes on to say, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.” (Psalm 16:9) Do you know when David wrote Psalm 16? During a stressful time! And yet, he confirmed that he could rest secure because he was keeping his eyes on the Lord. Sometimes when I’m stressed, the last place I’m focusing is on the Lord. You know what helps me? Bible verses like Psalm 16:8-9 and having Scripture either memorized or on a sticky note in front of me where I can remind myself where my peace truly is. Memorize some Bible verses that provide reassurance. Write down Scripture that reminds you to look to the Lord! We’re only human, and sometimes (OK most of the time) we need to be reminded to focus on the Lord. Focusing on the Lord takes your eyes off the problem and puts your eyes on God.
  • Learn to slow down. “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) Slowing down in a world that seems to be moving faster and faster and where people expect instant gratification seems near impossible. As silly as it may seem, slowing down – at least for most of us – is something we have to learn. Learn to say no. Learn to turn off distractions – music, TV, even other people! – and sit silently with our Lord. Read the Bible. Slow down. We live in a time where it’s trendy to have a side hustle in addition to your daytime hustle. Go against the grain! If you don’t slow down, and rest, and wait on the Lord, you won’t hear Him. Simple as that. And if you want peace, you have to be willing to take – make – the time to hear God and what He’s saying through His Word and through prayer.
  • You’re not in control. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) You’re not in control. Are you sweating yet? I am! As a planner, I understand first hand how anxious it can make you when you come to the realization that you’re not in control. And you know what? It’s a good thing I’m not in control! Countless times, Wes and I have prayed and made plans, only to have God deliver in the most unexpected ways. Thank you, Lord! He truly does “exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20). As Charles Stanley says, we can get so caught up in asking God for A, B, or C, and then He blows us out of the water and gives us the whole alphabet! When you realize that you’re not in control, and you acknowledge that with God, a weight will lift off your shoulders. He will bless you beyond and He will give you peace (Psalm 29:11) if you’ll only let Him!

In Psalm 34:14, we’re encouraged to “seek peace, and pursue it.” Just make sure you’re looking for peace in the right places. There’s only one peace that passes all understanding, and that’s the peace of God. Not sure how to find it? All you have to do is ask Him!

Originally published as “Peace.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. February 1, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

13

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Matters of the heart

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"Pour out your heart before Him." (Psalm 62:8) Matters of the heart | Learn more at hopereflected.com

Matters of the heart

You can learn from the Psalms how to get your heart right with God.

In 2017, my Dad had a heart attack. To say the news came as a shock would be a complete understatement. My Dad, the foundation of our family, the rock, having a heart attack? It just seemed so unlikely. He was so fit, so healthy, at least so we thought. In more recent days, a friend of Wes’s and mine – and many others in the community – had a heart attack. Again, someone so strong, so energized, so full of life, seemed like an unlikely candidate for a heart attack.

That’s the mystery of the heart. In terms of health, we can look at someone else and think they’re fit, they eat – relatively – healthy, they exercise, they could never have a heart attack! Quite often however, the part that we can’t see, the heart, tells a different story.

It’s the same with our spiritual lives. So frequently we look at other Christians and think they’ve got it all together. They’ve got the gift of teaching, of praying, of encouraging – they must have it all together! Sometimes though, we might be surprised. After all, only God can see your heart.

Only God knows the condition of your heart. Only He truly knows the bitterness, the envy, the resentment, the jealousy, the dislike, hey, even the hatred, that you carry around. For all intents and purposes, on the outside, you may look like the model Christian. You’re sitting in church every Sunday, you’re serving others in the community, and you’re saying all the right things. Regardless of the surface or how things may appear, God knows your heart. He knows when you’re coming from a sincere place, and He knows when you’re acting or saying things to put others in a bad light. God knows when your heart is broken and crying out, even on those days when you’re pretending you’ve got it all together. He knows when you’re longing for companionship and you feel completely alone. God knows your heart. And that’s what matters.

It doesn’t matter how you look to others or what they think about you. What matters is that God knows your heart, and that your heart is right with Him.

Here are some relevant Bible verses about the heart to encourage and to instruct you in how to get your heart right with God.

  1. Confess your sin. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) You lied. You stole. Whatever you may have done, confess it to God. Ask Him to create a clean heart in you. David, who we read in the Bible was a man after God’s own heart, made many mistakes (we call it sin). Yet, he asked God to create in him a clean heart, and to renew his spirit (Psalm 51:10). To get your heart right with God, start with confessing your sin.
  2. Be honest with God. “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.” (Psalm 26:2) There have been many times when I’ve caught myself praying one thing but thinking another. It can be hard sometimes to be honest with ourselves and with God, can’t it?! And I have no idea what I’m thinking: As if I think that God of the entire universe isn’t going to know what’s truly in the bottom of my heart! To get your heart right with God, you’ve got to get right down to it. Guess what?! I don’t want to pray for that person who hurt me! I don’t like them! Tell God about it, because guess what? He already knows! Be honest with God.
  3. Actively pursue a relationship with God. “With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from your commandments!” (Psalm 119:10) We’re told in the book of James to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8). That verse continues with these words: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” When you’re actively pursuing a relationship with God – praying, getting into and memorizing God’s Word, going to church – when you earnestly seek Him, you’ll find Him. And more importantly, He will find you. Store up His word in your heart! (Psalm 119:11) and He will fill your heart.
  4. Protect your heart. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) You may have heard the saying “what goes in must come out,” or the computer slang GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out). What you allow in your heart will penetrate your life, so protect your heart. Fill your heart with God’s Word. Focus your eyes on God and your heart will surely follow. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
  5. Trust God. “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Psalm 62:8) Note that verse doesn’t say to trust God “sometimes” or “when things are going good”. No, we are called to trust God at all times. Even when things don’t make sense, and even when your heart is broken. Trust God, and pour your heart out before Him. Keep short accounts. When you’re actively talking with God, you’re less likely to allow the wrong things in your heart. Anger, jealously, pride, resentment, fear, worry– these are all things that take can up residence in your heart if you’re not careful! “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3)

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” God knows your heart. He knows my heart. He knows our intentions (Hebrews 4:12) and He longs for us to draw near to Him. Whether your heart is bitter or broken, He longs for you to take your heart and hand it to Him. After all, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Originally published as “Matters of the heart.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. January 25, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

6

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Mercy

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"Show mercy and compassion." Zechariah 7:9 Mercy | Read more at hopereflected.com

Mercy

How can you live a life filled with mercy?

David and Saul. You’ve likely read about their tumultuous relationship before. David was that guy that Saul just loved to hate: Successful, beloved, and righteous. Saul couldn’t stand it. He hated David, so much so that he pursued David throughout the wilderness because he wanted to kill him. And what happened? Well, in the end, Saul dies in the most tragic of circumstances, but before that happens, we see perhaps one of the most moving examples of mercy documented in the Bible.

Whether or not he was sleeping or using the bathroom is beyond the point, but in the midst of his pursuit of David, we find Saul taking a break in a cave (1 Samuel 24:3). It just so happens that this very cave is the place where David and his men were hiding! Saul is completely unaware of his present company, while David and his men contemplate their next move, and what does David do? He spares Saul’s life, and he doesn’t let his men kill Saul, either. He chose to show goodness rather than evil to the very person who was purposefully practicing evil against him, and he encouraged his men to do the same. David demonstrated mercy.

God’s mercy is described in many ways throughout the Bible: Great (Isaiah 54:7), sure (Isaiah 55:3), abundant (1 Peter 1:3), tender (Psalm 25:6), new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Quite often in Scripture, we read about God’s mercy in its plural form (God’s mercies). We serve a God Who doesn’t just show us mercy in one way – He is filled with mercies. As Christians, we should lives that exhibit mercy, just as Christ demonstrated toward us when he went to the cross so we could have eternal life.

So how can you live a life filled with mercy?

You can live a life filled with mercy when you show mercy to others. “Show mercy and compassion every man to his brother.” (Zechariah 7:9) Mercy can be defined as not getting what you deserve. When you live a life filled with mercy, you show compassion to others even when they treat you with cruelty. When you apply mercy in your own life, you exercise forgiveness.

You can live a life filled with mercy when you learn to love mercy. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8) I don’t think you can love mercy until you’ve truly experienced it. And the greatest mercy of all? God’s gift of eternal life to us. Some versions of the Bible replace “love mercy” in Micah 6:8 with “love goodness,” or “love kindness”. When you live with mercy, you learn to love that virtue and the others that go along with it.

You can live a life filled with mercy when you keep mercy close to your heart. “Put on therefore…bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering….” (Colossians 3:12) Your bowels are the deepest part of you. The term “bowels of mercies” suggests that mercy, like many other virtues, comes from the deepest part of you. When you truly have mercy in your heart, you’ll show it through your actions towards others.

We see God’s mercy demonstrated toward us in His forgiveness, His gift of eternal life to us. As C.S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Mercy doesn’t come naturally, it is learned through a personal relationship with God. When you have a relationship with God, God’s mercy toward you is bigger than any mistake you can make. God’s mercy is inexhaustible. And when you see God’s mercy at work in your own life, you’ll be better equipped to live a life filled with mercy.

Originally published as “Mercy.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. January 18, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Wednesday

4

July 2018

Hope Reflected | What does the Bible say about Insecurity

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"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:10) | What does the Bible say about insecurity? | Read more at hopereflected.com

Insecurity

What does the Bible say about overcoming insecurity?

There are many different forms of insecurity. Perhaps you feel insecure about your weight, or maybe your relationships. It could be that you feel insecure in your job, or that you’re worried about what others think about you. Entering a new year can also be a trigger for insecurity: A new year brings with it many challenges and unknowns, filled with peaks and valleys.

In the face of insecurity, where are you searching for validation? Is it in the number of likes to your latest Facebook post, or maybe the attention and compliments you receive about your latest hair colour or outfit choice? We’re all longing for approval, but quite often we don’t look for approval in the right places.

So what does the Bible say about insecurity? There several references throughout Scripture regarding insecurity. God’s Word talks a lot about our worth and our value, and gives us wise instruction on ways to overcome insecurity.

  • Remember that you are of great value to God. “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You.” (Psalm 139:17-18) Think about that for a minute. God’s thoughts toward you are more in number than the sand. If you have kids (or a dog) and you’ve ever taken them to the beach, you should have a good understanding of how small each grain of sand is. Those miniscule grains seem to work their way into every crack and lock of hair (or fur) on children and pets after a weekend at the water! Now imagine trying to count each grain of sand, not just on one beach, but on every beach in the entire world! It would be impossible to count every grain. And yet our Lord’s thoughts toward you are more in number than the sand. When you’re feeling insecure, remember that you are of great value to God. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
  • Accept that you are a special creation. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) You aren’t a mistake, and you are not unloved. God created you! There are a lot of people out there who don’t believe in the sanctity of life, but the fact is that even before you were conceived, God knew you. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5) You may feel insecure about certain aspects of your body, but God created you in His image. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) God loves you and you are a special creation. So special in fact, that God sent His only son to die so that you could have eternal life. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
  • Acknowledge that you have a purpose. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Each one of us was created for a purpose. Some days it may not feel like it, especially when you feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over, but God has a purpose for you. You’re not just born into this world to live and do what you like – though that’s how many of us often live – you’re born into this world with a God-given purpose. Have you asked God to reveal your purpose to you?
  • Seek the approval of God and not man. “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” (Psalm 118:9) This can be so hard, can’t it? We live in a world where we’re inundated with images from everyone’s highlight reel on Facebook and Instagram, and it’s so easy to start comparing ourselves to others and seeking more likes and reactions. That’s not where we should be focusing our energy, however. The Bible tells us to “Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” (Isaiah 2:22) When we look to others for validation, that’s a sure-fire way to feel insecure. Consider the wisdom of Jeremiah 17:5: “Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5) Looking to the Lord for approval means moving your eyes away from others and self and is a great way to overcome insecurity.

We live in a world where society profits from our self-doubt. When you put your eyes on the Lord, your thoughts will follow and will move away from self and others. Your mind believes what you tell it, so remember to nourish it with the right things: Start in God’s Word and feed on His truth, love, and faith.

Originally published as “Insecurity.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. January 11, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Thursday

8

March 2018

Hope Reflected | 6 Characteristics of a godly Christian Woman

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"Blessed is she that believed." (Luke 1:45) 6 characteristics of a godly Christian woman | See more at hopereflected.com

6 Characteristics of a godly Christian Woman

March 8 the world over is recognized as International Women’s Day. Those who read the news and stay abreast of current events should be well aware of many “female-centric” movements that have developed over the past several years, including the Women’s March or even “I stand with Planned Parenthood”. Both movements have received a lot of media attention from certain networks and publications, and both movements relate specifically to women’s “rights”. Feminism, with its roots in the equality of women, is often tied with fighting – fighting for relevance, fighting for rights, fighting for recognition.

To be a feminist and to believe in the beauty of being female doesn’t mean that you have to fight. On the contrary, when you look at being a woman from a Christian perspective, you’ll see that throughout God’s Word, women are celebrated. We are recognized as a completely unique creation.

Being a woman, from a Biblical perspective, means celebrating life, supporting each other, and standing up for what’s right. The Bible shares so many accounts of strong females (and the men that they raised); look through the histories of Ruth, Hannah, and Mary just to name a few examples. The qualities of the godly Christian woman are referenced throughout the Bible, and the qualities of the godly Christian woman can impact generations.

Loyalty.

“The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.” (Proverbs 31:11) The book of Ruth lays out an amazing example of loyalty. After her husband passed away, Ruth demonstrated her loyalty to her mother in law by not abandoning her. “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16). Being a woman, a godly Christian woman, means demonstrating loyalty and having a constant heart.

 

Focus.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30) The godly Christian woman demonstrates a keen focus on the eternal rather than the external. Look at the testimony of Hannah, for example. While those around her were having children, Hannah was childless. Rather than bemoan and lament her circumstances, Hannah kept her focus on the Lord. Look through the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, and you’ll see these words several times, “and Hannah prayed.” A godly Christian woman keeps her focus on things above (Colossians 3:2).

 

Strength.

“She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.” (Proverbs 31:17) “Strength and honour are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come.” (Proverbs 31:25) Esther is an incredible Old Testament example of a woman who demonstrated strength. God used Esther to save His people. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) Even in the face of uncertainty, Esther stood strong. Strength, both intellectually and physically, is one of the qualities of a godly Christian woman.

 

Industriousness.

“She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard.” (Proverbs 31:16) “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants.” (Proverbs 31:24) Productivity. Ingenuity. Diligence. One of the qualities of a godly Christian woman is being industrious. Working at whatever you’re called to do. Look at Deborah, the only female judge who boldly obeyed God (Judges 4). Consider Rahab, who though she was a prostitute, ultimately came to know the Lord. Being a godly Christian woman requires industriousness and diligence in our work.

 

A nurturing spirit.

“She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants.” (Proverbs 31:15) Not only is the godly Christian woman industrious, she also has a nurturing spirit and cares for her family. Take the account of Rebekah from Genesis 24. In the search for a bride for Isaac, Rebekah showed that she was the one because she had a nurturing spirit, and gave Isaac’s servant (and his camels) water to drink. Your work as a woman is important and makes an impact, whether your work is outside or inside the home.

 

Faithfulness.

“She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27) Another one of the qualities of the godly Christian woman is her faithfulness. She stays the course. Even in the midst of challenging and trying times, she is diligent and sees things through. As it was said of Mary, the mother of Jesus, “blessed is she that believed” (Luke 1:45).

Originally published as “Being a woman.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. March 8, 2018: 7. Print. Web.

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23

February 2018

Hope Reflected | Lessons from the honey bee

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No matter who you are, and no matter where you are, God can use you. | Lessons from the honey bee | See more at hopereflected.com

Lessons we can learn from the honey bee

Birds, bats, wind, and even water can act as pollinators, but perhaps the most interesting of all the pollinators is the honey bee. Such an intricate creation, the honey bee is small but mighty. The honey bee plays a very important role here on earth!

We can draw many parallels between honey bees and Christians. The honey bee spreads seeds; so do Christians. The honey bee has a mission; so do Christians. The honey bee doesn’t always see the results of what it sows; neither do Christians. Sometimes, only the Lord sees the harvest. We may never know the results of our labours. But does that mean that we should stop working for Him? No!

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Your words may be awkward. Your prayers may be meager. Your testimony may not be the most dramatic or exciting. No matter who you are, and no matter where you are, God can use you. In fact, sometimes it’s the most ordinary of people that God uses to do the most extraordinary things for His glory!

The honey bee isn’t concerned about whether it’s the strongest flyer, or whether it pollinates the most plants; no, the honey bee concentrates on the job at hand and remains focused. That’s how we need to be in our Christian walk. Keeping our focus always on the Lord.

There are other lessons we can learn from the small but mighty honey bee:

Learn how to adapt. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Just as the honey bee knows how to adapt – honey bees can go for years without hunting by living on their food reserves – we as Christians also need to learn how to adapt to what’s going on in the world around us. Read: I’m not saying we conform to this world, but rather that we “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) Christians need to learn how to adapt and survive in a world where Christians are being held more and more accountable for what we believe.

Learn how to help others. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17) Honey bees are social creatures. They don’t work alone. They help each other. What have you done to help another soul recently? Perhaps you’re working anonymously in the background, giving to causes that assist those in need. Maybe you dedicate your spare hours to volunteering. You could even be serving by encouraging the people in your community. As Christians, we are called to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Learn how to give your life for Christ’s glory. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35) Honey bees give their life for the hive. The honey bee, by nature, is a defender. And when one honey bee’s stinger detaches from its body, it releases pheromones that inspire other honey bees to do the same and go on defense. I’m not suggesting that Christians should always be on the defensive (but sometimes!), rather I’m suggesting that as Christians we should be completely surrendered to Christ, wherever we are. For some Christians, the idea of giving up your life is quite literal, depending where you live in world. For others, giving up your life for Christ could mean complete and total dedication to serving the Lord. The reality is that we’re all missionaries, right here at home, even if we’re not called to full-time service.

Learning to adapt, helping others, and finding your purpose are all things we can glean from the honey bee. I also love what Ilan Shamir says in his “Advice from a honey bee”: Create a buzz, sip life’s sweet moments, mind your own beeswax, work together, always find your way home, stick close to your honey, bee yourself! “You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.” (Acts 2:28)

Originally published as “Lessons we can learn from the honey bee.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. December 14, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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Friday

16

February 2018

Hope Reflected | Understanding the characteristics of a solid church

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“Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.” A.W. Tozer | Characteristics of a solid church | See more at hopereflected.com

Understanding the characteristics of a solid church

After last week’s column, a few readers suggested that perhaps just as important as going to church is that the church that you’re going to needs to be a solid church.

So what makes a solid church?

There are several characteristics. A solid church is so much more than a bricks-and-mortar building. A solid church is about the people attending, and more than that, that the people attending are all joining together for the same purpose – to worship God, and to proclaim the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead, so that we might not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

If you’ve been looking for a church, or contemplating what kind of church you should be attending, here are a few indications of a solid church.

A solid church speaks the truth. “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17) A solid church is one that believes that the Bible is the divinely inspired – and complete – Word of God. What is the truth? The Bible. A solid church speaks the truth. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Proverbs 12:17) God’s Word is faithful and true (Revelation 22:6) and that’s what you’ll find in a solid church.

A solid church challenges and inspires growth. “…from who the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16) A solid church isn’t just a place where you go to feel good about yourself – no, a solid church is about much more than just “feeling”. Beyond any emotion, a solid church will challenge you through speaking the truth, and inspire growth.. “A wise man will hear and increase in learning. And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” (Proverbs 1:5) A solid church is place where Christians can seek “wise counsel” and grow in their faith. And as Matthew Henry said, “The Christian’s growth tends to the glory of Christ.”

A solid church provides comfort. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16) A solid church is a place that provides comfort and renewal. As much as it’s meant to challenge Christians, the church is also meant to be a place where believers can have fellowship one with another. Through fellowship, and the preaching of God’s Word, we can find comfort and renewal. You may be familiar with Proverbs 16:24, which tells us that, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” A solid church provides comfort through fellowship with other Christians.

A solid church isn’t trying to look like the world, to remove the Cross, or to provide entertainment for the masses. As Tozer said, “Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.” A solid church speaks the truth, challenges and inspires growth, and provides comfort. It also encourages Christians to serve humbly, to live by faith, and to grow closer to our Lord.

Originally published as “Understanding the characteristics of a solid church.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 30, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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